The recent flack over the decision of 21st Century Christian to exclude some churches because they have instrumental accompaniment in some services (My response to Mr. Royster’s defense) has caused me to consider the deeper and more alarming problem which should be a concern to all of our people. Perhaps the most important criteria for orthodoxy in the mind of most coC people is music. As important as baptism is to Restoration Movement folks, I believe it is relegated to number two. So the discussions on bulletin boards, chat rooms, blogs, websites, and print media as to who is right with God and who isn’t begins with this topic, are you a cappella or do you have “the instrument”? It is funny that the usual way of mentioning instrumental accompaniment in worship is “the instrument’, you know like you would say the “the Bubonic plague”.
It is very obvious that many, many of the people who populate our coC pews on Sunday morning have very selective Bible knowledge. For too many years the lesson topics from pulpits has been focused on “The Lord’s church” and what and how we do what we do on Sunday morning. There is a super imposed “pattern” for worship that people must comply with or they are lost. To complicate matters even more, the so called “authorized pattern” is different from location to location based on the history of that congregation’s leadership and training. Almost everyone though can agree that the most easily defined aberration, and the one that surely damns those who fall to its deception is “the instrument” in worship.
A cappella only is the most important practice but the most difficult to defend using the Bible. A few people like Kenneth Sublett have given all their time to defending a cappella singing and blasting the offenders with a barrage of less than brotherly kindness. Not long ago, in an email to Mr. Sublett I pointedly ask him “Is there any doctrine more important to you than a cappella singing”? His answer was shocking but not surprising, “NO” with some reasons why.
Our church of Christ people need desperately to be taught the word of God. It is clear that with the exception of a hand full of topics that are usually repeated over and over, there is little understanding of the great Bible doctrines of the historic Christian faith. A good place to start is for preachers and teachers to take Paul’s words to young Timothy to heart. “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:1-3) and “All Scripture” is good for what ails us. (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
If every preacher would begin to preach through books of the Bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, every need would be met. Some men are very good at “Topical Preaching” but most topical sermons are a theme or idea the preacher wants to get across and he finds a few Bible verses to support his points in presenting his message for the day. Far too often verses are taken out of context and misapplied because they seem to support the point or topic. Someone wiser than me said “A text taken out of context is a pretext”, not what it appears to be.
Expository preaching is the form of preaching where the preacher expounds on a verse or passage of Scripture. Both his motive and method is to mine the passage for its truth and then to make application to himself and the listeners. This method of preaching is much more difficult to prepare for and requires discipline that many do not have. But going chapter by chapter and verse by verse through books of the Bible will cover every doctrine, expose every sin, correct every error, and potentially heal every heart. There will be very difficult passages that the preacher might not understand. That is absolutely true in my experience. When one of those awkward times comes, and they will, the honest preacher should just admit, “I am not sure what is meant here, this is a passage I have not mastered. But I have done some research and here are a few of the most prominent views and here is the way I am leaning, but I am not ready to take a firm stand at this time in my study.” That sort of transparency will be appreciated by the people and everyone, including the preacher, will learn from the experience. It is not a sin to admit you don’t know everything.
I challenge my friends and those I have never met to consider giving it a try. Today there are tons of resources to help you as you study. Pray, pray, pray, and read, read, read, sermons, commentaries, illustrations,etc. and then make it your own, in terms you are comfortable with, and give it to the people in the power and authority of the Spirit and you will grow a healthy church, one that keeps the main thing the main thing.
I am for Christ and the Bible and I am against any agenda that vies for His place as preeminent in our hearts and lives. Only when He is lifted up do sinners come to Him. The word of God exalts Him above every thing in heaven or on earth and ours is to make Him known by our lives and our lips. The Word of God, not the traditions we cherish, is to be the final authority for both faith and practice for every believer. Preach the Bible!
Grace to you,