Some Won't Wait for Us to Change

Milton Jones in The Transforming of a Tradition tells of the change his congregation made from a purely a cappella worship style to one mixed with the alternative of an instrumental “worship band.” In the change, brother Jones regrets a double loss. The young people wanted a quick change and left when the congregation did not change fast enough. Many others left later, when the change did take place. Their convictions over a doctrinal issue would not allow them to remain.
He admitted, “For some of the young we were too slow in our change. They couldn’t wait. They are some place else. I’m not sure young people are going to wait on Churches of Christ to change.” He believes we should cease our “traditional” practice, since we do not “have enough actual Bible itself to bind our interpretation on others or hinder people from practicing another style of worship” (82). His reason for preferring a cappella worship is due to our tradition and heritage, not because the Bible demands it.
He believes the experience of instruments with contemporary Christian music is such a strong draw that churches of Christ will lose its youth if they do not change. I respectfully disagree that we will lose all our youth. We will lose many of those who fall under the influence of teachers who have little or no convictions on the matter. We will lose those we have failed to teach. We will lose those who are so drawn to the instrument they do not want to stay, but we won’t lose them all. Churches in the nineteenth century did not lose all their youth, and neither will we.
What if we do lose our youth?
John 6 tells a relevant story. Jesus fed a great multitude on a mountain beside the Sea of Galilee. The next day Jesus spoke some difficult things this multitude did not understand or want to hear; some grumbled and did not believe. Many of his disciples withdrew and were not walking with him any more (6:66). Jesus asked the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”
Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
Jesus is the only way to life; popular religion will only take us away from our Lord. When many of the disciples left, Jesus did not propose softening His message to keep them. He did not chase after them, promising them a religion they would like. Jesus was faithful to His Father’s message (John 6:38; cf. 8:28; 12:49-50); and we must be faithful to His.
The fact is, there is no New Testament passage that commands the use of musical instruments or gives an example of the early church using them. The Christian Scriptures abundantly support a cappella singing but know nothing of playing the instrument. If neither the Lord Jesus nor the Holy Spirit would act on their own initiative to speak things or initiate practices without the Father’s permission (John 12:49-50; 16:13-15), what makes us think we have that right?
Our task is to be faithful to God and not to be conformed to this world. If we must choose between God and man, then God will be our choice.
I am not convinced, however, that we will lose all. Some will remain true to the Scriptures, just as some did a century ago. Pointing to how populated the broad way is has never stopped the few from finding life.

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