I Heard You Didn’t Believe In . . .


me guitar

Me on guitar in a jam session – Rockin’ (or destroying) the hits of the ’70’s

I heard you didn’t believe in instruments.

It was while I was an intern in Baldwin County, Alabama that I first heard it put that way. I had walked into a pawn shop and was looking at the guitars. I was playing a warm-up piece when the proprietor introduced himself and I told him I was the intern youth minister at the church of Christ around the corner.

Skip forward about twenty years and I am at a TV station about to record a religious TV program. I was talking with the producer and asked if that was his guitar in the production room. He asked if I played, then stopped himself, and said, “I thought you were from a church of Christ and I hear y’all don’t believe in instruments.”

“I believe in them,” I replied I’ve seen them, “I’ve even played on a harpsichord.” He got the joke. Then I simply said, “I just don’t use them in worship.”

Why? 

Why do we not use instruments in the churches I work with?

For me, and I am speaking for me, not using an instrument in worship comes down to two simple observations (make that three observations).

1When the New Testament mentions praise and specifically singing in the church (not in heaven and not in the temple) there is a conspicuous absence of musical instruments.  Consider the following verses:

  • Hebrews 2:12, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
  • Colossians 3:16, “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.”
  • Ephesians 5:19, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,”

Notice the absence of instruments.  In my attempt to keep the church true to what Christ and the inspired writers teach, I believe it is best to not use instruments in our worship. I am not alone. John Price of Grace Baptist Church in Rochester, New York concludes a study on worship saying,

“We bring all of this together — the theological arguments from the Scripture concerning the regulative principle, the abundant historical evidence of the rejection of musical instruments by the church, and the testimony of their harmful effects upon gospel worship — and we ask the reader: what other conclusion can we come to that that musical instruments should have not place in Christian worship?”*

2. Mr. Price mentions historical evidence in his conclusion and historical evidence is my second reason for not using instruments in worship. Dan Chambers takes us through history starting the early leaders that theologians refer to as the Church Fathers. He refers us to James McKinnon’s statement about these leaders views on instruments in worship, “The antagonism which the Fathers of the early Church displayed toward instruments has tow outstanding characteristics: vehemence and uniformity.”**

Chambers then takes us through the Middle Ages and quotes, “the use of organs came into the church since the time of Thomas Aquinas, Anno (the year) 1250.” *** Before 1250 instruments were not accepted by church leaders and in most churches although some individual churches used them as early as the year 800).

Chambers then gives quotes from the Reformers Calvin and Zwingli and the Puritans demonstrating their opposition to musical instruments in worship. He continues to show that men like David Benedict (a Baptist preacher and historian in the nineteenth century), Charles Spurgeon of the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle in London opposed musical instruments in worship. ****

I think I should also note that Methodist commentator Adam Clarke made this observation about John Wesley, ” . .  John Wesley, who was a lover of music, and an eloquent poet, when asked his opinion of instruments of music being introduced into the chapels of the Methodists said, . . . ” I have not objections to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen.”*****

History demonstrates that musical instruments were not common in Protestant churches until the mid 1800’s and then were opposed by their leaders when they were introduced. History is on the side of excluding musical instruments in the worship of the church.

There is a third reason I choose not to use instruments in worship.

3. They are completely unnecessary. Answer this question: If you were stranded with fellow Christians in an area where you did not have access to musical instruments or musical accompaniment tracks could you still worship God without them? YES!  Then why do we need them in our regular worship?

Please know that I am simply sharing what I understand scripture, history, and necessity to teach. I beg you to carefully consider these thoughts. You have the right to disagree with me. I will leave the final judgment to God. Our only hope is in the grace that saves through faith in the sacrifice of Christ.

-Scott

* Price, John, Old Light on New Worship, (Avinger, TX:Simpson Publishing), 2007, p. 229.

** Chambers, Dan, Churches in the Shape of Scripture, (Franklin, TN:Faithworks Press) 2012, p. 69.

*** Ibid, p 71.

**** Ibid, pp 72-78.

***** Clarke, Adam, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 4 (New York:Abngdon Press, n.d.) p. 684.

8 thoughts on “I Heard You Didn’t Believe In . . .

  1. I totally and completely agree with you, What is so sad are those who think instrumental music is okay but they would not use it. The use David in the OT and John’s dream in Revelation. David also had multiple wives and did not eat pork. But, they don’t consider that at all. Thanks Scott

  2. Coming from someone who grew up in worship where music and instruments, guitars, tambourines, fiddles, bass, you name it were a big part of the sevice I have to agree. After studing for many years and trying to prove there was nothing wrong with instruments I was first convinced by the historical evidence rather than Ephesians 5:19 .Even if you still are not 100% sure that a piano in service will send you to hell, you can be 100% sure that there is certainly nothing wrong with not having one. Like a lot of other things that some might call disputable, I say err on the conservative (I am not talking politics) side. I will admit that when we sing an up tempo Stamps Baxter song that I still tap my foot when no one is looking.

  3. Reason number 4. I have come to believe that God desires us to worship Him with His creation rather than our creations. Maybe not, but avoiding instruments in worship is one more way to reduce the probability that we are worshipping the creation rather than the Creator.

  4. I have also hear this, well the song books have notes at the top and bottom of the words, well as you remember when we first put the words of songs on the screen there were no notes shown and everyone sang very well without the notes.
    Some of the most beautiful singing with out musical instruments is at Diana Tennessee, but with that being said, if you are not singing and giving praise to God, but only pleasing to your own ears it is nothing.

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