In my previous blog I said the main argument for binding a capella music on the congregation in Churches of Christ is: To Be Safe. A safe person will respect that God has given authorization for all acceptable worship in examples sprinkled throughout the epistles the apostles wrote to churches in the first century. A safe person will accept that there are no instrumental music references by these apostles in their letters to the churches, therefore a safe person will not use instrumental music today in church, because it might be unauthorized by God.
In this blog I want to show how the “to be safe” argument is not just a concern for one’s safety, but also a concern for who you will get to preach, teach and lead. Hard line Churches of Christ actually discipline those who don’t practice safe worship. They take various discipline approaches to those in the fold who don’t practice safe worship. If a member of the congregation disagrees with the instrumental music issue and goes to a Baptist Church occasionally to sing along merrily with the piano, that person will, if he is male, still get to lead in prayer or pass the communion occasionally, but he will probably not be permitted to teach a Bible class, nor will he be permitted to serve as a deacon or elder. If he is a preacher he will probably be fired within a year of revealing his doctrinal disagreement. Much of the pressure to fire him will come from surrounding churches. If a radical church decides they like their preacher who disagrees on the instrumental music question, and they refuse to fire him, the preacher will still be isolated. He won’t get any articles he writes published in any of the brotherhood publications, nor will he be invited to speak at any other hard line churches or college lectureships.
Hard line churches are so strict with their enforcement of their doctrinal purity of safehood, that they are isolated. The preacher who begins to question the doctrine of safety will not be invited to speak at more liberal Churches of Christ. They are not looking to hard line churches for their preachers.
Now let’s go back and look at the argument again. Hard line Churches of Christ do not use instrumental music in order TO BE SAFE. And these same hard line Churches of Christ cast out the preachers, elders, deacons and Bible teachers who don’t teach the TO BE SAFE doctrine. My conclusion is that this is not just a TO BE SAFE argument. If it was only a TO BE SAFE doctrine, then people would be freer about letting each individual make up his or her own mind about whether he or she felt safe using instruments of music praising God. So the TO BE SAFE doctrine is not really a TO BE SAFE doctrine. It is actually a justification for doing things the way our ancestors did things. And the discipline is so they won’t have to change.
In a more moderate Church of Christ in 1986 when I wanted to place membership, an elder said to me he wanted an assurance from me that I would not teach or talk about instrumental music, because he bore the scars of division already, and he didn’t want to go through that again. In other words members of his congregation are not permitted to explore or re-examine any doctrines that are accepted doctrines of the Churches of Christ.