sectarianism


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If you visit a Church of Christ on a Sunday, one of the first things you will notice is that they sing without the accompaniment of mechanical instruments.[1]

Why? Why do we sing without instruments?

Not long ago, someone began a thread on Facebook by asking this exact question. I responded with a condensed version of an essay I have written on the subject but the author immediately deleted the post. The author said that the discussion had turned into an emotional argument rather than a principled discussion.[2] The author was quite upset that someone had hijacked the thread. I hope these frustrations were not directed at my comments. I offered them there, as I do here, as one flawed human beings’ attempt to understand how this unusual practice came to be so important among Churches of Christ.

So, back to my question – Why do we in Churches of Christ sing without instruments?

My conclusion is that we sing without mechanical instruments because of the history of how God’s people have worshiped Him through the centuries.

If you are interested in reading the essay that explains my understanding, my reasoning, and my conclusions on the question, click here.


          [1] This is not universal across the country as there are many churches that use the name Church of Christ and do not follow the a cappella tradition. Furthermore, there are some Churches of Christ that are questioning the tradition, refusing to follow it, and allowing at least some worship with mechanical instruments; however, as a general rule, if it is a Church of Christ from within the Stone-Campbell Movement, also known as the American Restoration Movement, chances are good that if you visit you will experience worship in the a cappella tradition.

            [2] An Internet search will reveal that there are many who take this discussion very seriously. There are even some who take it to its logical extreme and claim: “If you do not worship a cappella as the first century church did then you are apostate, not Christian, and outside the grace of Christ.” I am not one of those people but they are out there – in droves.

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Twice in my preaching career I have presented a sermon series on the biblical view of baptism. Both times I covered the topic in four sermons.

Francis Chan says in 4 minutes, 40 seconds what I was trying to say in four sermons.

And he says it better.

Check it out here.

Chan was a keynote speaker at the Tulsa Workshop this year (2013). Several from within the Churches of Christ opposed Chan being asked to speak. Why? Because he is not “in fellowship with us.”

Hum. After listening to his presentation on how one gets “into Christ”–how one enters into fellowship with God, His Kingdom, and others who have so entered–my question to these opponents is this:

If this is not how one comes into fellowship with you–by hearing and believing the Good News, repenting of sin, confessing Jesus as Lord, and being immersed into Christ–then just how, pray tell, does one come into fellowship with you?

Just wondering.

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” That is what is commonly referred to as Newton’s Third Law of Motion. It appears that this law applies to the area of theology as well!

In the waning years of the 19th century liberalism argued that Scripture could be reconciled with the intellectual advances of the day if one merely abandoned the need to interpret the biblical text literally. One day did not mean one day, virgin birth did not mean virgin birth, and so on.

Christian fundamentalists reacted to this liberal approach by demanding a literal interpretation of the Sacred Text. Every word was inspired and, therefore, every word was absolutely true in its most literal sense.

This reaction led to the resurrection of millenarianism, a doctrine that has been around since the second century AD; a doctrine that depends upon the literal interpretation of Scripture for its survival. As each side of the discussion pressed its case, the chasm between them became impassible. It was not long before one’s view on the Millennial Reign of Christ became a “test of fellowship.” It was not long before all those who believed in a literal 1,000 year reign were on the outside looking in.

Differences of viewpoint are nothing new. The chasms they create aren’t either. The question is, “Do these gaping holes in our relationships honor the God who created us?” T.B. Larimore (1843-1929) didn’t think so. He refused to involve himself in the wrangling of his day. Although he was deeply influenced by staunch participants in the fray, he refused to state his position on the issues publicly. He did not dabble in issues over which “the wisest and best of men disagreed.”

Partisans on both sides of the widening chasm criticized him harshly; each side demanded that he declare his values and decide his loyalty. Instead, he openly fellowshipped with both sides, preached wherever he was invited, was on the list of Preachers for the “opposing party” until 1925, and wrote for religious papers in both groups.

Larimore’s goal was, as was the goal of the first generation within the Stone-Campbell churches, Christian unity. His approach was to “concede to all, and accord to all, the same sincerity and courtesy I claim for myself, as the Golden Rule demands ….”

Chasms in human relationships will always exist. Clearly we must never be the cause of such phenomena. The challenge is to navigate our lives so as to not contribute to their expansion.