A Church’s “Letter from the Shepherds” Proposing Instrumental Music

With concern, I reflect upon the proposal of an eldership in Alabama to change their worship to God. With respect, this congregation has a standing fellowship in Christ. I am thankful for their faith in Christ and His resurrection. I am happy to be united with them in the one baptism (Eph 4:5). The elders of the Hunter Hills church are commendable for standing against those who may lord over the congregation. Some elderships have seen themselves as rulers dictating over their flocks. I am thankful and encouraged by their weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day. I hope and pray that this congregation will continue to first turn to Christ’s words and to those words that He gave to His Apostles and prophets as found in the Scriptures (John 16:13; 17:8; 1 Cor 2:13; Eph 3:3–5; 2 Tim 3:16–17). Christ is infallible, and so are His words including His words about worship.

While this congregation currently presents that their singing is acapella, their eldership has considered the proposal of some in their congregation to add musical instruments to their singing in worship, praise, and edification. In their effort to get away from legalism, they appear to
have gone too far in another extent. Knowing that obedience comes from faith and love (Jas 2:14–26; 1 John 5:2–3), believers can get distracted and no longer be compelled by the love of God to observe all that Christ commanded (Matt 28:20; John 14:21–24). This eldership has overlooked Jesus’s teaching that worship is no longer of David’s institution of fleshly worship in Jerusalem, but rather God seeks true worshipers to worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:19–24). They have missed that music without meaningful words is prohibited for worship according to Christ’s Spirit in 1 Corinthians 14:7–19. No longer is worship like the carnal worship of the Old Covenant, which described a figure of true Christian singing. Even in heaven, the singing is prevalent and sounds like thunder, many waters, and harps in Revelation (Rev 5:8–10; 14:2–3; 15:2–4; cf. Rom 12:1; 1 Pet 2:9).

This eldership declared, “scripture does not prohibit the use of instrumental music in our assembly,” they have fallen for the trap of thinking that “If God does not prohibit it, then God permits it.” By believing that “silence permits,” they have done like others who overreacted by believing “silence always excludes.” This eldership has accepted a similar reasoning to that of the pro-homosexual movement, who claim that, “Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, and thus it is acceptable to God.” However, Jesus did address marriage and fornication (Mark 7:20–23; 10:1–12), and He did address worshiping God in spirit and truth (John 4:20–24; cf. Heb 2:12).  Many have fallen into this same reasoning used to justify abortion, polygamy, baptizing infants, church hierarchies, church campuses, and so forth.  Some people reason that, “Jesus did not condemn abortion, and therefore it is acceptable.” Since Jesus did not explicitly proclaim that these are wrong, many has missed what Jesus has spoken and they have moved to live by their own form of righteousness.

My plea to the leaders of this congregation and those of like mind is to think further about the infallibility and perfection Jesus and His words (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Therefore, let us not add or take from what Jesus has established. For this point, apply the same admiration and respect for what Christ declared in the institution of His Lord’s Supper to singing. Remember that Jesus said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the grapevine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matt 26:29). Would it be right to change that fruit of the grapevine for another drink or to add something to the grape juice? See, Christ instituted worship in His perfect infallibility. Therefore, let us apply this to Christian praise to God. By Christ’s Spirit, the inspired writer spoke, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb 13:15). Like the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s praise is “the fruit of the lips” and humankind cannot change this, because Christ is perfect and so are His words. Let us continue to worship with meaningful words and sublimely meaningful traditions commanded by God.

Please, consider further the Truth about true worship in singing spiritual songs here: “Why Do Churches of Christ Not Use Musical Instruments?,” and a similar article here: “Do David’s Instruments Have a Place in True Worship?

Here is the letter from the eldership to the congregation:

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

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
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20 Responses to A Church’s “Letter from the Shepherds” Proposing Instrumental Music

  1. Joann Hollon says:

    Scott Shifford, Jr. The Church of Christ’s catch phrase for as long as I can remember has been “We speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent.” My whole life, I have wondered why there were traditions in the church that were not denied in the Bible. I’m so happy to see a church stepping out of the box that have been based on traditions rather than God’s word. It is past time to have meaningless rules invented by men.

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