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Why Can’t Non-Members Be Soloists At Weddings Or Funerals?

“I’M GLAD YOU ASKED!” (SIXTH IN A SERIES)  Pastors Answer Frequently-Asked Questions

Why Can’t Non-Members Be Soloists At Weddings Or Funerals?

May someone who is not a member of a congregation in the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) sing or be an accompanist in, for example, a wedding or funeral conducted by one of our pastors? Since these aren’t regular Sunday morning services, does that give us more leeway to have non-members sing or play?

…all the members of a church
    are responsible for what
    that church teaches.

What is a worship service? In a worship service we have (among other things) prayers, hymns, Scripture readings, and a sermon. We have all these things in our wedding and funeral services, so that makes them worship services. Whatever God’s Word says about worship services also applies to our weddings and funerals.

What if, although this person isn’t a member of the CLC, he nonetheless is a Christian? If we say he can’t sing a solo or play an instrument during one of our services, aren’t we judging his faith? Everyone who trusts in Jesus alone as God and his Savior from sin is saved and is our fellow believer (John 3:16). We are not judging his faith. In Acts 17:10-11 we’re told that after the Bereans heard the Apostle Paul preach, they “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” From this we learn that not just the pastors, but also all the members of a church are responsible for what that church teaches. We also learn that God wants us to test what an individual or a church teaches to see if it agrees with what His Word says (I John 4:1). If someone who is a Christian is not a member of the CLC, God expects us to test what he and his church teach.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” In our worship and fellowship with others, our Lord wants us to “all speak the same thing,” that is, to be in agreement with each other on all the doctrines of His Word. Paul tells us in Romans 16:17, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” Our Lord wants us to avoid religious fellowship with those who teach contrary to His Word.

We welcome visitors to our church services, of course, and no one is forbidden from voluntarily joining in our worship. The difference comes when someone takes a facilitating role in the worship service as a soloist or instrumentalist

Some might object: “We’re not talking about having a non-CLC member preach or teach at one of our services, just sing a solo or play. Aren’t those different?” The songs in our worship services are all religious songs. The music in our services is either religious music or, if not, then music conducive to worship. Those who sing solos and play musical instruments during our worship services, though they are not leaders in the same sense that pastors are leaders, are nevertheless being given a prominent role in the worship service. If such people come from outside our fellowship, this ignores our differences in teaching and gives the false impression that those differences aren’t important. As we heard in 1 Corinthians 1:10, our Lord wants us to worship and fellowship with those with whom we’re agreed on His Word.

Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word” (John 14:23). We show our love for Jesus by remaining faithful to His Word. When we’re considering soloists or accompanists for our worship services, or anything we do, we want to be faithful to our God and His Word.

If you have further questions on this topic, or would like a more complete discussion, please talk to your pastor. He’s called as your spiritual shepherd and will be happy to study and apply Scripture with you in these matters.

Terrel Kesterson is pastor of St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Mountain View, California.