Question #391

What about an unbaptized teenager leading in worship?

I am from a very small rural town in Alaska. When we first started we didn't have many men in the church and we allowed our children to read scripture and say opening or closing prayer. Our membership has increased by several families and some of the teens have been baptized. My problem lies with my unbaptized 14yr old son, as I am now questioning whether the men should allow him to continue in his participation in the worship service until he is baptized, which he has told me he is not ready to do that at this time in his life and I respect his decision. I know I should start with our local preacher, or other men, but I honestly would like to have something more concrete to approach them with other than "I feel" or "The way I have always understood it". I hope this makes sense to you, and someone can help me in my dilemma, and give me scriptural guidance on how to approach this. I searched through your site at length and didn't seem to find the answer to my question; I hope I didn't miss it. Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

The Answer:

There is no scripture of which I am aware that speaks directly to the question raised. There are, however, some factors that should be taken into consideration in arriving at a decision. Those who have not reached the age of accountability have not sinned; therefore, they are not lost. Since they are not and have never been lost, they are safe and do not need to be saved. However, when they have reached the age of accountability they are no longer safe because of innocence; they are lost because of sin. They have become accountable to God. When children are not accountable, parents teach them to pray. This involves not only having them hear you pray, it involves your hearing them as they learn to say their own prayers. Even after children become accountable, we urge them to remember to pray daily and may have home devotionals in which they take part. These activities often go from the home to the children’s bible classes. There comes a time, however, when all of this changes.

The question is, “What do we then do?” The answer to Question 49 under “Questions and Answers” may give some insight here even though it deals with when Bible classes should be taught by men. The point is that there is a line when, when crossed, requires a male teacher. There is also a line which, when crossed, requires that leaders in worship be faithful Christians males. Different sets of elders (or men of the congregation in the absence of elders) may draw that line at different places. However, to draw the line past the point of accountability is to have a lost sinner leading in the worship. When speaking of our children it is difficult to place them in that category, but by the time they are fourteen they know the difference between right and wrong, they know that that which they do that is wrong is sin, and having been raised in the Lord’s church, the know that they are lost should they die in that condition. We don’t want to think of them as having rejected Christ, but that is precisely how the scripture describes accountable people who are in that state. We would not permit an older person in that state to lead in worship. Why is it any different with our children? I submit that it is not and that unbaptized teenagers should not lead in worship.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)