Category Archives: Singing

Edify or Amplify?

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The Case for Rejecting Instruments in the Assembly

Churches of Christ (the a cappella segment) seem to be becoming very different very quickly.  Several larger congregations and a number of smaller ones (I have no idea of the actual numbers) have opted for adding mechanical (as opposed to vocal) instruments to their assemblies (I absolutely refuse to call them “worship services” as that description of assemblies of the saints is nowhere to be found in Scripture – and, when you think about it, it betrays an ignorance of the meanings of both “worship” and “service”).  For over a century, one of the distinguishing marks of churches of Christ was strong opposition to the use of instruments in assemblies.  Countless debates, articles and divisions occurred with both sides remaining unconvinced.

It will not be my purpose here to pile more verbiage on the tons of arguments by taking one side or the other.  I’m not sure it would serve any purpose except to put me in one opposing camp or another.  No, my point will be something different.  I want us to take an honest look at our motives.  WHY are we ditching our a cappella tradition?

The most common reason given is some variation on the desire to attract a younger, hipper crowd into our buildings.  One group is currently remodeling their auditorium to add a stage for the musicians.  If we build it, they reason, they will come.  Sound familiar?  Put simply, it is an attempt to increase attendance at their “worship services.”

At this point let me ask a question that seldom seems asked: what are assemblies for?  No…not what do you WANT them for but what are they REALLY for?  By that I mean what does Scripture say they are for?

·         Are they for “seekers?”  Can you show me a passage for that?

·         Are they for the entertainment of the members?  Passage?

·         Are they for the excitement of the members?  Passage?

·         Are they for the encouragement of the members?  Bingo!

·         Are they for the edification of the members?  Score!

Our purpose for assemblies and our conduct during them seems to be the focus of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapters eleven and fourteen.  He deals with several subjects but his emphasis; especially in chapter fourteen is edification.  Edification has absolutely nothing to do with attracting a crowd and blowing them away with sanctified rock (make no mistake, I like to rock as much as anyone).  To edify is to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge…promoting the spiritual growth and development of character of believers, by teaching or by example.  Look it up.  Paul goes so far as to say, “…let all things be done for edification” (I Corinthians 14:26).

So.  How do we instruct and promote each other’s spiritual growth?  One of the most important and effective ways is by singing to one another (Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16).  Notice that our singing is for teaching and admonishing one another.  Sorry folks, well-choreographed and orchestrated performances accomplish nothing assembly is designed for.  In truth, they hinder the process.  Inevitably, the volume gets louder and louder.  How can we edify one another if we can’t hear the singing of the one standing next to us?  Read lips? Not likely!

Could this be the reason we are commanded to sing to one another?  Singing with thankfulness is not assisted by a groovy drummer, hot guitarist, deft keyboardist and a soloist who’s been listening to a lot of contemporary Christian radio.  Save all that for a concert.

Are there exceptions?  Of course.  Some of the new contemporary music conveys wonderful spiritual, edifying truths.  Even a cappella churches have adapted and incorporated some of these songs in our assemblies.  In my experience, however, the mechanical instruments overwhelm the potential edification as they play louder and louder.

Here is the crux of the problem as I see it: we have turned our assemblies into something they were never intended to be.  They are times of encouragement and edification.  When this is not accomplished, our assemblies are failures no matter how well choreographed they are.  When we leave behind principles and purposes taught by Scripture; when we replace them with innovations never envisioned by the Spirit; when edification and encouragement are no longer the focus of our assemblies; when synthetic externals take precedence over spiritual internals — we can expect to fail.  In the words of Hosea (8:7), we have sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.

Here are a couple of articles that, while I don’t agree with everything they say, help make my point: http://churchformen.com/uncategorized/have-christians-stopped-singing/  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/afewgrownmen/2013/05/why-men-have-stopped-singing-in-church/

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Filed under "Worship Services", Assemblies, church, Church Buildings, Churches, discipleship, Edification, Ekklesia, Encouragement, History, Holy Spirit, Ignorance, Music, Restoration, Singing, Songs, Thankfulness

Blasé to a Fault

I just watched another of those “Flash Mob” videos…truly amazing.  I have never been in one of those favored locations but I have watched a half-dozen or so on my computer screen.  What a kick to be in the midst of an unexpected performance by a dance group, choir or band!  I hope it happens to me sometime.

What has impressed me each time is that some of the shoppers continue shopping as if nothing were happening.  It almost seems as though they are stubbornly resisting being impressed or even interested.  They just go right on looking for an item of clothing or examining the eggs or pricing the butter.  What’s wrong with these people!?  What will it take to impress them?

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Filed under Adventure, Humor, Life, Meaning of Life, Music, Random Thoughts, Singing, Thinking

Are You Lonely?

Ah, look at all the lonely people.

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

(“Eleanor Rigby” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney)

In the near future, it will be my honor to conduct a wedding ceremony.  In my remarks I nearly always quote the passage: “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).  If all goes as planned, this couple will grow old together.  They will experience work and play, sorrow and joy, love and heartache, victory and defeat.  Most likely one will die before the other and the one left behind will know (as they never could otherwise) what it means to be lonely.  Their years of togetherness will be a wonderful, glowing memory.

Humans were not created to be alone.  We are a “flocking animal.”  Some animals are “loners” by nature.  They wander solo through most of the year and only congregate with others of their species at mating season to reproduce.

Oh yes, a great number of our sort seem to seek the lonely life.  They live alone, eat alone and, aside from the occasional one-night-stand, sleep alone.  Even in a crowd they may seek to be alone.  But we humans were meant for deeper relationships.  When we keep things shallow we miss most of the richness and consolation of life.

Loneliness seldom works for long.  It seldom works well.  Early in my backpacking days I was warned to “…never hike alone.”  If you’ve seen the film, 127 Hours, you know what I’m talking about.  Too many things, some deadly, can happen – falls, snakebites, sprained ankles, encounters with unfriendly animals, getting lost, getting stuck and other situations and circumstances where companions become lifesavers.  We all need companions, comrades, confidantes, confessors…friends to share life’s joys, triumphs, sorrows and challenges.

There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,  yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless— a miserable business!
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:8-12)

Are you lonely?  Are you trying to fly solo through an empty sky?  May I suggest a way to land safely?  In every community of size there’s a group of people who will eagerly befriend you.  They meet together one or more times a week to connect with their Creator and each other.  Oh, they’re not perfect (just like you) but they’re not lonely.  They’ll take you in and overlook your faults if you will theirs.  It is a safe place where God teaches us how to love Him and each other.  They pray together, sing together and seek guidance in God’s Word together.  And, every so often they will sing:

Blest be the tie that binds, / Our hearts in Christian love,
The fellowship of kindred minds / Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne, / We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, / Our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes / Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows / The sympathizing tear.

If you are seeking an end to loneliness, let me know where you live and I will do my best to help you find a group of friends who just might be seeking you.

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Filed under church, Community, Encouragement, Life, Loneliness, Love, Love and Marriage, Singing, Trust

Super Bowl Agony

Well sports fans, it was an agonizing start to the Super Bowl this evening. I cringed and squirmed through the whole unfortunate mess. But finally Lea Michele and Christina Aguilera got through singing.

C’mon ladies, these songs should be sung with some modicum of dignity!  America the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner are not hip-hop numbers or torch songs, they are the most beloved of our national songs.  They don’t need the catch in your voice or warbling techniques going all over the place. There’s no warbling in football! You ladies, and the others who try to add touches better left to the club crowd, only cheapen these cherished songs.  Christina, you should concentrate on getting the words right instead of sullying our National Anthem with all that “stuff” you did capped off by a flat final note.

Who selects these folks any way? I strongly suggest that they (whoever “they” is) find performers to sing these songs with the stirring reverence and splendor they deserve. Then we can put our hands over our hearts instead of our fingers in our ears.

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Filed under Christina Aguilera, Music, Singing, Songs