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    Scandal of pagans leading worship

    Chris Coldwell, Lakewood Presbyterian Church (PCA), Dallas, Texas.
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    The practice of hiring or using unbelieving musicians, both instrumentalists and vocalists, is much wider than many would think.

    I find it a deplorable practice.
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    Make sure you click through to the TGC site to read the answers from the four men also interviewed (two nays, two yeas).
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    Well, all that respect for Keller I didn't have is gone. :/

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    Revolting is what it is. Next Keller will have a Hindu babe in a bikini doing sign language next to him in the pulpit.
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    AustinW is offline. Puritanboard Postgraduate
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimV View Post
    Revolting is what it is. Next Keller will have a Hindu babe in a bikini doing sign language next to him in the pulpit.
    Well, you see, we have to engage the culture, not run away from it. Duh.
    Last edited by AustinW; 12-02-2010 at 08:54 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LawrenceU View Post
    The practice of hiring or using unbelieving musicians, both instrumentalists and vocalists, is much wider than many would think.

    I find it a deplorable practice.
    Scott - Dallas, Texas - Faith OPC

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    We are now entering into one of the two times of year when a great influx of unbelieving musicians will be brought in to augment the instrumental and vocal music offered in many churches. I work with these people on a daily basis as a university music professor and performing musician. Most of my colleagues are unbelievers; very few will set foot in a church unless they are being paid to do so. Laying aside for a moment the question of whether the large "productions" for Christmas and Easter should be part of what churches do, and whether or not the practice of hiring these musicians is "deplorable," I do find myself praying that these individuals will hear the Word of God rightly preached while they are in these churches, and that the Spirit will give them a "heart of flesh" that they might repent and believe.
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    I don't think anybody wants them not to hear the gospel and believe. But then again, in churches where the pastor has no ethical qualms about hiring unbelievers to lead believers in worshiping God, I'm doubtful they'll hear the true gospel anyway.
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    I am opposed to the practice.
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    I think the practice is evil.
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    The practice of hiring or using unbelieving musicians, both instrumentalists and vocalists, is much wider than many would think.

    I find it a deplorable practice.
    Amen. It's like hiring mourners for your funeral, people to wail and cry like a person who actually cared might do.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kvanlaan View Post
    It's like hiring mourners for your funeral, people to wail and cry like a person who actually cared might do.
    It's worse. Worship is for worshippers.
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    It's easy to bash Tim Keller because he doesn't do things the way you might prefer. But, his cultural situadedness is not yours. Without agreeing with him on the practice, you'd probably do best to walk a mile in his shoes before you criticize him so easily.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeanCauvin86 View Post
    It's easy to bash Tim Keller because he doesn't do things the way you might prefer. But, his cultural situadedness is not yours. Without agreeing with him on the practice, you'd probably do best to walk a mile in his shoes before you criticize him so easily.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeanCauvin86 View Post
    It's easy to bash Tim Keller because he doesn't do things the way you might prefer. But, his cultural situadedness is not yours. Without agreeing with him on the practice, you'd probably do best to walk a mile in his shoes before you criticize him so easily.
    1. Please define "bash." Really sick and tired of people calling valid criticism "bashing" or "attacks."
    2. Further, it's not about what we prefer, it's about holding to the standards we profess and confess (the Westminster Confession of Faith).

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeanCauvin86 View Post
    It's easy to bash Tim Keller because he doesn't do things the way you might prefer. But, his cultural situadedness is not yours. Without agreeing with him on the practice, you'd probably do best to walk a mile in his shoes before you criticize him so easily.
    Personally, it doesn't bother me when pastors do things that go against my preference, as long as my preference is just a preference and not mandated by the Word. I can name examples of things like that if you like. However, it is a grievous sin against God to pay unbelievers to help lead corporate worship, "cultural situadedness" notwithstanding. It requires those unbelievers to take the Lord's name in vain with their actions--nay, pays them to take the Lord's name in vain. I would hope someone in Rev. Keller's presbytery would approach him about this and similar things with a gentle rebuke.
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    It is God's prerogative to show grace and bring the gospel wherever he wishes. We must not do evil that good may come of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by austinww View Post
    I don't think anybody wants them not to hear the gospel and believe. But then again, in churches where the pastor has no ethical qualms about hiring unbelievers to lead believers in worshiping God, I'm doubtful they'll hear the true gospel anyway.
    Quote Originally Posted by Micah Everett View Post
    We are now entering into one of the two times of year when a great influx of unbelieving musicians will be brought in to augment the instrumental and vocal music offered in many churches. I work with these people on a daily basis as a university music professor and performing musician. Most of my colleagues are unbelievers; very few will set foot in a church unless they are being paid to do so. Laying aside for a moment the question of whether the large "productions" for Christmas and Easter should be part of what churches do, and whether or not the practice of hiring these musicians is "deplorable," I do find myself praying that these individuals will hear the Word of God rightly preached while they are in these churches, and that the Spirit will give them a "heart of flesh" that they might repent and believe.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NaphtaliPress View Post
    It is God's prerogative to show grace and bring the gospel wherever he wishes. We must not do evil that good may come of it.
    No, we should not, and if churches would simply follow the RPW and see that we have no mandate for large choirs, orchestras, praise teams, bands, etc. in New Testament worship, this situation would not exist at all. However, the situation does exist, and I merely meant to suggest that, given the lost condition of my colleagues and thus their profound need for the Gospel, rather than "raise a stink" about this every time these folks are hired for such work, since they are going to be in the churches anyway I pray that our Lord would use the seriously flawed efforts of these churches' worship to draw the lost musicians participating to Himself.

    I am sorry that my earlier post inadvertently suggested that I approve of this practice. I do not. I do pray that our Lord would move in musicians' hearts in spite of the error which brings them into the churches.
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    Quote Originally Posted by austinww View Post
    Well, you see, we have to engage the culture, not run away from it. Duh.
    Yep, and if you engage the culture, the next thing you know is that you'll be married to it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeanCauvin86 View Post
    It's easy to bash Tim Keller because he doesn't do things the way you might prefer. But, his cultural situadedness is not yours. Without agreeing with him on the practice, you'd probably do best to walk a mile in his shoes before you criticize him so easily.
    Cultural situadedness doesn't dictate what is right and required by Scripture. Tim Keller is off the reserve in some areas and I wish someone would do something about it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolaScriptura View Post
    I am opposed to the practice.
    Based on your avatar, I believe you...........
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    The church is meant for the church. God can use the church as a means to reach unbelievers, but that doesn't mean they should be in your worship. Have the church be the church, then go out and reach the lost. (And having unbelievers, who don't want to worship, involved in worship, just doesn't mix)
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    Though I'm uncomfortable with the idea of brining in unbelievers to assist in leading the church in worship, as has been mentioned, I do still pray that when it happens God would use it to begin a work in their hearts...in spite of the sinful motives that brought them to the church in the first place. Fortunately for us, our shortcomings are not capable of hindering God from bringing about His will.
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    Boy, I'd best teach my kids about condoms and sex ed when they're really young. They're going to do it anyway, so I might as well resign myself to that fact and just make the best of it.

    OR, I could take them to task when they trespass God's law on this issue and correct them. I think that's better.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kvanlaan View Post
    Boy, I'd best teach my kids about condoms and sex ed when they're really young. They're going to do it anyway, so I might as well resign myself to that fact and just make the best of it.

    OR, I could take them to task when they trespass God's law on this issue and correct them. I think that's better.
    I don't fully see the comparison. If it were my church, I'd have some say in the matter, be able to bring the matter up with the elders/leadership of the church, and if they either were to disagree with me or otherwise decide to continue in the horrible practice, I would then have the option of making the decision to remove myself from that church body due to its sin.

    I highly disagree with churches that are hiring non-believers to lead worship, but if I'm not a part of their local body, I can't do anything about it other than condemn it as an outsider of their church body and pray that God will work in the hearts of the unbelievers in those services in spite of the faulty reasons that brought them there. I also pray that God would bring about correction in the hearts of the church leaders that allow this to happen in their churches.

    However, even though I think this is a horrible practice, I understand that every church has sin in its midst. Because sin infects the very core of our being, we're all faulty, and those faults and sins make their way even into our churches. As has been said, a church is kind of like a hospital being run by the patients. I'm thankful that God has blessed us with the opportunity to be able to share the Gospel in spite of our faults, and thankful that he doesn't allow our faults, whatever they may be to hinder the growth of His kingdom.
    Last edited by EverReforming; 12-03-2010 at 09:53 AM. Reason: typo and clarity
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    While I am not against instruments, musicians or praise/worship teams in worship, I am totally opposed to bringing in non-believers to lead worship. We ask them not to partake of the Lord's Table, we don't ask them to preach, why on earth would we invite them to lead our worship?

    This practice of bringing in non-believers to lead worship has bothered me for some time as I have been involved in music in worship most of my adult life. The problem lies in the fact that worship leaders and pastors treat music as an afterthought or a way to evangelize rather than a vital exercise of the corporate body.

    From my experience, the worship leaders and pastors who allow non-believers in worship either promote fluffy, shallow music (the rock band mentality) or , more often, they promote high church music which requires a level of expertise in music. The fact is, you can't play Bach and Handel if you don't have a certain level of training. Because they want to promote "excellence" (which is the case with Keller--he is very short-sighted on this one IMHO), they feel they must pull from the outside community rather than from the congregation itself.

    It has been my personal conviction as a church musician that God wants us to draw our musicians from those gifted and called in our own congregations as the Lord provides. Give me one "called" musician who leads with his heart, soul, mind and strength in praise to God over a whole orchestra of professionals. It does make a difference.
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    It was commonly received among the early church fathers, and is still commonly received among us that pagans make some of the funkiest musicians that God has given to this sad world, and that the Apostles John and Paul (and Ringo) were into disco-style worship

    I'm sure the RPW is flexible enough to accomodate this. If not we should get the RPW to grow its hair, chill out, turn on and tune in, maaaan
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBaldwin View Post
    While I am not against instruments, musicians or praise/worship teams in worship, I am totally opposed to bringing in non-believers to lead worship. We ask them not to partake of the Lord's Table, we don't ask them to preach, why on earth would we invite them to lead our worship?

    This practice of bringing in non-believers to lead worship has bothered me for some time as I have been involved in music in worship most of my adult life. The problem lies in the fact that worship leaders and pastors treat music as an afterthought or a way to evangelize rather than a vital exercise of the corporate body.

    From my experience, the worship leaders and pastors who allow non-believers in worship either promote fluffy, shallow music (the rock band mentality) or , more often, they promote high church music which requires a level of expertise in music. The fact is, you can't play Bach and Handel if you don't have a certain level of training. Because they want to promote "excellence" (which is the case with Keller--he is very short-sighted on this one IMHO), they feel they must pull from the outside community rather than from the congregation itself.

    It has been my personal conviction as a church musician that God wants us to draw our musicians from those gifted and called in our own congregations as the Lord provides. Give me one "called" musician who leads with his heart, soul, mind and strength in praise to God over a whole orchestra of professionals. It does make a difference.
    Well put. Your comments are both thoughtful and challenging where needed, yet written with a kind and respectful tone. Thank you.
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    Quote Originally Posted by EverReforming View Post
    I don't fully see the comparison. If it were my church, I'd have some say in the matter, be able to bring the matter up with the elders/leadership of the church, and if they either were to disagree with me or otherwise decide to continue in the horrible practice, I would then have the option of making the decision to remove myself from that church body due to its sin.
    The attitude of some seems to be to make the best of the situtation since they are doing it anyway, and perhaps they'll hear the gospel and be converted and wouldn't that be great. But since the worship service is to be for God's people, they don't belong there. While your plan is valid, I am more concerned that if this takes hold as a common practise, liberal voices in the PCA will take this cue to follow suit (since there is no rap on Keller's knuckles from anyone at this point) and drag a faithful denomination down the path of PC(USA) Part II.
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    Actually, I predict the PCA will (within one or two decades) absorb the EPC and what's left of the conservatives of the PCUSA. They will become the new "mainline" as the original mainline implodes by virtue of having literally no more people (to go with their clergy, bureaucracy, buildings and endowments). The stage is being set. The center is being softened up. There needs to be doctrinal and practical room to absorb churches with divergent norms. A decade ago, I though it might have happened by now (or there'd be 10-15 years to go). My original time-scale prediction (a quarter-century) could still come true; there's still time left; and (it nearly goes without saying) the moves we are seeing are exactly what needs to happen for these mergers to take place.

    And there will continue to be the "lesser" outlier-denominations.
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    Our church has a praise team and I used to be on it. They made sure I was a believer before they would let me play in front of the assembly. It's all about Him.
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    Quote Originally Posted by austinww View Post
    I don't think anybody wants them not to hear the gospel and believe. But then again, in churches where the pastor has no ethical qualms about hiring unbelievers to lead believers in worshiping God, I'm doubtful they'll hear the true gospel anyway.
    I agree that non-Christians shouldn't be leading our worship. However, Austen, I think that even though you don't respect Keller, he DOES preach the Gospel, despite his lack of qualms about unbelieving musicians. I imagine there are other examples like him.
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    Did anyone else think of Charles McIlhenny and the firing of the homosexual organist that led to his home being fire-bombed when they read this article? I wonder what Rev. McIlhenny would have to say about pagans leading worship?
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    This is reminding me why I post so infrequently--I don't always have time to do all this writing! I hope to write this one more post and then return to my shadowy existence on the fringes of the Puritan Board.

    I am not at all suggesting that we should just "let this be." George's approach is correct. It is the leadership of these churches, Keller included, that need to be "taken to task" for this practice. The pagan musicians that are being hired for these "gigs" are only behaving as we might expect pagans to behave, taking employment wherever they can get it without real thought about the propriety or impropriety of their leading in worship. If I am reading 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 correctly (and I understand that the application of this passage here might be a bit of a stretch), we are in a position to judge those that are within the church, to admonish them, to help them to see the error of their way that they might turn from their evil and adopt right worship practices. Let me be clear: this needs to happen. "But them that are without God judgeth," and I am not convinced that admonishing my unbelieving colleagues about this practice will be helpful or productive. The Gospel is already offensive to unbelievers; our calling is not to make it more offensive in our dealings with the unbelieving world. They are there, in the churches, leading in worship. They shouldn't be. May God grant that the leaders of these churches will see the error of their ways and stop this abhorrent practice. Until that happens, I pray that, while they are there, they will hear Christ preached (in spite of everything that is wrong with the situation), and that the Holy Spirit will see fit to work savingly in their hearts.

    I might also say, again, that if we would just stick to congregational singing in the gathered worship of the church, with or without an instrument present solely to assist the singing, this situation wouldn't exist at all. I am an orchestral musician. I find the religious works of Bach, Handel, et al. to be especially edifying. This doesn't mean that they belong in corporate worship.
    Micah Everett
    PCA
    Taylor, MS
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  37. #37
    Poimen's Avatar
    Poimen is offline. Puritanboard Postgraduate
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    The scriptures are clear about the manner of worship:

    1) It must be done with spirit & understanding: "What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say 'Amen' at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?" 1 Corinthians 14:15-16

    2) It must be done with grace and to the Lord: Colossians 3:16-17 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

    I think it is obvious that unbelievers cannot sing these truths from the heart and thus could not lead in worship without compromising the integrity of the church and their own person.

    This leaves instrumental accompaniment which is not prescribed in scripture as to be separate from the worship of God's people. The only function that instruments play in scripture is in the Old Testament where the priests would lead the people in giving praise to God. We had to create a whole other portion of worship out of thin air that indirectly attacks the worship of the saints because it eclipses the worship of the saints. What ought instrumental accompaniment to do but to help the congregation sing? And, in light of the scripture's above, how can one be 'helped' by someone who does not believe what you are singing about?
    Last edited by Poimen; 12-03-2010 at 12:45 PM.
    Rev. Daniel Kok
    Pastor in the St. Lawrence Presbytery of the RPCNA
    Leduc, Alberta CANADA

    "What sort of pledge and how great is this of love towards us! Christ lives for us not for himself!"
    John Calvin, Commentary on the Hebrews (7:25)
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  38. #38
    Zenas's Avatar
    Zenas is offline. Snow Miser
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    Quote Originally Posted by Micah Everett View Post
    "But them that are without God judgeth," and I am not convinced that admonishing my unbelieving colleagues about this practice will be helpful or productive.
    It wouldn't be helpful at all, nor do I think proper. The people huring them within the church are the ones that need to be punished.
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    Andrew
    Member, Independent Presbyterian Church (PCA)

  39. #39
    N. Eshelman's Avatar
    N. Eshelman is offline. Puritanboard Senior
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    Quote Originally Posted by sastark View Post
    Did anyone else think of Charles McIlhenny and the firing of the homosexual organist that led to his home being fire-bombed when they read this article? I wonder what Rev. McIlhenny would have to say about pagans leading worship?
    Chuck and I were just talking about this yesterday. I will not get into our discussion, other than to say that he sees the parallels between what happened at First OPC and what could come about from this.

  40. #40
    kvanlaan's Avatar
    kvanlaan is offline. Puritanboard Doctor
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    The Gunn Brothers did a whole film on this: Shaky Town

    http://www.shakytown.com/

    Great movie - terrifying, but very well done.
    Kevin, husband of a truly angelic woman, and father to twelve.
    Zion United Reformed Church of Sheffield
    Ontario, Canada

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