PRATTVILLE, Ala. (BNc) — The elders of the Hunter Hills congregation released a letter to the congregation Oct. 13 recognizing, on the part of some, a “desire to add an instrumental service on Sunday morning separate from our current service which has acapella [sic] congregational singing.”
The elders stated that “over time, Hunter Hills has become a church which believes in freedom in Christ and has moved away from legalism. Because of this, members have differing views about what they value and desire in corporate worship.”
“All the shepherds agree that scripture does not prohibit the use of instrumental music in our assembly,” the letter said.
Because of that, the elders proposed to the congregation the addition of a Sunday worship service including the use of mechanical instruments.
Preacher urges rejection of instruments
Charles Box, preacher with the Walnut Street congregation in Greenville, Ala., published a letter to the Hunter Hills eldership today pleading that they refuse to add an instrumental service.
Charles, whose town lies 53 miles to the south, provided biblical support for his position.
“The addition of the instrument will lead people away from God and will cause division in churches of Christ. I beg you to reconsider this very sad and serious decision that you have already made, since you have already been allowing the instrument to be used in youth activities,” Charles wrote.
He also reminded them “that obeying God is not legalism; rather it is love for the Almighty Creator.”
Charles has served with the Walnut Street congregation since 1986.
Charles began his email today saying, “Please pray that these brethren will not make such a terrible mistake. Write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org and plead with them not to make this spiritually destructive mistake. When you write, remember Ephesians 4:32!”
The text of both letters was included in Charles’s email and is reproduced below.
Text of Hunter Hills elders’ letter:
Letter from the Shepherds
October 13, 2013
Dear Church Family:
Hunter Hills is a wonderful place to have as a church home. It is full of people who want to honor God in every aspect of their lives. We desire to be a group of people who love unconditionally and whose desire is to serve others. Our members come from all walks of life and from varied church backgrounds. Over time, Hunter Hills has become a church which believes in freedom in Christ and has moved away from legalism. Because of this, members have differing views about what they value and desire in corporate worship.
Over the past few months, the shepherds have had several conversations with some of our members, including our staff, about their desire to add an instrumental service on Sunday morning separate from our current service which has acapella congregational singing. Before we make a decision on their request, we wanted to communicate this to all of our members and get feedback on whether or not this would be a beneficial move for our church family.
We want our members to know that all the shepherds agree that scripture does not prohibit the use of instrumental music in our assembly. Each of us has come to that conclusion independently after many years of study and prayer. In fact, instrumental music has been used as background on video clips and as a part of our youth assemblies for some time. These would not be present if we felt their inclusion was not acceptable to God.
Given our longstanding tradition of acapella singing which many, including the shepherds and staff, highly value and want to continue; we feel that this decision should not be taken lightly. We want to set a direction that is in the best interest of the whole congregation for the present and for the future. We pray that the decision made will be supported by our church family. We are convinced that most of our members are here because of relationships and opportunities to serve. We certainly hope that these values will continue to prevail regardless of what views anyone might hold on this question. Over the next few days, we ask each of you to prayerfully consider our direction and take time to complete the survey located at ttps://www.research.net/s/HHMusic. It can also be found linked from the church website or we have paper copies available. You may fill it out as a family or individually. Each question gives you the opportunity to make additional comments. The comments are valuable, so please share how you feel. While the survey does require that you submit your name, individual input will be kept confidential among the shepherds. We would like the input of the whole church before making a decision about this request.
May God continue to bless Hunter Hills in the future as He has in the past.
Text of Letter from Charles Box:
To Elders Hunter Hill,
Brethren, I spend my time working in Greenville, Alabama, trying to build up the cause of Christ here. I seldom ever try to get involved with what is going on in churches of Christ elsewhere. However, I felt so grieved over what you brethren plan to do I could not remain silent.
Instrumental music in worship is not authorized in the New Testament! I know some people say this is just a trivial matter, but that is not the case. They might even site Matthew 23:23 as they try to show that instrumental music is trivial. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Matthew 23:23) Cain did not get his worship right. (Genesis 4) If you brethren choose to add the instrument to your worship, you will fall into the category of Cain. “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” (Jude 1:11) The addition of instrumental music to your worship will not be pleasing to God and you will cause division in our great brotherhood of Christians.
It is taught in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament that our worship must be authorized by the word of God. (John 4:24) Music in worship is not a complex and complicated subject. Bible believers can easily recognize the truth that singing is authorized in the New Testament. (Ephesians 5:19) We must love God supremely and do His will in our worship, and not our own will. (Matthew 22:37-40) Instead of writing a letter to the church members asking them what they would like to do, why not get your Bible and determine what God would have you to do in worship concerning the instrument!
I have no idea how you brethren would try to justify the instrument in worship. Some say that everything that we do in life is worship. (Romans 12:1-2) The man from Ethiopia had come to Jerusalem to “worship,” not to “live.” Instrumental music was authorized in the Old Covenant. (2 Chronicles 29:25) However, mechanical instruments in worship are not found in the New Covenant. The instrument with which we must praise God is our heart. (Ephesians 5:19) Worship that is devised by men, however impressive it may appear, is not acceptable to God. The purpose of Jesus Christ was to do God’s will and please Him. (John 8:28-29) That same principle of doing the will of God should be our daily goal.
We are commanded to sing Old Testament Psalms. Some, who defend the instrument, tell us that the Psalms authorize instruments. They want us to believe that the definition of psalmos includes the instrument. If it is the case that the instrument is inherent in the Psalms, then that makes the instrument essential, not just an optional matter. It is not just an aid, and if the instrument is in psalmos you could not obey Ephesians 5:19 without the instrument. Psalms 81:1-2 proves beyond doubt that a Psalm did not automatically involve an instrument. Both the Psalm and the instrument are mentioned separately. “Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.” Instrumental music in New Testament worship simply cannot be found. “If God intends for us to use instrument of music in the church there is no standard English New Testament, no generally accepted translation in the world from which we could learn God’s will on this point.” The standard translations of the New Testament simply say sing.
God has authorized vocal music. He has said nothing concerning the use of instrumental music. “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.” (Hebrews 7:14) You can find neither a command for instruments in New Testament worship; neither can you find a text or context where the instruments were in use. The appeal to speak with the Bible speaks and be silent with the Bible is silent should still rings loud and clear in our hearts. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11)
While there is no New Testament authority for instrumental music in our worship, vocal music is clearly authorized. Singing involves teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. (Colossians 3:16) Singing is the fruit of our lips that we are to offer to God. (Hebrews 13:15) God is worthy of our worship and adoration. Only worship according to His will is acceptable. In true worship, God chooses for us how we should worship and what we should do. In false worship, we make our own choices and worship like we wish. In false worship, we poll the church to find out how we should worship. In true worship, we read our Bible to find out how we should worship. Sadly brethren, the course that you are choosing to follow is that of men and their desire. I beg of you brethren, make a better choice and worship as God directs. God commanded singing; we may not, we must not use other forms of music! The principle of Scripture is that we must abide in what God has authorized. (Revelation 22:18-19)
Instrumental music was never found in churches established by the apostles. This was not a cultural thing in the early church; rather it was out of respect for the commandments of God. Brethren, I appeal to you to have that same respect. The addition of the instrument that you are promoting will be in the same category of washing of feet, washing of cups, and pots and brazen vessels and of tables. Sadly, the result will also be the same. “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” “For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mark 7:3-7) Your soul is at stake and the souls of those that you lead. The addition of the instrument will lead people away from God and will cause division in churches of Christ. I beg you to reconsider this very sad and serious decision that you have already made, since you have already been allowing the instrument to be used in youth activities.
I will be praying for you and for the church there. I would also kindly remind you brethren, that obeying God is not legalism; rather it is love for the Almighty Creator.
Love in Christ,
Walnut Street Church of Christ, 306 Walnut Street, Greenville, Alabama 36037.