Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 20, 1952

A Preacher Resigns

Bryne A. Shofner, San Antonio, Texas

(Editor's Note: The following lengthy letter was sent by brother Bryne A. Shofner to all the members of the church of Christ in Commerce, Texas, the day after he had resigned his work with the congregation there, and as be was leaving the city. He resigned by request of the elders. See editorial.)

Commerce, Texas December 30, 1951 To Whom It May Concern:

Word has reached me from several sources that some are concerned over what they "hear" that I said to my class on the morning of December 23. Personally, I desire to be open and above board regarding my convictions. Since coming among you twenty-six months ago, I have nothing to hide nor fear either in my life or teachings. So in order that all may know, and none will have to guess at what was said, here in substance is the talk as nearly complete as I am able to recall:

"Class, you will please bear in mind that I am reading and teaching from the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament which is supposed to be the very latest translation given to us in our modern day understandable English of that which was spoken in the Greek and Hebrew by Jesus and his apostles.

In the beginning of our study of 2 Peter, please observe the 3rd verse which says: "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness." Now couple with this the apostle Paul's statement in 2 Tim. 3:16, 17 that "All scripture is inspired of God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work," and we have definite assurance that the promise of Jesus made to his apostles in John 16:13 that "The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth," was literally fulfilled.

There is therefore NO question today but what divine revelation gives us every act necessary to be performed not only in becoming a child of God, but likewise in worship toward his holy throne.

What we as individual Christians MUST understand, know, and put into practice is that there is a realm of faith where God "speaks" ("thus saith the Lord" language), and in such we are unquestionably bound — these items never change, cannot be added to, nor taken away from. But, at the same time, there is a realm of necessary judgment (method, or means, of carrying into effect God's commands) where God has NOT spoken, and in this we MUST speak; but our opinion of what is decent and in order is not to be bound on any man (made a test of fellowship), for this "method" or "how" is not rigid, but can change. The thing to remember is "decency and order" that the cause may not be belittled, made fun of, or the item degraded.

God has not only clearly revealed what acts man should and must perform in the proving of his faith in order to be saved, but likewise those that are to be done in worshipping him, as above stated.

What you and I therefore must come to realize and put into practice is that the divine "purpose" must be seen and recognized in the performance of any "act" designated by the Lord God. In other words, we must recognize the difference between acts, purposes, and "methods" or means. For example:

God has commanded that man be baptized (Mask 16:16) and in this he has legislated on the "PURPOSE" which is remission of sins (Acts 2:38) for having completed the Birth (John 3:5) "born of the water and of the Spirit (not water alone, not Spirit alone) but faith by which man is saved has been completed — proved in Obedience; however God has said nothing about the "method" or "means," hence man may be baptized (immersed, which is the Greek meaning of baptism) in any convenient position or place. "Method" then becomes no part of faith requirements, but simply is what is "decent and in order." (1 Cor. 14:40)

Now what is true of baptism is also true of the Lord's Supper, of the act of giving, of preaching or teaching, of praying, and likewise of SINGING.

If the church over the nation could only learn this truth relative to "mission work" the ARGUMENT and continual WRANGLING as to "how," "method" or "means" of doing such, would be over, and the Lord's will be done. (Mark 16:16) Until it is recognized and applied, the sin is going to continue, and the church is going to occupy a back-seat in the religious world.

I say earnestly, God fearingly, and with a burning desire to see the church on the right road, going the right way, that when we have accounted for the divinely authorized "Acts," and these "acts" are performed in accordance with divinely revealed "purposes," then we are contending for the faith. But the very minute anyone (big preacher or little) begins to contend for certain "methods" then laws are being made where God never authorized such, and Gal. 1:8 and Matt. 15:9 become effective. Titus 3:10, is also in order.

In light of the foregoing, a plea from my heart is:

(1) For all who differ on "method" in prayer -Whether standing, kneeling, speaking extemporaneously, or even from prepared notes on that which one wishes to say to God, or "what-have-you," to let us still have PRAYER (the thing required of God) in common.

(2) For all who differ on "method" in observing the Lord's Supper — whether one-cup, single loaf, or loaf broken by the one who waits on the table, by the individual Christian, or "what-ever-else-have-you," let us still have the remembrance of Christ in common.

(3) To all who differ on "method" of going into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature, whether it be a decently and orderly system of selecting and supporting evangelists, whether it be done by the local congregation, the church cooperating in the aggregate, the individual Christian, making use of the Bible college, or "what-ever-else-have-you," let us still have the preaching of the gospel in common.

(4) To all who differ on "method" in giving, whether percentage of income, dollars, cents, the individual's own idea of how he has been prospered, just "how" it is to be collected, or "what-ever-else-have-you," let us still have love, sacrifice, and the spreading of Christ's cause in common.

(5) To all who differ on "method" of securing decent and orderly singing, let not the question of song books, a song leader, a leader's mannerisms, or even the sweet strains from an organ, or "what-ever-else-have-you," be a dividing issue, but let us have the singing of God's praises in common, and do it with all our hearts unto the Lord. (Eph. 5:19)

Of course we must understand and know that in the realm of opinion, where there is no "thus saith the Lord" in details of carrying out FAITH REQUIREMENTS, that men will always differ — and this is permissible, for here the Lord has not spoken. So, may the Lord help us not to bind our opinions on others, and to make a test of fellowship thereby, for in such we condemn ourselves. (Titus 3:10, 11)

As for the mechanical musical instrument in Christian worship, I have for years preached that it is No PART OF FAITH REQUIREMENTS, and thus cannot be "added" (required) as such. This I still maintain. I also maintain that one cannot ADD any opinion (unrevealed "method") as a FAITH REQUIREMENT, whether it be such a thing as "the means of assembling the money gifts," "the addition of cups to the cup" or "any other of the score or more disputed items that plague the church." There is a realm of faith, there is a realm of opinion; one is bound, the other is not.

Follow me closely right here when I say that there is a vast difference in "ADDING" as a faith requirement, and in employing a "means" of carrying into effect the faith requirement. To make myself clear — take for instance the faith requirement to "SING." Now IF (in order to obtain togetherness, decency and order, that melody may be made unto the Lord with all the heart — not "in" the heart) I can add a song book containing spiritual songs with notes, and a "leader" to direct the songs — for which there is no definite thus saith the Lord authority in the New Testament; but another brother desires to "sing songs by memory without a book and without a leader," which he might demonstrate could be done; yet I FORBID him his "method," have I not ADDED TO God's requirement for singing spiritual songs? Any open minded individual can see that I would be making a law where God never made one, and hence be a sinner in perverting God's desire — teaching for doctrine my own commandment.

Now permit me to come again: IF other religious people use some type of melodious sounds to achieve togetherness, decency and orderliness in singing, NOT making it a faith requirement (can sing without it if they so choose, just as I could serve a congregation with one cup if I should choose to take the time), but use it solely as a MEANS of assisting them to "sing with all their hearts unto the Lord" (Eph. 5:19), then do I have a right to make a law reading something like this:

I have a right to use a song director, song book with notes, and have my song director indicate with his voice, the waving of his hand or whatever other mannerism desired to accomplish the necessary togetherness and orderliness of singing, BUT my brother shall in no wise make use of an instrument capable of producing melodious sounds by which spiritual songs may be rendered decently and in order with all the heart?

Would I be right or wrong, helping Christ or sinning against Christ in so doing?

Of course not all instrumental music can be used any more than all strains of the human voice are acceptable. To make myself clear, a spiritual song (containing scriptural words and meaning) may be rendered in such a way and manner by the human voice and a jazzy tune as to become degrading and belittling to the cause of Christ. This certainly is neither decent nor in order. In like manner, heavy banging on a piano, the use of an orchestra or loud sounding horn fairly drowning out the teaching in song, producing a physical rather than a spiritual sensation or emotion, may in no sense conform to the spirit of Christian worship, hence be a SIN. However when the low sweet strains of such an instrument as the organ "blend in with" and "bring out" the tone, the real "melody" of the human voice which is being rendered "with all the heart" making much more impressive the average congregation's message in song by arousing the deepest, purest and best emotions (real love) in man; then certainly there is NO sin, but the service is rendered inspiring for right and the blessed cause for which Christ died on Calvary.

What all should see is that it is NOT the "principle" that renders the instrument wrong, nothing is added, but "properly used" in decency and order, it can be a means of truly worshipping God in song (not with the instrument).

In other words it is simply a "method" (means) which may or may not be used; each congregation having a perfect right to use its own good judgment in the matter of using or not using such, for worship in song can be rendered decently and in order and with all the heart either way. The difference lies in whether or not "form" or "spirituality" is employed.

Our time is now up, but before we go, let us truly understand that "Christian worship" is not a mere ritualistic performance of acts, but is a humble bowing down of a creature before his Creator, in which he communes with God. Certainly every service should be planned, so that everything is done reverently, decently, in order, is inspiring, uplifting, and soul gratifying.

In the New Testament we have no "assembled list" of acts of worship. I think there is a reason for this, and that reason is that Jesus Christ never intended his people to come together merely to "observe items" but to "commune with God." May the Lord help us to do just that.

(End of class period)

P. S. (A serious question for all to truly ponder — rather long but please follow it):

Does not any person who becomes contentious to the point of being factious in the pressing of his argument that the requirement to "sing" eliminates the "means" of securing melodious, decent, and orderly singing (Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:40), and makes unto himself a law condemning a brother for adding a faith requirement (which the brother strongly affirms that he has NOT added, but is merely employing a "means" of carrying into effect God's requirement to sing and make melody to the Lord with all his heart); then IF Matthew 15:9 "In vain do you worship me teaching for doctrine the commandments precepts of men," and Titus 3:10, 11, "As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, having nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned; IF, I say, these scriptures do NOT apply — then to WHOM DO they apply?

In the words of a recent article, "Narrowness drives people from the church."