True Faith: Your church doesn't have music

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By David Binkley, Sr.

"When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." (Matthew 26:30 NIV)

As a young "preacher boy" attending night classes at a small Bible college, I also had the privilege to make preaching appointments at a few churches in the area. One brother, much more experienced than me, suggested that I go along with him on his Sunday afternoon rounds of visiting folks in the hospitals. I have remained very thankful to this talented and caring brother for allowing me to be part of this weekly ministry. He quickly turned me loose and allowed me to invite others to go with me. This visitation ministry has brought me great joy and many surprises in several different states and foreign countries.

The routine with Brother Ben was to stop by the desk near the entrance of the hospital and one of the "Pink Ladies" would look in the file and see if there were any people who listed their religion as Christian or that they attended a Church of Christ. On one particular Sunday afternoon, we began to make our rounds with our little cards of information. We entered one room of a mother who was having some difficulties following childbirth. When she learned that we were from a Church of Christ, she stated with a matter of fact attitude, "Your church doesn't have music."

Of course she meant that we did not use a mechanical instrument to accompany our singing. It was difficult to explain this matter fully to the young woman who was in need of prayers which she accepted. I had already learned enough to know that the hospital room is not the place to defend your position on matters of faith and conscience. She was not the last person to make such a comment in my hearing. Since we have lived in Cedar Key, we have other heard people make the comment, "The Church of Christ is the church that doesn't have music."

Our good neighbors who make such comments may not know much about the fact that we believe in the Bible as our sole authority in all matters pertaining to religion. They may not know that we believe in the great teachings of Moses and the prophets that were primarily intended for people who lived before Christ died on the cross. Neither may they be aware that we believe in One God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They may not know that we believe in the virgin birth of Christ as was accurately prophesied by the prophet Isaiah. They may not know that we believe that a person is saved by faith, repentance and baptism as our Lord taught. They may not know that we observe the Lord's Supper upon the first day of each week in the same manner that we read about in the New Testament. They may not know that we believe in the one church or Body of Christ and this unity should be hotly pursued and defended.

However, they all seem to know that we do not have music.

On my first visit to the Russian city of Khabarovsk in the spring of 1993, I decided that it would help my cultural understanding to visit a Russian Orthodox worship service. Since we had to have our worship service at one o'clock Sunday afternoon due to the availability of a meeting place, I just wandered in past those who were asking for alms and into the vestibule. No one welcomed me or turned me away. There was no smiling usher, and I could tell that the worship time was something very serious, important and at the same time mysterious for the worshippers. There was no problem finding a seat since everyone stands in an Orthodox service. You can certainly pack more people into a small area this way. It is also probably easier to clean. That is getting me off my subject.

When it seemed like everyone was packed inside, some robed, somber looking "priests" began to sing a beautiful chant from one of the Psalms. There was much singing, and some of the people in the audience would occasionally join in if they knew the hymn. No instruments of music accompanied the singing. The worshippers simply sang by following the leader. Of course this part was familiar. The Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches have traditionally followed this practice in their churches. Nowadays, however, the various Eastern Orthodox churches are beginning to follow the example of the Catholic churches and adding some instrumental music in worship.

The same thing is true now of many of the old protestant churches in the Former Soviet Union. Most did not use instruments during all the hardships they suffered from the repressive Communists regimes. However, during the era of perestroika, as soon as missionaries appeared with guitars strapped to their back and portable electronic keyboards, the changes quickly occurred. These days, most protestant groups throughout Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other former republics add instrumental accompaniment to their beautiful hymn singing.

In America and several European countries, some Mennonite churches, some Primitive Baptist churches and a scattering of a few others still sing without the aid of any instruments. The Churches of Christ are by far the largest group that still sings "á cappella." For most of the people in these congregations, it is a matter of conviction to the Word. It is a strong desire to be like the original New Testament church in both doctrine and practice.

The apostle Paul gave these instructions, "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV) Singing with the human voice constitutes making music. You may have resisted visiting our worship services because you think we are just too old-timey. We probably sing many of the same songs that you are familiar with. The difference is that we sing "á cappella." We also enjoy playing and listening to music performed on instruments by good artists. However, in our worship to God, we sing in the manner of Christians of the first century. This tradition was kept in practice for many centuries.

Come sing praises to God with us and rediscover your voice. You are invited to attend the services of the Church of Christ which meets at the corner of 3rd and E Streets. Please write to me with any questions or comments at P.O. Box 186, Cedar Key, FL 32625 or dgbinkley@aol.com. Or you may also request to receive the daily WORD OF THE DAY by e-mail. Please visit our web site at www.cedarkeychurchofchrist.com.