Imagine you’re building a worship team at your church.
You have nearly all the pieces. Worship leader, acoustic and electric guitar, bass. But you’re missing one obvious piece: drums.
You search for months. You’re so close. But apparently, there isn’t a single drummer left on earth. At least that’s how it feels.
Then one day a friend mentions he knows a solid drummer who has been playing in live settings for years. He will even help out for free. There’s only one catch. He’s not a Christian.
As the worship leader, what do you do?
I don’t know if there’s a biblical answer to this. I’ve heard this question come up dozens of times in worship circles and have even had to answer it for my own church.
Before I let you know what I did, I will argue both sides of the debate.
Argument 1: Non-Christians on the Worship Team? No Way
I’ve heard worship and church teams state that any worship produced by a non-believer, even if instrumental, will somehow corrupt the whole worship time. After all, how can music dedicated to Christ come from someone who doesn’t believe or prescribe to this faith?
I can understand this point of view and could probably make a case for it biblically. There are some valid points to it.
Let’s say, for instance, a teenager in the church sees the drummer playing in worship on Sunday morning. The next Saturday night, the teenager sees the same drummer walking out of the weed store (those are legal in my state, but still). Or, the more likely scenario, the drummer posts something inappropriate on social media.
That could influence a young believer (young in age or faith) to think that the behavior is okay. Whether we like it or not, people believe someone on stage is in leadership. Anyone up there is a role model even if they don’t want to be.
Besides this though, does the drummer’s performance somehow corrupt the whole musical worship time and even the whole service?
Argument 2: Let the Non-Christian Play. God is Bigger
I personally tend toward Argument 2. I don’t believe the whole worship time is rejected by God because one of the musicians is not a Christian. God is bigger than that. God has used much worse people to glorify Himself.
Balaam was on a mission to curse God’s people. Yet all he could do was bless them. He was not just an unbeliever but a strong opponent of God’s people, yet somehow God used him for good.
In Luke 7:1-10 we learn about a Roman centurion who built a synagogue for the Jews in the area. He wasn’t a believer but he was on the path, despite having a role that would definitely classify him as an unbeliever and even an enemy of God.
I like the idea of everyone being “on the path” as the centurion was. The Bible is clear: God loves all and wants all to come to know him. That means everyone is either a Christian or a potential pre-Christian.
Some pre-Christian drummers, bassists, and guitarists may come to know Christ through their connection with the church. Nothing else would get them there. But they like to play and someone invited them. They won’t sit in the pews but they’ll sit on the drum throne or backstage — and hear the same message.
Perhaps I’m a little biased because, before I met him, the bass player in my former band came to know Christ in this way. His friend invited him to play bass at church. He heard the message while he was there. Had his friend thought he would “corrupt” the worship, he never would have heard about Christ. And I would not have had a Christian bassist for my band some months later.
That being said, I’ve also experienced some fallout from inviting non-Christians to play. We had a non-Christian drummer play pretty regularly at our church, but would post about his time at the bar on social media the night before.
So I think there are some questions to ask before you plop just anyone on stage. But you can carefully place people in instrumentalist positions who are not Christians (yet).
Where I would draw the line
Having non-Christians in the worship team can work, except for one position: the lead singer/lead worshiper. The leader guides the congregation and the band into God’s presence and I don’t think someone without the faith could do that effectively. People might worship with it, but it would feel more like a set of song performances rather than a time of worship.
Maybe I’m wrong here, though. Could God use a non-Christian to lead his people into His presence? I don’t see how, but then again, I don’t see how the Red Sea could dry up in the middle or Christ to magically walk around Judea after thousands of people saw him die.
Overall, there’s no right or wrong answer to any of this. It’s up to each church leadership and worship team to decide on a policy or on a specific case. Do what you think God is calling your team to do without listening too much to me or other ministries that might have a strong opinion one way or another.
Let me know your thoughts on this topic in the comments below!