Thursday, January 31, 2008


I wanted to post on my blog below (after my comments) what Brotherhood (formerly Word Gospel News) posted on their website the following sent by Glover Shipp to The Oklahoman in response to the story on Quail Spring’s decision to add an instrumental music service on January 27. (see story at:

I must admit, one of the saddest and most revealing part that to me really speaks against the actions of preacher Mark Henderson and the Quail eldership was the comments by Henderson in the newspaper article interview where he said that out of their approximately 900 member congregation, about 300 have left because of the instrument issue. Henderson said that when the elders announced the decision to add an instrumental music service, that “a certain percentage of the congregation broke out in applause and a number of people got up and left in tears.” Applause? Can you imagine that? Does it really portray a spirit of love and worship? 300 walked out in tears while their brothers and sisters clapped?? What kind of “Spirit filled” congregation breaks out in applause over such a thing? (Gal. 5:20) The applause would seem to convey a sense of victory that finally the congregation had broken free of the old, stodgy, and boring worship of the past.

I can’t help but think in all this about the comparison between this attitude and the spirit of Jeroboam. Remember how he perverted the worship in order to satisfy his ambitions and to satisfy the people?? Jeroboam plotted in his heart and said,

"If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah. 28 So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt. 29 He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. (1 Kings 12:27-30)

By the way, his name became forever equated with a history of sinfulness for the northern kingdom of Israel. The phrase “he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin” became his legacy. (2 Kings 15:24)

Let’s pray for Mark Henderson, the elders and members at Quail Spring for once again faithfulness and unity to be found and practiced according to sincere love for one another and the truth of God’s Word. (Eph. 4:1-6)

For Christ,
Robert Prater
___________________________________“Love the brotherhood,” 1Peter 2:17 (Formerly World Gospel News)

I have been in churches of Christ for all of my 80 years, and have served as a preacher, missionary, deacon and elder, presently as an elder of the Edmond, Okla., Church of Christ. I have taught world religions, the history of Christianity and our own history. I have studied at length the matter of instrumental music. I have visited instrumental churches. Here are my conclusions.

Mark Henderson is right in saying that the New Testament is silent on instruments in worship. The instruction on music in worship is found primarily in three passages:

Ephesians 5:19, which says to speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; to sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.
Colossians 3:16, which tells us to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts to God.
Hebrews 13:15, which says that we are to offer the fruit of our lips as a sacrifice of praise.

One argument Henderson did not mention is historical. Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia says in this matter:

“The first Christians were of too spiritual a fibre to substitute lifeless instruments for or use them to accompany the human voice. Clement of Alexandria severely condemns the use of instruments even at Christian banquets . . .” (X, 651). “For almost a thousand years, Gregorian chant without any instrumental or harmonic addition, was the only music used in connection with the liturgy” (X, 657).

And yet another of many historical witnesses:

Voices and Instruments in Christian Worship, published by The Liturgical Press: “From the standpoint of ritual action, liturgical music can only be monodic and vocal. Throughout nearly ten centuries of its history, Christian worship was in principle, and nearly always in fact, celebrated una voce [”one voice”- unanimously] and a cappella [without instrumental accompaniment, lit. “as the chapel”]. . . . The abundance and clearness of the texts in which the Fathers of the Church have discussed the questions can leave us in no doubt about the content and firmness of their teaching: musical instruments are to be excluded from the worship of the New Alliance” (142, 150).

Because of this historical position, the Eastern Church continued without instruments, even after the split with the Roman Church. The result is that all of the Orthodox churches, to my knowledge, continue their tradition of a cappella music. This is a major segment of Christendom. Other churches, also, deny their use, so churches of Christ are not unique in their position.

It is my observation in visiting contemporary instrumental services is that they look and sound exactly like any rock band — loud and with a heavy percussion beat. Guitars predominate, but with other instruments also used. The instrumentalists generally are not singing. Among those attending, many are not singing at all, but just listening to the music up on the stage. Finally, most have lost all ability to sing parts or even a cappella. The words of the songs are projected, but not the music. If a visitor doesn’t know a song, he or she cannot enter into the singing.

Visit the Edmond Church of Christ and hear a cappella music generally at its best. The congregation of about 1,200 members sings very well without ever turning to instruments to aid it.

We are certainly not against instruments. I played a violin for many years. Others are professional-level musicians. We choose to sing unaccompanied because of New Testament teaching on the matter, the example of the early church and its subsequent history for its first millennium.

Dr. Glover Shipp


Anonymous said...

I think it is a sad day when any change, biblical or not, that causes a signigicant division. I am not at Quail Springs CoC so I won't presume to judge with the VERY LIMITED knowledge I have. However, I wonder when the CoC's are going to get passionate about the things Jesus was passionate about. Satan must get a good laugh on to think that some split over an issue like and others think that adding instruments at the cost of such division is really that important. All the while the energy we spend caring for the hungry, thirsty, strange, needy, sick, and imprisoned Jesus (Matt 25.31ff) pales in comparison to the energy we spend quarling over issues like this. Didn't Jesus warn us earlier in Mattew's Gospel about straining gnats while swallowing camels (23.23-24).

Any ways... Robert, I stubled on to your blog while reading things about this whole Quail Springs CoC. I hope all is well in Cowboy country. How is your wife and how many children do you have now.

God bless you service to the Lord!

Ithaca Church of Christ
Ithaca, NY

Anonymous said...

Whoops... A lot of bad grammar and mispelled words. Pardon my folly!


Anonymous said...


Long time no hear. Hope things are going well for you and your family and your local ministry work. Do you guys have any children? I came back to Harding for the lectureships this back Oct. I hadn't been back since like 02 or 03. Of course, they have completely "redone" the now old "SBS." I think the changes will make the program better.

I plan on starting my Master's degree hopefully this fall at OC.

Anyway, I'm glad you "accidentally" stumbled upon my blog. Come back and visit from time to time and leave a comment.

Here's some more of my thoughts on this whole sad issue. Yes, I agree, it's sad about the whole Quail Springs going instrumetal and the division that has resulted. And although I do agree with you, that we shouldn't have to spend all our time "fighting internally" when we do need to be focusing our primary effort on spreading the gospel to the lost.

Yet, the issue of instrumental music in worship does raise that always very important issue of "Biblical authority" and whether or not we are truly going to be guided and governed by God's Word as the Lord's church. Some "battles" are worth fighting when they pertain to truth. Jesus not only wants us to preach and minister to the lost, sick, needy, etc. but He also wants us to "teach them to observe ALL things I've commanded...." Paul was concerned about the church at Create being "set in order" Titus 1. And when he wrote Timothy at Ephesus, he said that if he was delayed he was writing so that "they might know how to condcut themselves in the household of God....the church." (1 Tim. 3;15) That included important areas such as worship (prayer, role of women, etc. and the organization of the church as well as purity of living to name a few things) These matters may not be "primary" or of "first importance" but they are still important nonetheless in the church.

Today it just seems like in religion and espeically in the Lord's church, people seem to want to have a religion and Christianity that pleases them, makes them feel good, practice and believe what they think is right, etc. instead of what pleases God or what Christ commanded. There just doesn't really seem to be much interest in asking "is it Biblical?"

I fear this especially in regard to worship today.

Again, I fear we in churches of Christ most continue to strive for balance in both of these areas. Those on the far right would lead us into a "spiritless" Christian and worship but I fear those who are leading the church down the path of liberalism (left) would lead us into a "truthless" religion and worship.

Those are some of my thoughts that I believe are larger than just the issue of "instrumental music" in the church but I think they are representative of a much larger battle we are facing today in the body of Christ over truth and whether or not we are going to simply become just "another denomination" and go down the path of ecumenicalism, (i.e., all roads, paths (denominations lead to heaven regardless of what they teach and practice and some in the church just say, "Well, we all have an imperfect understanding in our faith, so who are we to judge?" Which really is just simply a surrender of the truth)

Anyway, God bless you Rex in your service to the Lord. And May God bless us all as we strive to show Christ to a lost world and to be faithful to Christ in a faithless world.

In Christian love,

Anonymous said...


I have three children, well sort of. Laura is expecting our third, due this coming March. We also have a daughter who is 3 years old and a son who would be 5 years old. Our son lived to be 3 days old. His death was the nightmare of our life but through all the grief and disappointment, we have learned to hope and trust in God stronger than ever before.

Now about the issue at hand... First, know that I do not personally believe instrumental music (IM) to be biblically wrong. Though I agree that historically the apostolic church was a capella, I believe the traditional CoC case against IM is based on questionable exegesis and very faulty hermeneutic. Nevertheless, I understand why some believe IM is wrong and still respect them. Further more, I have no agenda about bringing instruments into an a capella congregation (and ironically, I had one family where I serve leave because I would not support the adoption of IM -- go figure).

Any ways, I say all that to say that it is not an authority issue. Those of us who are not opposed to IM still have a high regard for the authority of God. We simply do not believe the scripture to be teaching that IM is wrong. In some sense, it comes down to the question of 'when is silence permissive and when is it restrictive.' But as I alluded too, I believe the restrictive silence (what the Scottish Reformers labled as the 'Regulative Principle') tied into the command, example, inference hermenuetic, is based in 16th century Scottish philosophy and not the scriptures.

Having said that, I agree with you completely about a religion that pleases us. We live in a consumer culture and we treat Christianity and church just as we do a fast-food restuaraunt... If the church doesn't have the worship I prefer, the right children's programs, the most dynamic preacher, etc..., well then I just will hop on to the next church. It is tht consumer mentality that keeps us from proclaiming good news in word and deed to each other and our neighbors. At some point, we will be forced to look at the nail-peirced hands of Jesus while we ry to justify our consumerism approach to discipleship. May God have mercy on us at that point.

How do we solve such a problem? I wish I knew. But I don't believe the answer is in 'trying to strike a balance.' I think it begins with a repentive heart that renews committment to Jesus and his mission. Christians need to learn how to become passionate about the things Jesus was passionate about once again. That is done in deep prayer and deep study of the scriptures. It also happens when we forget trying to please other Christians (and Churches of Christ) and the world and instead resolve to please the Lord. All faithful leaders of God's people made 'big faith' decisions that were always risky and controversial. For example, had Paul been more interested in keeping the Jewish Christians happy, the book of Acts would tell a very different history.

When Christians committ themselves to Jesus and his mission and forget trying to please either the world or their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, amazing things happen. God takes over and uses those people to be a vessel of truth and grace to a world in desperate need of such truth and grace (in our own Restoration Movement, both Campbell and Stone are excellent examples of such people). When such excitment happens, it might mean that two congregations might look different at times because we are not always going to agree on every last issue. However, at the end of it all, what matters will not be our faithfulness to the expectations of others but our faithfulness to God.


God bless you on your graduate studies. You will be blessed both intellectually and spiritually by it.

Feel free to stop by my blog ( from time to time. God bless you as you preach the word and thank you for your dedication to the Lord.

Grace and peace,


Lee Keele said...

Hi Rob,

Lee Keele here. I was doing some Google searching on some of the hubub over the newspaper article in the Daily Oklahoman about instrumental music and specifically aimed at Mark Henderson.

Let me share my experience and then, if you wish to comment, you are more than welcome to respond to my email or at my blogspot -

As you probably know, I am no longer with a non-instrumental church. I'm preaching for Crossroads Christian Church in Hutchinson Kansas and yes, we have instruments that we play along without singing.

Right or wrong - let me tell you of my experience.

Of all of those brothers of mine in the churches of Christ who honestly believe that people who use instruments are going to hell...

Not one of them confronted me about my decision to go to an instrumental church. Not one. I did not get one letter. I did not get one phone call. I didn't get written up in any newspapers or bulletins (at least no one had the courage that I know of to do this with my knowledge).

What I honestly wondered, when I read the newspaper article written by three men in three different churches (I think), was this: Did any of those men who wrote that article personally contact Mark Henderson and talk about his alleged "heresy" before they wrote him up? I honestly don't know.

What I do know is while they said they cared about his soul and that they were praying for him. I never had one person tell me that. I'm not asking you to remedy that. I'm just giving and sharing rather publicly a word of caution.

If we're going to mark specific people as heretics, especially in a public venue, lets at least have the common courtesy to approach them in a Biblical fashion about it first.

In any case, I read it and it made me mad, and when I Googled, yours was the first blog I came to. So I'm sorry, I don't mean to rant or for you to get the brunt of it. Forgive me if I come accross as resentful, but I guess I do feel a bit of what I would call righteous indignation. Not toward you specifically. But, oh well, I just wanted to share my story with you.

I hope you and Maggie and the kids are doing really well. I hope your work in Shawnee is fruitful in the kingdom and that the community there is blessed through the work you do for our God.

Take care bro,
Lee Keele

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