F. LaGard Smith: A Conversation with By Ted Parks"I would call on the church to abandon youth ministries, which have toppled the spiritual hierarchy." F. Legard Smith is urrently "Scholar in Residence for Christian Studies" at Lipscomb University. Quotations from the Christian Chronicle.
We do not disparage honest youth ministers who are part of a burgeoning clergy class. The argument is over which comes first: "The supply or the demand?" Demand is almost always accompanied by a culture-led congregation which has no committment to training its youth and find that Lazer Tag helps occupy them until they get out of our hair. The youth of the church grasps this and therefore repudiates the church at its earliest chance. The problem arises out of a false theology of adopting the dominant pastor which restoraton-minded churches have spent two thousand years trying to abandon:
In the Cultural Church, F. Lagard Smith notes that:"While we are tempted to downplay the significance of baptism,
the denominational world is once again beginning to baptize!
While we are somewhat embarrassed by our lack of any formal organization,
the most vibrant churches in the land are those locally-autonomous 'community churches' which don't even have the extensive brotherhood ties that we have.While we are starting to experiment with 'high church styles' and production numbers in worship,
others are exploring the idea of simple gatherings without the need of formalistic ceremony or a professional clergy.
And just when we are about to give up on traditional methods of Bible study,
Evangelical churches from shore to shore are starting to dig back into 'book, chapter, and verse.'" (p. 216)
Parks: From your vantage point today, where are churches of Christ headed as a Christian body?
F. Legard Smith: "We're headed in a wide variety of directions. We have had splits, but I think we're going in more of a splintering direction where every gradation from across the continuum is going to be out there.
But by and large, we are moving rapidly either into a radical right isolationism, or a very denominational centrist middle,
or a fairly inter-denominational, almost community-church, model that will be fairly indistinguishable from broad evangelicalism.
How do you explain the shift from "splitting" into large divisions to "splintering" into smaller factions?
I think it goes back to one of the book titles, "When Choice Becomes God." People are demanding options. And they demand them in church. "I want it my way. Tailor-made to me. A smorgasbord "I'll pick a little here, I'll choose a little there."
Secondly, we have a youth culture that is driving the church. The youth culture is not driven by issues of truth, but issues of the heart. And the heart is just volatile. A younger generation does not perceive authority in the same way previous generations have. And in the absence of that collective understanding of biblical divine authority, every man is his own law.
Imagine that you have the undivided attention of every member of churches of Christ for 10 minutes. What do you say?
> Hold fast to the absolute essentiality of baptism as a prerequisite for forgiveness, salvation, kingdom fellowship. It's the one doctrinal issue that we have understood in a way that others have not. That view of baptism is unique to us but is true to Scripture
> And do not let go of a cappella singing, hymnbooks, four-part harmony, and centuries of majestic hymnody.
In one generation, we are about to lose all of those things. I do believe that a cappella singing is God's choice for his children.
> In all seriousness, I would call on the church to abandon youth ministries, which have toppled the spiritual hierarchy.
Throughout Scripture, spiritual leadership is not only male, but it's elder.
It's the wisdom of the years that leads and nurtures younger generations. We're just a youth-driven church, like the youth-driven culture we're part of.
> Finally, I think we need to seriously re-examine whether or not we are restoration people, as we claim. We need to seriously reconsider whether we have truly restored New Testament Christianity.
What I'm calling for these days is radical restoration, both in terms of the church and the Christian lifestyle.
You fear for the future of our a cappella tradition. But how would you address a generation for whom the old arguments against instrumental music no longer seem to work?
You don't defend a cappella singing on the same basis as baptism. It is a more subtle doctrinal issue. We know historically that neither the Jews in the exile nor the early Christians used instruments. Was that just happenstance or was it God's leading?
The writer of Hebrews is the key. All the things that were related to temple worship were done away with in Christ. God is trying his best to bring us from externals to internals. Basically the water of baptism and the Lord's Supper are all we have of externals.
We keep thinking that we're the only ones who sing without instruments. To this day, millions of Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox do not sing with instruments. We're not in the minority, we're in the majority. And nobody knows that.
Of course, the question is loaded: our A Cappella practice is not remotely related to tradition. From the Ancient Near Eastern Texts, to clear Biblical association between instruments and lack of respect for the Word, the fact that the Jewish "congregation" did not worship with "singing and instrumental accompaniment" even under the "like the nations" Monarchy, to the fact that the Synagogue had no praise service, to the fact that the Christian command is not "sing" but teach, to the universal witness of the church Fathers and beyond, the non-instrumental practice is based on solid biblical foundations. The word for melody in the Old and New Testaments never included aninstrument unless the instrument was defined. A psalmos allows as "instruments:
- The human voice or
- The harp or other mechanical instrument
We add to this table from time to time but here is a list which confirms the church of Christ as part of the majority which still reject instrumental music:
Scholars who rejected Music
Churches which rejected or reject Music
The Christian Chronicle"Upon entering one congregation, I could only hear one voice - that of the praise leader coming over the P.A. system. I soon realized the praise group was also singing, but even with their own individual microphones, they were no match for the volume generated by the leader. Honestly, I would have said that none of the congregation of several hundred was singing. The page numbers and words were being projected on the screen, but like several congregations I've visited, there seems to be an anathema if there are more than a few seconds between songs. Certainly not enough time to turn pages, so very few were using a book.
"... my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. ..."
This is Where the Youth Ministers Are Getting False Doctrine. And undoubtedly the accompanying attitude.
Musical Worship Index F. LaGard Smith
Counter added 8.29.05
F. LaGard Smith