Not Surprising

Posted on: September 14th, 2014

Highland COC Puts New Twist in Sunday Services, KTAB TV, Aug. 24, 2014, Abilene, Texas
By Kimberly Sears 08/24/2014 10:59 PM

“The Highland Church of Christ is breaking out of the mold by adding a second Sunday service with live instruments instead of an a Capella choir. The Highland Church of Christ has a new twist to Sunday services. Instead of just a cappella singing, the church has decided to make their 11 o’ clock service have live instruments, which is a major change to the way service is conducted within Churches of Christ. Highland Church of Christ in Abilene is one of the few churches in the nation that has made this change.

Worship Minister at Highland, Brandon Thomas, said they wanted to reach people in deeper ways. He has also seen a jump in people using instruments to worship and Thomas wanted to bring that diversity to the church. The church has only had two services use the instruments so far, but Thomas said it’s going well.

Thomas said that even the older people have enjoyed the live instruments. He said that they are singing more than they did before and really getting into the music. The people that perform the music are all from the church and now they are able to showcase their talents to the rest of their church community.” Copyright 2014 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Link to Related Video: (TRANSCRIPT OF TV REPORT BY MARK MAYBERRY. NOTE: Article reprinted under “Fair Use Doctrine” for educational purposes only)

The above report is not surprising as a bit of history will reveal. For those too young to remember, the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas was the “sponsoring church” that managed the nationally syndicated Herald of Truth radio and television program. Churches all over the United States were urged to contribute funds to it as part of their evangelistic work, a work of the “Churches of Christ.”

Some preachers, in the 1950s and 60s, publicly criticized the Herald of Truth as an organization that infringed on the autonomy of local congregations by uniting many congregations into a single work. Uniting several congregations gave one congregation the ability to do greater things than it could by itself. However that created a denomination where each church is a part, or denomination, of the whole. A similar issue had occurred in the 1800s called the “American Christian Missionary Society” that gave rise to the Christian Church.

The Herald of Truth was only one of the institutions that eventually, by the mid-1960s, resulted in a split among Christians into those who supported institutions and those who did not, often called “antis.” Opposing preachers were isolated and discredited. As a teen I attended debates on the subject. Churches often split over the issue and there were a lot of hard feelings between brethren, even to the point of brethren coming to blows.

The issue boiled down to the way in which we establish authority for our actions. Churches of Christ once claimed, “…We speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent.” That changed. Institution supporters began to argue that their practices were not specifically prohibited by the New Testament. Finally, the concept of scriptural authority was abandoned altogether.

God told the elders in 1 Peter 5:2 that they were to “…shepherd the flock of God which is among you….” The authority of local church leaders is limited to those among them. God does not assign responsibilities to a local church that are beyond its means.

Proponents claim “…God did not say we can’t use instruments.” New Testament music worship was psalms, or singing (Ac 16:25; 1Co 14:26; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Jas 5:13). Once God establishes a practice, others are excluded. The Hebrew writer argued similarly in Hebrews 7:11-14. Moses spoke nothing about a priest arising out of a tribe other than Levi, therefore under the Law of Moses, only a Levite could be a priest. For Jesus to be a priest the law must change. That exclusionary principle holds true with music worship and whatever we do.

Institutional churches eschewed instrumental music because of tradition rather than scriptural authority. The Highland “worship minister” says “…a capella was our heritage.” New generations disregard the tradition. Given the attitude of the Highland church’s leaders toward scriptural authority, and that of similar churches like the Oak Hills church in San Antonio, it is no surprise that instrumental music would ultimately be accepted. Without a regard for scriptural authority churches are limited only by their leaders’ imagination. Soon those “Churches of Christ” will be indistinguishable from, and accepted by, all other denominations. If it is not our authority, why bother with the Bible?

Jim Neff