Can a visiting Christian lead a congregation in song?


I have been attending a local church for several months. During that time I began to stand up, come forward, and lead a song at the invitation of the congregation. Every first Wednesday of the month all men are invited to lead one song during services. I began the song and immediately the congregation went into different speeds which were not mine. I read your thoughts on how a congregation should submit to the song leader while leading and I agree. But this question has to do with membership. I was leading the song, stopped the song to restart and get everyone back on track. As I was moving on I was interrupted by an outspoken member. After the brief altercation and after I finished the song it was said I did not have the authority to "correct" the congregation because I was not a member of that particular church. Is this a correct statement? I have been baptized, not at this particular congregation, but one I was a part of for more than ten years and lead many song services there. Does anyone who has been given the opportunity to lead in worship, whether that be singing, prayer, or leading the lesson, not have the right to give any type of correction because of their "visitor" status?  The Bible states that there are many parts to one body, does this make a person who has not officially become a member excluded from making corrections? For full disclosure, I have stopped this particular congregation before for similar reasons and had no one spoke out against the action.

Please give me any Scripture that will answer this question. I appreciate your help.


There are actually two issues being presented here, so I'm going to start with the one you might find more difficult.

I'm puzzled how a Christian can justify "visiting" a congregation for several months. I don't find such a concept in the Scriptures. Visitors are those who are passing through. What we see, by the example of Paul, is that when he was in an area for even a short period of time, he sought to join the local congregation. "And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out" (Acts 9:26-28). The delay, in this case, was not in Paul's desire, but in the church's acceptance that he was truly a Christian. It appears to me that you placed a stumbling block in your fellowship with this congregation by holding yourself apart as a visitor while at the same time attending services there.

The second problem is that the congregation, or at least a few of its members, were not acting in a decently and orderly fashion. In speaking of the worship service, Paul begins, "How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification" (I Corinthians 14:26). He then selects a few of these activities to emphasize a point. "If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret... Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged" (I Corinthians 14:27, 29-31). Paul is making a point that each person takes a turn allowing the other to speak. A person who is leading the group at the moment should do so without interruption, but with the understanding also that he is not to dominate the assembly so that no one else has a chance to speak in turn.

If a brother notes that something is said in an assembly that is not correct, it would be proper to indicate in some quiet fashion his desire to speak and when he is acknowledged to make his point. However, rudely interrupting someone is not permitted. In this case, the interrupt was two-fold wrong because the point brought up was a matter of opinion -- the interrupter did not like the way the song was conducted and not whether the song was scripturally appropriate.

As to whether someone outside a congregation's membership can correct an error being made by the congregation, it is clearly possible. "For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed" (I Corinthians 5:3). Though it is true that Paul was speaking from his authority as an apostle, it is evident that being a member of that congregation or even being present was not a requirement to rebuke the Corinthians. In your case, the congregation invited you to lead singing by opening the service to any Christian man present to lead if he so desired. While that man is leading the congregation he has been given authority for that period of time -- that is why we refer to it as song leading. If non-members of that congregation are not invited to lead, then they should make it clear, but that doesn't appear to be the case since you have led for them before.

(And if it makes any difference, I have stopped congregations in the middle of leading a song in order to correct a problem several times. I don't do it often as I'm a bit loud and can usually get people singing together simply by the strength of my voice, but in large groups that doesn't always work.)

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