Should Musicians Not Professing the Christian Faith be Allowed to Perform at Christian Worship?

ACM Luncheon Discussion, led by Vince Treadway

“Should musicians not professing the Christian faith be allowed to perform at Christian worship?”

Paul Jones: A good Christian can glorify God without being intentional about it because of common grace. It’s always preferable to have believers leading in the worship of God, whenever possible, but at times we are still doing less than we should, and it’s sinful.

Stuart Sacks: We had an unusual question come up at Tenth. We had someone on staff who complained because we were playing music by non-Christian composers. The Session discounted that as being an unworthy question to deal with at the time so it just went its way.

Dominic Mattioni: Well, the greeter at the door doesn’t ask, “Are you a believer or a non-believer?” I think that everyone should be welcome into the music program as long as they are not obnoxious in their unbelief.

Bill Gatens: I don’t think that the one or two in the choir who may not be fully in tune with the spirituality are really upsetting the apple cart. As Dominic has been pointing out, it certainly can’t hurt for them to be hearing the gospel preached and the Scriptures read and to be singing the praises of God.

Matt Pieters: Why is there a distinction between word and deed? What is the difference
between an instrument which plays music and a voice which sings music?

Chris Garven: The goal of our worship has to be out continually in front of our choir. If
someone has a problem with that, then they are really not on board with the mission…If you are going to reach people, you worship Christ, and everything flows out of that.

Patricia Bleeker: I’m interested in knowing what you do in a concert series. If I hire a group to come in, say a string quartet, and I know three of them are Christians, what do I do?

Vince Treadway: Well, at Proclamation the group has to make a faith statement of some sort or have a faith purpose. We have to be careful and discriminating and not just follow “anything goes.” I think it is something that we need to work through in our own minds and our churches so that we consider all the ramifications.

Chris Garven: You know, the Word that became flesh, and so I think it is perfectly appropriate to make a distinction between the words attached to the music and the music itself, and that’s one of the things that makes sung vocal choral music so much more powerful; it’s because the two are connected. It’s not just the Word preached, which in and of itself has enough power, but it’s the Word attached to something that is very compelling in it’s own beauty, for its own existence itself, which is music. So that’s one of the reasons why, to me, it’s such a powerful combination of the two, and then it should be entered into rather soberly. Not only are we saying these words, which are important enough themselves that are said, but we are communicating them in such a meaningful way. We can have a passage of Scripture stick in the mind of a child forever if we attach a tune to it…..

Bill Gatens: My own situation is that we have a mostly volunteer choir from within the parish, with professional vocal leaders. I know that at least one of them is not a believer. I know for a fact that she is Jewish. She has a great respect for the institution of the church. She knows how to behave in church, and I don’t honestly see a problem with her….It’s a difficult question.

Beth Jenkins: We’re having the Old York Road Symphony come and play with our choir for a Christmas program, and that’s new territory. We do not really have a policy…I’ve always struggled with the distinction between instrumentalists and singers, so it’s been interesting to hear the conversation on that.