Restore or Mark and Avoid
Restore or Mark and Avoid
By David Ray Fanning 1
The July 2015 issue of the Spiritual Sword had some very disturbing news about various churches of Christ, especially in the southern states of the United States, deciding to incorporate instrumental music in their worship to God (John 4:23-24; Matthew 15:8-9). Among the names mentioned were the University church of Christ (in Tuscaloosa, AL – home of the Crimson Tide where a lot of members of the church send their children) as well as the Harpeth Hills church of Christ and Otter Creek church of Christ (now calling themselves Otter Creek Church) in Brentwood, TN. Brentwood is just south of David Lipscomb University, where many members of the church send their children, are convinced that they are going to receive a sound, “Christian” education in addition to their secular studies.
Back in the early 1980s, I was one of those students who had hoped to receive a sound, Christian education as well. However, I was in for a rude awakening when I attended one of my first classes – a philosophy class with none other than Rubel Shelly. It was in that class that Rubel began to publicly unveil his position concerning “open fellowship”. Rubel stated that instead of condemning the Christian Church and Disciples of Christ (who divided from the churches of Christ officially in the early 1900s over the issue of instrumental music in worship to God and the Missionary Society), we ought to find grounds to fellowship with them. Since my youth I have always had a passion for souls, so I told Rubel I wanted to reach out to the Christian Church (Romans 10:1-3; 2 Corinthians 5:11; Jude 1:22-23; etc.). I set up an appointment with the Woodmont Christian Church preacher in Nashville. I was nervous and naive, yet, hopeful that we could persuade this preacher to drop the instrument for the sake of unity (my goal was Biblical repentance and restoration, Luke 17:3-4; Acts 8:14-24; 2 Corinthians 2:3-11; Galatians 6:1-2; etc.). The meeting started off very positive (Rubel was present). In the course of the discussion I finally asked the preacher, “For the sake of unity, would you be willing to drop the instrument?” to which the preacher replied, “That issue is not even on our radar – right now we are trying to determine whether or not to receive those who were sprinkled into our fellowship.” I was deeply disturbed by the preacher’s response; yet Rubel was not. I knew then that Rubel had a different view of fellowship, repentance and restoration from what is revealed in Scriptures (namely, Unity with Doctrinal Compromise, though Rubel would not call it “doctrinal” but “a matter of opinion”).
Paul states in Ephesians 4:14-15 “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ”. Yet the wind of vain worship is beginning to form into a tornado thanks to the likes of Rubel Shelly and Max Lucado. Rubel’s grand scheme of the 1980s is now on its way to becoming mainstream in the churches of Christ - ONLY IF the sleeping brotherhood does not rise and “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:15-17). No doubt, Rubel feels vindicated (Rubel left Lipscomb as Professor of Philosophy in the early 1980s with great opposition from the likes of Tom Holland and William Woodson and returned to Lipscomb in 2015 with great acceptance as “Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Religion”, lipscomb.edu, Rubel Shelly). Are you willing to stand up and stop this damning movement? It’s not going to be fun. This is a serious problem that is gaining momentum and has the support of an immoral society (with manmade philosophies such as “go along to get along”, “agree to disagree”; etc., Colossians 2:8). There are times when it will involve you naming names (as authorized by Jesus in Matthew 16:6; Romans 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 5:11; 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 1:13-15; 2:17-18; etc.).
Two of the primary “doctrines” or “traditions” of men that are being tested in the worship of the churches of Christ are: (1) women intern/assistant preachers (case and point: 4th Ave church of Christ, Franklin, TN) and (2) alternative, instrumental music worship services (case and point: University church of Christ, Tuscaloosa, AL). This article is not only an open letter to these erring brethren and “churches” to repent (Galatians 1:6-12; Revelation 2:5; 16; 20-23; 3:3; 15-20), but also a call to all sound brethren and true churches of Christ to pray and work diligently to restore these brethren and “churches” and, at the same time, mark and avoid them, if they do not immediately cease and desist corrupting the pure bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:23-27). Remember: Our Lord commands us as His slaves to be the light of the world, the salt of the world and the pillar and ground of the truth (Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Timothy 3:15; Romans 12:11; Colossians 1:10; 2:6; 3:16-18). If we truly love Jesus and want to remain His friend, we will do what He says – no matter how difficult (John 14:15; 15:14). We cannot have Jesus as Savior without also having Him as Lord/Master (Matthew 7:21; 10:34-39; Romans 10:9; Hebrews 5:8-9).
When God completed creating the heavens and earth, “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Man could do nothing to make God’s creation better – it needed no improvement. Even more so, when Jesus came to build His church (He purchased it with His own blood!), man could do nothing to make it better (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28). In fact, Jesus made it very clear that those who wanted to be “true” worshipers of God (implying that there is such a thing as false worshipers) MUST worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). Therefore, children of God who are diligently seeking to please their Master must humbly realize that they cannot improve Jesus’ pattern of worship and must NOT alter Jesus’ pattern of worship (John 9:31; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 11:6).
Having women evangelists in a worship assembly composed of men and women is a clear violation of our Master’s commands in 1 Corinthians 14:33-34; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 3:14-15. Adding mechanical instruments of music in church worship, whether it be occasionally or alternatively, is a doctrine/tradition of man. How do you and I know that? In the same way that you and I can determine whether a church is truly the church of Christ or a departure/division. You and I can show everyone Jesus’ doctrine on the one true church, the church of Christ, in the New Testament (Matthew 16:18; Romans 16:16; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4); but Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc. cannot show us their “church” in the New Testament. Therefore, any “church,” other than the church of Christ, is not of the doctrine of Christ, but is described by Jesus as a “departure”, “division”, “offense” (1 Timothy 4:1; Romans 16:17). Similarly, you and I can show everyone Jesus’ doctrine on congregational singing in New Testament worship (1 Corinthians 14:12, 15; Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:15-17); but Rubel Shelly, Max Lucado, members of the Harpeth Hills “church” of Christ (Brentwood, TN), the Stones River “church” of Christ (Murfreesboro, TN), the University “church” of Christ (Tuscaloosa, AL) cannot show us book, chapter and verse on mechanical instruments of music authorized or used in New Testament church worship. Therefore, adding instrumental music to church worship is an unauthorized “doctrine” or “tradition” of men.
Here is one loving, evangelistic way you can restore a brother, sister or “church” and/or mark and avoid them (Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:19-20; Revelation 2:5; 3:3, 19). Get a list of brethren and “churches” you know who have added these false doctrines to their worship and show them the following passages and scriptural reasoning:
Matthew 15:9, “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
Having a female preacher or instrumental music in “church” worship is a doctrine of men; therefore, 4th Ave “church” of Christ, University “church” of Christ and members thereof are worshiping God in vain (not doing God’s will – but man’s, Matthew 7:21; John 9:31)
2 John 1:9-11, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”
Otter Creek “Church” is not abiding in the doctrine of Christ; therefore, the Otter Creek Departure, and its members no longer have God (whether some of members are part of the instrumental service or not, they are supporting leadership that promotes it; therefore, they share in the evil deeds. Leave that division and find a faithful church of Christ where you may worship God in spirit and truth).
Romans 16:17, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”
No one learned “female preachers” and “instrumental music as church worship” when studying the New Testament. Rubel, Max, Harpeth Hills, members thereof, etc. have brought (or enabled the bringing in of) these false doctrines/traditions of men into the worship; thus, causing division to the body of Christ. According to Romans 16:17, if we love Jesus and want to keep the leaven out of sound brethren and solid churches of Christ, we must note and avoid these erring brethren and these newly formed departures/divisions (even if it is one of your family members attending one of these divisions, Matthew 10:34-39; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15).
May the Lord give us the care, strength and boldness to pull these erring brethren and divisions out of the fire before it is everlastingly too late – for us and them (Jude 1:23)!
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