I Choose To Participate

In the book, Muscle and a Shovel by Michael Shank, a question is raised regarding instrumental worship:  “The instrumental music issue may or may not be a big deal in a person’s mind and heart. Ultimately, it boils down to a simple question.  Am I willing to do what God said to do?”

I was raised in this tradition so I know this argument.  And my answer to the question posed by Shank is a clear and resounding, “YES.”   I am more than willing. But probably not in the way Shank is suggesting.  And so, as one who has recently planted a church that worships God in many ways, including with the musical instrument,  I present the question back to Shank.

The church tradition from which Shank argues his perspective is the same one in which I grew up and have served in a full time ministry career.  Some within this tradition have strongly argued that worshipping God with an instrument is sinfully wrong.  It is a bold and condemning claim.  The argument is based upon two passages in the New Testament.  Ephesians 5:19 and Col. 3:16.

Eph. 5:19

Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Col. 3:16

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

The rationale for this argument is largely  based upon what is not believed to be in both passages, namely the lack of mention of instruments in worship. A good number of people within the tradition in which I was raised have concluded then that it is not okay or acceptable to God to worship Him with musical instruments.   I would argue the exact opposite. And I would use the same two passages as one of many arguments that could be made FOR instrumental worship.   I believe these two passages show that instrumental worship is a very acceptable way of worshipping God and is encouraged as a way in which we get to participate in His Story then, His Story now, and His Story in the future.

Eph. 5:19 begins with being “filled with the Spirit.”  Paul then tells the different ways those who are filled with the Sprit are empowered to speak to one another.  The ways mentioned are “psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.”  The same is true in Col. 3:16 as Paul says “Christ dwells among us” through psalms, hymns, and songs.  The Greek word for psalms here is the same word Jesus used in Luke 24:44 which is psalmois.

Why did Paul not simply use one of these words to describe worship rather than all 3:  psalms, hymns, and songs?  It is because they are each unique.  A hymn (hymnos) implies a well known song passed along through tradition.  A song (odais) implies a spontaneous song that one may sing improptu.  So what are psalmois?  They are songs from the Psalms. I’m not suggesting the psalmois here must always refer to the book of Psalms in the Old Testament but I am saying this is what Paul is inferring by offering 3 expressions of worship.  It has been argued correctly that psalmos or psallo refer to the plucking of a string.  It has been argued what Paul is saying is that we are plucking the strings of the heart.  This is why it has been argued that we only make music “from the heart” and not the instrument.   It would make perfect sense for worshipful songs to originate from the heartstrings. I would hope all songs of worship originate from the strings of the heart.  But is Paul really saying here that instrumental strings are somehow inappropriate?  No.  That would be a weak argument even if he’d only used the words “songs” and “hymns.”  But it becomes even weaker in that he also says psalmois.   We can compare the usage of psalmois to how Jesus used it.

Before his ascension in Luke 24:44 Jesus says:  “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (psalmois).”

Jesus is referring to the words of the psalms (psalmois), as an assembled book of songs.  In the Old Testament that collection is called Psalms. Jesus is saying those songs are fulfilled in Him.  But Jesus is doing more than saying that He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. In fact, many don’t realize that as He hangs from the cross in His final moments He is “singing” or “speaking” the words of Psalm 22 which begin with, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1) and end with “He has done it!” (Psalm 22:31). Jesus dies reciting a psalm that begins with the expression of rejection and crescendos in hope.

And He passes that hope on to His future followers.  We see that as He shares with His disciples how the Old Testament will continue to be fulfilled in them as they become His “witnesses” to the world.  The promise He gives them is the Spirit.   “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

Paul begins with the Spirit in his words about worship.  This is the same Spirit that Jesus promises.  He writes these words to the church at Ephesus and Colossae about speaking these psalmois to one another empowered by the Spirit.

So why is this problematic for the “a cappella-only” argument?  Because the very Scriptures used to make a case against instrumental worship are actually saying the opposite.  How?  Because Paul says that, being filled with the Spirit, we should speak psalmois to one another.  He is saying that along with the traditional hymnos (hymns), and the impromptu odais (songs), we should sing the songs of the Psalms.

So let’s say, we, or the person leading others in the “speaking of psalmois” decide to DO what Paul says in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 and we say to ourselves, “I’ll turn to some psalmois in the Psalms and sing with my brothers and sisters in Christ in worship.”   Any of the psalmois in the book of Psalms would now be readily available to be sung (or spoken).  So let’s say we, or the one leading, turn to Psalm 150 which would make perfect sense because this is clearly a psalm about praising God “in his sanctuary.”  So it can’t be argued that somehow this psalm doesn’t apply to gathered worship.  Here are the words of the psalm:

 Psalm 150

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,

praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,

praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.


Or let’s say the one leading the song today decided to turn to a psalm that was originally to be sung on the Sabbath day and turned to Psalm 92. This would also make sense as a psalm chosen to be used to worship the Lord on a specific day of the week.

 Psalm 92

It is good to praise the Lord
and make music to your name, O Most High,

proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,

to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.

The natural assumption in reading Psalm 150 would be, “Let’s participate just as it says!”  How would one participate?  This psalm, as do a number of others, calls for the use the trumpet, the harp, the lyre, the timbrel, the strings, the pipe, and the cymbals.  That’s 7 instruments along with another way of praising the Lord through the expression of the body in “dancing.”  The same can be said of Psalm 92 about the ten-stringled lyre and the harp.

But using the logic of “a cappella only” one would simply be left to say, “But I can’t.  I can’t participate in what Paul and this psalm are suggesting I do in Ephesians and Colossians.  I’m not allowed because my tradition has said it was ‘unauthorized.’”

When Paul suggests that believers be filled with the Spirit and speak the psalmois, this is a participation in the Old Testament story being lived out today.  We cannot simply say that the Old Testament was “nailed to the cross” as anti-instrumental worship proponents like to say.   It was sin that was nailed to the cross as “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

How then, did the trumpet, the harp, the lyre, the timbrel, the strings, the pipe, and the cymbals get nailed to the cross?   The Old Testament is filled with worship of God that is accompanied by instruments.  Volumes could be written here on how often instruments accompany worship in a way that pleases the Lord.

More technical arguments about old covenant and new covenant theology do not change the logic presented here by Paul.  Did the same God who was not offended by instrumental worship in the Old Testament suddenly change His mind, declare those instruments sinful, and attach them to the cross of Jesus so that they will never be used again in worship?

As ridiculous as that sounds, this is the argument being made by those who say instrumental worship in the church today is unauthorized and sinful.  These same folks argue that those using instruments in worship are “adding to the Word.”  But wouldn’t adding a condemnation of instrumental worship, which is not in the New Testament, actually be an “addition” to the Word of God?  Instead, Paul actually encourages the churches at Ephesus and Colossae to practice the Psalms.  And those Psalms are filled with worshipping God with musical instruments.  “Am I willing to do what God said to do?”  Yes, I am.  Because I choose to participate in His Story.

I choose to participate in the historical Story, the Story today, and the Story as it unfolds in the future when one day I will join the song of Moses (Rev. 15:3).  This was a song of celebration and deliverance from bondage using the joyous tambourine (Exodus 15).  Remarkably the Israelites chose to pack their tambourines as they left Egypt for a wilderness where only the essentials could be carried on their backs. The Israelites participated then.  I choose to participate today.  And I choose to participate in the future.   “Am I willing to do what God said to do?”  Yes, then.  Yes, now.  And yes, forevermore.

Post Categories: Discipleship
  • Yohanan says:

    Whew! Make a joyful noise, people. And soon!

  • Dan says:

    Are you saying that I HAVE to use an instrument to participate in worship? Do I need to take lessons? I played the trumpet in High School.

    • rob says:

      I don’t interpret Paul as saying you HAVE to but that you GET to. So maybe it’s time to dust off the old trumpet and use it to play Amazing Grace if you so choose. Here’s what I wrote in a previous reply to a comment that speaks more directly to your question.

      “I’m not reading Paul’s words here or the Psalms as “commandments” but as expressions. I’m not sure a commandment for worship is Paul’s point in either of these passages nor do I think that is how we read the Psalms. Instead I think Paul is painting for us a beautiful picture of the ways in which we express to “one another” (a phrase used in both passages) in the Spirit. I don’t think he’s saying “you must share psalms…and then you must share hymns…etc.” He’s not setting up some kind of decree for an order of worship here. Instead he’s offering an assumed precedence that is rooted in context. It’s clear he’s speaking to Christians and the context in both of these passages is an expression of “teaching,” “admonishment,” “song,” and “music.””

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m specifically talking about the assembly. What someone does at home is between them and God. You said I GET to play my instrument. The church down the road says I have to “try out” for the praise band before I get to play. Are you suggesting that everybody should get the opportunity to play in the assembly?

        • rob says:

          In this blog post I’m responding to an argument that says instruments should not be allowed to be used in any way in worshipping God. But to address what you’ve mentioned here, if you have the gift of leading or participating in worship instrumentally I hope you get an opportunity to use that gift in some way if you desire.

          • Dan says:

            I’m a little confused about what you are trying to say. The title of your article is “I choose to participate”. I thought you meant you choose to participate by playing an instrument during the assembly. In reality, it sounds like you are saying that you can’t choose to participate unless you are deemed to have a “gift”. If you don’t have the “gift” then you can’t participate in the assembly in this way. You can only participate by yourself at home?

  • Matt Dabbs says:

    Read the verses again but not looking for what it says about singing. Read them just to know what it says first and then see what that means about singing. I just wrote a blog post on instruction in the early church this morning and included singing in it because that is primarily what these verses are actually about – http://mattdabbs.com/2015/03/11/exploring-the-first-century-church-instruction-and-teaching/

    Here it is,

    “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Eph 5:15-20

    “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” – Col 3:16

    These verses tell us why we sing but all some people want to do with these verses is just say we must sing. Check the box. Done. These verses tell us why we sing. They say the purpose is to speak to “one another” and that it is the “message of Christ” that is to be used in “teach[ing] and admonish[ing] one another through singing…how is this missed? Have you ever been a part of singing that was stated to the church that the singing was to instruct the church? That the content of the song was meant to teach the body? That the purpose of this singing was horizontal as much as it is vertical?

    If you really want to do what God said people would do this. But I don’t see it happening. That’s a problem.

    • rob says:

      Not sure I’m following your main point here but what I see in BOTH texts are “one another” AND “to the Lord/God.” Paul tells why a Christian might express themselves worshipfully in being filled with the Spirit and then gives a beautiful portrait of what those songs might look like (psalms, hymns, songs) when expressed to “one another” AND “to the Lord.” That would make these expressions both horizontal and vertical in nature.

  • JC says:

    I’ve been reading your blog article today from Facebook and I’ve been studying both sides of this issue to really try to seek what I believe on instrumental music in an honest way. I can understand a little bit on both sides of the issue. One question that was brought to my attention in regards to your point in your blog (Psalms in Ephesians 5 would have to include Psalms talking about instruments) is how do you decide that singing Psalms that mention instruments is ok? (which in a lot of ways makes sense) But deciding that Psalms that mention “thank offerings”, “burnt offerings”, “sacrificing fat animals, rams, bulls, and goats”, etc… is not ok (I was pointed to Psalm 20:3; 27:4; 50:14,23; 51:18-19; 66:13-15; 107:22,32; 116:17-18)? It seems to me that in order to support instrumental music in Christian worship (because we’re commanded to sing Psalms), then one could use the same support for worshiping with all those sacrifices. And I definitely agree (as I would assume you would too) that worshiping with all those sacrifices are not ok with God in Christian worship. I’m honestly looking for support for instrumental music, but your “psalm” principle seems like it would open up a “can of worms” to allow animal sacrifice as still being acceptable too, based on your line of thought. so again, how did you decide that certain Psalms are ok, but others are not to sing in Christian worship?

    • rob says:

      You’ve raised an excellent point here, JC! I’d like to address this by starting with your word “commanded” and then looking at the nature of the Psalms.

      I’m not reading Paul’s words here or the Psalms as “commandments” but as expressions. I’m not sure a commandment for worship is Paul’s point in either of these passages nor do I think that is how we read the Psalms. Instead I think Paul is painting for us a beautiful picture of the ways in which we express to “one another” (a phrase used in both passages) in the Spirit. I don’t think he’s saying “you must share psalms…and then you must share hymns…etc.” He’s not setting up some kind of decree for an order of worship here. Instead he’s offering an assumed precedence that is rooted in context. It’s clear he’s speaking to Christians and the context in both of these passages is an expression of “teaching,” “admonishment,” “song,” and “music.”

      Paul seems to feel very comfortable in both passages encouraging Christians to use the Psalms to express to one another. And why not? Jesus interpreted His present using the Psalms. The early church interpreted their present using the Psalms as seen in Acts (for example Acts 4:25-26). You can even infer that Jesus died with Psalm 22 on his heart and his lips.

      The psalms are multi-faceted expressions. Sometimes they express honest and raw doubt (Ps. 13:1-4) Other times they demand justice (Ps.79:6). Other times they express lament (Ps. 142:1-2). As you’ve mentioned, in some places there is a reflection on sacrifice. And then there are many psalms that are psalms of praise or doxology (Psalm 150).

      And so what I think Paul is assuming in encouraging the use of Psalms is this: “Dear Christians who are deeply rooted in the story of Israel: as you sing to one another let the words of the Psalms be on your lips whatever your context may be!” And context here would be crucial. When Jesus is dying on the cross, he doesn’t go to what you might call a song of absolute praise but a psalm of lament. Psalm 22 is the perfect place for him to go to lament His present condition (“My God my God why have you forsaken me?”) and yet that same psalm ends in a tremendous crescendo of hope as it declares “for he has done it.” In this crescendo we hear Jesus say aloud “It is finished!”

      So to get to your point about Psalms that discuss things like animal sacrifices. Do those Psalms become “off limits?” I’d say no. But they would absolutely require a level of context. So if a group of Christians in distress turned to Psalm 20 to sing or speak, “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress” and then a few verses later get to “May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings” it wouldn’t be wrong for them to still sing/speak the whole psalm but it seems to be obvious at that point that they are singing those words with their spiritual ancestors, Israel, in a time looking ahead to hope when a Messiah would come as the once and for all sacrifice. As Christians who placed their hope in Jesus as their sacrificial lamb, it seems logical to assume that they wouldn’t suddenly think they are being commanded to sacrifice an animal to achieve that hope. The point here it that the Psalms aren’t commands so much as they are expressions. If they were commands we’d have a pretty tough time with psalms like Psalm 137:8-9, for example, where the psalmist laments against Babylon, “happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” Those reading this Psalm today don’t see this as a command to take vengeance on enemies but as an honest and raw expression of lament and cry for justice.

      Amongst the beautiful expressions in the psalms are psalms that paint a portrait of praise. Some of those (as I’ve written in the blog) include instruments. These are psalms of hymnal doxology. And the psalmist declares them as a specific expression of praise in the very “sanctuary” of God (Psalm 150). Not that Paul is limiting Christians to these Psalms, but it seems likely that he might have these Psalms in mind in his words in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 since they both are about “song.” So if a group of Christians in Ephesus or Colossae heard/read Paul’s letter and turned to Psalm 150 to express this type of psalm I don’t think they would say, “we absolutely must use an instrument here” to achieve the worship pronounced by the psalmist but there would be no reason whatsoever that they would think they couldn’t. Again, the key here is context. Why on earth would they assume instruments would be wrong? There has been nothing even close to suggesting this for them from the story of God. While it’s clear that Jesus became the atoning “lamb of God,” and therefore there’s no need to sacrifice an animal (as described in Psalm 20), there would be nothing to them that would have made them think that they couldn’t participate in the psalms that had instruments. Writers of the New Testament clearly address the sacrifice issue to remind us that “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4) But if this whole instrumental debate (that is so prevalent today) were such a controversy it seems that Paul would at least feel the need to say, “Sing the Psalms, but make sure you don’t practice the ones that suggest instrumental worship because those Psalms now offend God.”

      To come back to the point, the Psalms are expressions, and Paul gives permission to participate from those expressions. He’s not commanding the use of an instrument in psalms like Psalm 150 but he certainly isn’t editing them either. In fact he says, “teach and admonish” (Col. 3:16) one another with them. He’s assuming that anyone who has let the “message of Christ dwell in [them]” would be able participate in those Psalms accordingly.

      So what does it all mean? Context and participation. Jesus lived out of the Psalms. The early church lived out of the Psalms. And I believe we too, today, have been empowered to choose to express the Psalms, whether that be in standing in solidarity with our spiritual ancestors who cried out for hope (in the form of sacrifice), or in the specific participation with the psalmists who praised God with various kinds of musical instruments.

      I should have turned this into another blog entry because of the length but thanks again for a wonderful question here. I don’t claim to have this figured out perfectly but am simply offering my interpretation.

  • Jerry R. Kilpatrick says:

    I am sorry for saying you were stupid. I wrote with hast and have ask for God’s forgiveness. I don’t agree with the blog and I don’t like the idea that you take the Lord’s name off your church. That’s O.K. if you want the world to think of you as a denomination. Again I’m sorry


    • rob says:

      Thank you, Jerry. We may not agree on many things but I’m guessing we agree on the most important thing – our need for Jesus and the grace He so beautifully offers. p.s. Not trying to be sarcastic here but when it comes to “name” you’d have to at least acknowledge that, by your logic, you wouldn’t have liked the name(s) the early church called themselves either.

  • Sherry Young says:

    If the way we sing in worship is a matter of salvation, I think more of us are in more danger of judgement because we do not participate or do not participate from the heart than we are from instruments being on the podium. My personal opionion is that muscial insturments typically take the place of participation. Participation in praise is a command as is thanksgiving. I’m not sure singing songs someone else has chosen ahead of time is conducive to “Being filled with the Spirit”. If we met in homes as the early church did, most of these issues would go away.

  • ralph.e meredith says:

    growing a church is about building a relationships with people, visiting at hospitals, one on one, being a friend to the lonely, holding hands unconditionally, saying I’ll be there, hearing their hurts and secrets, then loving them in spite, actually being a brother or sister to those who have NO one, doing good to them with no expectation of pay back, on and on…..Christians debate about what color paint should be used, musical instruments, the lighting, speaking in tongues, should she speak, dress attire and etc… while the folks in the above are smearing their wisdom, look how many people you didn’t reach for Christ! Few things iv figured out in this life, flee from convincing arguments, and begin taking care of people, they are what is important! Each sunday im the happiest guy you’ll meet, find out why!

  • John Roeder says:

    The strongest argument against the ban is that neither verse in support of acapella music can be tied to the worship service if you consider the context in which it appears in scripture and the other instructions in the surrounding verses that are always omitted. If these verses tell us how to conduct our lives, this means it is wrong to sing anything but the aforementioned three types of songs anywhere at any time.

    Ephesians 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

    In Colossians 3, there is a long list of things that make no sense if they follow the argument of the non instrumentalists and only refer to the worship service and do not apply to life. Colossians 3:8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

  • Ben Wiles says:

    Thank you for raising this question and providing a venue in which this discussion can take place.

    I too find much in Shank’s book with which I disagree, both in tone and in content. The eagerness with which it has been embraced by some of our folks makes me, for lack of a better word, sad.

    As to the rest of your post, I would be interested in hearing your response to a sightly-lesser-known line of reasoning advanced by some a capella brethren (whose names I can provide privately if you wish since I don’t want to put exact words into their mouths), the essence of which is that musical instruments belong in the same class of worship implements as incense and animal sacrifice. That is to say, they are trappings of a “temple-style” worship which the book of Hebrews says has been replaced by something better – a community of believers not tied to geography that meet Jesus “outside the gate.” The argument goes that musical instruments, like incense and animal sacrifice, had their time and place, but that time and place have passed. What we want to do in worship is not to rebuild the wealth and majesty of the temple but to plant synagogues of the humbly-worshiping faithful (especially) among the poor.

    Keep up the good work with the Well.

    • rob says:

      Great to hear from you, Ben. It sounds like we agree on the assessment of the book. Somehow it was not on my radar until recently. I read it a couple of weeks ago so I could openly discuss with those who asked my opinion of it.

      I have not heard much about the rationale that you mentioned but I think there is some merit to this argument. I fully embrace the “synagogue” mentality you mentioned here about meeting Jesus outside the gate and not being rooted in temple-like wealth. I love that. But I would have a hard time following the logic that places instrumental worship in the same category of incense and animal sacrifices. In my humble opinion that would be a stretch. We can see why animal sacrifices are no longer necessary as Jesus becomes “the lamb of God.” We wouldn’t then expect for there to be animal sacrifices in the future part of our story even though we have the image of a “new Jerusalem” in Revelation. What we do see however is God being worshipped with harps (Rev. 14:1, 15:1) and through the song of Moses. This song of Moses takes us back to Exodus 15 and was offered with what must’ve been a beautiful sound of tambourines celebrating exodus. This worship obviously predated the temple thus making it “outside the gates” and for an oppressed people on the margins.

      I see worship of God with the instrument as broader than as part of temple worship as is seen in the song of Moses, through those like David worshipping God freely outside of a temple context, and the words of God through Jeremiah that offer a new day of restoration where Israel will once again “take up the tambourine” (Jer. 31:3).

      It doesn’t seem consistent to me that in between the past and the future God would call for a doing away with something so largely mentioned in His story without some kind of more specific mention of it in His Word. That’s my point with mentioning Paul’s apparent calling us to participate in the stories of the Psalms. Hope to talk more soon!

  • James York says:

    Well said. While I am not prepared to worship with instruments, I agree with this argument. I spent many years in production, primarily as a lighting guy, and I always feel like I am in an entertainment venue when trying to worship with a band. I believe I should be there to worship vertically as well as across the room, not to be entertained. But I can only speak for myself.

    I also enjoy listening to Christian radio and love music, it keeps me in the right frame of mind! But it entertains me in a positive way, even prepares me to worship, but my worship is not to be entertained. I hope this makes sense. For those that can worship with instruments, ROCK ON!

    • rob says:

      Thanks for the insight, James. I would agree with you that if we seek worship of God as entertainment then something is lost. Worship should always be about Him. So whether it be an individual leading a cappella, a praise team leading a cappella, an individual with a guitar, or a band comprised of several instruments, the focus in worship should always be God. I would say any of these could become entertainment driven. Just as you’ve mentioned about the distraction that a band could become, I am sometimes distracted by a praise team where each individual is visible and amplified. There are times when I’m far less distracted by an individual with a guitar who allows me to forget about my own voice while connecting the worship of my heart to the beauty of the music with no words at all. My bigger issue in writing this post is that some would argue from these two passages of Scripture that instrumental worship is unauthorized by God because they are not named here. These are sometimes used to condemn those who choose to worship instrumentally. That seems not only inconsistent to me, it seems to be a drastic misinterpretation. Appreciate your encouragement. Love you brother!

      • Lita Parish says:

        I have not read this book, but just from what I’ve heard about it, I’m sure I don’t want or need to read it. I grew up in a very traditional conservative Church of Christ in the 60’s during the age of “debates.” I have heard every argument from every side and I can tell you during those years young people left the church in droves once they left for college. We were so turned off by the arguing over such issues as instrumental music, kitchens in the building, or a woman wearing pants in the auditorium. Not to mention the biggest issue of all, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. My dad was one of the only elders in this congregation who believed in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He taught my sisters and I that we receive the gift of the Holy Sirit when we are baptized into Christ, meaning the Holy Spirit Himself. And he drove home the significance of Romans 8 which tells us that if the same Spirit who dwelled in Christ dwells in us as well, by that same Spirit we too will be raised. The other elders in the church always followed the guideline of men like Guy N. Woods who taught that the Spirit dwells in us through the Word only. My Dad also taught us that the best and really the only good argument against instrumental music in worship is also found in Romans ( ch12 I think?) in regards to eating meat that has been sacrificed to an idol. Paul says we all know it’s ok to eat meat that’s been sacrificed to an idol, but to those who are weaker in the faith and believe it is sinful, it becomes a stumbling block. So if my eating meat causes someone to stumble, may I never eat meat again. If I worship with my guitar, which I love to do at home, offends someone I’m worshipping with, then I gladly put the guitar away so I can continue to worship with them. That person means more to me than my instrument. And the sound of their voice joining mine, no matter how in or out of tune our voices sound, is the most beautiful sound of all. We playfully laugh that it is a joyful noise, but as you pointed out before, it is the strings of our hearts that God hears, not our voices or our instruments. Music does nothing for God. It is our lifting up our hearts joyfully to God that blesses Him. Music is a gift for us. It is what helps us to have joy in worship. For me the instruments add to the joy of worship, but if it means people I worship with may stumble, may I never worship with instruments. That is why I often choose to worship with groups who use instruments, and often I worship with those who choose accapella singing. Jesus didn’t die just to condemn us for praising Him with instruments. But neither is He pleased if we let instruments divide us or cause anyone to fall. For those who are weaker in the faith I just pray the Lord will help them to grow in their understanding so we can continue to worship together with or without instruments.

    • Anonymous says:

      And pray to God that your worship with instrumental music is acceptable to God! God was so specific in His design of the tabernacle and the means of physical worship, not accepting any changes in His design. He has told us what to do in conducting our worship in the New Testament church. I don’t want to take a chance of meeting God on Judgement Day telling Him I thought it best to sing with the spirit and understanding with the accompaniment of instruments He did not specify.

      • webster says:

        Where did God specify the use of a church building, song books, pulpits, microphones, Sunday school classes, meeting other days than Sunday, and many other things now used in a CofC worship.

        Fortunately, God left a lot of details out. I believe many of us would be very uncomfortable worshipping with the original first century Christians.

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published.