Should My Band Be Members of My Church?
Your electric player calls on Friday night saying that he can’t play Sunday, and you don’t have any other electric players at your church. Two weeks later you drummer calls. Extenuating circumstances arise and they call Saturday afternoon to say that they cannot play tomorrow. Someone who has recently started attending your church asks if they can play on Sundays.
What do you do? Cancel the whole band and do an acoustic set? Call someone who is part of another church to fill in? Is this potential fill in a part of a church at all or do they bounce between places that ask them to play? What about this new person? How do you know if someone is not only a capable musician but a person walking in the light (1 John 1:9) pursuing holiness (1 Pet. 1:16), and is in good standing with the church to which they currently belong if they belong to one at all (1 Cor. 5:12-13)?
These are questions that worship leaders will have to answer. We do well to have think through and have answers to questions like these for when they inevitably arise. To begin we will ask two fundamental questions about who makes up a particular church and who should lead in that particular church. This leads us to the question of church membership.
The two fundamental questions we must ask are,
What is membership?
Why does membership matter/what does it provide?
After answering the above questions there are two subsequent questions that we will seek to answer that apply even more specifically to our worship ministry.
What are the benefits of band members being members of the church they are playing at?
When, if ever, is it appropriate to have non-members play?
Firstly, what is membership?
While recognizing the varying perspectives that exist around church membership, this article will be written from an understanding of membership where the church is made up of believers baptized post conversion.
According to Jonathan Leeman, “church membership is a formal relationship between a local church and a Christian characterized by the church’s affirmation and oversight of a Christian’s discipleship and the Christian’s submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church.”
A formal relationship between a local church and a Christian…
One primary way the New Testament describes the church is as the body of Christ made up of many members. While many may hear member and think of something more akin to belonging to a country club, the New Testament speaks of membership as being a member of a body, like a hand or a foot, something attached to a larger, interconnected whole (1 Cor. 12:1-31). While some may consider it sufficient to see themselves as belonging to the universal, invisible body of Christ, belonging to a specific, local, congregation is the way a believer lives out their belonging to the universal body of Christ. A hand is a hand even if it is detached from a body, but it is only able to function as designed when attached to a particular body.
Additionally, membership is something formalized, written down, and voluntarily entered into by the individual and the congregation. This keeping of records is seen in two primary places in the New Testament. Passages like Acts 6:1-15 and 1 Timothy 5:9 show that leaders of particular churches are called to know the particular people who make up a particular local church.
… characterized by the church’s affirmation and oversight of a Christians discipleship
Membership in a church is how the world knows who represents Jesus. Belonging to a congregation says to the world, this person belongs to Jesus and is seeking to faithfully obey and follow Him. Anyone can claim to be a Christian, but only those who live in deep, meaningful community with others in a covenant community can have their profession of faith validated beyond just their claim (Prov. 18:17). Membership also provides the believer oversight to their discipleship regarding belief and behavior from both the elders and other members, whether that is in being taught, encouraged, rebuked, cared for, warned, helped, etc. (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim 3:15-17; 1 Thess. 5:12-14).
… and the Christian’s submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church.
Christians are called to submit to the leaders God has placed over them (Heb. 13:17). While this directly contradicts the mindset of individualism and personal autonomy that dominates western culture, the call from the Scriptures remains clear. Elders are to humbly equip, protect, care for, and lead the flock of God that has been entrusted to them, and members are called to submit to their leadership, barring any unrepentant and disqualifying behavior of those elders or deviation from doctrinal orthodoxy (Acts 20:28-30; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).
After defining membership, we can now seek to answer the second fundamental question as we look towards who should or should not be on stage playing for our worship teams, why does membership matter and what does it provide?
While there is no specific “thou shalt be a member of a local church,” in Scripture, we have seen above that membership in a local church is implicitly required for New Testament Christians. We have also seen that membership provides leadership and accountability for the individual Christian when it comes to right belief and right behavior. Membership also provides believers opportunities to practice the New Testament call to “one-another” ministry in deep, meaningful, familial relationships that simply cannot be obtained in their intended way without belonging to a local church.
We now turn to how we think about who we have play with us on a Sunday. The primary piece of membership that effects the decision of whether one should or should not play on a Sunday is that of accountability to right belief and behavior. The accountability that membership provides in regard to belief and behavior enables the worship leader to feel confident that those who are a part of the band on a Sunday are those who are genuinely pursuing the true Jesus (right belief), walking in the light, confessing sin, and pursuing holiness (right behavior).
So, onto the main question we set out to answer,.
When, if ever, is it appropriate for a non-member to play? Should my band be members of my church?
While it is certainly ideal to have people, who are members serving in the band, there are times when it would be appropriate to have guest musicians or worship leaders be a part of a Sunday gathering, just as it would be with a guest preacher. But what are the filters that should determine who we do and do not invite into such roles?
Below are some suggested filters that can serve as a helpful guide to you as you think through this question,
- Is this a singular instance where we simply need a last-minute fill in or is it a more long-standing, interim type need?
- Is the person a regular attender of your church and are in the process of pursuing membership but are yet to be affirmed?
- Is the person a member of a church your church was planted by or helped plant?
- Is the person a member of a church that is affiliated with yours?
- Campuses, network, denomination, etc.
- Member of other orthodox, gospel-preaching church?
- Is the person a member of a church at all?
- This would seem to be a circumstance where extra discretion and wisdom is required because as mentioned above, one significant aspect of church membership is that a congregation of people can affirm the validity of an individual’s profession of faith.
Right belief, and right behavior. Genuinely following Jesus is what we should be looking for in anyone we have serving with us.
Meaningful membership matters and gives worship leaders who may need or desire to invite a guest musician or worship leader to their church a degree of confidence in the character of an individual and their relationship to the Lord because the individual’s claim to follow Jesus can be confirmed by others. There is freedom for leaders to make this decision. However, they should exercise wisdom and discernment when doing so. It would be better to have a musically stripped down, acoustic set with members/musicians who are in good standing with Jesus and His people, than to have a really impressive sounding full band with people who are not in a place of maturity, health, or submission to Jesus and His people. Our willingness as leaders to make decisions like this reveals what we truly value in our ministry and provides an opportunity for us to show our people and our teams that holiness and faithfulness to Jesus in the way we live our lives matters more than musical “quality” and “excellence.” “Humans do not see what the LORD sees, for humans see what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Our hope is that God would increasingly give us eyes to see as He does as we seek to lead and serve the congregations that God has placed us in.
Questions for Reflection
Does your church have membership? Why or why not? Sit down with your leaders if you have questions regarding your church’s position on membership.
What does your church believe about membership and service? Are certain service opportunities reserved for members only? Where does music fall at your church regarding membership?
Are the members of your worship team faithfully following Jesus? How do you know?