Meet the Agnostic on Our Worship Team
Yah – I bet that got your attention! And it’s true. For several years, our church has had a “born again agnostic” – Vanessa – on our worship team. How does that make you feel? To tell you the truth, I was uncomfortable about it for a long time.
Watering Down Our Christianity
We live in a world where a lot of people want to water down their brand of Christianity. Just the other night, a good friend of mine Matt Prater took on the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on a televised program by asking him basically: How can you say that you’re a Christian and promote same sex marriage?
That’s one example, but there are many others.
More and more, Christians want to blend into the contemporary social landscape and not stand out too much. Let’s just go with the flow.
I’m not one of them. And the reason is that Jesus – my Lord and my Saviour – He’s not one of them either.
In fact, He was prepared to tell God’s truth no matter what it did to the public’s perception of Him:
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:66-69)
We each need to choose where we stand – with Jesus or against Him. Watering down our faith is, in my view, tantamount to standing against Him.
So What About the Agnostic on the Worship Team?
Well, here she is – she’s the one with the guitar. Her name is Vanessa. The young woman on keyboard is her younger sister Lucy, and the woman to the right of her is her mum, Robyn. They have for some years now, made up the core of our worship team at Church in the Marketplace.
Lucy and Robyn have been sold out to God for as long as I’ve known them. But Vanessa – she seemed so anti-God to most of the rest of us.
So frankly, her presence on the worship team is something that I struggled with. I waxed and waned.
Surely putting a non-believer in such an important spiritual leadership position had to be wrong, right? Isn’t this just another example of watering down our Christianity?
And yet on the other hand, do we push her away and stop her from participating, from hearing the Gospel? Do you see the dilemma? I couldn’t make up my mind.
Vanessa is a unique individual. On the one hand she is incredibly creative. Her sculptures and set designs are mind-blowingly amazing. And yet, far from being an airy-fairy creative type, she has one of the sharpest minds I’ve come across. She was looking for answers and wasn’t going to accept Christ, until a good many of her (rather tough) questions were answered.
Frankly, often as I was preaching at our church I would see her blank stare and wonder to myself: What’s she thinking? Is she taking it in? Why does she come every Sunday morning? What’s going on?
Hoorah! The Agnostic is Finally Gone
Well, as things turned out, it wasn’t a problem that I had to grapple with forever, because now, finally, the agnostic is gone from our worship team. What a relief!!
Oh, no … Vanessa didn’t leave. She gave her life to Christ. Rarely have I ever seen such a radical turnaround in a person’s life as in Vanessa’s. These days she is quite the apologist – a passionate advocate for Christ, completely unafraid to stand for Him, no matter what the rest of society thinks (Mr Rudd please take note).
Despite the hammering that she’s had from friends on Facebook, this young woman is committed with all her heart to her King, and to proclaiming His good news. Not all her questions are yet fully answered, but that’s where her newfound faith cuts in.
It turns out that the ground that she was standing on was sacred ground. Whenever a lost soul is seeking its Saviour – that’s such a sacred place!
What Exactly is the Role of Church?
What Vanessa’s story makes me think about is the role of our church. The role of your church. The role of local faith communities dotted around the country and around the globe.
Question: Your church and my church – are they places where people can be who God made them to be and grapple with questions of faith? Are our churches places where people can come to faith, or are they places where really, people can only come with faith?
None of us will ever know, but had the leadership of our church pushed Vanessa away in a Pharisaic fit of righteousness (the word “Pharisee” literally means “separatist”) there’s every chance that she could have ended up going to a Christless eternity.
So, I’m not going to answer the questions that I’ve posed. I’ll leave you to ponder them, and put your point of view.
What would Jesus do?
All I can say is wow! My family is involved in a church for 1 1/2 years now (have been born again for 24 years) and we haven’t been accepted yet … makes you feel cut off and tossed aside.
What a brilliant and thought provoking blog, Berni – you’ve done it again. I find Caroline’s view interesting and, after thinking for some time, I believe that Vanessa was never an atheist but only professed to be because of questions she wanted answered. Eventually some of those questions were answered and she has come to believe that God will answer the other questions in His good time. I find it very, very difficult to believe that someone who regularly takes part in worship by playing any musical instrument is a genuine atheist.
Making a friend with someone who does not believe is not a problem.The thing is many people end up participating in ungodly things.Jesus Himself was a friend of those who were not believers.Our aim as friends should be to teach them about Christ not just hang out with them.Some of the friends have bad influence.As long as someone knows where to stop it is okay.
It is hard to refuse anybody to participate in the church.But let us remember Satan can infiltrate and destroy the church from within.A good example is a book wrote by EMMANUEL ENI and you can find it on line.It is titled DELIVERED FROM THE POWERS OF DARKNESS.This man was a devil worshiper for many years and he is now a born again Christian.He wrote his testimony and it is the one that changed my life. I received Jesus Christ through this testimony.This man was also one of the people who would go to churches and pretend to receive Jesus and yet his job was to destroy.He warns about the dangers of giving higher positions to people you are not sure of .Many churches were destroyed and divorces in the church.Sometimes the church does not grow and you wonder why.Satan]s work is destroy.Satan stops at nothing.There is a case recently that happened .There is one witch doctor who went to a certain church.The Pastor gave the mike to him to preach in the church.I was shocked .Witch doctors work with the devil himself and I think his aim was to come to the church to destroy people in the church.How ignorant of this Pastor.We need to protect our faith.Let us receive them in the church but let us be patient and let give them time to learn the Word of God.My faith is everything to me and I do not want to loose it.Only Jesus can give us spiritual eyes to discern.Thank you.
If we exclude people who don’t believe, how will they learn to believe. I have been told on several occasions not to go around or make friends with a person because they’re not a believer. That really would give them a great example of Christian love wouldn’t it.
Quite right 🙂
on a side issue – I feel sorry for Matt Prater
The PM used the oldest trick in the book to turn opinion away and back on Matt. The PM the quotes scripture out of social context and then uses social context as an argument for his stand. Very sad particularly now its gone viral
Jesus commanded us to love one another and sometimes our “church- ianity” gets in the way of out Christ-ianity
While I appreciate that love and acceptance should be demonstrated to anyone and everyone, ( ‘athiests’, seekers, ect.) that come to our services, as a minister, I could however not have them involved in spiritual service to the Lord, of which I believe ‘worship’ to be one of. Love them, hug them, accept them, be a friend to them, have them over, ect, ect, but have them use their gifts in the spiritual parts of the service once they discover Jesus and come to faith. Even church members should be in a ‘good’ spiritual place to be involved in ministry! I see this as the pattern set out in the scriptures.
Yes there are too many watered down Christians. In our church we really do a lot of fasting which is what Jesus did many times before praying to His Father. Jesus also tels us to fast and pray but not many “Christian” churches require this of their parishioners. They have watered this requirement down. Not only is it good for your health but it gives you the opportunity to focus more on praying. Its easier to focus on praying on an empty stomach than to focus on a full stomach. Well at least that is the way I feel.
I agree with you Berni about Kevin Rudd. It’s very disappointing to see that our PM calls himself a Christian then waters down his faith by announcing that he will legalize same sex marriage. Why stop there? Is he going to legalize other things that go against our Christian faith too? Will this be the beginning of many more immoral and anti Christian laws that we can expect from our politicians?
It never ceases to amaze me what people will do just to gain a few votes. Doesn’t Kevin know that in legalizing same sex marriage and gaining a few votes that he has angered so many Christians like myself who will not be voting for him.
At the end of the day Christianity rules!!!
I’m with Josh on this … it shouldn’t matter the circumstances of how you hear the Word but the fact that you hear it. Christ opened my eyes by being ‘forced’ to attend church so I could marry my girlfriend (now wife of 28 years). You see the pastor said if you want me to marry you in our church the least you can do is attend a couple of pre-marriage counselling sessions and a couple of Sunday services. It was (eternal) life changing hearing the Word in a small church on a couple of Sundays! Great blog Bernie, thanks.
Another brilliant post Berni,
I agree with Josh, if God is always in Control of everything, and the works of the Holy Spirit are complete mysteries to us, who are we to question God?
Perhaps the only way for Vanessa to see the truth was to be on that worship team?
I mean, the apostles got an big shock when God poured his spirit to the gentiles, and yet they accepted God’s decision.
If Vanessa likes coming to Church and play the guitar as part of the worship team, who are we to stop her? Unless of course she has other motives of course.
Our Churches have been watered down already, because there seems to have a massive division between our Church life and day to day life, I sometimes feel someone completely different when going to Church and totally a different human being outside Church, I get slapped again and again by the Spirit all the time, saying to me what’s the point of going to Church if I’m not going to follow Christ in every aspect of my life?
I know we have an enemy in this world “satan” he’s nothing next to God, but nevertheless pretty powerful in earth for us, and he’s done an enormous amount of damage already from within the church. A church faces external pressures, but they always fail to bring down a church, so Satan infiltrates a church from within and destroys it from the inside, we’ve seen this from the letters of Paul and Peter correcting churches back then…
Often I have people asking me…”how do I know your Church is the right church”?
and this question often frightens me because…, My Church is not perfect, but I feel God’s presence in it…, having said that…
you have orthodox, catholic, jehovah witness, mormons, anglicans, baptist, evangelist, protestants and so on and on.
and you know what, we all identify ourselves as Christians, and yet our beliefs are sooo different why????
It’s not longer black and white, but 50 shades of Grey…, so yes in my opinion Satan has already done significant damage within the churches. In my church I know about 30% of people came from other Churches, and that makes me wonder why…?
Jesus told us…, I am the way, THE TRUTH, and the life…
The Truth is there, just read His words, Pray and the Holy Spirit will reveal to you.
Luke 13:24, NKJV
24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
Churches need to point us to Jesus, his words, encourage us to read and apply his words and build a stronger relationship with our Father in Heaven.
Sorry for the long post…:)
I have always encouraged non-believers being on the team. My wife came to faith this way. I believe every group (except Board) should be open to having unbelievers involved as it is part of our evangelistic mandate. Most people come to faith because they see how we live life together.
Always amazes me that churches fail to see the strategic ‘friendship evangelism’ opportunities by allowing non-Christians to participate in the music teams, drama teams, cleaning rosters…hey – if it gets them into church what’s the problem?
I like your attitude 🙂
Those are my thoughts exactly, Josh. Hey having non believers involved in some way in the church has them hearing the word of God so has to be a positive as whenever and where ever the Lord’s glorious word goes out it will not return to Him void but the seed of life and love is being sown in that person’s life and can only do good, so I praise the Lord for their involvement!!!
Great blog, Berni. I’ve been in ministry for 32 years, 19 of those years in pastoral ministry. This was always a great struggle – our elder board wrestled with this constantly. I don’t have an answer, except that the church is called to be a hospital not a social club. I also see a huge difference between playing a guitar and preaching the word.