|Volume 18 Number 9 September 2016||
The Enemies from Within
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
In 1871, an American named Heinrich Schliemann began excavating an ancient city in Turkey. To the amazement of many, this retired businessman had discovered the lost city of Troy. Today, you can still see the ruins of its towers and walls, which were 16 feet thick. According to Homer’s Illiad, the Greeks besieged Troy for ten years without success. After the death of the warrior Achilles, many wanted to give up the fight. However, the King of Ithaca came up with a plan to get the Greek army into the city of Troy. He built an immense wooden horse. He had his warriors hide inside the wooden horse. After leaving the horse in front of the gates of Troy, the Greek army sailed away. The Trojans, thinking the Greeks had given up and had left the horse as a gift, brought it inside the gates. That night while the Trojans were sleeping, the Greek ships quietly returned. The soldiers in the horse slipped out and opened the city gates. The Greek army quietly entered the city and started fires throughout. The Trojans awoke to find their city engulfed in flames. As they tried to flee, they were killed by the awaiting Greeks. The story about this Trojan horse has come to represent the subversion of anything from within. This is exactly what is happening in the Lord’s church today!
Firstly, there is the Trojan horse of indifference. Christianity in many places has simply become a “social club” experience. A lack of involvement in many congregations proves this to be true. I know of some congregations that simply want to “hire” the preacher to perform the “tasks” of the local congregation (bulletin, evangelizing, mowing and preparing the Lord’s Supper). In fact, in many cases if the preacher does not do these things, he may be fired or at the very least be thought of as lazy. Yet, this was never God’s design for the local church! Everyone has a part to fulfill (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). The church at Laodicea was guilty of indifference, and God demanded them to repent (Revelation 3:15-16). Indifference is an enemy that destroys us from within!
Secondly, there is the Trojan horse of ignorance. I am fearful for the church of this century regarding her Bible knowledge! Congregations are allowing unqualified elders to rule, soft preachers to preach and lazy deacons to remain. In fact, in far too many places much of the congregation does not even know what elders are to do; sometimes elders themselves fail to know and practice their tasks. I remember on one occasion studying with a new convert regarding the work of elders. One of the elders of the local congregation was present. When the study was completed, he said to me, “I had no idea that is what this work entailed!” That is the epitome of Bible ignorance! Furthermore, this particular man is not alone. Those in Hosea’s day were being destroyed for their lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). I am told that at one time members of the church were known by denominational people as “Bible toting, Bible quoting people.” Sadly, I think we have lost that reputation. Ignorance is an enemy that destroys from within!
Thirdly, there is the Trojan horse of interruptions. Our world has made us so distracted and busy that few have time for spiritual things. Soccer, football, chorus and band all have parents and children running in every direction. As a result, our children are growing up without a steady diet of God’s Word. Is it any wonder that many of our young people leave the Lord’s church and go the way of denominationalism? Diligent effort must be given as we “sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:7b) to teach our young people the truth. Bible classes must be filled with great material and even greater teachers! We cannot feed our kids false denominational material and expect them to be strong in the truth. We must stop being so busy with trivial things and begin setting priorities for spiritual endeavors. Interruptions are an enemy that destroys from within!
While this may not be true of every congregation, it is true of many. Many are in decline, not just numerically, but more importantly spiritually! When indifference, ignorance and interruptions are cleared out, then can we get back to the greatest work in the world. The Lord’s church is far too precious to allow the enemy to conquer us from within. Onward Christian soldiers!
The Words Are All that Matter?Andy Robison
In regard to congregational singing, oft is offered the quip, “Well, the words are all that matter, anyway.” This is a comfort to tone-deaf worshipers, but, the secular, well-intentioned proverb may be employed too far.
If the words were, indeed, all that mattered, perhaps God would have said something like, “Recite to one another in poems, rhymes and spiritual verse.” Could it be that the musical setting (a cappella) has more importance than often acknowledged?
Music is an emotional thing. Composers of purely instrumental music (from symphonies and operas to punk rock and country) work to construct the chord progression, melodies and harmonies to create a mood, often mirroring some occasion or historic event. A fanfare for Olympic Games is an upbeat call to competition and potential triumph – a memorable melodic line punctuated with quick punches of harmonic brass. A mournful dirge, by contrast, might employ low strings in slow, solemn movements.
In authorized a cappella singing for congregations, the music generally fits the words. “Nearer My God, to Thee” would never be set to a driving rhythm (as in “Ring Out the Message”). The thrill of “The New Song” is best with its buoyant beat and majestic chorus; it wouldn’t work with a contemplative chant-like, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” feel. The musical composers seek to amplify the impact of the wording.
Singing might be viewed as the divinely authorized outlet for human emotion. Many sectarian groups take emotionalism to unscriptural levels – mistaking shaking and rolling, hand-waving and moaning for being Spirit-filled. An orderly (1 Corinthians 14:40) God actually thought this through, and He gave an avenue for us to express how we feel toward Him (and even others) at particular moments. This is why some of the deepest emotions of grief, sorrow, bitterness, joy, victory and praise appealing to all generations are found in the book of… you guessed it… Psalms. They were originally sung. Further, perhaps this is one reason (it is certainly at least a result) that singing was chosen as the authorized use of music in worship. Instrumental music can make one feel a certain way without an intellectual reason as to why. With singing, the intellect is employed first and foremost. One knows he is surveying the scene of the wondrous cross. Then, the music helps amplify the thought.
It behooves brethren, then, to work on singing to the best of their abilities. God bless the monotone worshiper who “lets ‘er fly” upon the song leader’s cue. Yet, those who excuse themselves flippantly from ever trying to understand pitch, tone, phrasing, harmony and all the things that make singing more meaningful are missing a great opportunity in the service of God. In order to “consider one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25) in the worship setting, shouldn’t we all aim at improvement in every aspect of worship – from attention in study to expression in song?
Words matter. Without the words, there wouldn’t be any teaching or admonishing. However, remember that without the music (a cappella), there wouldn’t be any singing or song.
Andy Robison is the Director of the West Virginia School of Preaching (www.wvsop.com). He is a recipient of a B.A. from Harding (where he received the L.O. Sanderson scholarship for hymn-writers), with a double major in Bible and Vocal Music. He has written a number of songs and helped produce several CDs of a cappella singing to benefit West Virginia Christian Youth Camp, where he serves on the Board of Directors. He is the Editor of the songbooks Teaching & Admonishing and 100 Songs to the Glory of God. Many of his original songs can be accessed at www.churchofchristsongs.com. He and his wife Marsha have two children, Hannah and Andrew.