Acappella Music

In case you haven’t seen it…here’s a well-written editorial from the Christian Chronicle…regardless of where you are on the instrumental/acappella issue:

Events throughout the church in the last year have raised the issue of music
once again to a high pitch. It is a much-discussed topic that has produced a
great deal of anxiety and reaction.

Churches of Christ have a long and
deeply rooted commitment to a cappella worship music. Music and singing in
particular touch a deep and personal note in our hearts as few experiences can.
Singing, like prayer, binds us together both as we sing and as we offer our
inner beings to God. It inspires us and strengthens us. It makes us happy and
expresses our sorrow. It reminds us of God’s love and important times of faith
in our lives. It is personal and integral to our very faith in God.

church writer observed: “The theological reason for the practice (of a cappella
singing) is that the human voice being created by God is the most worthy
instrument for use in praising God.”

A cappella congregational singing
makes every worshiper equal before God, not because of any ability to perform
but because of the desire to sing and express worship to the Lord from our
hearts. It is a “first fruit” offering from within ourselves to the one who
created us, saves us and gives us hope for eternity. It is giving from within
the very being that he gave us. It is personal. It is

Singing is indicative of a simple and
fundamental understanding of God’s word to “sing and make melody in your heart.”
The convictions of our hearts and minds are affirmed in song with our own

We have long thought that we should do much more in developing
the beauty and confessional power of congregational singing. Scripture speaks of
“singing to one another,” and we should find ways to sing to each other and
inspire each other in all walks of life as well as in worship.

The next
generation of Christians should learn from our example. We should endeavor to
show each generation the richness, diversity and beauty of a cappella

The fact is that singing alone was the only form of music
practiced in the New Testament church and for the first 500 years of the
Christian faith. We know that singing from the heart is always acceptable to the

Several early Christian writers such as Hippolytus, Clement of
Alexandria, Eusebius, Tertullian and Ignatius affirmed a cappella singing as did
general practice throughout the empire, and their testimony provides a record of
the early Christian practice.

We urge believers to refocus on a serious
study of how to make our teaching about music part of a fully developed theology
and our practice of congregational singing the richest, deepest and most
inspiring experience. That means dethroning our pet peeves and personal
preferences about music. It also means emphasizing the importance of each
person’s heart before God as we sing and praise him.

We must make our
singing all that it can possibly be, both musically and spiritually. Let us be
known for musical worship that is part of a fabric of love and not a culture of
divisiveness. As editor emeritus Bailey McBride shows in his Insight column this month, this is possible when we put Christ
first and love the church with all our hearts. Let us be known for truly
inspirational spiritual singing.

The vast majority of Churches of Christ
practice a cappella singing, based on the conviction that it is the offering God
seeks from his people.

It is our fervent prayer that discussions of
church music will not derail the church’s urgent need to tell the gospel story
of Jesus to our world or promote divisions among us.

Let us with firm
conviction and kindness affirm our faith and understanding of what God calls us
to do.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Share Your Thoughts

3 thoughts on “Acappella Music

  1. I disagree. I think it is a poorly written editorial that clearly represents only one point of view. A well written piece would represent both sides and stimulate some critical thinking on the subject. This piece only serves to further the notion that only a cappella music is pleasing to God. All this does is keep people comfortable in their positions and keep the walls of division intact. Why not do a review of Psalm’s 150 and explain its irrelevance? Why not try to explain how Jesus’ death on the cross made musical instruments non-pleasing to God? These are the tough, thought-provoking questions! Telling people what they already believe stimulates nothing.
    For what it’s worth, I was raised CofC, graduated from LCU, and my Dad is an elder. I have no problem with a cappella singing in and of itself. What I do have a problem with, though, is the elitist mentality that some (definitely not all) CofC members take on the subject. I have been around enough to know that many members most certainly pass judgment on Christians (some would even say they’re not Christians) who worship with instruments. They base this on a verse that says to “sing and make melody in your heart!” Then they throw out all of the old-testament verses b/c somehow Jesus’ death on the cross changed the way that God perceives praise! Seriously!! Is it really so illogical to think that any praise, no matter what the instrument, is pleasing to God? These are the arguments that CofC members need to hear.
    I have been so blessed by contemporary Christian music. It is basically the only type of music I listen to. You know as well as I do that there is not enough a cappella music to listen to day in and day out. Yet there are CofC parents who would rather their kids listen to secular music (with musical instruments) then Christian music with instruments! Was this God’s intention??
    I can understand the argument about worshiping as the 1st century church did. But we’ve taken our reason for why we do what we do and made it something God never intended it to be – law.
    I’ll I’m asking is that the leaders present both sides so that we can facilitate understanding beyond Church walls. At least then we might be slower to pass judgment on our neighbor. That would be a far worse sin.

  2. I agree with the author on three points: our worship choices should never be used to manufacture divisions, we must focus on the gospel first, and our worship must be singularly excellent.
    And you’re right, Tim. This is a well-written piece. But it is a one-sided soliloquy that leaves out an entire Testament full of worship practice. And it over-emphasizes a Testament which shows no favoritism, neither towards a capella nor towards instrumental worship.
    And the sentiment I must disagree with in his piece is this: “The vast majority of Churches of Christ practice a cappella singing, based on the conviction that it is the offering God seeks from his people.”
    I do not disagree that is has become the conviction of C/C churches. However, since that is our conviction, we would do well to continually re-evaluate our worship in light of all of the Biblical worship practices, rather than just our favorite phrases from Ephesians and Colossians.
    I find myself wondering occasionally: To what extent does the a capella practice of Churches of Christ represent the practices and beliefs of its members? Are the reasons the author lists in favor of a capella music the same reasons our members choose to honor this practice?
    Like all tradition, ours is both flawed and beautiful. We sing as well as or better than almost any other group of Christians I’ve been around. I agree–let’s make our singing all that it can possibly be. But let’s also admit that the past 100 years of division in the Restoration Movement has created within us a tunnel vision towards worship that has often been used to create division where none existed, and has been used to slander other Christians who disagree that a capella is “the offering God seeks from his people.”
    It hasn’t all been beautiful music, and it’s not the only beautiful music around.