Delving deeper

1. You expose the "pagan roots" of the church choir; yet I don t see why that in and of itself makes It less valuable. I don't have the gift of singing but appreciate that those who love music and are gifted in that area take the time and effort to prepare to lead me into worship through song. Your thoughts?

We also appreciate those who are musically gifted and who can use their musical talents to bless others. However, to relegate the song selections in every church gathering to a select few (i.e., a choir or worship team) disallows the rest of the body from participating in this ministry. This contradicts Scripture. As Paul says, "every one of you hath a psalm" in the gathering (1 Corinthians 14:26).

2. Currently my pastor and the worship team leader choose music that corresponds with the morning's message. I may not "connect" with every song chosen but don't see how that would be any different if everyone present were invited to choose and lead a song.

If one has never seen a group of Christians choosing and leading their own songs spontaneously under Christ's headship, it is difficult to grasp what this would look like. Suffice it to say that there is a world of difference between having a select group of people pick the songs and having every believer participate in initiating songs. It is the difference between passively following one person (or a small group) and everyone actively participating together spontaneously.

3. In the Old Testament period (see 1 Chronicles 23:5, 30; 25:1-31, 2 Chronicles 7:6), God instituted "professional" worship leaders among the Levitical families who led public worship and wrote many of the Psalms (e.g., those by Asaph and the descendants of Korah). Do you think this provides a biblical basis for a valid music ministry? Why or why not?

We believe these passages actually support our point. The Old Testament priesthood was restricted to a select group of people—the Levites. In the New Covenant, that selective priesthood has been done away with, and every Christian has been made a priest unto God. We are not part of the Levitical priesthood; we are priests after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5-7). Christ is our High Priest, and every believer is a priest under Him (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6). Therefore, to our minds, these passages show that every Christian has the right to participate in "leading worship" under Christ's headship.

>TITHING AND CLERGY SALARIES: SORE SPOTS ON THE WALLET

"Unlike so many, we do not peddle the Word of God for profit."

-PAUL OF TARSUS IN 2 CORINTHIANS 2:17, niv

"The church, embracing the mass of the population of the Empire, from the Caesar to the meanest slave, and living amidst all its institutions, received into her bosom vast deposits of foreign material from the world and from heathenism. . . . Although ancient Greece and Rome have fallen forever, the spirit of Graeco-Roman paganism is not extinct. It still lives in the natural heart of man, which at this day as much as ever needs regeneration by the Spirit of God. It lives also in many idolatrous and superstitious usages of the Greek and Roman churches, against which the pure spirit of Christianity has instinctively protested from the beginning, and will protest, till all remains of gross and refined idolatry shall be outwardly as well as inwardly overcome, and baptized and sanctified not only with water, but also with the spirit and fire of the gospel."

-PHILIP SCHAFF, NINETEENTH-CENTURY CHURCH HISTORIAN

"'WILL A MAN ROB GOD? Yet you rob me. But you ask, "How do we rob you?" In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Loan Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it"' (Malachi 3:8-10, NIV).

This passage seems to be many Christian leaders' favorite Bible text, especially when giving is at low tide. If you have spent any time in the contemporary church, you have heard this passage read from the pulpit on numerous occasions. Consider some of the rhetoric that goes with it:

"God has commanded you to faithfully give your tithes. If you do not tithe, you are robbing God Almighty; and you put yourself under a curse."

"Your tithes and offerings are necessary if God's work will go on!" ("God's work," of course, includes paying the pastoral staff and footing the monthly electric bill to keep the building afloat.)

What is the result of this sort of pressure? God's people are persuaded to give one-tenth of their incomes every week. When they do, they feel they have made God happy. And they can expect Him to bless them financially. When they fail, they feel they are being disobedient, and they worry that a financial curse looms over them.

But let's take a few steps backward and ask the penetrating question: "Does the Bible teach us to tithe? And . . . are we spiritually obligated to fund the pastor and his staff?"

The answer to these two questions may shock you.

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