Should Non-Members Participate in Our Church Activities?
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Friday, December 4, 2009 at 9:24am
A RECENT REQUEST: Please give me your thoughts regarding individuals serving in the body (church) who have not understood and/or obeyed the Biblical Gospel. Do you think that such individuals should be singing and/or playing instruments (some being paid) during the traditional Sunday worship services – with the idea that this is a form of “service evangelism”? Should those that have not obeyed the gospel due to ignorance, reluctance and/or defiance serve alongside those that have followed the Biblical pattern? Please do not limit your response to the music ministry as I only used that as an example. I have spent some time searching for Scriptural precedents and would appreciate any further teaching on this that you might provide.
MY REPLY: In short, I believe that the ONLY ones participating in any way in our worship, teaching, and evangelism ministries should be immersed believers who are preferably members of our own congregation or at least verifiable members of a similar congregation (the latter in the case of visiting teachers, preachers, etc.).
Based on 2 Cor. 6:14ff., I believe our relationships with others fall into two categories: brotherly or family fellowship, and redemptive friendship. I can have the former only with fellow immersed believers. Based on a study of what the NT teaches about church assemblies in the apostolic era (see below), I believe that worship services should be in the former category. In the service we should be united by the “ones” of Eph. 4:4-6; We are joining together as one body constituted as such via one faith and one baptism, worshiping one God and serving one Lord through one Spirit, confident of our one hope of eternal life together. (See Acts 2:42.)
A main reason why we are lax in this matter (including many congregations I am quite familiar with) is that the musical aspect of our worship often assumes the character of performance if not downright entertainment, so that what matters most is external talent. Another reason is the popularity of the “seeker sensitive” mentality, which sees the content of our assemblies as mainly addressing non-members. In such a context, involving non-members in worship activities becomes a kind of evangelistic tool; but this is self-defeating because it leaves the impression that the non-member is already “one of us.”
The whole seeker-sensitive concept goes directly against almost all of the NT’s teaching about church assemblies and their purpose. See my book, “The Faith Once for All,” chapter 26: “The Church: Its Assemblies.” When you examine everything the NT has to say about church assemblies, there is almost nothing about any believer-to-unbeliever contact. It is all believer-to-believer, believer-to-God, and God-to-believer. This does not mean that we should be insensitive to any unbelievers who are present; indeed, we should seek and welcome as many of them as possible. But I believe that what will make the church, and the gospel as such, truly attractive to them is not our blending in with them and minimizing the differences between “us” and “them,” but our fervent and sincere example of what makes the church DIFFERENT from the unbelieving world.