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Overview and Purpose

"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth." Psalm 108:5

What you are about to read is a factual account of a particular situation in a church setting concerning worship and music. I have tried to word it in such a way not to accuse or offend but simply to state facts, i.e. a circumstantial commentary. It is not my intention to spread rumors or gossip or to make the church or my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ look bad, but to provide an ongoing account for resource purposes because 'one who does not know history is bound to repeat it.' See Ecclesiastes 3:15. There are so many church members out there (especially youth) who are discouraged to the point of giving up. This resource is set up to provide encouragement and to provide tips on how to handle situations and avoid mixups, lack of communication etc. I would invite you to pray before you read this as I have and to keep the following Bible text in mind:

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12

Explanation

I will now explain to you briefly the information at hand and give you a little background in order for you to understand more thoroughly the particular situation in question.

Below are sets of letters written by myself to other churches far and wide in order to acquire essential information to be used for a presentation that the I was going to present along with other church office members (namely youth leaders) and youth to the church board before they rendered a final decision. The situation is chronicled in great detail point by point and is a rare look into what can go on from the perspective of a worshipper. I also have a letter from another church posted so you can see their response. I have many such letters and am seeking permission by some of these churches and pastors to post them as a resource. Believe it or not, a lot of people come to these sites looking for information for projects etc. As the situation continues, I will keep you updated.

Here is my initial letter to the churches

Hi, I'm a fellow Adventist. I love your web site! It looks great! We are considering obtaining one as well. The reason I am writing you and other Adventist churches across North America is to acquire some pertinent information in the field of musical instruments and worship style in the divine afternoon service. Here is some background on the situation:

What started with the youth in the church is now also concerning adults in the church. We were told by the church board that we could no longer use any electric guitars or any amplifiers whatsoever to praise God with in the divine service. Now after investigating the situation a little further we asked that a board meeting be called to state our case and that two of the three youth leaders be present on our behalf. So a letter addressed to the board was given to a board representative and the meeting was held. Prior to this, a youth meeting was held to validate our reasons as a youth group for wanting to play music in the church so that our youth leaders could be sure that our motives were sincere. To our surprise, not everyone present on the board was aware of this decision and inconsistencies were found regarding this decision and at least one board member was concerned because of it. The main reason for not being able to play in the church was that our equipment looked too "threatening," even though there are huge speaker columns set up on the stage for the P.A. system, and also vocal tracks are played with the same instruments and volume we use for people to sing to. That was also mentioned. Another reason is that they suggested we were going to do "moves" while we play even though we had never done that in a divine service years prior to that. Our church is located in (left out) but I'm not sure if being further (left out) has anything to do with it. You see, our neighbouring church around one hour away is all for it and invites us to play there all the time. A few weeks ago, the elder of that church preached a sermon in our church about how his view changed regarding things like music etc. in the church. He said how he used to think that if it wasn't in the hymnal, it didn't glorify God and went on to say how the Holy Spirit changed his view on that and the whole sermon was Biblically based. Then, rumors went around that someone told him of the problem our church was having and that someone put him up to it when the real story was totally different. He was actually stuck for something to preach about, then he prayed and the Holy Spirit impressed him to preach on that topic. I wouldn't find it hard to believe that the Holy Spirit would be with us in a situation like that, would you? We prayed enough etc.

Now, as I was saying earlier, it also involves some adults in the church too because they also play guitars etc., and now they cannot. And my major problem being a bass player is that I can't play at all because my bass has to be amplified period or else you will not be able to hear it. So now, even though I'd like to use my Spiritual talents to praise God in song, I can't either. We also have new youth coming into the church who can't wait to praise God with the instrument that they picked up years ago but I don't have the heart to tell them that they are not allowed. New Christians are so on fire for God and they can't wait to be used by Him. God created different cultures and personal tastes. Not everyone grew up the same way or in the same time period or even under the same circumstances.

In conclusion, another board meeting was called for April 10th. (1999) and this time we will all get to be present and discuss the matter for the final decision because a decision wasn't made at the last meeting over a month ago. Every argument at the first meeting was successfully defended but for some reason another meeting was called much later. I hope it wasn't to discourage us? A sad fact is that a LOT of people in the church like the music and our playing. It is only a few people but none have really approached us. This has been going on for well over a year now. The worst part of it is we were NOT even playing anything like Christian rock etc. We were playing hymns and other light Christian music...with no drums! Now here is where you fit in. We would like you to describe how things are done at your service and to name your church for verification at the board meeting. This might help to hold some weight at that board meeting. Testimonies would also be VERY much appreciated on how your service uplifts you and blesses you and your congregation. They seem to believe that all it causes is dissension in the church.

If you disagree with this whole letter and your service is run differently that's fine and I hope I didn't offend you. I thank you for your time and patience. Remember I need a reply before April 10th. Thanks.

Your brother in Christ, Randy

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After this first letter, I received many replies supplying the information I requested along with their sympathy. Mostly all were positive. I am working on printing more of them but I have to get their permission first. I have one letter posted so far and also one after my second letter. Stay tuned.

Replies (hopefully more on the way)

I tried to print everything as close as possible to the way it was received. Even the mistakes.

This one was from the Saint John Seventh-Day Adventist church.

Dear Randy,

I am sorry that I do not have a large amount of info to back you up in this endeavor of yours. The churches that I am pastoring have very little music (usually only organ or piano), and there is not that much youth involvement at this time. However, I would like to direct your attention to an SDA youth group in Halifax. One of the leaders is Jeff Robichaud. You might want to give him a call at (for the sake of privacy). He leads out in a praise band sorta thing. It had really gone quite well for them. However, I believe that they are experiencing similar "frustrations" at this point in time (as are you). Therefore, I would encourage you to call him and compare notes.

By the way, I listen primarily to mainstream Christian rock, metal, pop, country, and instrumental, with very little hymn or praise music included in my "play list". However, that is my personal preference. To get these types of tunes played in church would be highly difficult and not very feasible at this point in time of the church's development. I am not saying by any means that you ought not to try. I believe that we all have the right and freedom to say "I love you, God" in our own ways (as long as they conform to the principles found in the Word of God). However, for the sake of "Peace" among the brethren, sometimes we must just find alternate spots to worship (As sad as that sounds). But, know that there will come a day that we will all worship God and praise Him to His face, and that we ought really to be trying now to accomodate one another's worship styles, effectively entering into them, for the richness that comes from a diversity of worship styles. May God receive glory from your final decisions. If He does not, you have failed to keep Him foremost in mind. (and please remember, this is not said to be critical, but to be factual, and to keep the focus in the proper place). May God Himself give you wisdom and guidance, just as He has promised (cf. James 1:5). And His word is sure, and His promises are good. Guaranteed.

If you need anything else, please don't hesitate to write.

Love in Christ, Pastor Jerry Smith.

My Second Response (after April 10th)

Hello, this is Randy.

I apologize for being so late with my response but we were kind of overwhelmed with the way things went up here. Before I get into that I would just like to say thanks on behalf of our youth and our youth leaders for all of your prayers and support. Note: I will admit I did alter this letter a little due to emotional overcharge...read my reply in the forum for a more thorough understanding of it. I have come to realize that just because I feel our views and cause is righteous in God's eyes does not give us a license to open critisim or magnifying a particular situation. Though worded differently, the facts are still the same. I tried to just tell the story without criticizing.

This letter and the way things went will probably surprise you to say the least. Approximately one to two days before the meeting on the 10th. of April we were informed by the pastor that it wasn't a board meeting at all because we had asked the pastor to come over where we were preparing and discussing our presentation with the board and praying that Friday. If it wasn't for that, we probably wouldn't have known at all! All of a sudden he says that the "real" board meeting was scheduled for that Monday, the 12th. Earlier that week, the pastor phoned me to ask me if it was ok with me to have the meeting on that Sabbath afternoon. I found it strange they would have a board meeting that Sabbath as I was still under the impression of an actual board meeting, so I said it probably wouldn't be a good idea and I told him that one youth leader agreed with me because we had already discussed it at a youth meeting the previous Saturday night-that it wouldn't. Now one of the other youth leaders who couldn't make it that Saturday night because he was sick was talking to the pastor and just assumed without thinking that the 10th. was a Monday so he really didn't think nothing of it. Naturally, the pastor said he was talking to him and said he agreed to it. So later that Wednesday on the way to prayer meeting I was talking to that youth leader (the one who was sick) and asked him nicely just to get my story straight and he told me the whole thing what actually happened and how he actually wouldn't have consented to it. And furthermore, the pastor was talking on the phone about debates on the nature of Christ at Andrews University and I was wondering how that applied to our situation.

So here we are, the night before, finding out that it was supposed to actually be a debate in front of the whole church the next Sabbath. That's a lack of communication for you, I hope it was not intentional. So we had to stay up very late and rework our whole research and try to carefully split it up because we thought we would still be represented by at least one or more of us and/or the leaders at the board meeting on the following Monday.

The next day brings the great debate where everyone got involved to state their opinion and we found that besides a few board members there were only about three people who were really opposed to it. One of them (a new church member at that time) practically accused us of doing drugs and we hadn't even talked with her up to that point. That did NOT go over well. Also, the main thing in question to be discussed was equipment but they started bringing things in about music in general (especially secular rock and roll) that were hardly related to that. That might of been what they wanted, correct me if I'm wrong. When there was mention by one of the youth leaders that the primary focus for the discussion was our equipment, the face of one of the board members dropped. All in all, there were three of us youth up front with microphones and we were told that given the circumstances we did a fine job handling ourselves and we managed to keep our cool by the grace of God through a lot of prayer of course. But by the expression on some faces, I gathered it looked like their minds were already made up and we speculate that they were just doing this to kind of keep us happy. We did state right there and then that we thought it was going to be a board meeting and then one adult takes this piece of paper out that we had filled out literally months ago about what we wanted to discuss for family life after church once in awhile for sack lunches. And one of our responses was a musical debate and it was made to look like that is what we wanted when that was a whole other discussion (pertaining to the music we listen to). And besides, even if that was the case, ample time wouldn't have been given to prepare a presentation for that either!

At the end of the debate, mention was made by someone about youth representatives at the next board meeting and they wouldn't really give a straight answer but were leaning towards a no. So Monday comes and they had their board meeting. Of course no youth leader (not one out of the three) was notified as to what they discussed there or what their decision was. As with the very first meeting everything was done without youth leaders or youth present because they probably realized if we had been there like two of the youth leaders were last time they would have had all of their arguments refuted and they would have had no reason not to agree. To demonstrate that things were done in a secretive manner, some church members present at the debate did not even know exactly what the issue was! And this has been going on for well over a year now!

So Wednesday arrives and we are at prayer meeting. No one from the board informed us as to their final decision. Our youth leader had to ask at the end of the meeting what went on two days prior. This is the answer that was given us.....1. No electric guitars of any kind (including my bass which means I can't play anymore period) at any time in the sanctuary. i.e. no concerts (we had to cancel the one we were planning...the church has no other room suitable to hold these events). One member is quite discouraged now because he just recently purchased a very expensive piece of equipment not to mention the thousands of dollars our group has paid. We were hurt because we overheard one member of the church say it's not like the church paid fo it. 2. Strangely, background music through the P.A. system and columns are still allowed although these guidelines were laid down: they can't sing too wild and also the music can't be too loud or sound like dance music. Now that was their opinion and the question brought up by one of our youth leaders was, "Who's ultimately the judge?" 3. Their decision was quote final. It will not be brought up at succeeding board meetings nor will we have a chance to present the rest of our information which I spent hours researching and compiling, one time I never even went to bed. To my surprise I was approached by a board member who wanted to see the rest of my information. After all that!

Then the pastor asked, "What about my keyboard? It's electric." And then the board member said, "No. just guitars." I think you might be right, maybe it is something personal but I sure hope not. Now acoustic guitars are fine but we don't have the money to spend on all new equipment after it took years to save up. Secondly, you can't play certain chords like barre chords etc. because they just weren't meant for it and third, you lose a lot of your effects like reverb etc. And remember, I can't praise God at all now up there. Even acoustic guitars with pickups and amps aren't allowed. Note: Recently we have noticed that most members who choose to play acoustic guitars in the sanctuary gradually started holding it closer to the microphone, so it can be heard through the speakers. Now before at an earlier board meeting, one youth leader tried to explain that a pick-up for a guitar was just like a microphone for it, the same thing as a microphone for your voice amplifies it and is used in the church.

Now that a decision was made they look satisfied. Now we have more than three adults involved now. Some things I won't disclose due to lack of permission but I'll tell you, it is complicated. This situation reminds me of a Bible text, "It is better for one to die than for a whole nation." In this case their logic is perverted because it is only a few who would protest in the first place. We were actually asking below compromise. Compromise is half and half. We didn't even want to play half the time, just once a quarter. But if we ever walked out to the music we don't particularly care for but have to hear all the time, to them we are babies or "shaken out" of the church but if someone else does it to the instruments we want to use they are taken seriously even though few in number. We as youth respect their instrument (the piano etc.) even though some of us do not care for it that much. We would never walk out of the sanctuary because of that. It all boils down to respect.

I am sure glad we prayed and had people praying for us or else it would have been too overwhelming and discouraging. It isn't over yet. Here is the next step...

A few youth leaders but one in particular is requesting an investigation from the General Conference! (We decided not to after prayer and discussion). Now this weekend we are meeting about that and to discuss are plan from there. As long as God gives us the grace and the strength, we will keep getting up after we have been knocked down and with each succeeding time we'll only get stronger. But we still need your prayers because sometimes we are discouraged etc. and we definitely need prayers behind us.

As a last resort if things don't work out the way they should we are going public with it. We will write an artical in the Messenger etc. and I will email all the churches and people I have corresponded with and tell them about it (things have changed, but I do not feel it is wrong to correspond with fellow churches etc.) Well, I guess that's the latest for now but I'll keep you posted. Feel free to write back!

Your brother in Christ, Randy :)

Replies (hopefully more on the way)

Again, I tried to print everything as close as possible to the way it was received.

Dear Brother Randy,

I am sorry to read your "report" on the situation. It saddens me to think that we all can't get along and do things in a peaceable manner. Time and again we are encouraged by the Scriptures to "seek peace with all men" and to do what it takes to be at peace with all (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14). I mean, if one has ever taken a close survey of what the Apostle Paul said, one will find that he wrote just tons of stuff on how the Body of Christ (that is, the Church, and those who claim to be a part of it) are to be of one mind (cf. Romans 15:5; Philp. 2:1-4; Eph. 4:1-5:2; 1 Cor. 12:4-13:13). Think it about it, folks...if our body is fighting against itself, we call it "CANCER", and it is usually fatal (and soon). However, in this case, we have the Greatest Physician ever to help heal our problem. By taking the case to Him, we shall ALWAYS find a cure for our sickness. Please do so,...and as soon as possible. You never know when cancer may start to spread.

Perhaps I should explain what I mean in greater detail.

YOUTH: Don't try and "go over the heads" of the board immediately. Try again, and bring in others who share your viewpoint (in a loving Christ-like mannner). If then the Board and the pastor refuse to give you an audience (as well as being open to the fact that they may have been too hasty in their decisions), it is THEN time to take it to a "higher authority", such as the Conference or Union Executive Committee. This follows the advice of Matthew 18:15-17. However, remember the context in which this advice is given: Jesus lays out in great detail the preciousness of each and every soul to Himself, and how He guards each one with the greatest care possible. Therefore, we must take into the most serious consideration our treatment of others, even if we feel our "rights" may be being maligned or abused. Jesus compared His followers to children (Matt. 18:2-3), and He said that we need to treat them with the utmost respect and love possible. This means, of course, that we are to expect the same kind of (I don't know what happened here...)

BOARD AND/OR PASTOR: I don't profess to know the whole situation, nor do I believe that I have the whole story. There are three sides to every story, as they say. And that third side is the side we must be seeking for. It is known as the TRUTH. And we serve a God who is exactly that (John 14:6). Let us honor Him in all that we do, without being (as the KJV puts it) "respecters of persons".

If I read my Bible right (and if you would like to look at it yourselves), 1 Corinthians 12-14 involves an indepth discussion on the concept of Spiritual Gifts: who has them, how they got them, Who they got them from, and how we are to treat those who have them ("those" being our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus). Read now how Paul says:

"If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has place the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. And if all were one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you". On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker [read: unwanted] are NECESSARY;...But God has so composed the body the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there should be NO division in the body, but that the members should have the SAME care for one another." (1 Corinthians 12:17-25 [emphasis mine])

Paul then goes on to outline how the VERY MOST IMPORTANT THING in a Christian's life is to be the outpouring of love in EVERYTHING he or she does (ESPECIALLY with regard to our fellow members of the body!). See 1 Corinthians 13 if you don't believe me. In fact, read aloud the first 8 verses, as well as the very last verse. That sums up things pretty well. However, I am not done yet. I also mentioned that 1 Corinthians 14 was involved in the debate concerning spiritual gifts. Specifically, chapter 14 deals with the phenomena known as "tongues" (which is a scary word to most Adventists). In any case, what it all boils down to is that Paul says tongues are okay. HOWEVER, they are NOT to be used UNLESS: (1) there is an interpreter (vv. 26-28); and (2)unless it is done in an orderly manner (which, in the case of most examples of "the gift of tongues" today, it most certainly is not -- v. 27).

I say this because the principle of the thing relates to the music of the youth today. Much of the music today is ofund by most elders of the church to be "too fast" or "too heavy" to listen to, and gain a blessing from. (Note to youth: this is why the elders so often object to the use of it, CUZ they CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT THE SINGER IS SAYING!!). However, as a note to the board and pastor: consider the fact that your youth have usually grown up listening to rock or jazz or metal or contemporary pop or modern Christian praise music. And then think about this: IT IS THE LANGUAGE THAT THEY SPEAK! IT IS IN THE LANGUAGE THAT THEY WERE RAISED ON (so to speak)! A lot of the lyrics of today's contemporary Christian artists deal directly with the believer's relationship with God in what you might call "the real world". There is usually not a lot of "pussyfooting" around. However, their lyrics also tend to reflect honest souls, seeking to express the love of God in ways that are relevant and palatable to our youth. Therefore, having stated all this, I want to summarize:

(1) Instruments are NOT inherently evil, in and of themselves.
2) Music (even of different style than hymns) are NOT evil, in and of themselves.
3) We must not quench the working or gifting of the Spirit (1 Thess.5:19)
4) The youth of today have EVERY RIGHT, just as much as the church organist, pastor, head elder, deacon, or any other church member in good standing to share what God has done for them, in the way that God has given them to share. If we do not allow them this opportunity, we are categorizing them as "less than useful", saying that "we do not need them" or what they have to offer. And that, according to Paul, is WRONG.
5) A suggestion, based on the principles of 1 Corinthians 14, would be that the lyrics to all the songs sung in church (including the youth songs) be published, and accessible to all who wish to fully involve themselves in the singing. For those who do NOT wish to be involved, sit there. And keep quiet. You are at church to worship God and to LEARN more about Him. Watch and see what He is saying through others using their talents for Him. Never limit the way in which God will communicate His love to us. The Pharisees did that, and they missed everything (i.e. His birth, His life, and even the significance of His death). Don't let this happen to you OR your church.

Share this with anyone and everyone involved. And read the texts, please.(preferably in a language understandable to you (eg modern day English translation)). You will see what I am talking about. Let Scripture speak for itself. Let God speak for Himself.

Love in Christ, Pastor Jerry Smith.

PS Feel free to print whatever you would like. Only make sure that everything is presented in its original context. Thanks. God be with you all. My prayers are.


Feel free to read my analysis of the whole situation. Click here.


"A conservative is someone who wants to keep what the liberals fought for a generation ago..."



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