Vol.XVI No.V Pg.7
July 1979

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Two letters, from different places, plus two personal contacts, ask such questions as: May an unbaptized boy lead singing when a group of saints meet to worship? May he lead the public prayers in this assembly? When we sing a religious song is it not "in vain" if it is not sung as worship? Are pre-school children worshiping God when they sing church songs in their Bible class? What is the "age of accountability, and how does that affect these problems?" Should one sing religious songs he believes to be unscriptural?


There are differences in leading singing, and leading in prayer. In prayer the leader must express petitions on behalf of the church, and this requires wisdom and a knowledge of God's word. In leading songs from a book already selected by the church the thoughts are already expressed, and leading consists of pitching the tune and directing the music process.

In both cases, the worship is in the hearts of those who sing and pray and we each must do this for ourselves. Neither song, prayer, nor other portions of worship are "administered" by a priesthood type "leader," though this is a common conception. Worship "at the altar", directed by a priest (elders, leaders, or what-have-you) is Judaism, brought through the Roman church, and passed to others. There are very few scriptures re. the leading of song or prayer in public (1 Cor. 14:16; Jn. 11:42); but collective action requires some sort of leadership, and on general principles it seems mature saints should occupy this position in public worship. "Church—" and "worship—" songs may have a ritualistic connotation to some — as if the song was some "holy" thing, dedicated to God by a son of Aaron. This should not be. I can see no harm in using songs from our hymn book for practice sessions, training of our youths, or of song-leaders. To me it does not seem "vain" usage nor worship; I can not see that this dilemma exists in reality. Granted, one could sin by jesting about God, or by making ribald jokes about sacred matters: in song as well as in speech. Where questions of conscience are involved, and in public services where we should strive for agreement in our activities so all may freely take part, these questions may have different solutions at different places.

I do not believe "accountability" is determined by chronological age. A person may memorize scriptures, and in this sense "know" things at a very early age, long before these things are understood. We should not pressure someone to be baptized because he / she has reached a certain birthday, but should teach them from youth to respect and respond to God's call.

I believe the church may assemble for training sessions, for the young and/or new converts; but periods set as public worship services should not be used for such training. I doubt that any who know me would consider me a formal traditionalist, but we can observe certain proprieties without being ritualistic. Neither in content, form nor execution should we violate our conscience toward God.