The other day I received in the mail a letter from a committee calling itself “New Testament Church…Today” (www.newtestamentchurchtoday.org). The planning committee consists of 10 men from the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas and they recieve oversight from the Waterview Church of Christ of Richardson, Texas. In the letter they claim to be concerned about several issues facing the “Lord’s Church” (Churches of Christ) which include instrumental music in worship. Their stated goal is to “elevate God’s will for the church found in the pages of the New Testament. WIthout being mean-spirited or unloving, we simply want to open the text an discover what it authorizes God’s people to believe and do.”
I appreciate their desire to refrain from being mean-spirited and unloving. But I object to their purpose and have drafted this open letter:
Greetings “New Testament Church…Today” Committee:
The letter your committee recently mailed was received. Thank you for sharing your concern.
I respect the concerns of addressed in the letter but I respectfully disagree. I believe the term “Lord’s Church” being employed to describe congregations of Churches of Christ (acapella) is being used in a sectarian and unbiblical manner. Further more, while I respect those who hold convictions against the use of instruments in Christian worship, in my judgment (which has been shaped by scripture too) this is a very minute issue. It is indeed a minute issue within scripture and has only become a significant issue within the Churches of Christ because certain people of influence made it just that. It saddens me that our fellowship, the Churches of Christ continues to be so focused (to the point of division) on a matter such as this as though it were the most important issue to Christian discipleship while at the same time we have historically cared less about the issues that were of greater concern to Jesus himself (justice to the poor, love for the alien, stranger, and enemy).
But what concerns me even more, is that a group of ten Christian men all from the southern states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas along with the oversight of another congregation from Texas, actually believe instrumental music is an issue here in New York. Let me share with you a little information about the congregation in which I serve as an evangelist.
Most of our members have a substantial history within the Churches of Christ. Some of us grew up in our fellowship while others belonged to another church group at one time (Methodist, Baptist, etc…). However, we have one couple who have been members of this church for many years. Their background has been with the Independent Christian Churches but since there are not any Independent Christian Churches nearby, they are members of this congregation. Like many Churches of Christ, there is a diversity of viewpoints on various issues among our members. When it comes to acapella vs. instrumental worship, some believe instruments are wrong and others do not. However, we are an acapella congregation by choice and have no desire to adapt instruments. Further, most if not all of the members are completely oblivious to what is taking place in a few congregations (e.g., Richland Hills CoC).
What I am getting at is this: instrumental music is not an issue for us and yet the letter mailed to us by the NTCC seeks to make it an issue for us. Why? What is different about that than a North American member of the Churches of Christ taking a North American issue to Brazil or Italy and making it an issue there?
I am aware of what is taking place in a few Churches of Christ. Though I do not hold the conviction that instrumental music is wrong (and I have heard all of the arguments and find them to be unconvincing), I do not know enough about these particular congregations to make any judgment as to what has taken place. But what business of that is ours to begin with?
In any movement, the factors that contribute to polarization and eventual division come from many angles and many sides. Having said that, I have heard on more than one occasion from those who oppose instrumental music that it is those who have and continue to add instruments to worship in our fellowship that are causing the division. But I believe that polarization and division is also being pressed by those who oppose instruments and the letter mailed by the NTCC seems to be one example, as it seeks to make an issue for many churches where such an issue does not exist and then force a choice to be made on the issue – even as minute of an issue as it is.
I respect your belief that instrumental worship is wrong and therefore I would never intentionally try to ask you to violate your conscience. However, I do not see any good purpose for what the NTCC is attempting to accomplish. Further more, I find the attempt of the NTCC to simply be another attempt of one group within the Churches of Christ to determine the beliefs and practice for everyone.
Thank your for reading my response to the letter mailed out by the NTCC. Please accept it in Christian love.
Grace and peace,
K. Rex Butts
I love the fellowship of Churches of Christ and I confess that I would most likely not be a Christian if it were not for this fellowship. As a group of autonomous congregations, I pray that we would learn to spend more energy focusing on those things that matter most to the Lord (e.g., Micah 6.8; Matthew 5.1-11, 2 Corinthians 5.16-18, to name a few) and less energy on issues where there is not even unanimous agreement that such issue is an issue of scripture.