We Are Drifting

Robert P. Cooper
South Point, Ohio

(Editor's Note: This good article appeared in the April 15th BIBLE HERALD, and is here printed by permission from Brother Cooper. The BIBLE HERALD editor appended: "The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the editor." But it seems like a good article to me!)

The spirit of digression is ever present. Twenty-five years ago the beloved J. D. Tant was raising his voice throughout the land to wake up his brethren to the fact that "we are drifting." What was true twenty-five years ago is certainly true today! Only those who are spiritually blind would deny this.

I began to preach about the time Brother Tant departed this life. In the twenty-five years that I have been preaching I have seen many changes take place in congregations as well as individuals. A change is not wrong simply because it is a change, but when a good thing is changed into a bad thing it is certainly wrong.

Gospel preachers must constantly be on guard against digression and apostasy. It should be stopped in its first stages. Many times after it has gone unchecked for years it is well nigh impossible to stop it. Elders need to be men of great wisdom. They need to know the word and hold it fast. They must be vigilant (awake) so that they can detect and stop a departure as soon as it begins.

If I were to predict that within the next few years some congregations (which are recognized today as being loyal congregations) would be having choirs, quartets, special singers, etc., in their services, no doubt I would be marked as a fanatic and a dreamer. Some would be ready to say, "It will never be." And yet the seeds are being sown even today. It is gradually being brought into the churches in just the same way that instrumental music was brought in during the restoration movement, to the division of the church. At first the instrument was brought into the church buildings to be used for weddings, funerals, young people's gatherings, Sunday School, etc. The argument was made, "The things are not the church--they are not worship--and so it is all right to use the instrument in the church buildings for these separate functions." No doubt many were honest in using this argument. Perhaps those who first introduced them in this way had no idea that someday they would be used "in the worship," and yet it was not long until they became accepted, even "in the worship." I am suggesting that the same thing is happening today with respect to choirs, etc. It is becoming a common practice for a chorus from a school or an orphan home to come into a community and put on a program in the church building. Also in many of the "Big" campaigns and lectureships it is common practice for a chorus to entertain for a half hour before the regular service starts. Elders who would not think of allowing a choir or quartet to sing during a regular service will allow it to be done before the regular service starts or after the regular service is dismissed. What is this special singing? Is it worship? Is it show? Is it entertainment? If it is worship, should not all join in the singing? If it is show and entertainment, is it proper and right for the church to sponsor it and even have it in the church building? I think not! And it will not suffice to simply cry that the church building is not the church. 1 think I understand that much! And I also think I understand what is the work of the church! And I am sure that show and entertainment are not a part of that mission! If it is a show for entertainment, then put it on in some other building where people will not connect it with the church.

Since the chorus sings before the regular service starts, and therefore it is not "in the worship," I would like to ask a few questions. Would it be right for the chorus to be composed of those who are not members of the church, since it is not "in the worship?" Would it be all right for the chorus to sing songs that are not spiritual in nature, since it is not "in the worship?" Would it be all right for that singing to be accompanied by musical instruments, since it is not "in the worship?" Would it be all right for the audience to be entertained by a magician for thirty minutes before the regular service starts, since that is not "in the worship?" Where can we draw the line?

Brethren, let us be fair and honest about the matter. If it is proper and right to have choirs and quartets, let us use them in our services and quit criticizing the denominations for having them. It seems to me to be somewhat hypocritical to condemn the sectarians for having choirs and special singers when we have them "just before the service starts" or "just after the service ends." I do not believe that worship is something that can be turned on and off like a water faucet. Why should a thing that is right from 7:00 o'clock to 7:30 suddenly become wrong from 7:30 to 8:00 o'clock? Before 7:00 the chorus sings in the same buildings and to the same people that are present after 7: 30, but after 7:30 it is wrong and sinful! Is it any wonder our honest religious neighbors think we are inconsistent and hard to figure out?

Truth Magazine IX: 10, pp. 1-2
July 1965