Cutting the End of the Roast off Before you Cook It

Someone was asked why she always cut the end of her roast off before cooking it, and was told, “That’s the way my mother cooks it.” When the mother was asked she said, “That’s the way your grandmother cooked it.” The grandmother said, “The stove was too small, so I had to cut the end off to get it in.”

So goes Church of Christ theology. When the Churches of Christ began, farmers were living in log cabins across the frontier of the United States. There was often only one hymnbook per congregation and the leader read out each line as the congregation sang. There was often no church building and definitely no organ or piano. Three or four generations later during the Gilded Age, every living room (parlor) had a huge upright piano, and the Restoration Movement split over introducing the piano into church services (1849-1907).

Preachers scrambled to find doctrinal reasons why instrumental music was wrong, even going so far as to cite the Eastern Orthodox religion that has never used instrumental music as far back as they can remember. A generation earlier traveling evangelists (called Circuit Riders) came up with Bible verses against the practice of having a located preacher, something that is accepted in almost all Churches of Christ now. (The located preacher often functions exactly like a Baptist pastor does, being in charge of the congregation, even though Church of Christ doctrine dictates that the elders are in charge.)

Interestingly enough John in his gospel described Jesus as coming to earth and tenting among us as one of us. He dressed and acted exactly like a Jewish man of his day, except that he showed us how a Jew of his day would reflect heaven. Just so if Jesus came today he would not worship with outmoded music or traditions that were started because Grandma’s oven was too small, he would worship in the genre and manner of the general public. Yet somehow he would show heaven to us, teaching us about forgiveness, love and dedication. The core message would remain the same, the trappings would be immaterial to Jesus.

When the denominations round about started Sunday schools (and Sunday school literature became a big money maker) a faithful remnant of Churches of Christ objected to dividing the church. When multiple cups for communion came along, a remnant of faithful Churches of Christ broke off and maintained one cup, just as Jesus served it, and as the scriptures clearly mention (and as the Eastern Orthodox Church has done it as far back as they can remember). When Sunday night services came along during World War II some Churches remained faithful to the way their grandparents had always done it. When kitchens in church buildings came along the faithful objected, as they did to basketball hoops in the parking lot. When orphans homes with sponsoring churches and fundraisers for a national radio broadcast came along in the 1940s, like the denominations did it, a faithful remnant split off.

Have you ever wondered why our song books are so different from other Christian groups? The song book I grew up with was Sacred Selections (written in 7 shaped notes). It had some old hymns from the 1500s (A Mighty Fortress, Fairest Lord Jesus) through 1700s (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Jesus Lover of My Soul), as well as frontier songs from the 1800s (I am Thine, O Lord), but our favorites were the Jubilee Gospel songs from 1890 to 1940 that sounded like barbershop quartet songs (Beulah Land,
When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, Farther Along, I’ll Fly Away, Jesus Hold My Hand). This is another example of cutting off the end of the roast: when outsiders visit a hard line Church of Christ service, not only do they experience acapella music from the United States frontier often written in shaped notes, they also experience barbershop music from a hundred years ago.

This is like us visiting an Old Order Amish or Mennonite church and being distracted by the fact that all the women sit on one side and the men on the other, and all the men wear the same beards, and all the women wear the same style of dresses from a hundred years ago. The customs are so different that we would not be able to focus on the teaching of the sermon.


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Command, Example and Necessary Inference and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Cutting the End of the Roast off Before you Cook It

  1. Jenny says:

    Ugh! Yes, I can’t stand it when CofCers use the Eastern Orthodox Churches as evidence against using musical instruments when they won’t even recognize their members as fellow Christians! Same thing with arguments used by the Roman Catholic Counter Reformation. And when someone points out that CofCers are adhering to recent traditions rather than older traditions or the historic ways of the Early Church, they get all defensive. :sigh:

  2. Brandi says:

    I feel really bad for you… it seems to me that you grew up in the wrong church of Christ or attended the wrong church that was not following God’s word. The only thing we use in the church that i grew up in and the church that i now attend is the Holy Bible. God’s word. we dont use examples from “eastern orthodox churches” or any other church. Every thing that we do is scriptural and found in the bible. I will be praying for you and if you ever want to chat please let me know đŸ™‚

    • Hi Brandi,
      I was in line behind some women in old fashioned clothing at Wallmart. Someone asked them if they were Amish. They said no, they were Mennonite. That they only used the Bible, only follow the Bible with no additions at all.

  3. frank says:

    Dear exchurchofchrister
    Sorry that you had a bad experience in the church. You article about opposition to instrumental music in church worship merely being “traditional” is simply wrong and superficially written. I have found that those who get emotionally “burned out” in a conservative approach to Bible authority start such diatribes. In fact, the arguments for acappella (in the style of the church) is scripturally conservative. God tells us how He wants to be worshipped and served (Jn 4:23-24, 8:31-32, Phil 3:3, Col. 3:17). He tells us to sing (Col 3:16, Heb 13:15). The instrument specified is the heart (Eph 5:19). There is no similar clarity in requiring worshipping with mechanical instruments, so there is no clear authority directing us that God wants such in His worship. It’s surprising you could have preached for 12 years and not know this.

    Concerning what other groups like Amish or others do, they are not the standard. Each of us is our own individual restoration movement in learning and applying God’s Word. Any of us can be sincerely mistaken, so it depends on how objectively and honestly and earnestly we study and apply Scripture. Legalism (salvation by perfect rule-keeping) was the Pharisaic approach to justification, but we are under the gospel system of grace accepted by obedient faith (reliance on the Lord).

    If you want to talk more, please call me at 256-830-1654 or email me.

    God bless in all that is good and right!

  4. Phil says:

    Frank, I appreciate that you think that our Christian objective is to follow God’s word to a tee. It is virtuous in it’s inception and it’s attempt to tame the flesh. However, our main objective is to become spiritually transformed and to live from God’s Spirit that has become awakened within our heart (read Romans 8). Anyone can conform to the commands (listed in the NT) and yet remain spiritually asleep. What good is that?

    The mainline coC practices superficial Christianity by making it’s objective that of outer obedience to commands. It places emphasis on our personal ability to discipline the mind of the flesh, yet does not realize that the mind trying to create obedience is the same mind that created disobedience. How can the cause of war be the cause of peace? Satan can’t cast out Satan!

    Again, it is virtuous to want to obey commands, but in the end we still sin. A self disciplined person may not sin as much but how much sin is allowed to still be considered faithful?

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