Upgrading a Church of Christ Worship Service Without Buying a Guitar

angelharp1.jpgUnder the guidance of our present worship minister, things have gotten pretty good. I know this is true because —

* No one is complaining much about the worship,

* The numbers are up, and

* Some people wish the service was longer!

Anyway, since we’re on the subject of worship, and since I really think churches can do a lot better with their a cappella singing, I thought I’d address the topic of how to make things better– without buying a guitar.

Get a great worship leader. This is, of course, easier said than done. And I don’t have any solutions. Nor am I aware that any of our colleges is seriously training worship leaders (although they may be).

If you don’t have one, train one. Send him to one of the Zoe conferences held around the country each year, for starters.

If you know someone who is an excellent worship leader, ask if he’ll spend some time coaching your leader. And, if you can, offer to pay for his time. “The worker is worthy of his hire.”

You see, excellent leadership is the most important key to excellent a cappella singing.

Singing during the Lord’s Supper is an excellent move. We should do more of it. I know some people oppose this, but it’s just not a Biblical issue.

My church sings sometimes, and we don’t other times — it’s a Romans 14 kind of thing, you know. And variety is nice. And those who think it’s wrong are welcome to sit silently. They don’t have to sing.

Nothing in the Bible requires that communion time be meditation time. Nothing in scriptures  suggests that the congregation meditated quietly while they ate and drank at the first communion meal.

And the reality is that most unchurched people and most young people do not like that much enforced quiet — especially not every week.

Stamps Baxter has to go! I grew up on this music. I actually enjoy it. Now, it doesn’t move me and help me feel God’s presence, but I enjoy it. For me, it’s nostalgic.

But no one who grew up outside the Churches of Christ likes it. In fact, many young people consider it so bad as to be hilarious. I’ve seen visiting college students struggle to avoid laughing out loud!

It might be a good idea to have the occasional nostalgia Sunday (once a year, maybe). For the sake of the older members, we could have a true country singing, with an outdoor, covered dish dinner with homemade ice cream (nothing store-bought allowed). Maybe even do a little fasolla or Sacred Harp singing. A lot of kids have never experienced anything like this. This would be enjoyed by those who love the Stamps Baxter songs without messing with the other services.

But, please, PLEASE don’t sing these any other time. It really ought to be a firing offense, you know — even if the words fit the sermon just ever so perfectly.

(Stamps-Baxter music was in fact written to be entertainment pieces for radio and traveling gospel quartets. This is why there are so many leads for each part — to give each singer a chance to show off his vocals! There is huge irony in those who argue for Stamps-Baxter music while damning those who engage in entertainment during the worship!)

Praise teams. I used to think this idea was silly — sort of a worship minister affectation. Just a bit of fashion among the ministerial class that would go away if I ignored it. I was wrong. Nothing improves a congregation’s singing more than an excellent praise team.

Now, some get bent out of shape thinking there’s sin of some sort in this. But it really should satisfy even the most conservative interpretation of the scriptures. I mean, a female alto is leading the female altos. I think it’s really okay.

And the old argument about this being entertainment is just so wrong.

My church is quite conservative. We have our team sit at the front of the auditorium, give them microphones, and they just sing — like everyone else, but better.

Here’s the thing — we live in a world where the college students, young married, and most of the lost think of music as being a concert, rather than congregational singing. People enjoy congregational singing, but many cannot read music and have no ear for improvising harmonies. Part of the solution is an audible praise team. (There’s no contradiction between “concert” and “congregational singing.” People sing at concerts. But they expect to be well led.)

By “audible” I mean a praise team loud enough so that in the back corner of the auditorium a bass can hear the bass singing and follow along (all four parts, of course). Some churches mic the team too low because they’re afraid of criticism for even having the team. But the congregation isn’t stupid. They know the team has microphones. But they’ll wonder why if they can’t hear them.

I also think you need at least 8 members. I can’t explain it. We’ve tried it both ways, and 8 is better.

I should add that, while it’s not sin, it seems pointless and distracting to have them stand. Some churches do. Some don’t. But I really find it easier to focus on the music and the words if the team sits or stands with the congregation. But maybe that’s just me.

Song selection. There are some simple, easy-to-learn rules to enforce–

1. Don’t pick out songs too hard to sight read on the very first try. Some song leaders keep singing songs that even trained sight singers struggle to sing. Some have difficult rhythms. Some have really hard harmonies. This means that those of us trying to sing the harmonies are so busy focusing on the notes that we don’t have a prayer of being touched by the words.

Here’s the test: if the praise team can’t get it right on the first try, neither can the congregation.

2. Pick only pretty melodies. Boring music with pretty words isn’t music, it’s poetry at best — suitable for dramatic readings or bulletin inserts. Music only accomplishes its purpose if the music is beautiful as well as the words. Thinking that the words matter to the near exclusion of the quality of the music is very Enlightenment thinking and guaranteed not to reach today’s Post-modern world.

By the way, lots of song leaders pick songs based on what’s popular on Christian radio. That’s fine if you have a guitar and drum kit. But there are lots of radio tunes that don’t work without the instruments. Even though the song leaders can imagine how great the music would be with a bass guitar, the congregation hasn’t heard it on the radio and they’re wondering why the leader picked such a pitiful tune.

3. Project the notes on a really large screen. This escapes two extremes. Some want to use only hymn books. But this forces people to look down (reducing the sound) and means each song is preceded by a minute of page turning. And it makes it hard to introduce new songs.

A big screen allows the church to move immediately from song to song. You get more singing done!

Now, it has to be really big so the back row can read the notes. Don’t scrimp on size or lumens. If your projector is old, buy new. The quality of projectors has dramatically improved in just the last few years (and prices are coming down).

However, there are those who want to eliminate the sheet music altogether, arguing that most people can’t read the notes anyway. But this only means that your best singers won’t be able to harmonize. Why dumb away the most attractive part of the worship?

Besides, even among the unchurched, there are lots of people who know how to read music. Many will catch on quickly and will enjoy being able to harmonize with the regulars.

Don’t let the song leader talk. No one wants to hear how this tune is so meaningful to him because of his great aunt’s funeral. No one wants a sermonette between songs. Rather, the flow of song to song, melody to melody is part of the joy of singing. Don’t interrupt it!

Clap. I know this bothers some people. I personally prefer not to clap. But it’s wrong to deny people the joy of expressing themselves this way. And modern worshipers are just used to having a rhythm section on upbeat tunes.

And the song leader needs to lead the clapping. Lots us us have no rhythm.

By the way, in the recent debate over instrumental music at Freed Hardeman University, the spokesman for the Church of Christ position, an FHU professor, argued that clapping does not constitute instrumental music or a separate act of worship, being merely an aid.

Carefully introduce new songs. Here are the rules:

* Don’t introduce the song unless it’s good enough to sing several times. If you’re going to ask the church to learn it, give them a chance to enjoy it. The first few times through, they won’t really benefit from it as they’ll still be learning the melody and harmonies.

* Don’t introduce more than one song per service — regardless of how much the music fits the sermon or whatever. People need familiar songs so they can truly worship. Remember: only the song leader and praise team have had time to practice.

* If the song turns out to be too hard or just not that good, don’t try to save face by singing it again and again anyway. Apologize, drop it, and move on.

Lyrics. I suppose there are times that a song really has lyrics that are theologically awful. In that case, you might want to change the words. But the vast majority of the times when we do that, we are showing our ignorance of the Bible much more than the author’s!

I mean, what on earth is wrong with “be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure”? What’s wrong with “such a worm as I”? And does anyone really think that “When we all get to heaven” should be replaced by “When the saved get to heaven”? Sometimes, I just want to SCREAM!

Break with tradition. It’s a struggle for an a cappella church to appeal to modern listeners. Many of our children have never heard a cappella singing except at church. Therefore, to sound halfway decent to their ears, we need to get out of our rut and be a little artistic.

Put an excellent soprano or tenor on the praise team to improvise a countermelody or descant over the lead. Some hymns have these written. If so, have someone sing them and mic up the singer. It’s not a solo. It’s really okay.

Sometimes, have the praise team sing while the congregation listens. (See the link to the post on the entertainment question above.) This is called a “meditation.” If the preacher or some college kid can talk before communion while everyone else listens, why can’t we sing the meditation while everyone else listens?

This technique will also allow you to introduce some beautiful music that’s too difficult for congregational singing.

And let’s have some solos and duets — if you have the voices. There is absolutely nothing unscriptural about these forms so long as you don’t eliminate congregational singing. We need to stop being scared of our shadows and have the courage to enjoy the freedom Jesus died for us to have.

(Gal. 5:1a) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Be creative! Let the solo illustrate the sermon right in the middle of it. Sing a duet before or during communion.

If God has given your people the gifts, use them. That’s why he gave them to you.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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86 Responses to Upgrading a Church of Christ Worship Service Without Buying a Guitar

  1. Melina says:

    I love the point about singing songs that are not too difficult for the general group. I love to sing accapella but I'm not that good at it. I like to be able to participate without the stress of trying (unsuccessfully) to figure out how the song is to be sung.

  2. Jesus says:

    Really good and simple steps to upgrade a Church of Christ worship service with out a guitar, I just impressed with the script in the article and your final words in the article is really encouraging thanks for that words.

  3. Jenny says:

    I disagree about the use of only contemporary songs in the worship service. Our service is very meaningful and uplifting and we use a mixture of both. I am in my 20' (hardly a senior citizen) and I'll take a Fanny Crosby any day over Twila Paris. We have to remember just who the audience is.

  4. Jay Guin says:

    I agree, at least in many Churches of Christ. We have a blended service ourselves, and it works quite well. Of course, "blended" doesn't justify singing bad music either old or new. Stamps-Baxter and its ilk have to go! But so do some more recent songs. It's just a matter of having good taste and trying to find music that the entire congregation will respond to.

    After we'd been singing blended songs with a praise team for a few years — and excluding the really bad old songs — we had a service where an old-school song leader led old-school songs. One of the members who had strongly opposed the change at the beginning approached the preacher and said, "I was against all these changes, I'm sure you'll remember. BUT DON'T YOU EVER DO THAT AGAIN!" Having experienced a praise team and a better selection of songs, even she didn't want to go back.

  5. JDH says:

    I personally enjoy singing, I can carry a tune to save my life, in human terms, but I don't sing for human ears. The good Lord in His wisdom gave my one of those big'ol mining dump trucks filled to the brima and over flowing with desire to Sing to Him. But He gave me a holey 1 gallon bucket of ability to sing to Him. In the church I grew up in there was this little old lady that used to sit behind us (mom , dad, and I) She couldn't sing, she made my singing sound like the Viena boys chior. It usd to bother me when I was younger, until one service after a song was sung where we all stood, as I turned to sit I caught her eye. It was the most pleasent joyful face I had seen in my life ( alright a dramitazation), but the point is while I came to try to make my voice pleasing to God she had come to sing, giving thanks to God with everthing she had, she held nothing back. She didn't have two mites of singing abiblty to rub together, but what she did have she gave every last bit of it to God. From that moment on I always made sure I say infront of her, if her gift of all was good enough for God, It was more then good enough for my human ears.

    I write all this as a preface to say this: Praise teams no praise teams, stamps baxter, praise worship songs, slow songs fast songs don't mean squat! Giving thanks to God in song means everthing. I understand the desire for the singing, the noise of our voices to be pleasing to our ears. But that doesn't mean anything. It is the giving of all we have to the Creator in thanks from our hearts that means something. I don't mean to be harsh here, but offer this thought: If we need pretty, pleasing (by human terms) sounds to our ears to give thanks to God, who are we trying to give thanks too? Who are we trying to please? Let's change our hearts first, then the sound doesn't matter. We'll discover that it is fluff, nice to have but unimportant.

  6. JDH says:

    Edit CAN'T carry a tune to save my life ('cause I don't know how to edit it once I wrote it ;)

  7. Jay Stewart says:

    I disagree with several of your assertions, beginning with your point of singing during communion. The Biblical example we have from Christ himself in Matthew (26:26-30) is that they took the bread, took the cup and then sang a hymn. Where does the authority to change the scripture or its examples come from? Sounds like men make the changes, not God! Communion is a separate act of worship just like preaching, praying, scripture reading. We would not sing during a prayer, so why do it during communion?
    And as far as authority goes, there is none for anything other than singing, that means clapping is adding to the examples and therefore is not acceptable to God.
    And finally, your comment on what is wrong with bad lyrics… 1 Cor 14:15 tells us to sing with understanding. A purpose of singing is to teach so when we sing/teach unscriptural doctrine (double cure is part of calvanism) we have become false teachers and are subject to all of the punishments that will come to all false teachers.
    When we use the Bible as our sole source of authority, we see that it is God whom we must please and we must please him in the way he has directed us. May God's word find good soil and take root.

  8. Jay Guin says:

    Jay, I respond in bold for ease of reading. It doesn't mean I'm electronically yelling.

    I disagree with several of your assertions, beginning with your point of singing during communion. The Biblical example we have from Christ himself in Matthew (26:26-30) is that they took the bread, took the cup and then sang a hymn. Where does the authority to change the scripture or its examples come from? Sounds like men make the changes, not God! Communion is a separate act of worship just like preaching, praying, scripture reading. We would not sing during a prayer, so why do it during communion?
    Actually, we sing while praying all the time. A great many of our great hymns are prayers. Many end with an "amen." Even if we don't sing the "amen," it's still a prayer. Others are written to teach lessons, making them sung sermons.

    Of course, many sermons contain a prayer or two. All communion services contain prayers, and many contain sermons. The fact is that we have mixed "acts of worship" frequently as long as I've been alive.

    If the song sung after communion is a binding example, they why is OK for us to sing before communion? Or does your church save all its songs until after? Singing before communion is just as contrary to that passage as singing during communion.

    And as far as authority goes, there is none for anything other than singing, that means clapping is adding to the examples and therefore is not acceptable to God.
    At FHU a year or so, Dr. Ralph Gilmore debated a Christian Church minister on the instrumental music question. Dr. Gilmore taught that clapping is an aid, not an addition. Therefore, there are very respected, very conservative men who disagree with you. On the other hand, there are many who do agree.

    If you disagree, don't clap. Just don't condemn those who do.

    (Rom 14:1) Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

    And finally, your comment on what is wrong with bad lyrics… 1 Cor 14:15 tells us to sing with understanding. A purpose of singing is to teach so when we sing/teach unscriptural doctrine (double cure is part of calvanism) we have become false teachers and are subject to all of the punishments that will come to all false teachers.

    I certainly don't advocate singing erroneous lyrics. You still haven't explained what's wrong with being saved from wrath and made pure. I've never heard the phrase in the context of Calvinism. Don't we want to be saved from wrath? Don't we want to be made pure? Isn't that simply figurative language for justification and sanctification? (It is rather hard to come up with rhymes for those words!)

    (Phil 1:9-10) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,

    When we use the Bible as our sole source of authority, we see that it is God whom we must please and we must please him in the way he has directed us. May God’s word find good soil and take root.
    Of course. Have I argued to the contrary?

    Let me refer you to Luke's account of the Lord's Supper.

    (Luke 22:19-20) And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

    Notice that Jesus inserted an entire supper in between the bread and the cup. He added a full meal to the "last supper." All my life I've been told it would be sin to do exactly that. But it just isn't. Jesus instituted communion as part of a meal.

    The idea that all additions are necessarily sinful is very, very questionable. Even more questionable is the idea that we can't perform two "acts of worship" at once. We do it every Sunday in every church I've ever attended.

  9. Todd Collier says:

    Perhaps stupid of me to ask this, but where in my New Testament do I find the specific "acts of worship" delineated as specific acts of worship? To so organize these separate parts of the whole and assume they are the whole appears to add to the scriptures.

  10. Joe Baggett says:

    Dido Todd:

    The five acts thing is something we pulled out of a hat to support our presupposed ideas.

    There is no example of giving during an assembly in the NT, so it should not be done in the assembly if we are to please God.

    You see this is the whole problem with this theology. It reduces God to a being who is most concerned with a few specific acts that take place once a week for about an hour rather than a God who is mainly concerned with how we treat ourselves, each other and others.

    God did not send his Son to die on the cross so that we would never sing in the Lord Supper, or use an instrument, or keep women silent, or clap hands, or any of the other issues we try to turn in to the Gospel.

  11. Jay Guin says:

    Todd,

    You are quite right to question the acts of worship rubric. But if the audience for this post didn't have any concerns along these lines they'd buy a guitar!

  12. Frank B. says:

    Jay,

    I've been meandering on the Web for so long, I don't know how I made it to your blog. Anyway, now that I'm hear, wanted to let you know that I read this post of yours and thought it was quite good. I like both the spirit and the specifics of what you say. I'm afraid that many of our conservative co-religionists just won't go with your recommendations. But it's not because what you say is without merit.

    As I recall, the old argument about singing and communion was that the Almighty had given us five acts of worship, and they weren't to be combined or mixed. But you already knew that. I just wanted to put that one out there because, well, it's ludicrous.

  13. Frank B. says:

    Uh, that should be "now that I'm here." It was the music theme that made me go astray and write "hear."

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Frank B.,

    I'm glad to have you as a reader. I have cousins in Amarillo, and so I spent many summers there as a child. Kind of flat, windy, and lacking in trees, as I recall, but lots of good people who make and eat excellent beef barbecue.

    Very glad to have you as a reader.

    BTW, we have a campus minister here. My church was founded as a campus ministry to UA, so I'm a big fan of campus ministers.

  15. J D Galloway says:

    Jay,

    Great article! One problem I've struggled with since moving to the states (i'm originally from scotland) was how thoughtless the worship services at nearly all the churches of Christ I attended seemed to be. The usual set up was announcements, a few randomized songs that are so random they are meaningless together, a brief lords supper (shot and crumbs basically, hardly what Christ instituted at all!) taking about 5 minutes, then the sermon and the obligitory invitation song (or the march of shame, as it is known back home. We don't do it or want to!). The congregations back home and also the one where my wife and I currently attend puts a lot of thought and prep into its worship services, and in many ways it is much like the worship service you suggested above.

    Two comments however; one disagreement, one suggestion.

    Firstly, I don't necessarily think its a bad idea to have to song leader sting together a few songs and have a brief explanation of the thought process behind why those songs. I don't mean that he says why its so meaningful to him, rather what scriptures it illuminates, or what scriptures illuminate it. The worship leader doesn't just lead our voices and hearts, but also our minds in worship to God.

    Secondly, more (thoughtful) prayer. Have a bit of quiet time in the service for the congregation to pray silently. A well led, heartful prayer can be just as poetic and meaningful as any of the songs we might sing.

    The whole 5 acts of worship I'm convinced is an american thing. I'd never heard it till I got over here, and i've been chuckling at it ever since. Its for sure a) adding to scripture (these are the ONLY ONE YOU CAN DO!!! for example) and b) another symptom of sunday only, check-list salvation.

    Cheers,

    Galloway

  16. Jacob Forest says:

    I am glad that someone noticed the need to upgrade the song service. It is supposed to be a worship service. But most of the songs sing about ourselves and never worship God. I decided to start worshiping God in my own way and God filled me with the Holy Ghost. I spoke in tongues. The Church of Christ did not accept it. Worship triggers this experience and I feel like the church of Christ does not want to show emotion and dampens to worship to hide their theological eras on spiritual gifts. I am glad that I am free from that. I pray for this group on a continual basis. Thank you for noticing that worship needs to be upgraded.

    By the way Eph 4:25 says to have songs, psalms, and spiritual songs. Psalms in the greek means praise with music particularly the stringed music. Just thought you might want to know you can have a guitar too. Love Yal

  17. Jim Wright says:

    Jay,
    I appreciate your article so much. I am going to share it with our church leaders. We are a four year old congregation of 65 members who struggle with our singing in a community of churhes with excellent music during services. We have to pay a song leader to come from 80 miles away to lead singing. To grow, we feel our singing must improve.

    We have begun to use recorded acappella singing during our worship service to enhance our singing and it has worked! Our members are singing out more and are encouraged and blessed in a greater way than before. There are some glitches with the audio/video equipment on occasion but, our members don't mind at all. We are getting better at it. Oh, we meet in an elementary school gymnasium which is cavernous and has carpet on the floor which makes singing tough. There is excellent recorded singing using the "The Songs of Faith and Praise" hymnal. These can be found at http://www.ChurchofChristMusic.com, True Lift Records, & Howard Publishing Co.

    Our song-leader had some problems with it at first thinking he was not needed. We explained there is no difference between the recorded singing and a praise team and that we still need a leader to lead us. He has done much better. The song-leader has to spend time practicing with the recorded singing to be sure the tempo is right and any special arrangements on the recording are understood.

    We have been surprised that it has gone so well and our members have accepted it so readily. Hopefully this will help some other congregation thats in our situation.

    Thanks!
    Jim

  18. Jay Guin says:

    Jim,

    That's a fascinating idea that many churches could benefit from. Thanks for sharing.

    While we're on the topic, I know of a church that met in a gym where the acoustics were terrible. That brought in a sound engineer, who miked that audience and fed the singing through speakers — filling the space very unobtrusively. It worked well, I'm told.

  19. Tony Billoni says:

    You church o' Christ? No clapping. You the chosen-frozen; you not the happy-clappy.

    Clapping leads to praise teams. Don't need special committee to worship the Lord!

  20. Scare Bear says:

    Here's what I see a bit wrong, it was stated that the college kids were pretty much getting bored so it is a reason to upgrade right? Now are we upgrading because it's what God wants or are we doing it to make ourselves feel better and more "comfortable" during worship service? Remember this is treading on the dangerous side because before too long someone might suggest getting that guitar…..

    In the end it is what God wants not what we want.

  21. Clint says:

    Scare Bear,

    If we are "upgrading" because we are trying to minister to college students and trying to teach them, then why not clap?

  22. Dan M says:

    Obfuscation: "Clap. I know this bothers some people. I personally prefer not to clap. But it’s wrong to deny people the joy of expressing themselves this way. And modern worshipers are just used to having a rhythm section on upbeat tunes."

    The issue is not preventing people "the joy of expressing themselves"; the issue is giving the audience the joy of adding music that is not singing.

    I have no problem with people clapping, if it is a way of expressing approval or honor, but the clapping you are authorizing is clapping with the intent purpose, not of expressing joy, but of making more music that sounds like blocks, drums, etc.

    I hate legalistic congregations that will divide over the most ridiculous things. But what irritates me just as much is when people start giving approval to things that are additions to God's Word. If approval is going to be given to something, then it must be done by showing clear approval from Scripture. The Quail Springs of Oklahoma City example shows what happens when you move along this path. First these things are treated as a non-issue which leads to adding something new "because it was a non-issue."

    I don't know your congregation, but I imagine your already have some who are worshiping at "contemporary christian concerts" and thereby growing in affinity to their styles. Get ready, because next you will be having to add a Saturday night worship with instruments just to please those who see it as a non-issue.

    Thanks.

  23. Jay Guin says:

    Dan,

    It's interesting. There seems to be split in the a cappella churches on clapping, as some say it's a mere aid while others consider it an unauthorized act of worship. I've given up trying to distinguish act from aid, as it seems to be altogether subjective.

    Personally, I reject the Regulative Principle, which states that silence is a prohibition, for reasons argued here: http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/t…. I also reject the Normative Principle, which states that silence is permission.

    Rather, the assembly is governed by its purposes. That which furthers its purpose is permitted and that which interferes with its purposes is not. This is the logic Paul uses in 1 Cor 14, and so I figure it must be right.

  24. VA says:

    I was a member at one of those Churches that snuck into its worship service a "Praise Team". They sat the group on the front pews, and handed them micro phones to use and they justified it by saying, we are helping to lead the congregation for those who don't know how to sing.

    Here I am singing away and I all of the sudden I notice this singing over the loud speaker and I think to myself as I am being "distracted from my worship" – what in the world is that noise I hear singing "over" the congregation.

    My mind was taken away from my worship. My mind was distracted away from the purpose I was there to begin with. I would call that Satan succeeding at his attempt to distract us from worshipping god with our WHOLE heart, soul and mind! Satan is succeeding in his attempt to distract us from worshipping with our WHOLE heart, soul and mind!

  25. Matt Meeker says:

    I do not have time to leave my full comments regarding what I have read here. However, the amount of "will worship" on going in the church today is upsetting and troubling. I would like to briefly say to Jacob that he needs to go back and study his greek a little more fervently. While the term "Psallo" originally could refer to the "plucking" of an instrument in its more antiquated usage, in the New Testament it only refers to singing. For more information, see Thayers Greek-English Lexicon.

  26. Jay Guin says:

    Matt,

    Does Thayer's say it refers to "singing" or "singing without an instrument"? I agree that Jacob is mistaken and that psallo does not necessarily suggest the use of an instrument in NT Greek, but I've not seen any evidence that it indicates a cappella singing.

    Aido certainly is used in the NT with respect to singing accompanied by music. Rev 5:8-9, and aido is used in both the Col and Eph passages dealing with singing.

    Hence, the Greek certainly doesn't prohibit the use of an instrument. It is, at best, neutral. Do you agree?

  27. TWH says:

    Is God really concerned whether we sing on key and in 4-part harmony or is he really interested in us "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and making melody with your heart to the Lord" (EPHESIANS 5:19)?
    Does the existence of a praise team really get the non-praise team members any closer to God or help any of us get into heaven? If not, is it not just perhaps beneficial in some way only to those who are in the praise team?
    The members who typically want praise teams are those who are “into” singing and are typically good at it. The argument has been made that perhaps this desire to sing with a praise team is an effort to get with others of similar interests and perform together so that their good voices will be heard by others, not unlike choirs in denominations. There are a number of churches of Christ who have praise teams that go on to record and sell CDs and even have web sites. This would seem to support the performance theory. I am not saying that these things are wrong, but I am questioning the reason behind the decision to have a praise team other than for the satisfaction of those in it.
    I am not personally aware of anyone who does not have a good voice being an advocate for praise teams, but there obviously could be and probably are some who fall into that category, but I believe that they would be in the minority. Why do you suppose this is? What would a logical answer for this be if not the idea of good singers wanting to come together to perform?
    Who chooses praise team members? Will some who may want to join be denied because they cannot read music or sing well enough, or will their mikes just be turned down? I wonder what God would think about this? I remember being raised in a denomination and knowing of some who were not allowed to be in the choir because they did not have what it took. Talk about dissension and hard feelings! If those who do not sing well are allowed to participate on the praise team, then this defeats the whole purpose, right? So, what is the purpose of praise teams again?
    I have been in both services with and without praise teams and did not personally feel any closer to God or more uplifted with the praise teams, so I just wonder about the true gain from having them when it ultimately causes so mush division within the church. Is it really worth it?

  28. Todd Collier says:

    TWH are we to answer your post question by question or simply assume yours is the proper perspective and further discussion on this point is unnecessary?

    How about praise teams helping us teach new songs to the congregation? And other than our traditions who says choirs are wrong? How about trying to make our worship fit the modern context of the lost we are trying to reach? Why is opposition to praise teams almost an exclusive preserve of dying congregations? This "issue" has been around for twenty years – isn't it time for non-progressives to move on? Isn't this a point of division only when an eldership has decided to create one and a rebellious faction within the congregation refuses to follow them? Why is it that I only hear about this as a problem from an "I don't like this" or "This isn't what I was taught" rather than a genuine discussion about what makes sense.

    Oh, usually folks who can't sing are advocates for long sermons – or calling it quits at 15 till to get to the buffet early.

  29. Zach says:

    personally I can't stand when a worship leader starts acting like they are the preacher (they are not learned theologians and sometimes seem to more enjoy the sound of their own voice)

    but what about congregational reading or responses? i've seen it done in a church of christ. seems to make people uncomfortable.

    and what about other music styles? there are some great swahili hymns like funga alafia or sia humba (we are marching in the llight of God). I've even met church of christers who like Taize music.

  30. Zach says:

    oh and if David could strip naked and dance to worship God then i think clapping is okay =)

  31. Zach says:

    oh and when i lead music at my church I try to pick music with lyrics that enhance what will be preached in theme

  32. Rich says:

    TWH,

    Although I'm not comfortable with praise teams, I understand the motivation. We should give God our highest quality possible in whatever we do including worship. When we sing, we should sing to the best of our ability. That means straight from the heart and the best, most uplifting sound possible (still a noise from my mouth). I understand this as analogous to giving of our first fruits. And, most often this becomes the most edifying way.

    In other words, we should never be satisfied with just a 'joyful noise' when we are capable of better.

  33. Jim Haugland says:

    The CENI hermeneutic, which has been addressed, has led to so much pattern legalism (i.e., the Bible is to be used only for man to studiously discover the "new rules" that Christ died to establish), that the freedom from sin and guilt that Christ died for (Romans & Galatians) and prayed for (Jn 17), is lost in another barrage of contemporary neo-pharisaical CENI man-made traditions (Mt 15; Mt 23) that robs the joy of knowing the Jesus of the "good news". How sad. I'm so appreciative that I attend a church where that has long since been discarded. (Yep. We have a praise team, raise hands and clap in the joy of worship to the one who utterly saves!) A good small book to ponder is A Call To Unity: A Critical Review of Patternism and the Commnd-Example-Inference Silence Hermeneutic (CENIS) by Barry L. Perrtman, PhD. Blessings to all!

  34. Willis Page says:

    Interesting. How many conversions , baptisms in 2009 , in your congregation or location?
    Thank you so much,
    Willis Page

  35. Nancy says:

    I'm confused. Is there some correlation between worship and conversions, baptisms and/or "the lost we are trying to reach". Seems like evangelism and worship have two different purposes. It is easier to kill two birds with one stone I suppose.

  36. Todd Collier says:

    Nancy,

    Our worship serves the dual purposes of encouraging the flock and providing a means of allowing the unsaved to come to know Jesus and His people a little better. That is why the argument is advanced that our assembly must meet the needs of those we are trying to reach as well as those of our existing membership.

    Willis I wasn't so sure who you were asking about baptisms but will answer anyway. Our mixed worship service has produced two in the past year. Our offline assembly (LiFE) which is more oriented towards the younger generation has baptized over 30 in the past two years with at least ten of those in the past six months Seems to me that the more modern approach is a bit more effective.

  37. Bob Z says:

    Todd Collier,
    Where is it exactly that you suggest the non-progressives move on to? A rebellious faction? Really!What about a congregation of folks where the majority prefers not to have praise teams and a smaller group wants to and is very insistant that they get their way? Who is the rebellious faction in this case? Should not the progressives move on since they would be in the minority? I doubt that you have enough knowledge of all congregations in this country to know that all denominations who do not want praise teams are dying.
    The thing that bothers me most about your response is that your type is just as aggressive and without love and understanding as the old legalistic non-progressives that you refer to. I think that God (just my opinion) is more upset with the bickering than he is whether we have praise teams or not.

  38. Todd Collier says:

    Bob,

    I suggest that both groups of believers do what I do. Submit to the authority of your eldership but make sure that eldership has all of the information they need to decide which way to go and not merely listen to one side or another out of selfishness, fear or weariness.

    You are quite correct that I do not know the status of every congregation every where. But I do know the status of a sizeable number of congregations in several areas of the country and I have access to twenty years of statistical research that tends to prove that congregations that are willing to adapt to modern practices survive and grow and perhaps thrive while those that refuse to do so survive at best but are more likely to decline and die.

    I have served with and/or correspond closely with congregations in five different area of the country and in every region the progressive congregations are the only ones growing while those who have not made changes are at best holding their own or dying outright. I am sorry Bob, these are the facts in the research and on the ground. They don't change because you don't agree with them or because they hurt your feelings. It is also of importance that these are the facts even when you look beyond our little denomination and consider what is happening in the greater Christian community.

    As for my lack of love. Well, you don't know me and to judge me by a handful of posts is rather unfair. I write to state my position and to persuade others concerning its rightness. Also you do not know my type. I am not a type. I am an evangelist who is doing his best to fulfill the commands of his Master. I am a man who has made hard choices and suffered for Christ accordingly. I am about getting the job done and failing to honestly consider what is required to get that job done is not consistent with the Spirit of Christ. So let's leave the personal stuff out of it and focus on the facts. Please provide for me the names of congregations in your area that are currently growing who are not progressive. Please detail their level of growth and describe any activities they are engaging in that may be helping to fuel that growth. (If you look at my second post above you will see that is what I provided – hard numbers.)

    And by moving on I mean, either treat those of us who advocate praise teams as those who advocate instruments or drop the issue as one that is unimportant. I was not suggesting they leave, but move forward.

  39. Dear Brothers and sister in Christ love,

    Salivations from Church of Christ Greetings to you, your beloved family and blessed Ministry which has being supported under your sacrifice. Thank you a lot in His mighty name. I request your kind permission to introduce myself with your compassionate attention.

    I immense pleasure to introduce myself as an.Bro,named S. Barna Boss declaring the sacred truths for the past 11 years. By the grace of our almighty father , I built 3 congregations with the help of 24-co-workers of 35 congregations are at West Godavari near by out district. By the grace of our father GOD we can able to lead our congregations at West Godavari with out any one assistance GOD be praised. Once again my gratitude to GOD for loving me to spread of his sacred truths to far distant areas..You will be happy to note that we are doing social work like providing food to poor 25 orphans 15 widows and 24 co workers. At the time of natural calamities like Cyclone floods, fire accidents, earth quakes, medical camps, eye donations and blood camps etc. We are helping the victims with donations we receive from generous people. But since last 5 years the owners of Prawn tank are not getting any profit due to unfavorable climatic and post troubles. As I am not able to get any help from them I had to mortgage my house and have been continuing my social and gospel work. But this money is not sufficient for two year only.The paddy crop also failed since last two years due to the draught condition. As such the land owners are also not able to help us anything.As all the amounts have been exhausted I am now left with empty hands.Please therefore show mercy and compassion towards these poor orphans and widows, co-workers and also the victims.

    Please extend your financial help to the best of your ability.If not please arrange few sponsors to help us.We are entitled and authorized to receive any amount of foreign money for the promotion of our social activities as we have RC and FC numbers from 1981. Chruch of Christ Orphanage Home we are praying for your long life good health and prosperity. Please pray for us and for our gospel and social activities.

    Hoping to hear from you.

    ( S,Barna Boss )
    Bro,S,Barna Boss
    18th Ward 47-2-40
    W.G.Dist ( A.P )
    S.India – 534260
    thefaith77@yahoo.com

  40. bradstanford says:

    This discussion sounds very much like the Rousseau-Rameau arguments, as songwriters explored harmonies in church music as opposed to the traditional style of Gregorian chants. Those advocating strict adherence to the way singing has been done in the Churches of Christ for the last 100 years will be disappointed to find out that a mere 250 years ago, the traditionalists would have easily condemned you to hell for your desire to sing harmony at all.

    So where are the "true" churches of Christ? The ones that chant? Nonexistent, though I have heard a few (including a relative) suggest that perhaps chanting is more historically accurate, and more biblical, more like the original Jewish worship, etc.

    If you will search, you will find quotes from every century about how the modern music is satanic, encouraging people to be sensual, and how it should not be allowed in the church. The result is always the same: the musical style being defended as "pure" is never heard from again, and the contemporary music style then becomes the next sacred cow for the next musical renaissance, forgetting that it, too, was once not allowed in the church.

    Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it. To think that one's style of church music is pure or acceptable by the standards of our historical brethren – much less a legalistic biblical standard – is tombwash, in the color of white.

    For those interested in developing leaders for a cappella music, you might want to tune into Keith Lancaster's blog (http://keithlancaster.blogplugs.com/) and/or facebook page. He just recently discussed the very issue of how best to bring leaders and music skills back to the churches. He has some programs for developing leaders that might interest you.

    Jay: much of this seems ado about nothing.
    •Great worship leader? That goes for any musical endeavour.
    •Same for "praise teams" which most other venues would simply call a "band" (though the legalists will want to have a field day with that term).
    •Song selection: a song can either be sung by your congregation or not. If it's a blessing they will learn it. Perhaps the praise team records and releases the songs they are working on to give people a chance to learn them at home. Six months later, take a survey to see how important learning the songs in advance is to your congregation.
    •The Lord's Supper as a meal would almost preclude singing and bring in one-on-one ministry time. Problem solved.
    • You seem to have a personal prohibition against people other than the preacher sermonizing. I understand the classic CofC problem of Aunt Bertha's funeral. This is not a problem in the other churches I have been in. The worship leader's job is to help wash the world and the flesh off of us, and bring us into the throne room. Spoken words are sometimes required for that. Sorry you haven't experienced this!
    • Clapping is useless in a congregation where everyone notices the clapping rather than the worship. If the elders and worship leaders have not set the atmosphere of worshiping with heart, soul, mind, and strength it can be rough. Same goes for hands, dancing whatever. This is an expectation problem. If the expectation has not been set, then that must come first.
    • I find "break with tradition" and "be creative" to be ironic in a post that is instructing people and how to keep the same things without seeming to keep them the same. There is a glass ceiling in the CofC that caps the best of our efforts, and the highest of our thoughts. This post seems to be saying, "here's how to be more comfortable with the limits that most of us know are bogus".

    Continued thanks for hosting these discussions as gracefully as you do!

  41. Todd Collier says:

    Brad,

    That was a zinger and a half.

    It is funny how we argue about change when few of us actually are willing to take on the big sacred cow that drives all of it. Our arguments for keeping IM out apply to every "modern" practice. Yet most of us (on this blog anyway) reject such arguments in those cases. When will we take the leap and acknowledge that they don't really work for IM either.

  42. Guy says:

    Jay–

    however practical your suggestions may be, i can't help but think your post misses a bigger assumption worth questioning:

    Why is the song-service allowed to dominate/substantiate our assembly? It seems that the singing gets nearly as much (and in some cases, even more) emphasis as the sermon in many worship services. But why? Is this how the early church did it? Is this necessarily a practice that it is in our best interest to continue? Maybe the answers are "keep it as is," but it doesn't seem to me the question even gets asked very often.

    –Guy

  43. coreydavis says:

    My church is quite conservative. We have our team sit at the front of the auditorium, give them microphones, and they just sing — like everyone else, but better.

    I'm curious…by asserting that the "praise team" sings "better", do you mean that their voices are more pleasing to God or to you?

  44. Anonymous says:

    I believe it's our love God sees within us He is pleased with.

  45. bradstanford says:

    "I’m curious…by asserting that the “praise team” sings “better”, do you mean that their voices are more pleasing to God or to you?"

    A possible underlying assumption in this question is that things that please us aren't allowed. Or somehow not worth considering. Don't know if that's the case here, but I'll address it anyway. :^)

    God has given people different talents. Using these talents to bring people into the throneroom of God is always good, be it music, preaching, painting, or tire-changing. In this case a praise team doing what they're made for is pleasing to God, and a side benefit is that it's pleasing to the ears.

    This whole story is about God making things right. When people do what they're created to do, it's worship, and it's telling another part of the story of God. In this case, our ears tell us, "That's right!" giving us a shadow of when God returns and makes all things right.

    So when we think about things that please us, it's not always selfish or unspiritual. Our spirits are drawn to what's right, because God wrote the story that way.

    Immature churches will have immature Christians fight tooth and nail for whatever pleases them because it's the only taste of God they've experienced and they want more. What happens more often than not is that we teach them to suppress those feelings and they never mature.

    Maturity is when we experience God daily. When you have a church full of folk who have walked with God all week, watch out! All sorts of ministry, celebration, and living water busts out. You don't hear anything about the styles of songs, how many there are, how long the sermon is, whether or not there should be singing during the compartmentalized Lord's Supper, or any other thing that's supposed to be led by the spirit.

    I can tell you from experience that churches like this exist. And it is the kind of worship where sometimes you break a sweat, sometimes you weep on your knees, Sometimes people just take turns praying out loud spontaneously, and all the time the name of God is lifted as high as possible.

    Where the Spirit is, there is freedom. Where He isn't, we're a slave to all the failings of men, including arguments and selfishness.

  46. coreydavis says:

    A possible underlying assumption in this question is that things that please us aren’t allowed. Or somehow not worth considering. Don’t know if that’s the case here

    That isn't the case. I would think that if it pleased the Lord, then it ought to please us as well.

    What I was addressing was the haughty declaration that having a "praise team" so we can sing "better" is based solely upon pleasing the ears of men. Is the cracked voice of an elderly saint who puts her whole heart into each song not just as pleasing to God than a "praise team" member whose voice generates the appreciation of the assembly?

    It seems to me that nearly all of these suggestions are to improve the singing for those who hear it here, rather than He to whom the songs are addressed. That is what I was getting at.

  47. TWH says:

    I have been in attendance, as mentioned before, both with and w/o praise teams. As I also said before, I did not feel any more uplifted after attending the services with the praise teams. I did notice, however, that some disperse the team members throughout the congregation and thus they are mostly unnoticeable except for hearing their voices. These did not bother me at all. I have, however, seen some praise teams that are in front of the congregation and personally, I find this to be a distraction. I do understand that we all have our own spiritual "needs" at worship, but those who are not in favor of praise teams are no more wrong than those who are advocates. We are not commanded to have praise teams, so why am I wrong to prefer to not have them? The interesting thing about all of this is that I am sure, in time, the cofC as I have known it for the last 30-40 years will cease to exist (or die as Todd says). I am old enough to remember all of the turmoil caused by kitchens, Bible classes, church supporting of orphan homes, etc. You rarely if ever hear of these issues anymore from the "antis". I may be wrong, but I feel the church as I have known it most of my life will in time fall by the way as the "anti" groups have. (in fact we will probably be known as the antis to future generations!) I just pray that the changes that are forthcoming (and have already happened in many larger cities) are not against God's Word in any way. I have read a lot of the supporting scriptures both for and against the changes being made in the cofC and am no closer to deciding for myself one way or the other as to whether to personally accept them or not. After all, you can't blame me if I do not feel comfortable worshipping in a Community Church can you? I am a former Baptist who has been a cofC member for most of my adult life.
    Forgive my ramblings but I for one am genuinely afraid of some of the things I am seeing and have just not come to terms with them as yet. For instance, I still do not understand how praise teams or IM get anyone closer to God or have anything to do with salvation, but I do understand reaching the masses and that some are looking for more emotional services. The thing that I worry about is that we do not err in God's eyes in order to establish these services that attract the masses.

  48. Anonymous says:

    "What I was addressing was the haughty declaration …."

    How do you know it was a haughty declaration and not just being jokingly light?

    And I believe Brad already gave you a good reply to what you are getting at.

  49. bradstanford says:

    The only questions I would ask, then, would be:
    • Can she hear/see the words well enough to join in?
    • Does the praise team edify the crackly-voiced elderly woman? If not, what atmosphere have we created in which people using their God-given talents is not edifying? How can we change that?

    I've seen stunning artwork composed for a sermon series by very talented painters in the church. Breathtaking artwork. Very edifying for the whole body. If I had painted for the sermon, no one would have been edified, even though I was edified and pleasing to God by doing it. It was appropriate, then, to spotlight the work of those who praise God with their hands.

    A spotlight is to the art as a microphone is to the voice. It is appropriate to look at the body and be pleased when it functions correctly. People who are good at music should be encouraged to fan that gift into flame. The congregation should do everything they can to let the musically gifted bless the body talents.

    Besides, most of the crackly-voiced old ladies that I've ever known are thankful for the praise team, because they (the elderly) don't have to be self-conscious about how they sound. The praise team allows them to engage fully, rather than partly.

    If anyone, young or old, is more concerned about their personal preferences than the edification of the body, then there are some verses we need to discuss as a congreagtion.

    Mature Christians will get joy from all sorts of places, especially in the voices of old ladies who have been the backbone of the church. Those same ladies would also be the first ones to tell you to turn up the volume on that wonderful praise team. (At least, the ones that I know.)

    I assumed that Jay's desire was to let talented people use their talents more effectively for the purpose of edification. If the quality of our effort goes up – whether music, administration, or small groups – the body is edified. That is definitely a biblical – and spiritually mature – desire.

  50. Anonymous says:

    Amen, Brad!!

  51. bradstanford says:

    "I still do not understand how praise teams or IM get anyone closer to God or have anything to do with salvation, but I do understand reaching the masses and that some are looking for more emotional services."

    In our efforts to make a pattern of worship a test of fellowship, we have ceased to be able to appreciate diversity.

    I'm not sure how some people think Broadway tunes are romantic, but they do, and I'm not bothered by their enjoyment of them. That's their language. I worship with music written in English. That's my musical language, highly simplified. Is that selfish, or natural? Did the early church worship in English? If it's ok to worship in my native language though the early church did not, isn't it just as expected of me to worship in my native musical language?

    There is musical diversity in the church, but we are seeing the results of the "antis" as birds of a feather continue to flock together, If you tell someone, "We don't do [contemporary music/dancing/Spanish] here," they will go somewhere else to do it. Both groups have lost out on participating in "every tribe and tongue" (sometimes its unavoidable, but not mostly).

    Reaching the masses is a non-starter for me. If I gave most people $20,000 a week to come to church, they'd sit through any Stamps-Baxter song all day long. There has to be value outside of a worship "service", and that value is community. It is life and light to people of darkness, and they come running when it is available.

    Those looking for more emotional services are in need of people to teach them about that. Unfortunately, the CofC is inexperienced in such matters, and there is no one to help guide them. We allow people to get excited about everything else but God (like football!), and wonder why they leave the church.

  52. Todd Collier says:

    TWH,

    In prior posts I was speaking of individual congregations dying out, not necessarily the whole movement.

    Most of the small congregations that form the majority of the individual units of our group will fade away as older members pass and are not replaced within those congregations by newer members whether through evangelism or other means. The majority will go away, not because they refuse to change now, but because they lost their evangelistic focus a generation ago.

    I am personally acquainted with several congregations that were founded in the late 40's and went gangbusters through the early 1970's. Then because of suburbanization and economic shifts the areas around the buildings changed demographics. Some of these groups relocated and began the pattern all over again through the '80's and '90's- these are the congregations that are currently facing these serious issues of change. Those congregations that remained in place by and large experienced a disconnect from their communities. Because these folks were not like the original members in regards to race, color, creed or economic status they were not evangelized. Other groups simply lacked the strength to start again and are slowly fading. Buildings that seated and held five hundred or better in their heyday now see less than a hundred. Every once in a while one or another will stir, begin to ask questions, maybe even invite a young couple or two in as quasi-missionaries, but in the end, the stress and strain is not worth it. I have seen this pattern in almost every city in the Biblebelt.

    Country churches are a different issue altogether. Many are family concerns and as the next generation leaves the community for education, jobs or other opportunities, their numbers dwindle to nothing and yet the buildings are so hard to let go of. Groups of twenty or less will fervently hold out, refusing to consolidate with other similar groups just because no one wants to give up Uncle Bob's church house. I personally know of about a dozen in a fifty mile radius of where I currently live that meet this description and have found similar everywhere I have been. If I were to travel through Tennessee or Mississippi the density would increase significantly. One time I remember preaching in a huge building with a large education wing. The whole congregation showed up to hear me that Sunday – All four of them. Once upon a time there had been hundreds, now they are all gone.

    The issue of change is for those congregations that retain an evangelistic outlook and the openness to keep spreading the Gospel. Some congregations will make every change that comes down the pike and will close their doors because they never focus on where God wants them to be. Some congregations will change nothing – except their spiritual fervor – and grow stronger. I do not advocate forcing change on all of these little congregations, let them be and if they must depart let them do so in peace. But for those who refuse to die, who might actually want to grow by sharing the Gospel with the lost and by truly reproducing the freedom of the Christian assembly it behoove us all to find out what works and try to adopt that with the changes necessary for our own context. To say we want to stop declining and grow is to say we want change. To say we want growth but to reject change is a paradox that cannot be reconciled.

    The issue with a more modern assembly is to provide an environment for that spiritual fervor to be displayed and explored in a manner more acceptable to this generation. It is not necessarily better overall, it is just better for this time and place. In fifty years we will be having the same discussions with different issues, or at least we will if we are still trying to connect with that current generation with the timeless message of Jesus.

    Ah, Ok Brad.
    Go Jesus! J-E-S-U-S! Goooo Jesus! Yeah!!!!!
    (or Hallelujah, if you prefer.)

  53. Jody B says:

    As long as the worship service defines who we are, this cycle of which Todd speaks will continue.

  54. Pingback: Upgrading a Church of Christ Worship Service Without Buying a Guitar, Part IIA « One In Jesus.info

  55. TWH says:

    bradstanford,
    Interesting comment about reaching the masses not being an issue for you, as you are the very first advocate for praise teams, IM, etc. that has stated that reaching the masses is NOT the primary reason for the more community church type services needing to be offered by the cofC. The reason that large congregations have a tradirional and contemporary service is to reach those who are not attracted to the "old school" type of service. Same thing for Saturday night services that we are seeing more and more of. BTW, what are your thoughts on Saturday night worship service?

  56. TWH says:

    Let me correct my statement:Interesting comment about reaching the masses not being an issue for you, as you are the very first advocate for praise teams, IM, etc. THAT I HAVE HEARD …………

    thx

  57. bradstanford says:

    TWH,

    I don't consider myself an "advocate" of anything other than the freedom for which Christ set us free. When the life of Christ is displayed daily in the body, there is going to be a reaction to it within, and without. That reaction should reflect the body life that has happened during the week, rather than being the place where everyone gets fed. A reactionary service does feed the flock, but it's the gravy instead of the meat. When worship is the meat, there is a lack of substance that needs to be dealt with.

    It is not the production value, but the love, service, and community reflected in the atmosphere of a Sunday that people stick around for. And when they stick around, they need a place to connect outside of Sunday morning. Small communities (groups) taking care of needs (physical and spiritual) is the answer there.

    When you have people saying we "need" a particular thing for evangelism's sake, this should be an enormous red flag to the elders that the body is not fully well. This is an excellent opportunity for elders to have a dialogue with their congregation about the body life, and find out where community is missing, or can be done better.

    The times I have not been evangelistic were the times that I was (in hindsight) embarrassed of the theology of the congregation I was in. In those congregations, I found church to be a politically charged place, where theology, rather than Christ, was on the throne. Only after I left those churches and found places where Jesus was lifted higher than theology was I able to put that in words. I'm afraid the same is the case for those arguing for this or that in worship. The main problem is the theology and the weak body life it produces. Since that's not attractive, let's at least have a decent service! That seems to be the argument in its deepest depths.

    Once community is functioning, your worship – praise team or no, instruments or no, demonstrative or no – will be a reflection of what is already going on in the body, not the main event for the body. It is the difference between a small fire for a large crowd (we end up fighting to be near the fire), and a large fire built by a small crowd, each one bringing something to burn.

    If the fire isn't big enough, bright enough, loud enough, or big enough, that means everyone is warmin', but nobody's bringin'. Time to teach the body to bring it.

  58. bradstanford says:

    That last "big enough" was supposed to be "warm enough". Typing on Saturday morning = danger, Will Robinson.

  59. bradstanford says:

    Todd:
    "Ah, Ok Brad.
    Go Jesus! J-E-S-U-S! Goooo Jesus! Yeah!!!!!
    (or Hallelujah, if you prefer.)"

    That right there is funny.

    At least in football, we know the game enough to know when to cheer! Most church folk haven't been taught to recognize a slam-dunk, a touchdown, or a come-from-behind victory.

    "Go Jesus!" should definitely be happening more in our prayers. That means we would recognize what God is doing and come along side Him to pray it into reality by the power of the spirit.

    I will admit, I have been known to revert back to the original "Hallal Yaweh!" on occasion…

  60. Lisaloo says:

    God is the audience. Consider pleasing God, not yourselves.

  61. Adam Bevis says:

    Dear Brother Jay, I am a Church of Christ disciple in a Baptist church. I occasionally bring out food for thought on some of the Baptist beliefs. Below is Pastor Danny Wood response followed by the email I wrote that he responded to. I use lots of your material and Everett Ferguson. Can you tell me a few key points to bring back to Pastor Wood in response to his reply on John 3. There is so many directions I could go. What would say back?
    thanks
    Adam Bevis

    Adam,

    There are a number of interpretations of what “water and the Spirit” means. Let me give you detail on the two most accepted and then tell you why I believe water baptism is not one of them.

    The reason many go with “physical birth” is because in verse 4 Nicodemus referenced physical birth. So when Jesus gave him an explanation, he was saying there must be both a physical birth and spiritual rebirth. He was telling Nic that it was in addition to your physical birth. I believe they understood water relating to birth. Any father who has seen a baby born knows that a mother’s water breaks first and then the baby is delivered. You would not have to have a medical degree to associate water with birth. Adam one thing my travels have shown me as I have visited the ruins from biblical days is that the people in those times are a whole lot smarter than we give them credit for!

    The second interpretation and the one I lean towards is the connection with Ezekiel 36:25-27. It is considered an eschatological passage relating to when the Messiah comes. The water represented the cleansing from forgiveness after repentance. This was the same meaning as the baptism of John…it was for forgiveness. “Sprinkle clean water” could refer to the ceremonial cleansing that was necessary to reestablish worship during that day, but the subject of verse 25 is “God”. He says “I will sprinkle clean water” which means that He will do the cleansing. That means he will clean us up on the inside himself. Then the Spirit would be put into the man and change his heart and cause him to walk in obedience. I believe this is what Jesus was referring to and Nicodemus as a teacher of the law should have been familiar with this passage.

    Whether # 1 or # 2 it is agreed that Jesus is referring to the miracle which takes place when the divine activity re-makes a man. He is born all over again by the very Spirit of God.

    I do not think it is referring to literal water baptism. If it was an essential for salvation it seems Jesus would have said something else about it. He does mention the Spirit again in verse 6 and verse 8 but there is no mention of water. Also in John 7:37-39 he is equating water with the Spirit not a separate act of water baptism.

    Also I think if you study Paul’s theology of baptism you will find yourself at Ephesians 2:8-9 that salvation is by grace through faith and not works.

    John 3:5 is a difficult passage. But in my exegetical training I was always taught to translate difficult passages in light of the whole canon of God’s Word especially those passages that are very clear. There is a clear teaching throughout Scripture that salvation is through the grace of God and the acceptance of that gift through faith. It is Jesus only…not Jesus plus. Any addition you put on salvation you minimize the death and resurrection of Jesus.

    If you add baptism, a man could be convicted of his sins, confess Christ and ask Jesus to save him but if he did not have a pastor who believed that a person should be baptized, then Jesus’ hands would be tied. He could not save that man. The Son would look to the Father and say, “I died for him and he understands that and wants to accept me to become a part of our family; I paid the price on the cross”; however the Father would look at the Son and say, “I am sorry but that was not enough.”

    Adam, that just ain’t right. Jesus paid it all. The cross was enough.

    Good insights and good questions. I am proud and impressed with your study. I hope this helps. Let me know if I can do anything else for you.

    Have a great weekend!

    Danny Wood

    ——————————————————————————–

    From: adamcbevis@hotmail.com
    To: gharvey@shades.org; jackphausen@gmail.com; jordyh@charter.net; joe@joebeam.com; mgarnett@santarus.com
    Subject:
    Date: Wed, 21 Oct 2009 01:13:33 -0500

    I was thinking about Danny's sermon on John 3, Jesus encounter with Nicodemus. Very controversial passage over the past 5 or 6 centuries but really not much a controversy until the last few centuries.

    Many argue that born of water in John 3:5 is physical birth. Certainly there is some context around this verse to make one think that especially in the 21st century. But how would the 1st century Jew understand this text to mean? and if Jesus wished to be understood then we have to consider this. Jesus is speaking in a way Nicodemus would understand. With that in mind, there is probably a stronger argument that born of water refers to water baptism, and I hope you will allow to explain this possibility.

    First keep in mind throughout that there is no evidence in Jewish thoughts and writings in Old Testament and New Testament times, that water was ever referred to as an element or a symbol for physical birth. One commentator Leon Morris in 1971 found some evidence that it can be a Jewish metaphor for conception, but Morris had to concede that Jewish thought never had water representing the process of birthing and the flow of amniotic fluid. This is not refuted that I am aware of even to this day.

    The disciples who knew and lived amongst the apostles wrote different commentaries and writing. I think we should atleast know what the mainstream church thought immediately around and after the apostles. The apostles and their contemporaries would have held in check these writers if in error and yet these writings were held in high esteem as noncanonical but accepted widely in the church. For example, in chronological order thru the first 500 years of post resurrection Christian writing, the writings of Justin Martyr (A.D. 150), Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hipplolytus, Cyprian of Carthage, Basil the Great, Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Augustine (A.D. 412) all carried the same similar understanding of John 3.

    Another quick point is looking at the Greek New Testament, the original language that was adapted to the English Bible we have now. The Greek supports only one birth in mind at John 3:5. The unity of the two elements, water and Spirit, by use of a single preposition, "of water and Spirit" fits with previous and current understanding of the Greek language in the 1st century. The Greek is "ek" for our "of" and "by". So it could read "of water and Spirit" or "by water and Spirit".

    Now looking at the writer John, we know he referenced water often in his Gospel writing. Living water at the well with Samaritan, the healing water in the pool at Jerusalem, the washing of disciples' feet, healing of blind man at the pool of Siloam, the blood and water from the side of Jesus. So water is found in a variety of contexts throughout Gospel of John, often as a symbol of the spirit, but also of Jesus himself, and in especially in passages where there is a call for a decision to believe.

    Now looking at John 3:3 and 3:5, keep in mind the ambiguous "born again" in John 3:3 or as Danny agreed "born from above" (its meaning in John 3:31 and John 19:11), and follow the emphasis on the Spirit in John 3:6-12, then Jesus' statements concern primarily the divine begetting, and not the human rebirth, although the latter is implied if it's not explicit. Certainly becoming a human born into this world would be a given, while the divine birth is not a given except for those that believe, confess, and repent (the very components of a saving faith). We know from John 6:63 that only the Spirit gives life.

    Anyway, from my understanding, John 3:5 became the most cited baptism text of the 2nd century and continued to be important afterward. I propose that despite the overwhelming historical and majority contemporary consensus, there have been insistent efforts to remove John 3:5 as a baptism text.

    I see the arguments on the different sides: for the argument against water as water baptist in John 3:5 to name a few:
    1. baptism could have no relevance to Nicodemus, 2. the entire focus of John 3 is the Spirit, 3. Jesus could not have expected Nicodemus to understand Christian baptism (see John 3:10), 4. there is no mystery if the work of the Spirit (John 3:8) is tied to baptism, 5. other references in John "depreciate" water baptism (e.g. John, 3:22, 3:25-26, 4:1-2; 1:26; 1:33). Another thought is water is figurative for the Spirit. When water is used figuratively in Old Testament it refers to renewal especially in conjunction with the Spirit. Danny brought out Ezekiel 36:25-27 talking about this cleansing of which water is the symbol.

    Now John 3:3 and 3:5 are parallel verses meaning they sound similar, by following the same pattern "Truly, truly . . . unless . . . . he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven. The preposition, as I referred to earlier is "of" or the Greek"ek", governs both water and Spirit; the birth has a water-Spirit source. This forms an unity. Keeping honest with the Greek text, there is only one birth, not two in John 3:5.

    So if there is one birth, why are the two elements (water and Spirit) mentioned if only one is meant? The arguments against water as water baptism aren't strong enough. Why do I say this? The baptist of John the Baptist was relevant to Nicodemus and the text of John 3 continues with a description of John's baptism (John 3:22-23; 3:25-25) and baptism activity of Jesus' disciples (John 3:22; 4:1-2). The context suggests that the water of John 3:5 is the same kind of water as in John 3:23. The focus of John 3 is the Spirit, but does that eliminate the possibility that the Spirit might work in and through water?

    Now John was writing from a post resurrection view, which shapes the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus in terms of Christian-Jewish debate of his own time (John 3:11). The familiarity of John's baptism would flow into Jesus' conversation where attention is brought to a rebirth involving the Spirit as well as water. Reading John 3:5 does not limit the work of the Spirit (God forbid it) to water. He can certainly work through any means.

    The four gospel does depreciate John's baptism in comparision to Jesus' baptism. What made Jesus' baptist superior was it was accompanied by the activity of the Spirit and conferred the Spirit, the very thing that John 3:5 says of it.

    And water in John 3:5 can't mean the Spirit, because then what would Spirit be a symbol of? It can't be "born of Spirit and Spirit."

    In the context of Judaism of the time, water would have been understood as literal and in no contradiction to activity by the Spirit.

    Again John 3:5 refers to a singular birth, because the grammar only allows for it; this adds to the argument that rules out a physical birth that is so commonly taught today. Again the Jewish audience would not have understood water representing physical birth; they would have understood water baptism as the meaning.

    Now the two elements are not equal; clearly Spirit's work is greater than water baptism. The emphasis is on the Spirit's activity. The water appears to be the means or the occasion, and the Spirit is the Mediator of it all.

    The Spirit is free to move at will (John 3:8) but with that freedom is included working in or through water.

    A moderate approach presents water and Spirit as separable components of the same experience. The Spirit is greatest and the priority is clearly to believing (saving faith).

    I think John 3:5 provides a combination of the ideas of baptism, sonship (new birth), and the presence of the Holy Spirit that we will find included in Paul's baptism theology as well.

    Anyway, I bring this up for my own conscience sake and ask for advice/rebuke/admonishment/comments on what you think about this. My mind is not a ease with how we present John 3 in today's teachings and I ask for your help if none of this makes much sense.

    Thanks and hope this comes as a brother asking for correction,

    Adam Bevis

  62. Jay Guin says:

    Adam,

    I need to refer you to the ebook I've posted here "Born of Water." http://oneinjesus.info/books-by-jay-guin/born-of-

    The argument you're looking for on page 35 (39 of the .pdf). You may prefer to refer your pastor to Baptist literature coming to the same conclusion. Check out the link at http://oneinjesus.info/2009/01/29/the-baptists-ev… and G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962)

  63. Pingback: Providing a Second Rate Worship Service « Being Changed from the Inside Out

  64. rey says:

    "Singing during the Lord’s Supper"

    Or just moving it to once a year.

    "And variety is nice. "

    Go transubstantiationist with it every leap year.

  65. rey says:

    Put the church service on a TV show called Pimp My Pastor.

  66. Pingback: Instrumental Music: An Email re “Upgrading a Worship Service Without Buying a Guitar” « One In Jesus.info

  67. Phil says:

    There are many good comments here. Two that I believe are excellent and then mine:
    #1. Are you converting people to Christ? How many baptisms and growth in the congregation?
    #2. We need to focus on pleasing God, not the local community.
    Now my thoughts: I think you have some good thoughts and some misled opinions. I am tired of singing the same 30 "praise songs" Sunday after Sunday to keep a few happy who think they are more spiritual than everyone else because they are doing the latest Baptist thing. Those who sing Christian radios top 20 all the while hearing the tune in their head will eventually have to go to instrumental music, it is just the way the brain works. It is OK to throw out Stamps-Baxter, but there are also alot of great meaningful hymns that have been around for a long time. Is anyone writing poetic hymns that have meaning? Most of the new music I hear sounds like something I could make up as I go. Hey, maybe it would sound better with instruments! Just kidding.

  68. Dear servants of God,

    With honor and respect we sent to you Apostolic and Prophetic greetings in the Name of our reigning King Jesus Christ. We believe this finds you and your Family flourishing and waxing in the blessings of the Sons of God. You may wonder who is writing to you at this time.

    I am David Barasa Wanyonyi,married to one Wife,Elizabeth,the Lord has blessed us with 6 Children. By the grace of God I am a Leader of 5 Churches in Kenya,3 in Uganda and 2 in Tanzania. By the grace and gifting of Jesus Christ I operate in the office of an apostle. We are based in Mayanja Town, Western Province in the Nation of Kenya.

    This Churches were started 4 Years ago when the Lord spoke to me to raise up Sons for Him to be glorified Heb.2:10.This Churches are laid on the apostles and prophets foundation, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone,Eph 2:20. Prayerfully as we were on the web site we came across your Ministry, as we read more closely to what you are doing, in one accord we decided to write to you with all my Leaders I am working with. Because for long we are desperately looking for an apostolic Father who can speak in our life and Ministry. We were convicted beyond the shadow of doubt to request you to become our Spiritual Father to the 10 Churches we have in East Africa.

    We ask you if there is a possibility of our Churches here to be named after the Name of your Ministry. We ask you to come in Kenya and Launch the Ministries officially in and in East Africa.

    We promise to work with you as your Sons and Daughters. We shall work with you with passion,vision,faithfulness and integrity to bring the Dominion of the Lord on our Planet.

    God bless you all in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ. Looking forward to hear from you soon. Be sure you have a permanent place in our ministry and hearts in Africa.

    Your Son in covenant Blood,
    David Barasa Wanyonyi,
    PO BOX 588-50204,
    Kimilili Kenya E.A.
    Tel: +254 723 097 601, +254 731 301 644.

  69. Michael says:

    Does anyone know the names of some churches of Christ that have a full-time “Worship Leader” / “Music Minister?” I’m interested in looking into this as a career, but I don’t even know if there are places that do it. I am looking for a cappella. Even if the position is filled, I would love to have the names of some places. Thanks!

  70. Royce says:

    I continue to be amazed that the topic of singing almost always gets more interest than any other topic among coc folks. And, the Bible has so very little to say about it, at least in the context of worship in the NT church/congregation.

    In some locations the preacher doesn't believe in the deity of Jesus, and or doesn't believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or in the atonement Jesus achieved, but if the singing is a cappella, no clapping, nothing out of the ordinary, everything is Okie Dokie. and the church is considered to be "sound". Hog wash!

    I have visited a few churches where the singing was not worship it was torture! Just because you have sung 3 or 4 songs does not mean you have worshiped. You might have, but you might have not. If your thoughts are not on the Lord, if you are not singing to Him, not treasuring Him, you might just as well be singing a pop song.

    Royce

  71. tw says:

    Royce, I am not sure that God considers bad singing (i.e. bad voices) torture, when it is presented to Him from one’s heart, and it is not for you or me to decide what is in another’s heart when singing (or praying) to our God. The collective sound that is produced during a worship assembly in God’s name, whether off key or not, if done to praise our Lord should be pleasing to Him, and whether you or I care for the sound is not really the issue. I knew an older brother who sang at the top of his lungs during each service and the poor fellow could not carry a tune and he was always behind everyone else due to hearing issues. The man was a great example and Christian and he loved to worship God in song. He most certainly did not sing in a manner that you or I would call beautiful, but I know that our God loved the sound that came from his lips! No, he would not be allowed to participate with a praise team, nor would he have been chosen by a worship leader to sing a solo part, but I will take that old man’s voice over all the praise teams you can assemble! The real issue here is that you chose to judge what was in the hearts of those Christians in the assemblies that were torture to YOUR ears. What is in another’s heart during worship is for God to decide, not us.

  72. TNTalmid says:

    Michael, Ken Young is the worship minister at Fourth Avenue Church of Christ in Franklin, TN. His also directs Hallal Worship and he can be contacted through his website: http://hallalworship.com/

    Hope that helps you get started.

    Blessings on your ministry career.

  73. Todd Collier says:

    Sycamore View CoC in Memphis has a full timer.

  74. Ted says:

    Michael
    Brent Whitworth @ Madison Church of Christ Nashville TN
    Danny Gregg @ Donelson Church of Christ Nashville TN.
    ( Danny is also Youth Minister)
    Look up Kieth Lancaster, Acappella Company

  75. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Michael,

    Only a few of the largest congregations would have a fulltime minister of music, but countless congregations have hired a man for a hybrid role, such as minister of spiritual formation/music.

    Give prayerful thought to what you might offer a congregation in addition to leading worship.

    You should also check out this link: http://oneinjesus.info/churchjob-finder/ministers-looking-for-churches-churches-looking-for-ministers/

  76. Chris Bittle says:

    This is dangerous. More often than not praise teams are a precursor to instrumental music. All praise teams do is drown out the congregations singing because it’s not as “pretty” to hear. We are singing praises to God not entertaining those in the building. If one feels that entertainment is necessary to keep them worshiping God then they have a deeper spiritual problem. Clapping is not needed if the song leader is using his hands in the proper 2,3 or 4 beat pattern. The purpose of communion is to remember the body that Christ gave in our place (Romans 6:23) and the blood that was shed to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7). Singing plays no part in the remembrance of Christs’ sacrifice. Let us reflect on the example of Nadab and Abihu. (Leviticus 10) They added onto the worship of God and they were consumed with fire. The church does not need to be “upgraded” to conform to the world audible pleasures, but needs to focus more on the Word of God and the example of Christ and the apostles. Which by the way we get the “5 necessities of Worship”
    1. Preach the word – 2 Timothy 4:2; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 14:23-25

    2. Prayer – 1 Timothy 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18;

    3. Lord’s Supper – 1 Corinthians 11:23-33; Acts 20:7 (Note: Singing and clapping during communion is in an unworthy manner)

    4. Singing – Ephesians 5:19

    5. Giving – 1 Corinthians 16:2 (Paul is speaking of a special collection for the Jewish Christians who had fallen on hard times, we know that we are to give as we have prospered and cheerfully 2 Corinthians 9:7)

    Be careful brothers and sisters that you do not try to conform to the world by changing the Word of God or trying to fit worldly ideas into scripture.

  77. Todd Collier says:

    So instead we’ll water down and pick and choose Scripture to suit our predetermined “pattern” which it seems almost no one else can actually find in the text.

    As far as Nadab and Abihu are concerned you better read the entire chapter. In Leviticus 10, when God speaks He doesn’t remind Aaron about strange fire He tells him to make sure the priests don’t show up drunk for the temple service. Make sure your prooftext is supported by the context.

    And for that mater – where in Ephesians 5 does Paul suggest he is discussing the Sunday assembly when he encourages singing? Where does Acts 20:7 say that we must partake of communion on Sunday and on every Sunday? Where are we commanded to take up a collection every Sunday for the needs of the local congregaion? As you pointed out Paul is concerned with several congregations working together to meet the needs of Christians elsewhere. This money was to be collected to be sent abroad with Paul. Isn’t it adding to Paul’s commands to take up this collection and keep it for the local work? Where does Paul limit preaching to the assembly or require it in every assembly? And if it is required then why don’t we use multiple speakers as Paul commands in 1 Cor 14:26-33?

    Of all of your so called requirements for the assembly only prayer is clearly commanded as a constant and can be arrived at without adding to the clear statements of Scripture, a practice which you yourself condemn.

    So whoever created this pattern and then proclaimed that all who added to the Scripture were damned was by his own anathema damned.

  78. Hi Chris Bittle
    I’m preaching through a series entitle “As God Causes It to Grow.” In the series I examine some of the inhibitors of that growth. I have identified one of those inhibitors as “Church Legalism.”
    The Bible does not use the term, but legalism is often used to describe a view that the New Covenant is like the Old and should be treated as such.
    The Old Covenant or what is often referred to as “The Law,” was given to Israel and instituted at Sinai (See Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus). It was purely a system of commands, regulations, and statutes. In other words, it was a legal system or system of laws; hence the reference – “Law.”
    Under the Law individuals were approved or condemned on the basis of their faithfulness to the entire law (James 2:10).
    What we know as legalism began as a good faith attempt to keep the Mosaic admonition written in Deuteronomy 5:32–33:
    32 So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33 Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

    However, while the intent was good, in practice, legalists (Jewish religious leaders especially) read verse 32 as, “So be careful to do [some of] what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside [from those things] to the right or to the left. [Others are not as important].” Another version may read, “Ensure that everyone else (i.e., excluding the insurer) does all that the LORD God has commanded; make sure that they do not turn aside to the right or to the left.”
    Under the law, legalists found comfortable breeding ground; and as if the Law itself was not onerous enough, they further burdened the people with their traditions and oral laws which appeared to hold a greater significance than the Law itself.
    By the time we get to the New Testament, the Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the law represented the legalists. Their legalism gave rise to some of Jesus’ harshest words. For example; Matthew 23, Jesus said:
    2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
    13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
    15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
    17 You blind fools!
    19 You blind men!
    23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
    24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
    25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

    New Covenant legalists maintain the view that New Testament law (or Christ’s Law (1 Cor 9:21)) is like that of Old Testament law, that is, purely a system of commands, regulations, and statutes and, as with OT legalists, they insist on keeping Christ’s Law selectively while condemning others who do not adhere strictly to their interpretations of selected aspects of Jesus’ law.
    In matters of regulations and rituals legalists excel. With regard to personal sin, they appeal to grace.
    The fundamental problem with legalism is it not compatible with the gospel message – it is rejected by the New Covenant which now offers freedom as a replacement for the legalism associated with the first covenant.

    I will continue the thought on NT freedom in another post

  79. Comment to Chris (Part 2)

    Now regarding NT freedom –
    John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17
    So Jesus’ law is rooted in truth AND grace.

    How does legalism affect church growth?
    One NT command that legalists tend to overlook, disregard or otherwise minimize is taken from Matthew 28:19–20:
    “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

    Historically, legalists have been unwilling to make adjustments to reach the world. Their primary objective is to maintain old traditions; therefore they see any adjustment as a “turn” to the left or the right.
    Legalists are not motivated by the fact that we are fishers of men and fish are attracted to what they like, not what legalists prefer.
    The freedom of the gospel furnishes the church with a vast variety of bait which legalists reject.
    Legalists have tried to reach the world on their terms, but they have not been successful, because the world is not interested in what they offer.
    To the contrary Paul wrote: (1 Corinthians 9:19–23)
    19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

    According the BDAG, the word “slave” as used in verse 19 carries the meaning: “to make one subservient to one’s interests.” In doing just that Paul:
    • Became like a Jew
    • Became like one under the law
    • Became like one not having the law
    • Became weak (This statement is easy to misunderstand. In the context (See 1 Corinthians 8), however, Paul refers to those who, by their faith, could not eat meat sacrificed to idols as “the weak.”)
    • Became all things to all men so that by all possible means he might save some
    Paul is saying, for him evangelism was the main thing. It is clear from scriptures that the world in which the Apostle Paul lived was even more corrupt than ours. Yet, he was effective in his outreach.
    Is there a lesson to be learned from the combination Paul becoming all things to all men and the success of his ministry?
    Considering his strategy and resolve are you surprised at his success?
    Although we are familiar with what Paul has written, the legalism of the church creates blinders to what he is saying, so it would be futile for me not to give practical examples of how legalism is manifested among us. I realize that the practical address of an important issue may rub sensitive issues – but I must and I’ll do so in the next post.

  80. Comment to Chris (Part 3)

    Legalism within The Churches of Christ

    Within Churches of Christ the shackles of legalism begin with our common view of New Testament worship. It is commonly taught that worship is the sum of no more than five “authorized” acts; performed one act at a time. Those acts are as follows:
    1. Prayer
    2. Non-instrumental Singing
    3. Preaching
    4. Lord’s Supper
    5. Giving
    While prayer, singing, preaching, the Lord’s Supper and giving are important “acts” of worship, I believe the church which confines its worship to just 5 acts with a non-instrumental singing stipulation is (a) misguided in its view of scripture, (b) missing a lot of other acts of worship and (c) guided by it legalism rather than its mission. I will make further comments on the idea of five acts of worship when I discuss the biblical concept of freedom.
    Paul’s words tell us that in order to reach the lost one cannot be mired in the mud of legalism. One must know the ways of the lost, engage the lost and “become all things to all men so that by all possible means” one might save some. In other words, we must make evangelism – not denominational traditions – not denominational association – the main thing.
    Like Paul we must become subservient to the interests of the lost to create the opportunity to save some.
    How do we reach young people? Young people are NOT interested in our old traditions. We must make ourselves subservient to their interests. They should be taught how to become and to live as disciples in ways that they understand, in lessons relative to their circumstances. For example, an enactment of CS Lewis’, Screwtape Letters or a version of it with modernized circumstances is a powerful way to teach the concept of spiritual warfare. Further, engaging young people to write and publicly read poetry expressing the realities of their discipleship of Christ in their everyday situations reaches their generation.
    Their spiritual songs should not be defined by their association to the retro periods of the European or American “Great Awakenings,” but by the Lord to whom they offer those songs in whatever format they choose to offer them. It may be rock and roll or rap; it may be R&B and, as much as the thought may unsettle our legalistic souls, it may be reggae.” With musical instruments?” you ask. Yes! If musical instruments will reach them – yes!
    Further; Easter, Christmas and each New Years present opportunities to sow the seed of the word in the hearts of those who would not normally come to hear a lesson. We dismiss the opportunities these days (and seasons) present to corporately and formally reach out to others because we do not accept those traditions. Why should we dismiss those opportunities because they are not in keeping with our tradition? If our intent is to reach people then we should make it our tradition.
    What Paul is teaching us is this: In order to reach others, we cannot focus on our interests – we are fishers of men.
    What gives us the authority to do any the above? The freedom of the gospel is the authorization and reaching the lost is the motivation.

    In my last post, I will seek to justify all that I have said.

  81. Comment to Chris (Part 4 – Final)

    The good news of the gospel is freedom through the blood of Christ. Legalists have stolen freedom from themselves, their converts, and us. As a result, the freedom of the good news has been nullified by chains. Legalists expect the lost to enjoin themselves to their bondage. They will not. Legalism is blind folly and folly is a barrier to church growth.
    At the risk of sounding a contradictory note, I declare that reaching the postmodern world does not require a shift to the left or the right of the gospel message; it demands strict adherence to Christ’s Law instead! Sounds legalistic? It does, but as I stated previously, the gospel rejects legalism; so if we adhere to it strictly, legalism will be purged as freedom is embraced, and reaching the Post-Modern world requires the freedom of the gospel. It requires us to boldly reject the burdens of religious traditions that were historically imposed by man’s legalism and currently retained by the same. It requires that we let freedom reign.

    What is freedom in Christ?

    Freedom in Christ is part and parcel of the Law of Christ. It is the liberation of an individual to glorify God in whatever he or she does. It is equally freedom from the enslavement of sin as it is freedom from the bonds of legalism-inspired religious traditions.
    The origin of the “Five acts” is interesting since Scripture does not enumerate 5 acts. Acts 2:42 states:
    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

    This passage is often used as a proof text to support the theory of five acts, but, for a minute, let’s examine it. It says, “The devoted themselves to:”
    1. Apostle’s teaching
    2. Fellowship
    3. Breaking of bread
    4. prayer
    Hmm … four “acts of worship.” While we can resolve that the Apostle’s teaching is equated with our preaching; the breaking of bread is equated with the Lord’s Supper, and prayer is as is; to which of the “five acts” do we equate fellowship? Moreover, was it Luke’s intent to limit the acts of worship to just four? The same passage continues with the following:
    44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, Acts 2:44–46 (NIV84)
    Were selling possession and giving to others as they had need, meeting EVERY DAY, and eating together not acts of worship as well? If not, how can we conclude that the preceding passage lists acts of worship? If these are acts of worship, how many more than five acts do we have now? And if we turn to other passages to get giving and singing as 4th and 5th acts; why can’t we turn to more passages that will reveal other acts of worship?
    Are the five acts of worship an example of the legalist’s reinterpretation of Deuteronomy 5:32?
    Is not scripture reading an act of worship? Is obedience an act of worship?
    What the legalists of our time have done is they have told us how to hold a church meeting. Scripture does not tell us how to have a meeting. We are instructed to meet regularly, meet often and to edify one another diligently. We are instructed to build one another up in love and encourage each other in good works. The ways that we accomplish those in the meeting can change as long as the purpose of the meeting does not.
    As if there are regulations for New Testament worship, a brother once asked me, “Where is the scriptural authority for ‘additional’ acts of worship?” Well, freedom in Christ is the authority for what has been called “additional” acts.

    New Testament regulations for worship

    The Hebrew writer tells us the following:

    Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. Hebrews 9:1

    Note which covenant had and earthly sanctuary and regulations for worship. By the number of examples that we can cite, it is evident that under that same covenant freedom was not granted where there was no law.

    Now, drawing from the form of the first covenant, legalists infer that New Testament worship has regulations for worship also. But where are they? There are none. NT law and worship are not like Old Testament law and worship (Heb 8:9).

    The second covenant does not have an earthly sanctuary (John 4:19-24) and NT law informs us that where there is no law there is liberty. So the argument can be made that one of the NT regulations for worship is freedom. If there are NT regulations for worship, they are certainly not like that of the first covenant. NT regulations for worship are similar to these:
    Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
    1 Corinthians 14:40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
    The question of scriptural authority generally is answered by the freedom that we have in Christ and most certainly by Colossians 3:17. Freedom in Christ is the scriptural authority for “whatever you do!”

    We often speak of freedom as an option for the individual Christian, not the church. But neither is true. Freedom is not an option! Paul wrote (Galatians 5:13–14):
    13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
    If we have been called to freedom, then freedom is only an option if we reject the calling. Freedom, incidentally, only is governed by love for God and others.
    It is that same freedom that Paul exercised in becoming all things to all men. It is the same freedom that we must exercise to do the same.
    As expressed through the pen of New Testament writers, freedom in Christ liberates the Christian from religious directives that are not God’s and modes of behavior or rituals that did not originate with Christ.
    In the early church those religious directives and behaviors that robbed the churches of their freedom were taught primarily by believing Pharisees. In contrast to legalism Paul wrote :
    Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
    James adds the following (James 2:12):
    12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.

    It is important that we understand what James wrote. He is contrasting the Old Testament (OT) law with that of the new. James is instructing Christians to “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom;” not one that enslaves. Peter wrote the same. Peter (1 Peter 2:16) says:

    Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

    They are all saying, live free of legalism, but don’t use your freedom as a cover for wrong doing;.” use it love God and others.
    You may have heard it said, “We speak where the Bible speaks and we are silent where the Bible is silent.” That’s a good saying. But I tell you, how it is interpreted either supports or violates the NT law. If it means that where there is no NT law we will not make any laws then it is true. If it means that silence does not give freedom of choice as individuals or as a church then it violates scripture. It if violates scripture, it is wrong and ought to be rejected.

    Paul says “Plant your feet firmly therefore within the freedom that Christ has won for us, and do not let yourselves be caught again in the shackles of slavery” (Galatians 5:1)
    Reaching the Post Modern world requires strict adherence to the gospel of “grace and truth”; without which we will be in bondage.
    Legalism is a mortal wound to a body of believers whose primary purpose ought to be making disciples of the people whom, through their legalism, they have come to despise.

  82. Quentin Beard says:

    Preceding this passage:
    1Co 14:40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. which is where we find the means to minimize worship; we find this passage:
    1Co 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
    The key phrase here is ‘everyone has’.
    I can’t help but wonder what our worship would be like if Spirit led people come together to share what has been given to them to share to the glory of God.

    solos, sermons, prayers, congregational singing, quartets, testimonials, a true lord’s supper remembering not only the sacrifice, but the body of Christ (the assembly) to name a few things. Only that one thing at time be of the order.

  83. Charles McLean says:

    Chris said: “This is dangerous. More often than not praise teams are a precursor to instrumental music”
    >>
    I think Chris actually said this with a straight face. He appears to have a different definition of “dangerous” than is in common use. I find myself visualizing one of those big orange warning signs on the roadside, which has a silhouette of a piano and the warning, DANGER! MUSICAL INSTRUMENT AHEAD!

    And I smile a little smile.

    Chris also said, “Clapping is not needed if the song leader is using his hands in the proper 2,3 or 4 beat pattern.”
    >>>
    Another little smile. I am waiting for Jay to offer us a new thread on the proper use of hands in a worship service, including Chris’ proof texts for the “proper beat pattern” and a lively discussion on whether or not the song leader’s hands may touch each other at any time during the song. I personally am prepared to toss in a whole sermon outline on how scripture prohibits the use of 5/4 time in the public assembly unless your song leader is Dave Brubeck.

    And a chuckle, and I’m outta here…

  84. Quentin Beard says:

    There is so much to say about our catholic form of worship that I am tempted to write a book on the subject out of an increasing disdain for the form of it. We need to think setting rather than form. The Lord Jesus Christ set forth the memorial of his sacrifice in a setting of a meal. God set most all of the memorials of the O.T. in the setting of a meal. Most cultures set celebrations in the setting of a meal.

    A meal is the time that “family’ comes together, slows down, enjoys each others company and shares in the joys and sorrows of life. So is our assembly setting to be a place to share with one another what the Lord has done for us, through us by the power of His Spirit and give the glory to God the Father of us all.

    I have to wonder what we would say to letting baptism go by the wayside as the Love Feast has been set aside. The early church assembled to share by the power of the Spirit what was done in and through their lives through prayer, song, teachings, scripture readings and even sharing in material possessions. They gave all glory and honor to God the Father through all of these activities.

    The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ needs to continue the great work of restoration and begin worshiping by 1) allowing for any individual speak, sing, pray, give testimony of God’s work, ect. as the Spirit leads them. 2) Have a start time. 3) Throw the clock away; it is the Lord’s day. What is more important than to spend the day praising God, sharing in His love, and sharing in one another’s lives the blessings of one another.

    Father, help us in our weaknesses as we try to please you. May we set aside our notions and focus on the simplicity of your institution that your son Jesus died for. Help us to fulfill our purpose; to show your love to a lost and dying world through good works and your word. I ask in the name of your son Jesus our Lord and Christ your blessings upon us. Amen

  85. Ron says:

    What is the prejudice against Stamps-Baxter all about? Anyway, I notice you write “my church” in reference to the congregation you are a member of.
    I seem to remember it being The Lord’s church, Yes; I’m pretty sure I’ve read this somewhere.
    The Lord’s church of which I am a member was going to do a “stealth” praise pod, but the “women aren’t allowed to lead worship” members would have no part of women being mic’d up.
    From what I gathered, this had been previously tried.
    It just wasn’t going to happen again, and Our Lord’s church could not afford another split. The elders were even thinking of putting lapel mics on women singers without telling the congregation….this was met with great opposition.
    There were a VERY FEW persons who insisted we sing all new songs and there was no compromise. One of them was an elder who threatened to leave if we did not incorporate new songs into the worship service.
    So we started out with mic’d up men only with a group of non-mic’d women all sitting at the front of the auditorium to support the new songs and song leader leading the congregation with songs from the Awesome God and Glorious God C’ds with a great many of the songs force fed to us.
    I think we were doing way too many new songs at once, but nobody would hear any constructive criticism. We even had Wednesday evening “rehearsal” for Sunday morning, PowerPoint, the whole thing.
    Needles to say, this went over like flatulence in Sunday school class and it didn’t last long. The few members who wanted all new songs and praise pod eventually left for another congregation where she could join the praise pod and do her thing.
    So that is my horror story of establishing a praise pod at the congregation I am a member of. It doesn’t always work.

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