Wonderful Christian Music

This is a follow – up post to “Don’t Go to Church During a Pandemic”

I didn’t mean to sound as if I was against Christian Music. Music has its place but Evangelical Christians should rethink their worship service. I grew up in the 1950s and most non-Pentecostal Protestant Churches all had traditional services. In the mid-1970s churches were more and more adopting an entertaining format where the congregant was a spectator or induced to join into the powerful music effect. Is this legitimate Christian worship? I did it for a long time and lately have wanted more something resembling the biblical pattern.

Most types of music appeal to me. I’m an old rocker. I remember going to a Petra and other concerts 35 years ago. I had a small music collection at one time. This hosting of concerts in churches, could be done on Saturday night or any day of the week, but not Sunday morning. However, on Sunday, during the Lord’s Supper, soft instrumental could even be played. Psalms from the Psalter, with or without accompaniment, would be fine, but not a praise band. Praise bands can happen at other times, I have nothing against praise bands. It the timing of praise bands is what I’m addressing.

Church Service Additions

The observance of The Lord’s Supper should be held at least once each Sunday. Early Christians interpreted the words of Jesus, “As often as you do this, do it in remembrance of Me,” as a daily, if not twice daily observance. In fact, the Temple had a twice daily sacrifice, which Christ fulfilled by being crucified at the time of morning sacrifice and expiring at the evening sacrifice. Therefore, we read in Acts 2.46 that they broke bread in their homes and not in the Second Temple precincts, probably, as not to be offensive since they attended the Temple also.

This remembrance is the time when non-clerics can say something, to take a stand of sorts. What I mean is that when The Lord’s Supper is observed properly, Christ’s death is proclaimed by those who take the elements. This symbolism is witnessing that one has taken Christ inside themselves by the ritual act of taking symbolic blood and flesh. The wine represents the blood of the New Covenant which promised that everyone would “know” the Lord in an intimate and personal way. I include the ordinance in “additions” since most Evangelicals I’m addressing under – appreciate this observance. It’s a stand that one takes publicly, identifying themselves as trusting Christ’s finished work instead of anything else.

A church meal after the service was also the pattern of early Christians in their “Love Feasts.” This practice seems to have roots in Judaism’s Temple worship where the sin offering is eaten by the owner as a sign of peace between them and God. In Middle Eastern culture, sharing a meal with someone spoke of being at peace with them. In the same way, “love feasts,” a communal meal among Christians, can mend, or induce mending of relations between members, and foster understanding and koinonia. Soft music, at this time, to not disturb the diners would certainly seem appropriate.

An early Sunday morning coffee club could be a fellowship and outreach time when the mood would be lighter and informal. The time could eventually transition into the prayer and teaching segment. Contemporary Christian music would be ideal at this venue.

Christian music is appropriate in many other instances, but just as a school discourages outside music, opting instead for oral and written communication, so the Church Service should feature reading and teaching and application, if one wants to understand what the first Christians did.

The Bitter Root (Dt. 29.18)

Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. (NIV)

 

This verse, I believe, has been mangled by many, including John Piper, over the years. I heard his take on this verse in the early 1990s somewhere and was disappointed in his exegesis then as well as now. He is still holding to his view as of 2018: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/an-impossible-covenant/excerpts/church-wont-save-you

Piper sees the exhortation as warning of the false security of belonging to a group. This idea is found in vs. 19: When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. The text seems fairly clear that “going my own way” equates with following other gods of vs. 18.

Piper’s idea, however, says that empty membership is the problem. While false confidence is offensive, it is the result, but not the underlying offense. The text is clear that the offense is idolatry and it is hidden (roots are buried and not seen – the person is living a double life). The root is poisonous – no life can spring from it. The other gods of the nations do not give life is what the text seems to be saying when it speaks of “poisonous.” The self – confidence is empty, yes, but, at the core, they are captivated by other gods, is the real problem.

Piper’s reading of Heb. 12.15, which quotes Dt. 29.18, is also problematic. How he attributes “holiness” of the previous verse as the solution to the quote is mystifying. A better connection would be Esau or the immoral person of the following verses. A case can also be made to see the “missing the grace of God” as someone who has returned to their former Jewish observances secretly perhaps, but also wants to worship Christ, possibly, to hedge their bets. Therefore, this person would need to live a double life.

Regardless, it seems the hidden root of Heb. 12.15 will be judged by God and will affect others related to it. This is what Dt. 29.19 seems to allude to as well with the reference to “the watered and dry” [land].

Don’t Go to Church During a Pandemic

Folks today, generally speaking, do not adequately understand the primary aspects of the weekly gathering of Christians. The evidence of this is the almost universal adoption of The Willow Creek Model by Evangelicals. The service resembles a concert and people are encouraged to express themselves by singing and movement. This is a departure from the biblical practice. By employing entertainment methods to generate growth they fail to fulfill the discipleship mandate (Mt.28.19-20). They have admitted this themselves-https://www.christianexaminer.com/article/willow.creek.model.its.leaders.say.fails.at.discipleship/44056.htm

Its been 12 years since this was published but have most of the Evangelical Churches pulled back from the model? No. Pastor’s may feel if they reinstituted a tradition service people would not come. The best way to proceed is to first grasp the purpose of the weekly gathering which is to read the scriptures, teach and exhort as commanded by Paul to Timothy: Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1Tim. 4.13)

 

The Genesis of the Weekly Service

God rested (or enjoyed His creation) after 6 days of creating the universe. The need for rest and reflection seem inherent in humans, His creation in His image and likeness. God instituted this weekly rest for the Israelites when the Egyptians oppressed them with slave labor everyday of the week.

The tribe of Levi were scattered in Israel by the inheritance of cities in each of the other tribal portions. Thus they were strategically placed to help the people, weekly on the Sabbath, to understand the instructions given by God. Moses alludes to this in the blessing he gave to the tribes just before his death: They shall teach Jacob Your rules, and Israel Your Law. (Dt. 33.10)

The Temple and The Synagogue

The weekly service in the Synagogue was separate from the Temple worship and both operated independently. The Jewish Temple signified redemptive themes since animals were sacrificed for the sins and guilt of those who brought them. These redemptive acts reflected Heaven’s realities. Sacrifices and Temple observance have ceased since they were fulfilled by Christ and, in judgement, He has taken them away (see Heb. 8.13 as well as Dan. 9.26).

The early gathering in churches resembled the synagogue gathering with additions. The death of Christ is observed as redemptive in the Lord’s Supper, while Believers Baptism confesses Christ publicly. Neither in Synagogues or Churches did anyone perform music for the first centuries of this era. When music did creep in, it was a chant at first. Later huge organs dominated church buildings-all foreign to the principles of the church’s original mandate of scripture reading, exhortation and teaching (along with the breaking of bread in the Lord’s Supper, Koinonia, and prayers).

Therefore, churches do not need to gather in a pandemic. For now, everyone can study at home. When things return to normal, pastors should teach their flock in settings more akin to a school than a concert.