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Richland Hills and Instrumental Music

It was reported recently that the nation's largest church of Christ (Richland Hills in TX, 6400 members) has decided to add an instrumental service with communion on Saturday nights. By definition, churches of Christ don't use musical instruments in worship, right? I first heard about Richland Hill's decision via Mike Cope's blog where he re-posted an essay by Leroy Garrett. It has since been covered in The Christian Chronicle. Rick Atchley was quoted in the Chronicle saying he "...told the congregation the decision should help ease crowding at Richland Hills' two Sunday morning services. Moreover, he said, it will allow the congregation to "reach more people who need Christ." Frankly, the use instrumental music isn't fundamentally a big issue to me. We don't find a detailed game plan for worship in the NT like we do in the OT for a reason, I think, and arguments of exclusion don't seem adequate to me given the whole of scripture. On the other hand, about a decade or so ago, when we lived in Knoxville, a friend of ours had the habit of attending the Evangelical Free service on Sunday afternoon after attending the c of C assembly Sunday morning. We went with him once, and my observation was that I was distracted/bothered by my dislike for the style of music that accompanied the singing. Of course, acapella singing is also not a style of music for which I have an affinity, but regardless I've become accustomed to it via three and half decades of experience. So, as a matter of taste but not faith, I suspect I'd have a struggle (initially at least) with instrumental worship. And that's not to say that I have no appreciation for acapella music and the value of that tradition. In fact, I do wonder a little about the rational of adding instruments as a means to reach more people, as a missional tactic. There is probably some validity to that, but on the surface it seems like a close call as to whether becoming more like most of all the other Christian groups would lead to a wider or narrower catch in the end.

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