Complementarianism, Mailbag, Worship

The Mailbag: Women “Worship Leaders” and Confusing Ecclesiology

I have read on previous pages about your response to female worship leaders, and reading your article Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue prompted a few questions from me. Our church is now allowing women to lead worship from the stage. The official music director is male. Women will now be allowed to fill the role of band leader on a rotating basis on Sundays (along with a few males). They will pick songs for their Sunday set that must be approved by the music director and elders. It is being put forth to us as not being a problem because the preaching elder is the actual “worship leader” and that this is no different than women leading a few songs in a worship set. And that it doesn’t violate authority because she can’t “teach in an authoritative way.” And we have an upcoming discussion with the elders because we believe this violates the authority aspect of 1 Timothy 2:12. Can you weigh in? Are we wrong in this? Also, is this a sin issue or a secondary issue?

I’m so sorry this has become a dilemma in your church. I know things like this can be distressing when you love your church and are concerned about its fidelity to Scripture.

I’m really sorry, but I am thoroughly confused by what it is that these women are actually doing with regard to leading the music portion of the worship service, and who is in charge of, or leading, what. And I suspect this confusion points to a deeper issue. So let me just offer a few general thoughts and principles.

Part of the confusion here (at least on my part) is the term “worship leader”. It’s too generic and interpreted in so many different ways by different people.

I understand what your pastor (preaching elder) is saying when he says that he is the “worship leader” because I’ve heard other pastors say this as something of a pushback against the idea that “worship” equals “singing,” when, really, all of the worship service (preaching, prayer, singing, etc.) is worship.

So he’s saying he’s the “worship leader” because the buck stops with him on all elements of the worship service, and he’s leading the worship service. I don’t disagree with that, but the terminology is confusing, and this concept muddies the water when it comes to biblical ecclesiology and to questions like yours. It is not biblical for a woman to serve as this kind of “worship leader” because the biblical terminology for this position is “pastor” or “elder” and Scripture prohibits women from being pastors and elders.

Then you have people who use the term “worship leader” to mean “minister of music” or “music pastor” – the pastor who oversees and puts together the music portion of the worship service and directs the choir, instruments, and congregation during the worship service. It is not biblical for a woman (or a biblically unqualified man) to serve as this kind of “worship leader” because this is a pastoral/elder position of leadership in the church, and Scripture prohibits women (and unqualified men) from being pastors and elders.

Finally, there are people who use the term “worship leader” to mean anyone on the platform who’s directing, singing, or playing an instrument. People in the choir or on the praise team are “worship leaders”, the pianist and drummer are “worship leaders”, etc. With the exception of filling the position of minister of music, it is biblical for women to be this kind of “worship leader” – singing and playing instruments under the leadership of the minister of music. The problem here is the word “leader”. These women are not leading, they are being led by the minister of music.

So the term “worship leader” is already confusing. Now we’ve got women “leading worship from the stage,” “official music director,” “band leader,” and women “leading a few songs in a worship set”. Please understand, dear reader, that I’m not faulting or criticizing you for using any of this terminology – I completely understand that you were only trying to be clear. But it’s still all very confusing to me, because it seems to be a confusing model for worship.

When you say women are “leading worship from the stage” and “leading a few songs in a worship set,” I don’t know if that means they are stepping up and acting as if they’re the minister of music, or if they’re simply on the platform singing under the direction of the minister of music, or if they’re singing a solo during one of the songs. Are “official music director” and “band leader” the same thing or two different positions? Is this person only conducting the musicians on the platform or the entire congregation? When you say that songs must be approved by the “music director and elders” does this mean the person in charge of the music portion of the worship service is not an elder (even though this is a pastoral position)?

My point here is that if I’m confused, and you’re unclear on whether or not women should be doing whatever it is they’re doing, musically, before and during the worship service, there are probably a lot of people in your church who are also confused and unclear.

I suspect that most, if not all, of this confusion could be cleared up if your church had a solid ecclesiology regarding the pastoral/elder position of minister of music. Because, right now, what should be one pastor/elder in the position of minister of music, who should be overseeing and leading all of the things you mentioned, sounds like a chaotic revolving door of a multitude of people (most of whom, I doubt are biblically qualified as pastors/elders). I’m guessing the foundational problem here is not what the women are or aren’t doing, but that you don’t have a pastor/elder in the position of minister of music.

Also at issue is that it sounds like your church is following what I call a “concert” model of worship rather than a “congregational” model of worship. There’s nothing wrong with Christian bands and concerts per se, but that is extra-curricular worshiptainment, not a model for the church’s worship service. The music portion of the worship service is not to be led by a “band” performing a “concert,” and the people in their “audience” can sing along if they want to, and happen to know the words and melody, and can follow all the bridges and ad libbing.

The music portion of the worship service is where the pastor/elder of music shepherds, leads, and instructs the congregation in skillfully and worshipfully praising and exalting God together as a body and building one another up through the Word in song:

…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Ephesians 5:18b-20, Colossians 3:16

The confusion and chaos taking place in your church seems to prove these things out. And remember what the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 14, that great chapter on orderly worship:

God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

1 Corinthians 14:33a

Regarding the selection of songs for the worship service: Again, this would not be an issue if you had one pastor/elder as a minister of music. There’s certainly nothing wrong with any church member suggesting a particular song to the minister of music. He can prayerfully consider the suggestion and use it or not as it fits in with his pastoral objective for the music portion of the worship service. But with this “revolving door” leadership model at your church, there’s confusion, and the issue of women planning the worship service arises, when that’s really the job of the pastor/elder minister of music.

To me, the questions of “Is this sin or a secondary issue?” and “Does this violate the authority clause of 1 Timothy 2:12?” as it pertains to your particular church are nearly moot. The main issue is not what the women are doing. The women are like pictures hanging crookedly on the wall of a house that has a crack in the foundation. The issue is not the crooked pictures, but that the foundation needs to be fixed. When the crack in the foundation is fixed, the pictures will hang straight.

How to get started fixing that foundation? I would highly recommend that your elders keep an eye out for the next G3 Worship Workshop and make every effort to attend. And also that they should read everything they can get their hands on by Scott Aniol.

I want to commend you and your husband for meeting with the elders to calmly, biblically, and directly discuss your concerns. That’s exactly what you should be doing and exactly what I recommend church members do in situations like this. Great job!

For anyone who would like to explore the subject more, I have explained in more detail why women should not fill the position of minister of music in my article Rock Your Role FAQs (#16).

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.


The Mailbag: Asked and Answered

Good Monday morning, readers. It is an honor and a joy to serve you in Christ. Welcome to all the newbies and to you seasoned veterans of the blog.

Because some of y’all are new, you aren’t yet aware of all of the resources here to help you. Or maybe you’ve been around a while and haven’t noticed something that might be helpful. Let’s remedy that!

First, if you’re new (or if you’ve never read it), check out Blog Orientation for New Readers and Old Friends. It’s like a Cliffs Notes intro to the blog.

Second, be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of the page. That’s where I keep the info I’m most frequently asked about.

Third, there’s a search bar at the bottom of every page (and one in the blue menu bar at the top of every page) which might help you find what you need.

Fourth, if you don’t find your question answered in one of these ways or below, you might want to check previous Asked & Answered articles and The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs.

And finally, let me get you new readers some answers to the questions several of you have asked. Some of you long time friends may have missed these along the way, so I hope they’ll be helpful to you, too!

Is it appropriate for a woman chaplain to teach men, evangelizing and then answering questions using the Bible to present truth in nursing home one on one or in a coed worship service at the nursing home?

I think I must have a number of followers who visit and care for those in nursing homes, because I’ve received several questions over the years about nursing home ministry. Can I just take a moment to say – thank you so much. What a blessing and an encouragement you must be to those precious ladies and gentlemen.

Let’s unravel your question just a bit because there are several issues at play:

First of all, should a woman even be a chaplain? I don’t want to give an across the board “no” because “chaplain” is such a catch-all term these days, and different organizations (hospitals, prisons, the military, nursing homes, etc.) probably all have different job descriptions for their chaplains which may or may not require a woman in that position to violate Scripture.

But if I were asked, “Should women be chaplains?” and I had to give a yes or no answer, my answer would be no, for the simple reason that most lost people (or even Christians) aren’t going to differentiate a chaplain from a pastor. To them, a chaplain is just a pastor who works in a hospital (or wherever) instead of a church. And it’s unbiblical for women to be pastors, so you don’t want to give the evil appearance of someone living in unrepentant sin. Even if you’re not technically violating Scripture in your position, you appear to be.

OK, for your next several questions, it’s immaterial whether or not these things take place in a nursing home:

Is it OK for women to evangelize (share the plan of salvation with a lost person) and answer biblical questions one on one with a man? Yes. Carefully and with wisdom: Rock Your Role FAQs #11

Is it OK for a woman to evangelize (share the plan of salvation with lost people) a co-ed group? Not if she’s essentially preaching a sermon and functioning as a preacher, which is what I’m inferring by your use of the term “worship service”. Rock Your Role FAQs #11

If it’s something more akin to you hanging out with 5 or 6 friends, some male and some female, and you start sharing the gospel with them, that’s different. That’s really more like a one on one situation.

Is it OK for a woman to preach/teach in or lead a co-ed worship service? No, regardless of the venue or her title. Rock Your Role FAQs #7 Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

This comment was mentioned in your article: “Having a blog in the public square for women that men trespass on is not the same thing as intentionally and unrepentantly preaching to men in the church setting as I’ve explained in further detail in this article.” Is Priscilla Shirer the pastor of a church? (“Church setting” was mentioned above.) I thought what she did was teach in seminars/conferences…Has she ever taken a stance that it’s okay for women to be pastors of churches? (I don’t believe women should be church pastors.) Please help clarify this for me. Thank you and God bless!

Great question! I think the confusion here is over the definition of the church, or “church setting”. I’ve clarified that in my article Rock Your Role FAQs #7.

I don’t know whether or not Priscilla Shirer has ever flat out said, “It’s OK for women to be pastors of churches,” but she yokes with and is friends with women “pastors” and she has preached the Sunday sermon in churches like she did just a couple of weeks ago at Joel Osteen’s “church”.

I discovered again that my husband is looking at pornography.

Oh honey, I am so sorry. I am going to strenuously recommend that you make an appointment with your pastor to get the counsel you need (even without your husband if he won’t go).

The Mailbag: You need to set up an appointment with your pastor for counsel…

Biblical Resources on Pornography

Is it Biblical for me to be a worship leader? I have men on the team (one of them my husband) and I obviously help them to learn the music and I pick the music…I will introduce a new song and talk about it and sometimes read a Scripture that ties in with the song, but I don’t expound on the Scripture. I also pray for the body during worship. Is this Biblical?

I know this is a hard answer to hear, but no, that’s not a position you should be serving in. You need to repent and step down. Rock Your Role FAQs #16

And if, as you mentioned in your email, you are in a church that has let you hold the position of worship leader for several years, allowed you to use music from Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation, etc., and was an environment that was conducive to your being steeped in false doctrine for many years, you almost certainly need to find a new, doctrinally sound church.

How would you react if attending a church that still promotes Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer Bible studies and others?

I know that’s a tough spot to be in. I’ve been there myself. Here are some resources I hope will help:

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?

The Mailbag: How to Leave a Church

Searching for a new church?

I know what you’ve said about disposing of books by false teachers [3rd section], but what if it’s a false teacher’s study Bible? I don’t know if I should be burning a Bible.

It’s very interesting that I’ve gotten this exact same question twice in the past few days, one about Joyce Meyer’s study Bible and another about the Tony Evans study Bible. Yes, definitely get rid of those and praise God for opening your eyes to the false doctrine these teachers espouse!

I would still recommend disposing of a study Bible in the same ways I described in the article linked above for disposing of a regular book by a false teacher.

I understand the visceral aversion to throwing away, destroying, or burning a Bible, and, believe me, that aversion comes from a very good place in your heart and mind. You love and revere God’s Word. You see it as high and holy. That is a good and right perspective to have. But let me offer you a couple of thoughts here.

Just for a moment, compare (I’m not saying these two things are equivalent) properly disposing of a study Bible by a false teacher, or even a regular Bible that’s old or damaged and no longer usable, to properly disposing of an American flag.

If you’re a patriotic American, you’re probably familiar with the U.S. flag code that tells us that the proper way to dispose of a flag that has been sullied, damaged, or is old and no longer usable is to burn it respectfully.

Just as properly and respectfully disposing of a flag by burning it is not the same thing as burning it in rage-fueled protest because you hate America, properly and respectfully disposing of a Bible that has been sullied and damaged by false teaching (or a regular Bible that’s too old or physically damaged to be used) by burning it is not the same thing as burning a Bible in rage because you hate God. Don’t forget, God can see into your heart and understands exactly why you’re burning that Bible. He’s the one who put the desire in your heart to get rid of it in the first place.

Also, in the same way that the flag you hold in your hands that needs to be disposed of is, fundamentally, simply a piece of cloth, the Bible you hold in your hands that needs to be disposed of is, fundamentally, simply paper.

Hear me carefully. I’m not saying we shouldn’t treat our Bibles (or the flag) respectfully. What I’m saying is there’s nothing supernatural or mystical about the paper pages you hold in your hands. The Bible is waaaaaaaay bigger than that. It can’t be contained by paper and ink. It goes far beyond paper and ink. It’s living and active. It stands forever.

Be careful not to slip across the line from conceptual reverence for the Word of God in toto into superstition about the paper pages you hold in your hands. Respectfully disposing of a Bible isn’t going to cause bad things to happen to you. Again, God sees your heart. He knows exactly what you’re doing and why.

If you’d like, make a little ceremony of it around your chiminea or fireplace. Say a prayer thanking God for His Word and thanking Him for opening your eyes to false teaching. Read part or all of Psalm 119, one of these passages, or another passage that extols God’s Word. Sing a hymn about the Scriptures, like Holy Bible, Book Divine, Standing on the Promises, Every Promise, or Wonderful Words of Life1.

Don’t be afraid to properly dispose of study Bibles by false teachers. You’re not disrespecting the paper pages of God’s Word, you’re doing it because you respect the heart of God’s Word.

1I didn’t vet any of these artists/groups, and I’m not endorsing any of them who conflict with Scripture or my statement of faith. These videos are just to give you an idea of how each song goes.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.