Monday, May 07, 2007

Acapella Worship

How was your weekend? Mine was awesome! Here's some highlights:
On Friday night, our church softball team won 32-4. That makes two games (2 wins, 0 losses) with a combined score of 47-8. I'm having a blast being a part of an exceptionally talented team!

On Saturday, Trae and I picked up Brenda Gallardo and then met up with Jamie Perry and Mark Carrasco for a journey to Bakersfield and the Deaf Workshop hosted by the Highland Church of Christ. It was a wonderful and spiritually enriching time. Jose Abenchuchan, who is Deaf and leads the Deaf Ministry at the San Jose Church of Christ in Jacksonville, Florida was the speaker and his presentations were outstanding.

From there, Trae and I journeyed east to the Lake Isabella area where I taught on Sunday at the Mountain Mesa Church of Christ. Our hosts were Terry and Wendy Mullens and their children, Tyler and Heather. They treated us like royalty and we now feel especially blessed to personally know about 70 people with whom we will spend eternity!

Incidentally, the Lake Isabella area is absolutely gorgeous (as shown in the picture). The magnificent blue lake nestled into the mountains is proof-positive of the majesty of God's creative hand!

On our journey back to Fresno Sunday night, I received a voice mail on my phone from Jamie relaying to me that Judy Eberwein's friend, Lulu -- who lives in the Los Angeles area -- was baptized on Sunday at the conclusion of the Deaf Workshop. My family has fallen in love with Judy -- she has been a wonderful teacher in helping us learn ASL. Now, Judy has been used by God to share her faith with one of her dearest friends who is now her sister.

For all you Woodward Park'ers, I know you were blessed to hear from John Smith yesterday. In light of his presentations -- especially the central thesis of his argument for acapella worship -- I want to share with you some of my own thoughts from a blog last year:

One of the distinctives of our heritage in the churches of Christ has historically been our commitment to acapella (Latin for “in the style of the chapel/church”) singing in the worship assembly. But why has acapella singing been a hallmark of our heritage?

It is important to remember that as descendants of the Restoration Movement, our aim has always been to restore faith and practice as described in the New Testament. When one studies the worship assemblies of the New Testament, no where is instrumental music mentioned as a feature of worship.

“But Jim, what about David? Didn’t he play his harp in praise to the Lord? And what about temple worship in the Old Testament? Doesn’t the Old Testament speak of instruments within temple worship? And what about the end of time? Doesn’t Scripture say the very second coming of Jesus will be signaled by the blowing of a trumpet? And aren’t the praises of God in heaven going to be accompanied by instruments?”

Those questions form the basis to many of the objections I have heard voiced to me personally regarding our historical position of singing without instruments. But my response to those questions is this: our aim in the churches of Christ, as descendants of a Restoration Heritage, isn’t to restore the worship of David, the temple or even to seek to duplicate the worship of heaven. Our aim is to restore the faith and practice of the first churches as revealed in Scripture. And the revelation of Scripture is that the first churches used their voice alone in praise and worship to God.

In Ephesians 5, Paul describes a clear evidence of a Spirit-filled Christian when he says they “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5.18-20). Elsewhere, Paul told the Colossian church that the proof of the indwelling Word of Christ in a believer’s life is seen in a commitment to “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and…sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3.16).

Ironically, some of our Restoration leaders had a hang-up over the validity of even vocal singing to God. Men like Thomas Campbell interpreted the Scriptural injunction to “make music in your heart” and “sing…with gratitude in your hearts” as a prohibition against vocal singing since the over-arching emphasis in the language of Scripture was upon the heart, not the mouth or voice. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a person advance the argument against acapella singing on the basis some of our Restoration leaders did, but that argument was a very real discussion in the early days of the churches of Christ in North America.

Practically speaking, the voice is the only instrument God had a direct hand in creating. And theologically, historically and practically, I am supportive of our historical/biblical position in the churches of Christ to worship God corporately with acapella singing.