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Lectureship addresses use of musical instruments in worship

By Wendy Isom
The Jackson (Tenn.) Sun

February 15, 2005

If musical instruments are being used at a church Marlin Connelly is visiting, don’t expect him to sing along.
”I cannot share in the singing with an instrument because my conscience would keep me from it,” said Connelly, minister at Hillsboro Church of Christ in Nashville.
Connelly was one of the featured debaters at Freed-Hardeman University’s 69th annual Bible Lectureship on Friday responding to the question: ”Should the Use of Instrumental Music in Worship be a Barrier to Fellowship with Others, such as Independent Christian Churches?” Connelly took the stand that instrumental music is a barrier to fellowship.
Musical instruments are not widely found in Churches of Christ because it is believed that the human voice is the only instrument God created for the purpose of worship. The Churches of Christ point to a number of biblical scriptures (Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, for example) to back up their beliefs and to the fact that early Christians worshipped without instruments.
The lectureship, which draws between 4,000 and 5,000 ministers, church leaders and Bible scholars each year, featured 100 exhibitors and more than 100 speakers this year addressing the theme ”A Light to the Nations: Judgment and Hope in Isaiah.”
On Friday, the last day of the weeklong lectureship, it was standing-room only on the lower level of Loyd Auditorium as presenters voiced their opinions on the issue of musical instruments.
Sharing the debating stage was Phillip Morrison, an elder at Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, who disagreed with Connelly.
”What we’re talking about today is not what the early church did or did not do,” Morrison said. ”I agree in Ephesians and Colossians,” he said, that the Bible describes those offering praise to God with the ”fruit of their lips.”
However, ”anything that threatens fellowship is cause for serious concern,” the elder said. ”This cuts to the Christian core. When God called us to fellowship, God says you’re my family. You’re my church. And I’m simply saying the use of instrumental music in worship ought not be a barrier to that. We can’t stand the further fracturing of Christianity.”
Connelly’s response: ”Brethren and fellowship are two different things. Fellowship is not just a warm feeling toward people. Fellowship involves a person sharing in a certain thing.” And if fellowship involves musical instruments, Connelly reiterated: ”I can’t go against my conscience.”
Morrison’s response: ”Marlin, stick with your conscience, brother.” But Morrison added: ”What may be conscientious for you may not be for me.”
Katy Fulfer, 20, an FHU senior, was in the audience listening to the debate. ”I have mixed feelings. It’s a difficult issue to deal with,” said Fulfer, who is studying philosophy and English. Although she hasn’t made up her mind yet about the issue, she said of the debaters: ”I liked the way they kept a friendly attitude toward one another.”
Of which side he’s on, Bill Mead of Portsmouth, Ohio, said: ”I’m on the Lord’s side. We don’t believe in the use of instrumental music.” However, Mead, a minister at Catlettsburg Church of Christ in Kentucky, admitted that in the past he has worshipped with instruments.
”I’m an oddball,” he said. ”I preached for five years for those who used instruments.” Then, he said, after re-examining the Bible, ”I changed.”
For K. Gray, a native of New Zealand, there is no changing his mind. Of the debate, Gray said: ”I didn’t get that much out of it.” Holding his 3-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, Gray said that ”instruments in worship is not the way worship should be.” Gray, who believes in worship without instruments, belongs to the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville.
Linda Brown of Middleburg, Fla., didn’t see it as a two-sided debate. ”I don’t really see it as taking sides,” said Brown, who belongs to the Lakeside Church of Christ in Florida. ”I see it as a matter of how you view the scriptures. If you view it as the literal word of God then you don’t use instruments. If you don’t view it as the literal word of God then you have more license.’
Reprinted with permission from the Feb. 12, 2005 issue of the the Jackson Sun, jacksonsun.com.

  • Feedback
    I was reading the article at the right of this section about the use of musical instruments in the service.
    There are subjects in the Bible that are not about sin or righteousness but they are about Godly decision making and using logic to come to good descernments.
    There is a scripture that Paul says, “everything in permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial; everything is permissible for me but not everything is constructive.
    1 Corinthinas 6:12, 10:23
    If music is beneficial to the non-Christian in bringing them in, as long as it is not ‘sin’ we may use it. Conscience has nothing to do with it. It is about making the most of every opportunity. Amen!
    Tanya E. Partin Lawton
    Author of “Found in a Garbage Can”
    Tanya E. Partin Lawton
    Fall River Church of Christ
    Fall River, Massachusetts
    April, 4 2013

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