Church, Music, and some other stuff

Should We Allow Un-Saved Musicians to Play In Our Services?

Unsaved musicianQuite often I’m asked my opinion of if it’s OK to hire unsaved musicians to play in a worship service.  I’ve heard this topic debated from every angle you can possibly imagine, and I’ve even seen it done a few times.  I mean, God can move through anyone, right?

Let’s look to the Bible.  I believe this answer can be found In Exodus 25 where we read about this description of the Ark of the Covenant.  The construction of the Ark is very descriptive, but for the sake of this post, I want to point out 2 things.  1: The presence of God could be found with the Ark.  2: The Ark had rings on the sides through which the priests slid poles to carry it.

So what exactly does this have to do with unsaved musicians playing in church?  Notice that the presence of God could only be carried on the shoulders of the priests.  Ok, that seems pretty straight forward.

Now let me ask the question: can unsaved musicians carry the presence of God?  David made the mistake of doing this once and it got a man killed.  Who you allow to carry the presence of God before the people is serious business!  When you’re choosing musicians, make wise biblical decisions, not decisions based on your current need.

My opinion is that no unsaved person should ever be permitted in any position of leadership before the Lord.  When I play guitar, I am ministering, leading worship, and prophesying through it.   What is the source of inspiration if not the Spirit of God?  Who is an unsaved person ministering to if not to God?

God doesn’t place the government and ministry of his church on just anyone.  He places it on those that He has called, equipped, qualified, and ordained to that responsibility under Christ.  In other words, only priests.

Do you think that we should allow un-saved musicians to play in our services?

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  1. Dee

    Hi! so i just discovered this blog..and this was my first post
    and i think you couldn’t have said it any better! Worship is firstly spiritual, because it is about fellowship with God, and how can we have fellowship with God if we are not born again?
    in the same way David appointed men of Gos, Priests to carry the ark and to minister with praise, is the same way we must view praise and worship. It isn’t all about the music.

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    • Shalon

      Thank you!

  4. Clyde Tew
    Clyde Tew02-15-2014

    Well thought out and well put. I’m with you.

  5. Derek Olsen
    Derek Olsen01-21-2014

    I know of a church that had “un-saved” musicians.

    Two of them were saved as a result.

    End of discussion, no?

    • Shalon

      I heard of a guy that was saved as a result of the Holocaust.

      End of discussion, no?

      • Derek Olsen
        Derek Olsen01-21-2014


        Although, I think the comparison breaks down quickly (un-saved musicians aren’t murdering millions of people). On the flip-side, God works all things to His glory, even the holocaust.

        Back to the original discussion. I see your point for sure, allowing non-Christians to help lead worship is an interesting topic. I am not sure about the answer.

        I think another couple of questions to ask and answer that might help answer the original question (Do you think that we should allow un-saved musicians to play in our services?) are:

        1- How are we to know if a person is saved or not? How can you “tell”? Just ask them and trust the answer that they give? What happens when you are mistaken and allow a non-Christian to play music as part of a worship gathering?
        2- What is the reason for allowing or not allowing non-Christians to play music. In other words, what is your heart-attitude behind allowing or not allowing. I suppose there are reasons and conclusions on both sides. This question is almost a re-statement of your original question but gets more at the reason why in addition to ‘should we allow?’.

        Interested to read your reply.

        • Scott


          Just my two cents~ Aside from the obvious answer of how we “know” a musician is saved is first and foremost by asking that simple I know that just because a person says he or she is saved doesn’t mean they truly are…at that point, it is in God’s hand. I, as a worship pastor have done my due diligence by asking the question. Generally, a person’s lifestyle will quickly show how close they are to God.

          Back to the original question/statement. Yes I do believe it is possible for an unsaved musician to be moved to salvation by being a part of a worship ministry. But never forget that a ministry or a person never saved anyone. Only God can do that. And I would venture to say, it is probably the exception not the norm that a person would come to Christ simply by being allowed to play onstage. Let’s be honest here…we are dealing with musicians/singers, etc…by definition, they like to get in front of people and perform. That is usually the first motivation in an unsaved person or a ‘new’ christian. I would agree with the first idea that it isn’t generally a good idea to allow unsaved people on the platform to lead people. How can you lead/profess a God you do not know? Could they be a part of the worship ministry in some other fashion that isn’t leading during service? Absolutely. But to be on the platform not knowing the God you proclaim to be preaching is a poor idea. Too many times we, as leaders, are more concerned about making sure we have enough musicians and not concerned enough with the spiritual life of the ones already on the platform. Honor God first and the rest will fall into place.

        • Mike

          The answer is obviously no.

          Noting about worship is evangelistic in nature… You cannot find that in scripture. Nor do you find worship ever being led by non believers.

          Jesus closed the case on this:

          The kinds of worshippers the Father seeks are those who worship in Spirit and in Truth.

          If you don’t know the truth (gospel) then you don’t have the spirit.

          If one is lacking the Spirit and Knowledge of the Truth, then they cannot worship (nor lead others) in Spirit and in Truth.

  6. Curtis Ellis
    Curtis Ellis01-16-2014

    Hello again Shalon,
    Wow. I was completing our lesson for tomorrow when I literally stumbled upon these scriptures. Sums up everything. May this be for the edification of the Church and not the tearing down of it. Wow, this just puts an explanation point on the heart of an unchanging God for His people.

    2nd Corinthians 6:14-18
    Be Holy
    O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open.
    Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
    “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”
    Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”

  7. Curtis Ellis
    Curtis Ellis01-16-2014

    Hello Shalon,

    Man, this is an awesome article! My wife and I were reading this blog with the hope that it would not become watered down as soooo many have done in the Church today. This is a wonderful subject and one that, quite desperately, needs addressing. We happen to have a Men’s Group tomorrow night (2014-01-16) that will… you guessed… be about True Worship! See… Paul, David, and all the wonderful men and women of the Bible would most certainly agree with every word of your blog. For the Old Testament is the NEW concealed, while the New Testament is the OLD revealed. The Old Testament has a gazillion types and shadows for us to learn from, but they’re revealed by The Holy Spirit. You (Shalon) very eloquently presented the type in that God’s presence was in the (The Ark); this representing to us the presence of the Holy Spirit. The unbeliever could not carry God’s presence. Likewise, God never said that He inhabits the praises of unbelievers. No, never, but quite the contrary. (Again, this is to add to your point Shalon….) – Psalm 22:3 reads, “But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.” This verse means that God dwell… or inhabits… or is ENTHRONED in the praises of HIS PEOPLE, and not the people who have not given their lives to Him. Speaking of the Ark, Shalon, Joshua never fought a battle of Jericho, at least not with his army. He was simply commanded to march around the city seven days with seven PRIESTS carrying the Ark behind them, then BOOM!!… the jubilee blast of the trumpets and the walls of the city fail down. We know that these Jubilee Trumpets were used to announce the Holy presence of God. The Spirit of God is in us, therefore we are the temple of God. So, consequently, it’s a real slippery slope to begin mixing the holy with the mundane. It really should go without saying, but we absolutely must be “priests” when ministering to others in music. By the term “priest,” I mean you, me, and everyone that has called upon the name of the Lord. Especially men, we are to be priests of our homes, which in turn extends to our churches.

    Revelation 20:6 reads, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the First Resurrection. Over such the Second Death has no power, but they shall be PRIESTS of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”

    1st Peter 2:5,9 reads, “…you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

    Christendom as a whole, especially the Churches here in America, sadly have this grace-grace mentality. The “grace” message has watered-down the Word of God so much so that it has caused a lack of The Fear Of God in the Church. It’s like it doesn’t even exist. Sin, sin, sin,… “oh well, Jesus paid the price.” Where is the YIELDING unto God?? Yielding doesn’t mean you’re perfect and that you won’t sin, it just means you’re perfectly suited for the good pleasure of God to do His work in you. Like David sang in Psalm 51, CREATE IN ME A CLEAN HEART, O GOD, AND RENEW A RIGHT SPIRIT WITHIN ME. TAKE NOT THY HOLY SPIRIT FROM ME…. Today’s Church is more focused on Success and Glamour and Prosperity. But where is Sacrifice, Humility and real Love? Where is the crucifying of SELF, and SELF LOVE? When the Children of Israel were brought out of Egypt, they DIED in the wilderness. Why? Because they didn’t qualify for the inheritance of the Promised Land. They did not yield to God. Their focus was only on The Gift and not The Prize. Much like today’s Church. There is nothing new under the sun. Jesus (Yeshua) gave us the free gift of eternal life, but was it really free? No, it cost a dear price. But in order to obtain The PRIZE we must take up our cross and follow Him. Otherwise, there would be no need to take up our own cross. Now, WE must pay a price. We must crucify the flesh (psuche) and abide by the Spirit so that we will receive the Prize. What is the Prize, you ask. The Prize is – SONSHIP – the receiving of an inheritance, so that we may rule and reign with Christ Jesus when He comes into HIS KINGDOM.

    You’re saying, “okay, how does this pertain to me or to worship with unbelievers?” Well, in order for one to be considered a worshipper of the Most High the Holy Spirit MUST DWELL WITHIN YOU. Without FAITH it is impossible to PLEASE God. Those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. And on and on and on…. When Adam fail, he could no longer fellowship with God. Their fellowship was broken. David understood this, in that he wrote and sang about his trials and tests, and also of his fellowship with God. His worship was a direct result from his daily walk with God, and not something he did corporately with others. Basically, he lived what he wrote.

    I’m going to end this book… so sorry… so long winded…. but this is a very serious matter. Just look at all the evil that’s prevalent in todays music. It used to be subtle. Now, not so much. So, be very careful of what music you listen to and allow into your spirit. Otherwise, you could wind up presenting false fire before the Lord… before Yahweh. That is a terrible thing!! Just ask the sons of Eli. They thought they were worshipping God, too. And guess what… they were PRIESTS. One small detail, as you’ll read in 1st Samuel 2, they were not “faithful priests.” You think it matters to God if you have His Spirit abiding in you? Well, of course it does. (Please read 1st Samuel 2:12-36)

    In the Book of Amos God says in Chapter 5:4, and verse 21-23
    4 For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel, “Seek Me that you may live.”
    21“I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.”
    22 “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.”
    23 “Take away from Me the NOISE of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps”.

    True Worship is taking dominion over the flesh; dominion over selfish self. That’s worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth. Dying to the flesh (yielding to the Spirit) is bearing fruit.

    Sorry for the long post.
    Much love in Yeshua,

    • Shalon

      Hey Curtis, Wow! Thank you so much for this! Every word of this was awesome! I really appreciate you using scripture in your points as well. I learned a lot from this! Thanks again!

      • Curtis Ellis
        Curtis Ellis01-16-2014

        Amen Shalon,
        We were just really impressed by your article. We all learn from each other. This pretty much turned into an online Bible study. 🙂 Thanks for bringing up an interesting topic that spurred us to become a part of the discussion. May the Lord bless you and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you; and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you Shalom, always. May He bless your endeavors with this site and bring glory to His name.
        In Messiah Yeshua’s name. Amen.

      • Anonymous

        And all those examples you give from the old testament are about people who did things for God and yet were not saved. Even the 12 apostles were not saved when Jesus said “come, follow me.” No one was saved until Jesus rose again and then they confessed Him as Lord and believed in their hearts… Genesis until Acts, not one saved person, yet many whom God used to do His work. If the unsaved want to help you with the message of the Risen Savior… Receive them and let them experience the anointing that is upon your life and your call and your ministry… Just saying.

  8. Cameron Sprinkle
    Cameron Sprinkle01-15-2014

    Side note–we use your loops and they’re fantastic! A great tip for people looking for smoother transitions between loops is the Djay 2 app–it’s designed for DJs to have two tracks running at once so they can sync one and then crossfade, so what I do is have one side running the key we’re in and the other side will have the next song’s key loaded, and then we cross fade for the transition and you barely notice we’ve switched keys. Then if we need a third key we can cue up the first side and have it ready for another transition. It’s great…that app plus your loops has been the perfect solution for transitions for us.

    • Shalon

      Thanks a lot! I haven’t heard of doing this before. I’m going to have to check it out.

  9. Cameron Sprinkle
    Cameron Sprinkle01-15-2014


    Thanks for being willing to go after this topic. I’m still forming my philosophy on this as a young worship leader (28, for the record–is that young? I guess depends on who you ask). I have two questions: do you consider every band member a “position of leadership”, including bass player, drummer, cow bellist…? and question 2: How do you determine whether someone is in a relationship with Jesus? I ask because I have had people who have auditioned for the team and basically answered every “interview/get to you know” question right, but still leave you wondering about where they’re at. I know these are tough questions. My current philosophy is that the front line (vocal leadership) needs to be people who could talk to others about Jesus after the service, and the back line could be people who are seeking Jesus.

    • Shalon

      Hey Cameron, thanks a lot for sharing. There are obviously a lot of views on this subject, so as long as you let the Holy Spirit guide your decision making, you’re in the right place.

      To answer your first question: Yes, i do believe that EVERY band member is a position of leadership. People look up to the band on stage (not to mention kids who want to just like a guitarist or drummer they see on stage.) They are the people representing your church on the front lines.

      Question 2: No better place to start than by simply asking them if they’ve given their lives to Christ. It’s also important to notice their character. I’ll choose character over talent any day. You’re the leader and God has placed you there for a reason, so like I said, allow the Holy Spirit to guide your decisions and you can’t go wrong.

      • Cameron Sprinkle
        Cameron Sprinkle01-17-2014

        I appreciate your response, Shalon, and your heart for purity and unity in/on the music team. Hope you don’t think I was trying to corner you with either question–just legitimately seeking wisdom and perspective as I shape this aspect of my ministry philosophy. Next on the docket: hazers! haha…hazers are the gun control debate of worship leading.

        • Shalon

          I didn’t think you were. I really appreciate your feedback and questions. That’s why I enjoy doing this.

      • Anonymous

        Kind of like when Jesus chose character over potential when he called the hot-headed, cursing, fisherman Peter to come and follow Him. I think that hot head was made the first new testament Pastor… Oh the laws we make up when Jesus simply wants “whosoever” will to come and find out what He has to offer.

  10. Eddie

    Thanks for the post. Here’s my 2 cents. Leading worship honestly is not carrying an Ark. Thank God that veil was torn so I can enter into his presence, despite the fact that I’m flawed. Yes even an ordained minister like me is flawed, yet i am still a worship leader. I had a long paragraph that I was going to submit but honestly would I sway your opinion? Maybe, maybe not, either way I’m sure that you are seeking God in your ministry which is evident by your blogs. What I would suggest is looking at the writings of Paul someone a little more our contemporary and honestly one of the best worship bloggers I’ve ever read and read and read. Look at his ideas on worship and leadership and then if your opinion on the subject holds water, run with it. I once totally agreed with you, still would not have used the ark as my comparison, but none the less thought as you do, until I met a worship leader that became a good friend. Here’s what happened.
    I personally have seen a church explode after a group of unsaved musicians, recruited from a music store by a worship leader were simply asked if they would play. I met him at the store while this recruitment was going on. Out of the the musicians that said yes, the last time I spoke and prayed with my friend all have given their hearts, and lead their families to Christ. They came as musicians, they are now, leaders in that church.
    Hearing about my friends experience and seeing God moving man and not man trying to move God really made me personally evaluate my thoughts on this very subject. The Word of God was written for you, so take what it gives you and be bold with it wether I do, or do not agree with you.
    Looking forward to more reads. Be blessed.
    Eddie a Worship Dude.

    • Shalon

      Thanks for sharing Eddie! I really appreciate your post, and I will definitely continue to read what the word has to say about things like this. Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      Beautiful Eddie. I see it in the Word. Get them in and let Jesus bless and call them.

  11. Tim Stafford
    Tim Stafford01-14-2014

    Shalon, very sorry I thought it said Sharon. My mistake.

  12. Tim Stafford
    Tim Stafford01-14-2014

    Well Sharon I understand what you are saying, and I have heard it so many times before, and frankly your reasoning does not really speak to the matter at all.
    1). So if a church hires an orchestra, every member has to be a Christian. I think not.
    2). So if a raging great drummer or bass player shows up, pro stock, ready to go, totally interested in Jesus but not saved, don’t put him in the rotation. Ok I get that, maybe he drinks (so do Christians), maybe he smokes (so do Christians), maybe he is insincere in his walk with the Lord (hmmm), maybe he thinks he saved but he is wrong (hmmm hmmm). Christians who are struggling and cause problems, they can “carry the ark” but not the unsaved who are seeking for something greater in their lives. I have personally won dozens of musicians to Christ, and how did I earn a voice in their life – by first being a musician that they respect and second by being as authentic as I could be. Based on your expectations, there are many great musicians that could not be a musician at your church and they are saved.
    3). How far are you going to take this, because tis is where the hypocrisy really is in this logic. Do you vett the plumber, the cabinet maker, the children’s workers (let’s hope so) – I recently heard of a church that would not allow an unsaved drummer to play in their worship band but they “inadvertently” let a lesbian couple teach Sunday School. Do you vett the gardeners, painters and all other tradesmen. The answer is no, but they are maintaining and building the temple! The temple that God will reside in! The temple where worship will happen! Are the pastors not allowed to listen to any secular music in the church? What about the worship leaders are they listening to John Mayer or Bruno Mars for inspiration? No? Well how come they are using these songs or “changing” them for church services. It is just craziness.
    4. Here is the real issue, Sharon. Churches greatly use and abuse musicians all for the sake of the “ministry.” I have been involved in church worship teams and departments for more than 30 years and the worship team members are the most exhausted, most tightly rotated, least discipled people in the church, period. The church loves them for their talent yet think that they are weird, so they are avoided. NO OTHER TRADE is asked to give to the extent that the musician is, to the detriment of his/her own career, family and otherwise just because they should for the sake of the ministry. A plumber may give the church a discount but he will charge for the work. An interior designer may do the bathrooms for free as a gift but would expect payment on the whole church. The pastor gets 6 weeks off a year, but the pianist plays 52 weeks and is made to feel guilty if she doesn’t.

    Where is this story Sharon? Let’s look at the reality of church music and musicians, turn off the pioused righteous babble and realize that one of the the largest mission fields is in already on our stages.

    • Shalon

      Hey Tim, Thanks for sharing!
      My reasoning does not really speak to the matter at all? I feel as though you skimmed over the article just as you skimmed over my name.

      Let me just say this. I’m glad that you’ve been able to win over musicians through your ministry, but don’t belittle the seriousness of carrying the presence of God. Respect your congregation by carrying the presence and showing them legitimate worship from everyone on stage.

      People are looking up to leadership positions. Who you place in leadership is just that. They are leading people. Where are non-christians leading people if not to God? I totally agree that there is a place for unsaved people to serve. That’s a whole different ball-game. I am talking about positions of leadership.

      You said, “Christians who are struggling and cause problems, they can “carry the ark” but not the unsaved who are seeking for something greater in their lives.” That’s exactly right. You mentioned drinking, smoking, and being insincere. What exactly does that have to do with anything. A person is either has a relationship with Jesus or not. We all mess up. Not to mention that I drink on occasion and don’t see anything wrong with drinking or smoking.

      You went on and on about the plumbers, painters, listening to secular music, etc. You went really off track with this. I’ll just say that notice that I said POSITIONS OF LEADERSHIP.

      And your forth paragraph…has nothing to do with anything I talked about.

      And I disagree. The largest mission field is not on your stage unless you put them there and create those situations. The mission field is in our congregations. You are going to serve more people by bringing the presence of God to your congregation, than you ever would by diminishing the presence for a couple musicians.