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Richland Hills among churches removed from directory

FOUR CONGREGATIONS  with a cappella and instrumental Sunday worship services are excluded from 2009 directory

Each edition of Churches of Christ in the United States contains a chart of congregations with the largest weekly attendance.
In the 2009 version of the directory, the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City and the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, share that position. Both reported a weekly attendance of about 2,200.
Conspicuously absent from the new directory is the congregation that has occupied the top spot on the list since 2000 — the Richland Hills Church of Christ in Texas.

In the past six months, the Richland Hills church averaged between 4,100 and 4,200 people combined in its three weekend services, executive minister Mike Washburn said.
But the Texas church was one of 21 congregations omitted from the latest edition of the directory for using instrumental music in at least one Sunday morning service, said Carl Royster, the volume’s compiler.
“The one unifying constant that defines whether or not such a congregation is included in this document is the practice of a cappella worship services,” Royster wrote in the directory’s introduction.
In the past, compilers have excluded congregations as they broke ties with Churches of Christ. In 2003 the Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio, then with about 3,500 members, added instrumental worship services and dropped “of Christ” from its name. The church was excluded from the next directory, published in 2006.
But Richland Hills’ elders have not broken ties with Churches of Christ, nor did they ask to be excluded from the 2009 directory, Washburn said.
“From a church standpoint, we’re saddened and disappointed,” Washburn said of Richland Hills’ removal from the book. “We strongly feel like we are a part of Churches of Christ and continue a strong love for — and commitment to — excellent a cappella worship.
“However, we are a part of a huge movement in our fellowship who do not believe a cappella worship is the sole way of defining who Churches of Christ are,” Washburn said.
In 2007 Richland Hills added an instrumental worship service on Saturday nights. A few months ago the church added instruments to one of its two Sunday morning services. The church’s 9 a.m. worship remains a cappella, and on a recent Sunday 2,347 people attended that service, Washburn said.
Like Richland Hills, three of the other 20 churches excluded from the directory have instrumental and a cappella services: the Farmers Branch church in Dallas, the Jenks, Okla., church and the Redwood church in Redwood City, Calif. The other 17 are entirely instrumental.
Many of the entirely-instrumental churches have cut ties with Churches of Christ, Royster said.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the 12,629 churches listed in the directory are entirely a cappella. The Quail Springs church in Oklahoma City, for example, added an instrumental Sunday morning service last year, but is listed in the 2009 directory. So are churches that sponsor instrumental events on weekdays or added instruments after the reporting period.
“Instrumental congregations are not knowingly included in the data, but it is impossible to guarantee that one cannot be found,” according to the directory’s introduction.
“Therefore, it is suggested that, as needs arise, the reader use the information provided in Churches of Christ in the United States to contact a congregation in order to learn more details about it.”
Instrumental worship is not the only issue on which Churches of Christ differ. Since its beginning the directory has denoted subgroups within the fellowship, including churches that use one cup in communion or practice mutual edification and oppose the use of paid ministers.
When asked why the 2009 directory didn’t simply adopt an “instrumental” designation instead of excluding churches, Royster said that doing so would compromise the accuracy of the publication as a statistical record of a cappella churches.
The directory’s original compiler, Mac Lynn, began gathering information from Churches of Christ three decades ago. At the time two other branches of the Restoration Movement — the Disciples of Christ and the Christian Church/Churches of Christ, both of which use instruments — had directories.
But there was no comprehensive directory for the movement’s third branch — a cappella Churches of Christ.
“The most recent issue of a cappella churches going instrumental was not an issue at the time,” said Lynn, who turned compilation duties over to Nashville, Tenn.-based 21st Century Christian after the 2003 edition and is no longer officially involved with the publication.
Including churches with instruments is problematic because “the directory has always been a list of a cappella congregations,” Lynn said. “The exclusion of instrumental churches has not been on theological grounds.”
When a cappella churches add instruments, they resemble the instrumental churches of the Restoration Movement, which have separate directories.
“What’s happened is you’ve got a few churches in no man’s land,” Lynn said.
Washburn said he’s concerned that church members will see Richland Hills’ exclusion as a sign that the church has broken ties with its fellowship.
That’s not the case, he said, noting his congregation’s involvement with a cappella churches, ministries and schools associated with Churches of Christ.
“We have great love for the people in our heritage,” he said. “We want to be a part of this fellowship.”
Royster said that readers should use the directory as a simple resource, not a theological document denoting which churches are — and which aren’t — in the brotherhood.
“This publication has never been intended to be any kind of an ‘official list of authorized congregations,’” he said. “I am saddened when I hear of people attempting to use it as such.”

. . .

Largest congregations by attendance, according to the 2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States .
1. (tie) Memorial Road Church of Christ, Oklahoma City
Attendance 2009: 2,200
Members 2009: 2,667
Rank 2006: 2
1. (tie) Highland Church of Christ, Abilene, Texas
Attendance 2009: 2,200
Members 2009: 2,000
Rank 2006: 3
3. The Family of God at Woodmont Hills
Attendance 2009: 1,750
Members 2009: 1,550
Rank 2006: 4
4. Madison Church of Christ, Madison, Tenn.
Attendance 2009: 1,740
Members 2009: 3,102
Rank 2006: 5
5. Saturn Road Church of Christ, Garland, Texas
Attendance 2009: 1,731
Members 2009: 1,707
Rank 2006: 6

  • Feedback
    I agree that Richland Hills has gotten to the place where they wish to tell God what to do. They also would desire to lead (weaker?) souls out with them. They have marked themselves and must take that responsibility on themselves.
    A house divided cannot stand. Look for more departures from them.
    I wish to have no truck with non acapella in the directory.
    Richard Piper
    Utica 1330 Herkimer Road
    Utica, New York
    United States of America
    January, 11 2013

    i know of nobody who would say God is not pleased with worship using singing only, do you? that being the case, why dont those on the other side put away the instrument that violates the conscience of the majority for the sake of unity? most people will say we need to restore NT Christianity, right? did you know it is imposible to restore what was never there to begin with? like one brother said, “a congregation willing to divide the body by forcing brethren to violate their conscience, only shows the tip of the iceburg, when it comes to their error” why not replace the LS with burger and coke? and as a side note; “Church of Christ” is a designation of relationship, not a an unimportant title! how dare we take his name off our buildings!
    matt blaine
    Edgemere church of Christ
    seymour, TX
    February, 16 2010

    unity at any cost is not the unity of the Bible. Jesus makes it very clear in Mt. 7:20ff that there will be many honest, sincere people who will be lost because they did not do the will of his father.
    matt blaine
    seymour, TX
    February, 16 2010

    If God gives His permission as to the way we are to worship Him, that’s it. Remember He (the Holy Spirit) specifically states that we are not to add to or take from the WORD as it is written (Rev. 22:19. If true worship is the motive, then we all will follow the dictates of God’s messager (Holy Spirit).
    Alice J. Holt
    Ames Road Church Of Christ
    Columbia, South Carolina
    January, 8 2010

    Why does anyone care whether they are listed in that directory or not? Does anyone really think that non-christians look in there to find a church? I fail to see the importance of the directory at this point – when it is so easy to find a church’s location, contact info, etc. online. Who exactly does the directory benefit?
    silly string
    notta c of c
    Memphis, TN
    December, 31 2009

    Its already perfected the way God wants it. Why add anything? Is it for “your” desire to be entertained? “your” desire to hear instruments instead of your own voice from your heart? Is it “your” desire to have to have something else besides your voice to worship God? I think its soo centered about “us” than it is about God when you “ADD” something to the Instructions God laid out for us.
    Unity of our Brothers/Sisters in Christ is not an issue here. Its a risk of being and helping False Teachers in my opinion. If your “okaying” something that is not in Gods instruction.. then its False.
    To change such a Major thing that the Church of Christ has modeled for many years.. it sort of not makes you in that category anymore.
    Jennifer Stracener
    Mars Hill Church of Christ
    Vilonia, Arkansas
    December, 31 2009

    If anyone really reads the Bible. They will see the Anger God had in the Old Testament to those who changed the Temple of worship. Kings who moved items from the Temple or even just a rearrangement.
    God gave instructions for our Church of today.. and what saddens me is that the Church of Christ that has remained very true to the Worship instructions are now “thinking” its okay to add things to its Worship.
    Jennifer Stracener
    Mars Hill Church of Christ
    Vilonia, Arkansas
    December, 31 2009

    I am sorry to see our brethren divided yet again. We seem to be trying as hard as we can to be just like the denominations. My father once taught a class on why we do not have instrumental music in our worship services. One of his statements has stayed with me. He said, “I know many people who have dedicated their lives to writing and singing instrumental gospel music. I hope that God finds their music acceptable, but I KNOW that it is okay to only “sing and make melody in your hearts.” The early church didn’t use musical instruments. Even Martin Luther King didn’t use musical instuments. Why can’t we accept that the way is narrow and continue in that narrow way to heaven!
    Dee Frances Hoomes Wichman
    Ocean Springs Church of Christ
    Ocean Springs, MS
    December, 31 2009

    King Asa was a good king but still allowed the false worship on the high places. Hezekiah was a better king because he had the courage to remove the high places. As churches rebuild the high places and embrace the world, we need to remember holiness requires a choice to be different and set appart. King Manasseh did what was evil and rebuilt the high places. We need to return to simple surrender to biblical worship and not get into a worldy compitition with Satan. He’ll win.
    Douglas Graham
    Cyril, Ok
    August, 21 2009

    I’ve known about Christian Chronicle for what seems like forever. My biggest issue with instrumental music in a service is when it overtakes the whole WORSHIP service and becomes a performance venue. Just as God gave vocal talents to so very man folks, He also gave other musical talents as well and for them to be able to share those talents is an incredible gift and blessing. As many will know, Bering has never had a problem stepping outside the box and while I doubt we’ll ever have a full rock and roll jam session we do have come incredible talent and it’s always a joy whenever we get the chance to share the joy they bring…and you’ve got to think the angels are dancin’ in heaven and sharing the joy!
    Kimberlee McElfresh
    Bering Drive
    Houston, TX
    July, 23 2009

    I appreciate the Christian Chronicle for running this series By The Numbers. The people in the world who are looking for good news only need the Gospel. It is profoundly simple. I get to serve as an assistant volunteer chaplain at the Fayette County Detention Center here in Lexington, KY. Each week I visit several inmates, some of whom are sincerely wanting to know if there is any good news for them. When I tell them that I am a Christian and that Jesus died and rose so that even their sins can be forgiven, that is all they need to know. However, if I feel that they need to know that I am from the acappella Churches of Christ, or any other form of Christianity, it only serves to confuse them. I believe that the issue being wrestled with in this series of articles is a good thing because, hopefully, we are being forced into dropping all the barriers that separate Christians. Honestly, the only thing that helps sinners is the Gospel. The only thing that helps Christians is the Gospel. I encourage us all to have the same courage of one of our heroes, Barton W. Stone and the other signers of the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, who wrote, “We will that this body die and sink into union with the body of Christ at large.” Non-sectarian Christianity and the Gospel are the only things that truly advance the kingdom and that is our work. I encourage us to take joy in the trend and make the most of it for the sake of the kingdom.
    March, 1 2009

    The term, a cappella comes from Latin, loosely meaning “from the chapel”. It�s neither a theological or biblical term. It’s simply a phrase conveying the event would in the smaller group setting of the chapel where according to history, if any instruments were used those would be small percussion, wind or string instruments, with or without voices. In musicology, there is no single definition for the word a cappella. Acappella Radio gets music submitted by professional musicians nearly every week, some of which includes different kinds of instruments. For 100 years, Christians linked to the Restoration Movement have withheld fellowship over an argument totally unworthy of the blood of our Lord and Savior. There is harsh condemnation of anyone causing division in the body of Christ.. Paul says, �Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
    February, 26 2009

    Over thirty years in the Church of Christ (or, if you prefer, the church of Christ) and I feel obligated to speak out for the first time on the instrumental music in worship service issue.
    The underlying logic of the position is this:
    Major Premise: EVERYTHING the apostles did in establishing the church in the first generation was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and, therefore, reflected the eternal will of God.
    Minor Premise: as the apostles established churches in the first generation they did not use instruments in the worship assembly of the church of Christ.
    Therefore (CONCLUSION): instrumental accompaniment of Christian worship violates the will of God and is sinful.
    The syllogism is valid (the logic is sound); however, we must seriously consider whether or not the major premise is true.
    First, the Major Premise is NOT stated anywhere in Scripture. It is a presupposition. It is a human-created method of interpreting the ancient text.
    Second, the Major Premise is not followed by the modern Church of Christ (church of Christ) in anything that even resembles a consistent pattern. The apostles did not establish churches that owned their own buildings. It is almost universally agreed that the church of the first three centuries met in private homes. Why is the use of buildings not evaluated using the same logic as the use of instrumental music in worship?
    Bottom line: the absence of instruments in Christian worship is a product of historical circumstances, not the will of God. The church followed the pattern of the Synagogue. It did not follow the pattern of the Temple. The Synagogue is nowhere mentioned in Scripture; therefore, we have made a binding “pattern” from a system of worship that is not authorized in Scripture.
    I think we had better re-think our entire approach to this issue. It is fine to assert that a cappella worship sounds better, is more convenient, is closer to the historical reality of the Jewish worship conducted in the Synagogue, etc. But, to claim that a cappella worship is the ONLY worship that pleases God Almighty is to speak where the Bible says absolutely nothing of the sort!
    To exclude our brethren from the directory of a rapidly-dying fellowship because they disagree with our idiosyncratic view on this issue is nothing short of preposterous. Shame on us!
    February, 15 2009

    Jack Boyd said:
    Two points:
    (1) Every time � EVERY time � instruments are added to a worship service the congregational singing drops like a rock. The instrumental group usually has one or more singers or song leaders, and that is the vocal sound you will hear. You will hear hymn singing but it won�t be by the Christians out in the pews. The so-called worship service becomes a performance with an audience. Can you still worship? Sure, if that�s your decision. Is it interesting? Sure, on the same level that a Joel Osteen service is interesting. Lots of noise, lots of showbiz.
    (2) Why not have separate sections in Churches of Christ in the United States that list (a) instrumental churches, (b) non�class churches, (c) non-cooperation churches, (d) one-cup churches, et al. Make it inclusive. Make it weird.
    Jack Boyd
    [email protected]
    February, 10 2009

    This is totally ridiculous. Since obviously a large minority of church members believe instruments are OK, why not just denote in the book that those congregations have an instrumental service, and when it is?? Seriously, they have NO right to mark Richland Hills and the likes from the directory. That is a slap in the face to thousands of Christians. Think about how much we have in common. Do we really want to exclude them over one little gray factor??
    February, 9 2009

    Think of what this looks like to the world! It is a sad day when the church becomes famous for what it is against rather than who we are For. It’s about Jesus Christ!
    People are going to Hell, and that’s the saddest thing – we would rather bicker about instrumental music than to fulfill our God-given commission to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.”
    Let us not fall into the trap of the Pharisees and be lulled into a false sense of security based on our traditions, good deeds, and methods.
    February, 5 2009

    One of the issues in churches of Christ today is the concern of something happening during the Sunday service that separates “me” from God: examples being a piano in the room and possibly being played, other individuals raising their hands or clapping during a song, engaging in multiple “acts of worship” simultaneously, drama such as plays with male AND female actors and etc. Apparently something separating “me” from God was not a concern of the church at Corinth nor the churches of Asia. If not for them why us?
    No place in the New Testatment are the “good” Christians told to separate from the “bad” Christians and establish a separate congregation. Jesus did not tell the members of the churches in Asia to separate. If Jesus did not suggest it why do we?
    February, 4 2009

    I hear a lot in these comments statements such as – “I personally feel” and “I think” that is a scary statement. Our “feelings” shouldn’t matter, the scriptures should. I see many churches conforming to the world to “win souls” but to what, their watered down version of what they “feel” is right. I applaud those who do not bow to the pressure of veering from the scripture just to entertain the masses.
    January, 29 2009

    I am reminded of David brining the Ark to Jerusalem. Michal new well David�s behavior was contrary to the traditions set by her father, Saul a man chosen by God as King of His people. She too was quick and forceful in her rebuke. And look where it got her � �Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.�
    I fellowship weekly with a congregation that chooses to sing praises a cappella because it is our tradition; it is where our hearts connect. However, I do not identify myself as a member of The �a cappella Churches of Christ.�
    Paul�s ambition rings in my ears, �Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”
    Has Christ been divided?�
    In some minds He once again has, and as with Michal, focus on the outward rather than the inward results in unfruitfulness.
    January, 27 2009

    The decline in numbers is caused by a departure from the principle of just being the Lord’s church by limiting ourselves, among other things, to NT forms of worship and leadership. The introduction of machine music serves as a fellowship watershed because it is a concrete and visible proof of a shift in attitude and thinking. It is the visible tip of an underwater iceberg.
    When Richland Hills abolished deacons and replaced them with men and women ‘ministers’ and when they introduced instrumental music into worship, they excluded themselves by definition from churches of Christ. The Lord’s church never has worshiped with machines.
    Man-centered departures from the NT pattern demonstrate inward spiritual poverty and disrespect for God and His word. When a girl was asked about the ‘contemporary’ service at Richland Hills she said: “It was great! We were up dancing on the tables!”.
    The worldly-minded are attracted by such things, but the spiritually-minded are disgusted and leave. Division between the two is inevitable. Paul says there must be divisions among us “that those who are approved may be recognized” (1 Cor. 11:19).
    January, 27 2009

    The editors of Churches of Christ in the United States have taken a stand and should be honored for their courage. We live in a world built on ever-sifting sands of compromise, trying to please the masses, anti-heroes. It is refreshing to see men standing at the gates.
    Each church is autonomous so the opinions of a directory, in a real sense, shouldn’t matter what others say about you. The elders of these churches will have to give an account before God concerning their flock. Although, I have to ask, if the question of instrumental music in the churches of Christ is so clear cut why hasn’t it been done all along? It’s been a whisper since the 60s when the baby-boomers thought worship was dull.
    Why now does this whisper become a roar? Additionally, why, in so many congregations, is immorality tolerated? Why do some children play video games during communion? It has to do with values.
    Two generations have been conditioned to base judgments on feelings rather than facts, to compromise, to seek a middle ground because they are saturated with that message in all media. The Bible, however, is not about compromise, it’s about submission. God’s Living Word demands complete surrender and submission; something the world will never understand.
    We must evangelize, that being said, evangelize what? The unsaved don’t need to hear wishy-washy opinions or weak-kneed do gooders- it needs men. Men in charge of their homes, complete with a loving wife and obedient children. Men who will show book chapter and verse rather than fads. Men unafraid of popular sentiment or worldly consequences. Those men arose in earlier days and turned the world upside down from Jerusalem to Abilene. If in 2109 there is a church of Christ on Mars it will be because men in 2009 stood up, turned off their TVs, told junior to be reverent and when agitators murmured men showed them the door while gently admonishing them they can always come back.
    God bless those who are steadfast, obedient and mercifully wise for they are truly giants among men and heroes of the faith.
    January, 27 2009

    I am getting a little sick of all the nonsense about who is using Instruments or who is not. We are focusing on the wrong thing. We need to just let those who want to worship with instruments, worship with instruments. Those of us who don’t won’t.
    In case you missed it, The directory mentioned is a directory for acappela churches. DUH!
    Our little campus ministry has baptised over 200 people in the last 5 years and we don’t use instruments in our worship. In all honesty, it’s never even brought up. It’s not about the use of instruments or not. It’s about sharing the gospel with others.
    Our churches are dying and you want to fight over instruments. Fight over who to unite with and who not. Who to include and who to exclude. Both sides need to shut up and get back to sharing Jesus with others.
    You think it’s about instruments and IT’S NOT!
    January, 27 2009

    It is not that complicated. As one committed to grounding all common faith and practice in the NT I cannot worship on the Lord’s day in the common worship assembly with an instrument in use–regardless of whether the people are otherwise sound. It is nice to have a reference source which identifies a capella congregations. It is the addition of a mechanical device to the worship assembly (one which can find no grounding in the NT) which has set up the divisions and the barriers–not the reverse.
    Hey I have an idea! let’s resolve to ground all our common faith and practice in the NT, then we can worship together without divisions. Sounds like a good idea to me.
    January, 26 2009

    What’s next? I know of congregations that “allow” instrumental music in small group gatherings (even Bible Classes), at youth gatherings and with video presentations (recorded for background). Do these qualify for the exemption? Or is it just using the instrument in the BIG assembly that qualifies for exemption? Isn’t it true that Richland Hills is only using the instrument on Saturday night? Wouldn’t that keep it from being a “real worship” assembly and get them back into the book? Where is the consistency in all of this hub-bub?
    January, 25 2009

    What’s inconsistent is that the editors of the directory include the NI congregations, the vast majority of which will not fellowship any of the rest of us (including the editors). As far as they are concerned, the only thing we have in common is music, and that is practically coincidental after all these years. Yet a different music program at one service is the single alleged distinction that throws Richland Hills out of the directory.
    January, 24 2009

    As the circle narrows to the point of becoming ludicrous, many will begin to question the circle’s value at all. It becomes a noose. Judgement and self-execution all at once.
    It reminds me of that saying, “Anger is the poison we take hoping someone else will die.” Anger is manifested in many forms, exclusion being one of the most common.
    As I recall, we have a ministry of reconciliation, not dis-affiliation. Dannel is right– we need a little “Bible 101.”
    January, 24 2009

    It is amazing to me that after over 100 years since the “split”, no one has thought to look at serious music history that was not available to us decades ago, and see what the true history of first century music was. If you have been only interested in “official” Church of Christ teaching, you might want to see a different viewpoint.
    Email: [email protected], and you will receive a free paper on Unity. Just put “Unity” in the subject.
    -M. L. Daniels
    January, 23 2009

    Thank you, and amen, Bro. Royster
    January, 23 2009

    1832 is remembered as the year the Campbell and Stone traditions formally united in Lexington, KY.
    1906 is remembered as the year the U.S. Bureau of the Census recognized two streams within the movement.
    2009 will be remembered as the year autonomy died.
    January, 23 2009

    This edition lists all acapella churches, so it’s only valid that churches, which use instruments, are not included.
    However, what is it that unites us? What is our common ground? Are whe the Church of Christ or the Church of acapella singing?
    January, 23 2009

    Unfortunately, the Christian Chronicle article concerning the 2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States has created confusion about the purpose of this publication. This book was never intended to be the �Lamb�s Book of Life.� It has never been the purpose of this historical data (going back to 1979) to report who is scriptural and who�s not. It was begun as and continues to be a statistical accounting of a cappella Churches of Christ.
    It has just been in the past 2 editions of the directory that the issue of hybrid congregations (those who have some Sunday AM worship in a cappella and some with instruments) that we have had to deal with this issue. From the perspective of reporting statistical figures, these half and half congregations do find themselves in a statistical �no-man�s land.� Can they correctly be counted as a cappella? Should they be counted among the instrumental Independent Christian churches as some have openly chosen to do? Should they be counted among the Non-charismatic, Independent churches (Community churches) as some have also chosen to do? How many instrumental services does an a cappella congregation have to offer before it is no longer called a cappella? I think you can see our dilemma.
    Permit me this illustration: Imagine that you were told to go down to the river to count all the boats that were floating. You see boats in the river, bobbing up and down. You also see boats that are in racks on the shoreline. You also see some boats that are pulled partially on the bank of the river � bow on land and stern in the water. Which boats would you include in your �floating� number? The question does not ask you to determine which ones are boats, but only which ones are floating. None of the boats seen would be disqualified from being boats, but only those floating would be included in this particular count.
    We will continue to evaluate the best way to report this anomaly as we gear up for the 2012 edition. However, the foremost concern of this publication is to correctly report the statistical information for a cappella churches of Christ. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to report these figures in a vacuum. We must consider other religious groups that might also include these congregations in their figures and thus compromise the accuracy of the reporting.
    It is sad that the spotlight has been placed on this issue rather than the plain fact that churches of Christ are in decline along with most of the mainline denominations. Hopefully, the proper alarm can be sounded that will spur us on to renewed church growth.
    Carl H. Royster
    Data Compiler for 2009 Churches of Christ in the United States
    January, 23 2009

    Fortunately, the church directory editors do NOT have a hand in compiling the Book of Life. We have not been a homogeneous fellowship in recent years, and our diversity is only increasing. But it is Christ that makes us one, not our traditions and idiosyncracies (Gal 3:26-29).
    January, 23 2009

    The list is about to get shorter again. At least two in the top twenty largest congregations also have some instrumental services – but apparently no one has told the directory compilers yet. One of them announced it on their web site a few weeks ago (apparently after the reporting period), but that announcement is conspicuously absent now. Next year there will be much more data to bolster the accompanying story “church in America marked by decline”.
    So if I go to a church that offers both type services and I only attend the a cappella services, am I a member of the CofC? To be honest, I enjoy both forms of singing.
    January, 23 2009

    Were this about who is in the brotherhood and who isn’t, I’d agree with all the hoopla. They’re publishing a directory that, in its introduction, states that it is a list of a cappella churches of Christ. That’s what the directory is. Is Richland Hills an a cappella church? No. So they no longer fit the description.
    Personally, I wish they would merely add another descriptive category, but it’s their directory, not mine.
    January, 23 2009

    We are really missing the real issue here.It’s not about being taken off the directory that we should be concerned about.It’s about what are we going to add or delete next?We should be more concerned about being blotted out of the book of life than a directory.We need to heed Gods’ word.Paul addresses such problems in the Church in 1 Cor 1:10-17.That is just a starter. When it comes to Christs’ church and His word men has no right to add to or take away.There is no where in the New Testament and that’s where we are at, where God says to play instruments in worshipping Him but, He does say to sing Eph 5:19 a little Bible 101 is in order here.God bless you all and let’s keep it Gods’ plan not ours, say Amen if you can!!!
    January, 23 2009

    It amazes me that fellowship in the Lord has been boiled down by some to one doctrine which is only obscurely mentioned in the New Testament. While at the same time, the doctrine of unity, which is a major theological theme from Genesis through Revelation, is largely given the “back seat”.
    Admittedly, the publisher of a directory can include/exclude whomever it wishes. Each of us can choose to buy and read it or not. What this should do is motivate us to renew our zeal for focusing on what will answer the prayer of Jesus in John 17. Anything else is certainly heart-breaking.
    January, 23 2009

    Personally, I don’t feel instruments add to the Worship Service. However, I certainly would consider each “Autonomous ” congregation’s Elders should be able to make the decision. Then, I would not consider instruments as a reason to break up the Unity of Christians.
    January, 23 2009

    I think it is incredibly unfortunate that Richland HIlls and these other churches have been excluded from the directory. There are no leaders I know of who are more committed to supporting and honoring the best of our heritage in Churches of Christ than Rick Atchley. He and all of our brothers and sisters at Richland Hills, Farmer’s Branch, and I suspect the others as well, have consistently worked to strengthen ties to and active engagement with the avenues of fellowship we have in our movement–including supporting and connecting with our christian colleges, publications (like this one), lectureships and other similar avenues. Whatever one believes or practices about the issue of instruments in worship, to exclude some of our more influential churches in this way should grieve us all deeply. This is particularly the case when they expressly do not desire such exclusion and when they have continued to practice a cappella worship as well as their instrumental offerings. I pray for a change of heart and a revised consideration of this from the directory’s editors.
    January, 23 2009

    I suppose Richland Hills can recognize they are now officially considered outside the unwritten creed.
    January, 23 2009

    I agree with Paul Smith. Well said brother. I find it sad that there is so much weakness in so many “in the church” who go with the wishy washy attitude “you have to accept us and you don’t have a right to believe differently than I do”. This directory has guidelines. Do what you want but if the people who compile the directory feel you no longer fall in line with the way they have done it for THIRTY years, accept it. It’s called being adult. It’s part of growing up. The Old Testament is full of stories where people strayed from God and did their own thing. Hopefully those of you who are following man will rethink your position and get a backbone and start following Christ ~ that is where your salvation lies, not in manmade feelings and desires.
    January, 23 2009

    I am just baffled when I read that churches were excluded in the book “2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States” because of their use of instruments in worship. These church families believe in the same God, have put their faith in the same Savior, gather around the same table to remember the Lord’s sacrifice – and many other things in common. Why in the world does church fellowship in this book have to be defined by the use of a pitch-pipe, but not a guitar? How discouraging, may God forgive us.
    Christ’s Church is alive and well in the world, big and growing! If the compilers of this book would change their focus from “a statistical record of a’
    cappella churches” to perhaps at the very least – “a statistical record of restoration movement churches”, maybe a sense of unity around the cross might be reflected instead of the divisive, sectarian spirit that a’cappella Churches of Christ seem to reflect in this particular book.
    By the way, I really question whether these former a’cappella / now instrumental churches “broke ties” with Churches of Christ. I honestly believe it’s the other way around. The word “shun” by other Churches of Christ comes to mind. They’re being “shunned” in this book, aren’t they?
    January, 22 2009

    Sounds like we are going backward to the Daniel Sommers days and Sand Creek. We don’t need a national book that does this – eliminates. What it should do, if anything, is add a little note to each church like, instrumental, clappers, one cuppers, non-institutional, ameners; but the list could get quite long. If we want any kind of unity we much be careful here in culling out who is accepted and who is not.
    January, 22 2009

    As Charlie Brown would say, “Good Grief.” As is repeatedly mentioned in the article, the directory is for non-instrumental congregations. When the congregational leadership votes to add an instrument they remove themselves from the numbers of the non-instrumental fellowship. They may wish to remain in contact with non-instrumental congregations, but they are no longer non-instrumental. To me the sad part is that they wish to add an instrument, thus breaking fellowship with non-instrument congregations, and then get upset because the non-instrument congregations recognize that fact. If you wish to sever fellowship with me, don’t get upset with me because I grant your wish.
    January, 22 2009

    Since having instrumental services excludes a church from the “Directory of Church of Christ”, would using women to pass the communion trays have the same effect?
    January, 22 2009

    Seems ironic that you are placing stories about how our numbers are in decline next to stories about churches being excluded from our numbers due to the use of instruments. Is there any connection here?
    January, 22 2009

    Good thing we have no earthly governing body that determines church membership… oh wait…
    January, 22 2009

    It is a sad situation that the use of the instrument is the main reason that Richland Hills was removed from the 2009 list. Regardless of your view on the instrument, this move does not lead to unity among us as brothers. The purpose of this resource is to help us find places of worship among our fellowship. Excluding one group because their viewpoint does not agree with the majority of our fellowship does not seem to be an effective way of dealing with the issue.
    What about the ‘non-institutional’ churches? They are a minority among our fellowship, yet they continue to be published.
    I believe we must all be extremely careful on excluding our brothers because it is a terrible witness to the faith and unity we have been called to.
    January, 22 2009

Filed under: By The Numbers

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