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A Viewpoint About Music Styles. They Differ, but --.

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Style Says Something
Consider: In Ephesians 4 and 5, Paul speaks about church growth. Are we growing?

pretty line  Why do we meet together as Christians? Seth Wilson points us to answers in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Christians. God’s purposes for His church are personal, spiritual, and eternal. They are designed to TRANSFORM every individual rather than to entertain or placate us.

Ephesians 4:11-16 has something to say about the Lord’s church, its meaning, its motives, and its methods — “It was he (Jesus Christ) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From HIM the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (NIV).

God has gone to great lengths to take us over and make us over as individuals. To make us His holy children, He has made available to us redemption and all His spiritual blessings. And He expects “babes in Christ” to grow up!

Church growth happens as individual Christians develop into what God wants us to become. It’s fine if we see additional numbers. But “church growth” does not depend on increase in attendance or financial figures. It rather depends on spiritual things which can usually only be seen by the changed lives of us whose hearts have been touched by His love.

Seth Wilson says, “His goal is personal, not institutional. The church is a function and method of spiritual life and growth for building up and transforming individuals.”

Note the text — All who are members of Christ are to be taught the “apostles’ doctrine” which has come through Christ’s apostles and prophets. The teaching is aimed at helping us each attain to the unity of the faith, and a knowledge of God’s Son that will help us become full-grown men and women, spiritually MATURE — no longer babies, children, or youth in matters of the Christian life and experience.

That’s what church growth is about! It’s not really about attendance figures at all. As we individually attain to the measure of the stature of CHRIST (we become like Him), we are said to have matured from our former status as “babes in Christ.”

This requires that we shall learn truth so that we can distinguish between what IS true and what is NOT true. Those who HAVE grown serve and teach those who are still growing. Some are specially called to be “pastors and teachers” by being specially gifted in ability to learn and teach. But each of us is responsible to keep on trying all the while.

As we see young people growing, are we aware of them TRYING to grow. We know that God has timed growth so that it happens while the child is busy just living, playing, and working. One day we’re aware that the child has become a youth, and the youth becomes a man or woman.

The growth that Paul pictures for us who form the body of Christ is also like that. Growth occurs as we are busy enjoying LIFE in Jesus and seeking to serve Him in every way we see that we can do so. Growth happenss to us. God provides the growth to those who are receiving spiritual nourishment and exercise. Isn’t that what this text tells us?

And So We Grow!

Why do we go to church meetings? Why do we live for Jesus each day? In this passage Paul suggests that there IS a goal we should have in mind — we should aim to become like Jesus.

We should seek to learn more and more about Him, what He said and what He did. We can’t shape our lives to be like Him without knowing what He was like. And we must learn to always love truth since God’s enemies love lies and freely use lies to lead astray any they can influence. We learn that there is a difference between truth and untruth, and we are wise to recognize that not everything we hear is true.

Young children are apt to believe what they are told. Usually, their parents DO tell them the truth, and children who lie are taught by their parents that lying is wrong. In the church, it is critically important that each saint readily recognize the difference between truth and lies. Doesn’t Paul say so in this text?

Children are apt to realize the advantages of becoming adults. They may want to drive, and be told that they can’t get a driving license until they reach a particular age and meet certain requirements. So they’re apt to eagerly anticipate the day when they WILL finally be qualified.

Paul wants us to eagerly look forward to the time when we will have matured spiritually. His goal is not for the entire church to reach a particular stage, but rather for each of us to grow at the pace that’s right for us and with the particular gifts with which God has blessed US. In any congregation, there should always be some who are very “young” in the faith, and others of varying stages and spiritual “ages.”

Church GROWTH is about each one of us becoming what God wants us to be. This individual growth is aimed at our “perfection” or maturity in Christ. In the church, God places teachers to guide us, and He provides work that will build us up because we have done it for Him (muscles grow because they are USED).

As our faith is exercised, we develop MORE faith, and are enabled to do more work for the Lord Jesus. The purpose of our growth is not just to make US happy, but to build up the entire body — to help others because we HAVE grown.

Look again at the text. Consider that Ephesus was a large city. At the time this letter was written, we figure there were likely many thousands of Christians in the city, meeting in dozens or hundreds of congregations (“house churches”), and led by many “pastors and teachers.”

Paul left Timothy there with instructions to encourage the church leaders to NOT teach a “different” gospel than that which Paul had preached while he was with them. It was important that the message of Christ not be diluted or changed.

So we see that Paul’s hope for the growth of this group of churches was that each individual would be strengthened in faith and taught to know more about Jesus. The goal of each teacher was not to build an institution, or to set creedal limits on who could be in the church, Paul said. “But,” he wrote to Timothy, “the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned” (1 Timothy 1:5).

Is our goal to build an organization?

Seth Wilson points out that the goal in all our work is not to build up an institution, but rather to strengthen and develop INDIVIDUALS. Of course we form a group, and the group is improved because the individuals are growing, but the aim is to bless the individuals rather than only or chiefly the institution to which we belong.

And as we each are blessed, God’s church DOES grow. But it’s not by taking strength away from us, but rather because we ourselves became stronger and richer.

When we “attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ,” Paul says “we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”

Had we even realized what it is that God is rescuing us from? Human wisdom does not lead to a Utopia where all is joy and peace and rest. Those who rely on mere mankind’s ways will inevitably find no dependable strength in fallible humans.

We who turn to God will never be disappointed. If we walk in HIS ways, we will attain the measure of the stature of Christ. For He is ABLE and we can count on Him in all ways. He promises that, “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” So what’s the point of church growth? It’s to make us each one LIKE Christ.

Church growth is not measured in seats filled in church assemblies. It’s not counted in structures built where men may think that God is housed. It’s measured in the hearts and souls of men and women who become like Christ.

God loves us each one. He wants us to find peace and joy. In Christ we can do so. But He also wants us to find ways to serve Him. That’s WHY some are “pastors and teachers,” and each of us has work to do for Him.

As we attach ourselves to Christ, who is Head of the body which is His church, we join together and are held together by our joining. Together, we accomplish His will in our world.

And we help one another. Together, we seek to serve Him. We witness to others about our loving Heavenly Father and His risen-from-the-dead Son who can save us from sin and death. Our testimony is heard by some. Those who accept it as true will join us as new babes in Christ, and then it’s our job to help THEM to grow just as we did, and are continuing to do.

But what did Paul say — we are called to “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we ALL reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

When will our work be done? It won’t be done until Jesus comes back to take us home with Him in glory, of course. But our goal must be to keep on striving to become LIKE Him, to keep on learning more about Him, to keep on blessing and helping one another grow and serve, for the good of the body of Christ which is His church.

Our goal is to live as “Children of Light”

Paul continues, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

Since those Christians to whom this letter was written were themselves Gentiles by birth, Paul must be speaking here of those who remained outside Christ so that they were not justified by faith in Christ.

Paul is saying that Christians must not live as non-Christians do — in darkness and ignorance and casual gratification of lusts.

We are called to grow to be like Christ who lived without sin. And why do these “Gentiles” live in ignorance? Why are they separated from God? Paul says it’s due to “the hardening of their hearts” which leads to “ignorance” of God’s love.

Church growth does not happen without our surrender to Christ as Lord, without our giving of our hearts to Him in fullness of love for righteousness and goodness. As we grow to be more like Him, we turn away from childish and sinful conduct, thinking, and speaking. We grow by learning good and true things about Jesus and God. Our growth causes us to quit our sinful ways, Paul says, and to sincerely love one another and help each other TO grow.

This requires us, Paul says, to avoid all the bad things which are prevalent in the world — he mentions lying and stealing, bitterness and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. He urges US, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

So Paul begins the section which we know as chapter 5 of Ephesians by urging, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Paul warns against improper talk and ungodly walk, and calls for us who HAVE grown to show it by our good lives. He writes, “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. … Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Christian assemblies are opportunities for us each to witness to others, to encourage and exhort, and we must take advantage of each such opportunity. Paul’s teaching about how we are to live in Christ continues, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

And surely these words from Paul should guide us whenever two or more brethren are together. Paul says next, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We’re called to teach and bless one another in every way, including the music we share when we’re together. Together, Christians GROW!

To: Tom Claibourne
Subject: Style Says Something

Tom, I appreciate your Christian Standard article appealing to readers to respect and honor those of the WW2 generation.

In it, however, you dismiss "styles, tastes, and music preferences" as being peripheral matters unworthy of discussion. Of course you're right that what you hold up in contrast (character traits) are indeed very important, and need to be encouraged with all our might.

But I do NOT agree that the styles of music and conduct in our assemblies is unimportant. I think what we choose to do in our assemblies is very important since it either obscures or enhances those very important character traits which make us who we are.

In a letter to the Standard lately I referred to "childish" music which has displaced hymns of faith. Trying to appeal only to persons whose taste is juvenile at best in this case means that the benefits of time-tested hymns are lost. Is this really peripheral? I think not.

When you give up what is superb in order to embrace what is right for kindergartners, you're saying something about the character traits expected of those involved — namely that you don't expect them to know or appreciate GOOD musical taste.

Organ music can be overpowering and not always appropriate for adult Christians, I agree. But more often than not, it's more appropriate than the amplified guitars and drums which have replaced it. When Christians sing good hymns together, a strong message of hope and triumph is expressed not only to all hearers but to those who participate. Ditties just don't do it.

"Worship" leaders do not compare well with the excellent "song" leaders of yore. Placing words on the wall is fine if you're singing chants. It's much less good if you hope for good harmony of mixed parts.

You tell me that "style" is only a matter of taste, perhaps meaning that our churches should have a taste appropriate to non-Christians even if distasteful to musically-minded saints. And at heart of the discussion is the question of the purpose for which the saints are to assemble.

The Bible says Christians are to come together in order to encourage and exhort one another. Many church leaders today look to the Old Testament and say that when together our purpose must be to worship the God we never see except when we do meet in the church building where we house Him.

Those who don't worship God by their lives won't be able to worship Him just because a "worship leader" says NOW do it. Those who come to a church building to find God SHOULD be looking instead in the Word and in the world God made, where they're sure to find many evidences of Him and His power and His love.

Those who assemble for "church" meetings should be the church, not seekers, and the meetings should be directed toward the edifying of the saints and the testimony of the saints. It is NOT appropriate that the saints sit idly and watch professionals perform a "church service." What IS appropriate is when brethren share with one another what has happened in their walk with God that week.

I think what Christians choose to do when they're together matters a very great deal. You say well that what is MOST important is what's in our hearts. But "fellowship" can accomplish the building up of one another when the style is right. Or it can "dumb down" the group when a poor style is preferred and accepted.

I hear very little message in many of the now-popular ditties which have replaced grand and majestic hymns in contemporary assemblies. I think we very much need to rethink what now for several years we've been doing to ourselves.

Our time together is precious. We should prefer the BEST possible music during the few minutes given to song. By relegating discussion of music to the periphery of our consideration, you may seem to be saying it doesn't matter very much at all. I hope I've misunderstood your implication.

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