Churches of Christ that continue to reject the addition of musical instruments to their worship services continue to be viewed as “different” by the religious world at large. Jack Lewis expressed it well, when he wrote, “Those who sing unaccompanied by musical instruments today are in a sufficient minority to appear strange in the eyes of the majority, most of whom no longer feel called upon to attempt to justify their practice which is sanctioned by centuries of use” (The Instrumental Music Issue, p. 14). Indeed, we are the ones who are viewed as archaic, odd, out of touch with the times and different on this issue.
What does it mean to be different? We are all different in some ways. That’s the way God made us. So, who really is different? Jackie Robinson was “different” because he was the first black man to play professional baseball in 1947, and he suffered Jim Crow hatred for being different. The same could be said for Hank Aaron during his professional baseball career. The autobiographies of people like Frederick Douglass and Hank Aaron are real eye-openers as to how they suffered for no other reason than being of a different skin color.
To be different in a religious sense should be understood as departing from the original standard as set out in the New Testament. I do not mean difference as in the realm of opinion, where differences are endless. I mean difference in the realm of faith, wherein no one has the right to be different from God’s established pattern.
The stand that congregations take, when they follow the New Testament, is fundamental, and any departure from it is where difference is seen. For example, all agree that immersion is valid. No one regards immersion as wrong. The difference comes when those who regard sprinkling or pouring is valid baptism. Immersion is not a divisive concept. It is what the New Testament teaches and anything other than that is different. No one has ever said that vocal music in worship is wrong. The difference comes when people argue that mechanical instruments of music in the worship are equally valid. Weekly communion is not considered wrong by anyone in the Protestant-denominational world. The difference comes when people feel that daily, monthly, quarterly or annual communion is just as good. Who is different?
There is some injustice in the fact that those who follow the New Testament pattern are stigmatized as being different, while those who have diverted from it are considered the norm. What’s wrong with this picture!? Often the most basic concepts appear to be different, when in reality the opposite is the case.