Quail Springs Church of Christ (is it just me or is that a pretty darn cool sounding name? Quail Springs?!) has added a service with instruments. This is a really big deal in the CoC community, quite a divisive issue. The traditional CoC stance against the use of musical instruments is also the most visible split between (most) CoCs and the independent Christian churches, dating back to probably around the Civil War era. I read a great book on this history once (In Search of Christian Unity: A History of the Restoration Movement, by Henry Webb). It is, of course far too easy to oversimplify the CoC and their beliefs — because they are decidedly anti-denomination (mostly!) they have evolved quite differently. There were a myriad of different views on all sorts of issues (paid ministry staff, Sunday Schools, instruments, significance of baptism, etc. etc.) that can all still be found in different churches of Christ. If you know one, or even a handful, of churches of Christ, you certainly can’t assume all the others are just the same. There are even some CoCs which are little different from Christian churches (as I understand it there was some fluidity between the names in the early days of the Restoration Movement).
I read some of the reaction to Richland Hills’ decision to add instruments. Ouch! There was some real unpleasantness. I try to be charitable toward the beliefs of those folks who were so angered by this, as they are holding to a belief they feel very strongly about, and I feel pretty strongly about my beliefs, too, most of them anyway. But at the same time, they don’t have quite the strong Scriptural leg to stand on that accompany most other (orthodox) Christian views. Check out the article on Quail Springs for the verses cited against the use of instruments. These verses address singing, but they don’t mention instruments at all. CoCers take this to mean one shouldn’t use instruments. I think this is quite a leap. By this logic, when we read verses that mention, say, donkeys, should we assume we shouldn’t use cars or bicycles?
That is of course silly, and really I don’t mean to be patronizing. If one finds greater purity, greater focus on God, greater whatever that enhances one’s worship of God when singing without instruments, then who would try to force that person to be accompanied by an instrument? And if someone looks at Scripture and says that the Bible focuses on voices rather than on instruments (although instrumental worship certainly figures into OT praise), so therefore he/she prefers worship that also focuses on voices (and excludes instruments), doesn’t that also seem understandable? It would be very sad to see a church split over this issue, but if a church added instruments and some members found this interfered too greatly with their ability to focus on worship, would it be wrong of them to move to a new church? No, the most important aspect of church isn’t the music style, but let’s be honest, no matter how great the sermons are and how solid a Biblical stance a church has, if the music is head-banging multiple drum sets and multiple electric guitars (read: no way I’d be able to concentrate on worshipping God — I’d have a headache), you might leave for a church that has equally solid Biblical teaching but music more conducive to your worship preferences.
But while many in the CoCs now believe that a cappella worship is a preference rather than a divine edict, many also cling to the necessity of a cappella worship the way we all cling to the virgin birth or the dual nature of Christ. Some rather hateful things were actually written by some disgruntled Richland Hills folks, who produced their own “25 Theses” a la Luther. It is fascinating (if somewhat disturbing) to read the things these “hard core” folks have written. They speak of instrumental worship leading to hell, of Satan using instruments to seduce people away from the church. I couldn’t find the “25 Theses” themselves anymore, but you can check out the site these people have put up here.