Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 8, 1949
NUMBER 31, PAGE 3,6b

The Christian Church Vs. Churches Of Christ

Jack Meyer, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Many people have been led to believe that the only difference between the Christian Church and the churches of Christ is that the churches of Christ do not use instrumental music in their worship. The Christian Church leaders want people to believe that, for not nearly so many unsuspecting and uninformed people will be caught in its apostasy when people learn the full difference.

Before the division came, in the middle of the nineteenth century, the worship, work, doctrine, government, etc., of the church was exactly as those items are practiced by churches of Christ today. The introduction of certain innovations in the worship and work produced the division, and the Disciples, or Christian Church people, are the very ones who introduced the things that caused the division. They are therefore solely responsible for it.

Missionary Societies

The division first came over the issue of missionary societies to handle the "missionary work" of the churches. Copying denominational procedure, churches began sending delegates to district meetings, with permanent organizations being set up. One step in such organization led to another until in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1849, the American Christian Missionary Society was formed.

Those in the churches who opposed this—and who occupied the same position that churches of Christ hold today—did so for several scriptural reasons. Such an organization was separate and apart from the congregations, was above and over them in supervising missionary work. The only organization for doing such work in the New Testament was and is the congregation. God's plan was and is for each congregation to be its own missionary society. As an example, Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, "For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith to Godward is gone forth." (1 Thess. 1:8.) The New Testament churches were not tied together in any inter-congregational organization, neither was there any organization over them. "Unto him be the glory in the church"—not in the missionary society. (Eph. 3:21.)

All missionary work in those early years was done either by individual enterprise (Acts 8:4), or by congregational effort (Phil 4:16), with no sort of additional organization. Under this system, within a period of 30 to 35 years after the church was established, the truth of the gospel had been "preached in all creation under heaven." (Col 1:23.) That proves the practicability of Christ's plan. Since this is Christ's plan, by which pattern we are ordered to proceed (Heb. 8:5), the Christian Church people departed from that divine plan in organizing anything other than a congregation to do the work of the church. They still maintain that departure today, and this departure caused the great division.

Instrumental Music

The second cause of division, or point of difference, was the introduction of mechanical instruments of music in the worship. The church carried on its worship, including its music, exactly as churches of Christ do today, with singing as the only form or type of music used. This was the common practice until instrumental music was introduced into a congregation in 1859, at Midway, Kentucky. Disciples' historians generally credit that move to L. L. Pinkerton, preacher for that congregation. Some honest, conservative Christian Church people do not know that, but think that the instrument was used from the earliest days of the Restoration movement in America. But even L. L. Pinkerton himself testifies to the above claim.

In 1866 Pinkerton replied to a condemnation by the pioneer Benjamin Franklin, saying, "So far as known to me, or, I presume you, I am the only 'preacher' in Kentucky of our brotherhood who has publicly advocated the propriety of employing instrumental music in some churches, and that the church of God in Midway is the only church that has yet made a decided effort to introduce it." From then on the controversy rose in power, until definite division among the churches was the result. Why? Because the instrument was introduced in many congregations in worship, and defended by many preachers and papers.

Instrumental music advocates insisted that it was not an essential to acceptable worship to God. They claimed it was a "non-essential," that they could "worship with or without it." But they thought it was enough of an essential to introduce it to the point of the division of the body of Christ! (Rom. 16:17.) Hence, its became another cause of division, and was promoted by the same forces introducing the organized missionary society. It remains as a point of division between the Christian Church and churches of Christ today. And the Christian Church people will stand in the judgment as solely responsible for the entering wedge, as well as for maintaining and perpetuating the resultant division.

Reasons For Opposition

Those who opposed the mechanical instruments of music in worship, did so for the following reasons. (1) The Old Testament law was abolished when Jesus died on the cross (Col 2:14), and we are therefore under the new covenant of Christ. (Heb. 9:15; Rom. 6:14.) Christ sent the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into all truth. (John 16:13.) Through their preaching and writing in the scriptures we are furnished thoroughly, or completely, unto every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17.)

(2) The new covenant specified singing as the music of the church (1 Cor. 14:15, 23; Eph. 5:19; Col 3:16.)

(3) Wherein the new covenant has specified the elements in the worship, or any provision in work and doctrine, we dare not change the pattern. (Heb. 8:5; 2 John 9; 1 Cor. 4:G; 1 Tim. 1:3; John 4:24.) Here the churches of Christ stand; and this is the ground that the Disciples have left.