By Larry R. DeVore
All the promotional articles concerning Restoration Forums and “unity meetings” in recent years have had one recurring theme: that, we, as “heirs” of the restoration movement, have a “common heritage” from the past, and therefore ought to be united. They mean by “we” the Christian Churches (Disciples); the Independent Christian Churches (often called Churches of Christ in the north), and the churches of Christ (non-instrumental).
But does a “common heritage” indicate we are all going to inherit the same thing (eternal life)? Not necessarily. We may wear the same name and not inherit the same things. I have a “common heritage” with everyone named “DeVore” (it is French), but that doesn’t mean I will inherit anything from some rich DeVore (if there is one). In Wooster, there are a number of congregations with this “common heritage” from the restoration movement. There’s the Central Christian Church (Disciples), a full-fledged denominational body using instrumental music and practicing open membership. Also, the Parkview Church of Christ (of the I.C.C.) which uses instrumental music is in our town. A church meets in a school (affiliated with the institutional brethren). And the Burbank Rd. church of Christ (non-instrumental and non-institutional) exists in town. These churches are not in fellowship with one another. These churches have different viewpoints and different approaches to the Word of God.
Because of these different viewpoints and different approaches to the Scriptures, it seems to me, we do not really have much of a “common heritage” as might first appear.
Let me illustrate this with a story from the late J.D. Tant, pioneer preacher, who loved and contended for the truth.
In the 1880’s, brother, Tant held a meeting at Georgetown, Texas. By 1895 the brethren there had divided over the instrument, resulting in two congregations; North Georgetown (non-instrument), and South Georgetown (instrumental). Brother Tant proposed a way in which both churches could work together in peace while he held a gospel meeting for them.
He proposed to the South Georgetown elders two proposals: (1) He would preach a week’s meeting, and they could conduct the song service and use the organ, but he would preach one sermon telling why he objected to the organ. Or (2) they could move the organ out for the week; then brother Tant and the song leader would hold the meeting, and they could work together and sing together, and teach sinners the way of life. The latter proposal was readily accepted by the elders (paraphrased from J.D. Tant, Texas Preacher, pp. 107-108).
However, he had not reckoned with the women of South Georgetown. “A woman arose in the south side church and said she had worked hard to get the organ in the church and ‘she would see every member in North Georgetown dead and in hell’ before she would agree to set the organ aside. When the elders backed down, Tant conducted no evangelistic meeting there” (Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 4, p. 224).
What “common heritage” do you have with that woman, or her spiritual heirs? I know, I do not have anything in common with that. That attitude and approach to spiritual matters is completely different from mine and a host of good brethren I know of today.
I am not charging that everyone in the Christian Churches has this attitude. But I am saying that the attitude which produced that “outburst” in 1895 is still around in 1988.
The only unity that is pleasing to God is that “unity of the Spirit” Paul spoke of in Ephesians 4:3. Why was that woman in 1895 and members of the Christian Churches today not willing to set aside the instrument(s) of music? Consider this:
Who made the mechanical instruments of music? Man did.
Who plays these instruments? Man does.
Who likes to hear these instruments? Man does.
Man plays them and likes them and therefore doesn’t want to give them up.
On the other hand!
Who gave man his voice? God did.
Who commands man to sing? God does (Eph. 5:19).
Who likes to hear man sing praises to God? God does (Heb. 13:15-16).
So it comes back to the basic question: Do we want to please God or man? “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
Unity “forums,” “seminars,” “dialogues,” meetings,” etc., are not going to accomplish anything lasting for good unless we are willing to give up what we like, and what we desire, and what we want. and determine from the Scriptures what God wants, desires, likes, yea; demands from those who claim to follow him. We must want to please God and to go to heaven more than we want the inventions of men.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 9, p. 274
May 5, 1988