Several months ago, I was assailed by a few brothers in response a letter I wrote that was published in the Christian Chronicle. In that letter I had not embraced the party line on the subject of singing and music in churches of Christ and Christian churches. After exhausting his other familiar arguments, one brother asked in an email the following question.
“Could Noah have built the Ark out of Mesquite wood and been pleasing to God? We follow God instructions and are accepted or we no not follow His instructions and are condemned. Real simple”
This was his last of a series of emails we exchanged. His view was that any person or congregation that is not acapella is not right with God and should not be the recipients of our fellowship. My reply to him follows.
My dear brother xxxx
May I appeal to your common sense? Taking your line of reasoning to its logical end, one could invent all sorts of sins, and thus reasons to not to “fellowship” lots of folks. The bible says nothing about making the human voice louder by using electronic equipment, but every acapella congregation I have ever visited had a public address system. The bible says nothing about a church building, water coolers, air conditioners, heaters, telephones, church buses, and the list is endless. None of them is sinful just because the bible never mentioned them and musical instruments are not either.
The bible says “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal 6:3) and, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 8:13) The Psalms encourages God’s people again and again to praise God using musical instruments. When did that change? How much more of the Psalms should we disregard today?
Should I fellowship you? Just because you worship in a church that adheres to the church of Christ tradition of acapella singing, is that enough of a reason? Should I also require that you are a “one cupper”? Should I add that you have no Sunday school? They are not mentioned in the bible! Should I check to see if you comply with every other rule that suits my taste?
Or should I fellowship someone who speaks against brothers who love Jesus as much as you do? Should I fellowship a man who is critical of everyone who is not like him? The first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 is “love”. Paul talked at great length about the importance of love and the futility of serving God without it. He said even if he became a martyr for the faith without love, he would have failed. I think it is striking that immediately after the famous verses on the supremacy of love Paul said these words. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Cor 13:11) If I am required by my Lord to love my enemies I believe I can manage to love and have fellowship with those who have surrendered their lives to Him, even if they are not like me in some ways. I like Paul’s way better than your way brother. In his letter to the Philippians he said this, “ Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” But Paul, do you know they have a piano? Do you know they pool money together with other churches to preach the gospel on foreign soil? Are you aware they have some folks singing while others only listen? But what about the TBN TV network?
Paul would say again, “if Christ is preached I rejoice, and will rejoice”. I believe I will too.
We restoration people have much larger fish to fry than what some congregation does on a Lord’s day in some distant city. Before we can hope to be people who embrace scriptural unity we must grow to the place where we can say with Alexander Campbell, “We are only Christians, but not the only Christians”. And, have the same view of others who claim Jesus as Lord as Paul did.