Elba, Alabama Church Singing Unique

by Glenda Williams, BNc Correspondent

ELBA, Ala (BNc) — The Elba Church of Christ hosted their bi-annual acappella singing Friday evening, January 31, 2014. The singing is held the last Friday evening in January and in July. Men from different congregations led songs throughout the 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. allotted time. Phillip Box serves as minister of the Elba church.  Continue reading

Donations pour in for 9-year-old Eli’s bucket-list wish

eli-williamsMADISON, Ala. (BNc) — Eli Williams is a nine-year-old boy who has spent the last two years fighting medulloblastoma. Scans recently revealed that he had relapsed. Only experimental treatment is an option now.

Before he can do this treatment, he will spend Christmas at home and wants to work on his bucket list, including a trip to Disney World.

Friends began a fund-raising campaign for Eli’s list, and in just two days, the original goal of five thousand dollars was raised to six, after contributions poured in. Continue reading

Where is ‘just church’? asks student on public school questionnaire

just-churchLINCOLN, Ala. (BNc) by Joe Dukes — A saint in the congregation where I worship is a teacher in one of the area public schools.

She said that recently they were giving a standardized test to the students. At the beginning of the test are some questions asking about the student, including religious affiliation.

Under that category, the student is asked to select from a list of various religions. I believe she said there were 26 choices.

The options of religions ranged from various “Christian” denominations, to Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, and several she said she could not even pronounce. The last of the choices was “other.”

One of the students spoke up and asked, “Where is ‘just church’?”

Later, the teachers were discussing that question, and some of them, members of denominations, commented that it is a shame that there is such division in the religious world, even among those who profess to believe in Christ.

It is refreshing to know that the plea for unity and to be just Christians still appeals to some in the religious world! Even those in religious divisions seem to know that this is not the way it should be!

Of course, to be a Christian only and have the type of unity Christ prayed for, we must all follow the same standard of authority. That standard has to be the Bible! It is our job as Christians to teach and demonstrate that the unity of the faith can and should be our plea!

Everett Ferguson speaks at HCU scholar lecture series

Everett Ferguson at HCU

Everett Ferguson at HCU

FLORENCE, Ala. (BNc) by Edmon L. Gallagher — Heritage Christian University hosted Dr. Everett and Mrs. Nancy Ferguson for a series of lectures Oct. 17.

Dr. Ferguson, emeritus Professor of Church History at Abilene Christian University, spoke as the 2013 Jack P. Lewis lecturer.

Dr. Ferguson gave two lectures to a crowd of 50 faculty, students, and guests at HCU.

The first lecture was entitled “Early Christian Periodizations of History” (video available here), in which Dr. Ferguson surveyed the multiple ways in which early Christians divided history into different eras.

For the second lecture, Dr. Ferguson spoke on the topic “Of Veils and Virgins.” He gave a thorough survey of ancient Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian practices regarding the veiling of women, with special reference to 1 Corinthians 11. He concluded that the practice of veiling certain classes of women began so far back in antiquity that our earliest sources do not even know how the practice originated. Dr. Ferguson pointed out that while the differientiation in roles assigned to men and women in 1 Corinthians 11 is tied by Paul to creation, the practice of veiling women is defended with culturally specific arguments in the passage.

The chapel period featured an interview with Dr. Ferguson on the relevance of Church History for understanding the New Testament and for modern Christian ministry (video available here).

HCU's Dennis Jones greets Nancy Ferguson

HCU’s Dennis Jones greets Nancy Ferguson

The school also hosted a dinner that evening in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Ferguson, at which time Dr. Ferguson spoke briefly about his own life and fielded questions about his time as a student at Harvard and his years of teaching at ACU.

Dr. Ferguson is well-known among churches of Christ for his numerous books and articles, including A Cappella Music in the Public Worship of the Church (4th ed., Desert Willow, 2013), The Church of Christ (Eerdmans, 1996), Backgrounds of Early Christianity (3rd ed., Eerdmans, 2003), Baptism in the Early Church (Eerdmans, 2009), and many others. He is an internationally respected scholar of the early church, having served as president of the North American Patristics Society and editor of the Journal of Early Christian Studies, along with other reference works and journals.

The Jack P. Lewis lectures were established at HCU in 2011 in honor of the longtime professor of Bible at Harding School of Theology in Memphis. The aim of the lecture series is to highlight scholarship as a valuable aid to ministers and to honor one of the best-known scholars in the Churches of Christ who has spent his career training ministers for our churches. Prof. Lewis himself inaugurated the series in 2011, and Alan McNicoll of the Austin Graduate School of Theology was the lecturer in 2012.

The Jack P. Lewis lecturer for 2014 will be Evertt Huffard of the Harding School of Theology.

Edmon L. Gallagher is Assistant Professor of Biblical Literature at Heritage Christian University.

Alabama church proposes instrumental music, area preacher urges rejection

hunter-hills-churchPRATTVILLE, 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 shepherds@hunterhills.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.

In Christ,

Your Shepherds

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,

Charles Box

Walnut Street Church of Christ, 306 Walnut Street, Greenville, Alabama 36037.

House to House passes 3 million mark with single issue

hth-recordJACKSONVILLE, Ala. (BNc) — The House to House, Heart to Heart ministry, which mails an evangelistic magazine quarterly to homes, announced Aug. 21 that the September issue would reach over three million households.

Congregations work with the ministry to send the magazine to local addresses.

The Jacksonville elders oversee the work of HTH.

Amridge University confers its first PhD degrees

amridgeMONTGOMERY, Ala. (BNc) — The graduation that took place at Amridge University June 8 was historic. The Turner School of Theology conferred its first two PhDs in Biblical Studies.

It was also historic in a larger sense for recipients Jimmy C. Gee and David W. Hester.

Gee was the first member of the church to receive a PhD in Old Testament from Amridge.

Hester was the first member of the church to receive a PhD in New Testament from Amridge.

Both men graduated summa cum laude.

Gee’s dissertation was, “The Role of the Queen and the Queen Mother in the Bible and Ancient World.”

Hester’s dissertation was, “The Long Ending of Mark: An Examination of Modern Scholarship (1965-2011) and a Proposal Concerning the Origin of the Passage.”

Gee and Hester were two of the first students enrolled in the PhD program at the Turner School of Theology.

Information provided by David Hester.

Cecil May: Woman’s nomination as preaching minister ‘the opposite of good news’

cecil-may-jr

Cecil May, Jr.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BNc) by Cecil May Jr. — “Naomi Walters Named Minister in Residence at Stamford Church.” A widely circulated e-mail attachment has that headline. (I received four copies of it from four different sources.) It was preceded by the phrase, “Good News.” For many of us, however, it is the opposite of good news.

The writer of the piece is Dale Pauls, Stamford preacher. Naomi Walters is a graduate of Rochester College in Bible and Counseling and of Abilene Christian University with an M.Div. She is currently enrolled in David Lipscomb University in their D.Min. degree program. She sounds like a very capable lady and an engaging, informative speaker on biblical topics.

Why should she not be a preaching minister at a congregation of God’s people?

My answer is, “Because God in Scripture said a woman should not fill that role.”

Brother Pauls response to those of us who believe that is:

I do not doubt that many people who resist change on this are acting in good faith. But they are not studying the Bible. They are not doing their homework. They do not seek the original intent of Scripture nor do they seek to understand Scripture in its historical context. So they do not understand that those passages that restrict women’s participation in public worship—1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15—address specific circumstances in the particular cultural context of their original first century audiences. They do not understand that Paul is calling his readers to live gracefully as disciples of Christ within the strongly patriarchal patterns of their day. They do not understand that he is guiding Christians in the setting in which they live; he is not advocating their patriarchal, even misogynistic, setting for all time. So they do not distinguish between what the New Testament says about the new life in Christ and the degree to which it was possible to implement this in first century culture. As a result, although they would no longer use the teaching, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters” (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22—4:1; Titus 2:9-10) to defend slavery in our time, they will still use 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15 to silence women’s voices in our public assemblies in our time.

What Brother Pauls is overlooking is the fact that the apostle Paul does not base his restrictions on woman as preachers and leaders in public worship assemblies on local cultural considerations. He roots them in the order of creation and in the first sin. “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:12-14 ESV). These admonitions were not given just to the Corinthian church and to the church in Ephesus through Timothy. Paul says they are the same “in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

We rightly treat the Scriptures on slavery as culturally conditioned, applying them to the employer/employee relationship in our time, but Scripture does not base that commandment on creation. In Philemon the apostle lays the foundation for the end of slavery, telling Philemon he should receive his former slave, now a Christian “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord” (Philemon 16). The limitations on women speaking and leading in pubic worship assemblies are because of the order of creation.

Brother Pauls notes correctly that continuing to follow these gender restrictions is contrary to the tide of culture and history. It is equally true that, in accepting Scripture’s assessment of homosexual relations as sinful (Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), we are running contrary to culture and to the sweep of public opinion. Christianity has always been counter-cultural and we should never ignore Scripture to follow popular opinion.

I appreciate that Brother Pauls does not do as some theological liberals do, deny that Scripture is God-breathed and authoritative. He attempts to establish his case while maintaining Scripture’s inspiration and authority. Unfortunately for his case, however, Paul appeals to creation rather than culture or local situations as the reason for his restrictions on women.

Assigning leadership roles to men and submissive roles to women, as Scripture does both in public worship and in the home, does not degrade women. Submission does not imply inferiority. God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are equal in power, glory and Deity, but the Son voluntarily submits to the Father. Throughout Scripture Jesus says such things as, “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30). When wives submit to their husbands, when congregations submit to their elders, when women submit to men’s leadership in worship, indeed, when we submit to one another, we follow the path that Jesus says leads to the only true greatness.

Men are not smarter than women; they are not more dedicated as Christians than women. Christians do not deny women leadership roles based on human reasoning, gender bias or misogyny. It is done because we believe God who made us also knows what is best for us and how we best function, and He requires, “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says” (1 Corinthians 14:33-34) and “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:8-14).

We must obey God rather than the sweep of culture.

Bro May is Dean Emeritus of Faulkner University.

Christian writer stupefied: ‘How could Gosnell do what he did?’

chuck-websterBIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BNc) — Instead of his regular devotional thoughts, writer Chuck Webster, who ministers with the Hoover, Ala., congregation, dedicated his space today to the conviction of Philadelphia abortionist doctor Kermit Gosnell.

Gosnell was convicted this week of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies.

Chuck expressed wonder at how Gosnell could do what he did and how the abortion industry could be acceptable in a country where the majority of its citizens call themselves Christians.

As he dealt with some “perhaps” and “maybes” in an attempt to understand what God might be doing in the situation, he remarked, “I’ve already read stories of people who have changed their minds about abortion, so we can praise God for that.”

I suppose we don’t have those answers, and maybe we never will, but whenever we see sin in some kind of graphic form like this, it ought to remind us that sin isn’t just the big, headline-making, jaw-dropping things. It’s pervasive, and it hurts us all. Those of us gawking at Dr. Gosnell from a distance also struggle with sin, though maybe it’s of a more private, not-as-serious (so we say) variety.

Chuck ended his devotional thought by including several relevant Bible passages for reflection.

Read the entire devotional thought at this link.