Category Archives: Songs

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

Where is the Love?

L
GOD
V
E

If love can’t be found among God’s people – where can it be found?  In the gospels and letters, Christians are admonished over and over to love one another and our neighbors. Love is our identity.  It is how we are recognized as followers of Jesus.  It is the badge that marks us as Christians.  It is the quality that sets us apart from the dog-eat-dog culture of materialism and greed.

What an unmitigated tragedy when the lack of love is noted among congregations of self-proclaimed Christians!  It is so contrary to what we should be that it even occasionally makes the news.  Most of the time, however, it is merely observed and noted.  The results are ugly.  People are driven away from such hypocrisy.  I am always reminded of what Gandhi, who lived and died a Hindu, had to say about the Christians he observed, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  Yes, some unfriendly observers may be looking for something wrong – but we make it too easy for them.  Lovelessness is always starkly obvious and always a source of ammunition for those who oppose any form of faith.

Recently one such unfriendly website chronicled the story of a young couple who dared to question leaders of their church about the expenditure of funds (to which they had contributed) and the lifestyle of some of the leaders (who lived off these funds).  If their account is credible, they became the object of scorn, anger and denigration.  Ultimately expelled from their church, their faith took a fatal hit and they are no longer practicing believers.

I really can’t verify this account but it is too much like some of my personal experiences and stories from others over the years to reject out of hand.  And, if true, what a repudiation of the love we should embrace and practice!  We have handed a gun to Satan and asked to be shot.  We have presented a sword to our adversaries and asked to be run through.  Truly, we are our own worst enemy.

I repeat: if love cannot be found among the people who purport to believe their God is the personification of love, where will it be found?  No matter how wonderful we think we are, without love we are nothing.

People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questioning
Where is the love?

—Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the Love?”

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Filed under Altruism, Atheism/Theism, Attributes of God, Christlikeness, church, Community, Devil, discipleship, Faith, Good & Evil, Hypocrisy, Love, morality, Religion, Respect, Satan, Scripture, Songs

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