?You Know What?
We visited your church recently and found your music program very unusual. Was the singing without accompaniment part of a special event, or is this your regular church practice?
Your reaction is understandable, and is oft repeated by first-time visitors to an assembly of Christians engaged in worship. Please excuse the crisp nature of my reply, made necessary by lack of space.
1. We have no "music program" but consider all present as worshipers — participants who sing their praise to God. We try to discourage any ritual, or liturgical concept of worship; any "form" that one can "attend" and by which one can benefit vicariously. We consider each member of the church of Christ a "priest" (1 Pet. 2:5, 9) who offers a sacrifice of praise and service continually (Heb 13:15-16). In public worship one leads in prayers and songs, to promote unison; and in a secondary sense we "teach and admonish one another" (Col. 3:16); but our chief aim is to praise God.
2. This was not determined by "the church" in council or convention. We believe the New Testament is an inspired record of God's will to man, revealing by precept, approved example and necessary inference what He has done for us, and what He would have us be. We look to His word for information concerning worship, and try to conform to the pattern established there. Our conclusions are not infallible, and if you can help us to a better understanding of His will we will change accordingly, but our current practices in worship are not arbitrarily determined by "the church."
3. We do not claim to find some liturgical "order of worship" in the N. T., but in all passages relating music to worship on the part of first Century Christians, the worshipers sang, and did not play. Mechanical instruments of music were available in those days; they had been used in the Jewish worship; but the N.T. says the saints sang. Check the scriptures for yourself: Matt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26; Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12; 13:15; Jas. 5:13. We think it significant that instrumental music was not used in the Catholic church until ca. 666; and as late as 1250 the Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas, said, "Our Church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize" (McClintock & Strong).
4. We believe Christ redeemed His people — "church" being a collective noun applied to them — and gave directions for these people through His inspired messengers, the Apostles and Prophets whose writings make up the New Testament (Eph. 2:19-22; 3: 2-6; Jn. 15:26-27; 16:12-f; 2 Pet. 3:1-2). Our endeavor is to study the written word as carefully and prayerfully as possible, and practice those things found there. In our endeavor to be a church acceptable unto Jesus Christ we try to limit our organization, worship and work to that for which there is Bible authority; hence we sing and do not play. (See V.14, N.1, and P.4-5 for reply to pro-instrument argument.)