A Cappella By Choice?

As many of today’s churches of Christ attempt to embrace the world in a quixotic attempt to remain relevant, some are now describing their worship as non-instrumental by choice. 

The shift is subtle, especially since the mechanical instrument is still absent from the worship service. The congregation – its eldership and ministers, as well as any members who care – can continue to proclaim their adherence to the old paths. No piano here, brother!

It is the evolution of the explanation, however, that is troubling, and probably temporary. Where once a Cappella singing was defended as an example of subjection to the New Testament example and divine command, now it is merely the result of a congregational choice. Rather than being imposed by the Holy Spirit, it is accepted by the members. For now.

You see, if they are non-instrumental today only by choice, it will be just as easy for them to be instrumental by choice tomorrow – especially after enough older members die off to give the choosers more of a majority.

The current language is subtle, cunningly devised to prepare for an eventual shift to the other side without necessarily offending the old mossbacks who doggedly insist that non-instrumental music in worship is a matter of the faith. The change agents are wise as serpents, but hardly as innocent as doves.

Jesus set the tone for New Testament worship when discussing praise with a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water from Jacob’s well. “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).

Spirit – emotion – and truth – subjection to God’s will (Ephesians 5:10). Worship without emotion is as bad as worship that is not according to revealed truth, but our task in praise is not to please ourselves or to appeal to the community. We worship to please God, and, unlike the Old Testament, the new covenant simply calls for the disciples to sing their praises to God.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16; see also Ephesians 5:18-21). Not a single passage can be produced that instructs or permits the church to play its worship. It is the message that matters – the words by which we speak of God’s glory and edify one another. The words are “a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

If the church is non-instrumental by choice, it is only God’s choice and one he didn’t leave up to us (Ephesians 5:15-17). 



1 http://www.christianchronicle.org/article2158384~Instrumental_service_at_issue:_Teachers_quit_over_music_document

2 http://www.mauryhills.com/expect.htm