I’ve often been asked the question, “Why doesn’t your church use instruments?” In other words, why don’t churches of Christ use a band or a guitar, piano, or organ in worship? The absence of mechanical instruments of music is one of the first things that a visitor or guest notices when he visits one of our services.

And many consider this odd or strange or unusual. So they want to know, “Where’s the piano?” If we think that this question was answered in the 1950s and that we don’t need to be talking about it anymore, we are fooling ourselves. The truth about it is, we don’t talk about it much anymore. Think about it—when was the last time you heard a preacher preach a lesson on the importance of singing (and only singing) in worship? My preaching brothers, when was the last time you preached on this subject? What would you say to someone who would ask you about the music in churches of Christ?

Sometimes the question is asked like this: “They had instruments in the Old Testament, why not today?” It is true that the Israelites used instruments in praise to God. Do you know why? God told them to. Notice the actions of Hezekiah the king: “He stationed the Levites in the temple of the Lord with cymbals, harps and lyres in the way prescribed by David and Gad the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet; this was commanded by the Lord through his prophets. So the Levites stood ready with David’s instruments, and the priests with their trumpets” (2 Chronicles 29:25-26). Instruments were a part of the Old Testament assemblies just like animal sacrifices.

Read the next verse. “Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the Lord began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel” (2 Chronicles 29:27). There they are in the same  verse—burnt offerings and instrumental music. Why don’t we have animal sacrifices in worship today? God didn’t tell us to. Why don’t we have instruments in worship today? God didn’t tell us to.

When you look at the instructions God gave his New Testament church, the only thing that is clearly taught is for us to sing. Matthew says about Jesus and his disciples, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:30). The apostle Paul penned, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” (1 Corinthians 14:15). The Colossians were told, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). James wrote, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise” (James 5:13).

The question under discussion is a bigger question than, “Are we going to play a piano in church?” The question is, “Are we only going to do what God authorizes or are we going to do anything that God does not specifically condemn?” If we can do anything that God does not specifically condemn, that means we can pray to the virgin Mary or sprinkle instead of immerse or have coffee and cake for communion or have our worship assemblies on Monday instead of Sunday or preach from the Book of Mormon instead of the Bible or have snake-handling services or …

If it were left up to me, I like instrumental music. I like the sound of trumpets and violins and guitars. We would find a great band and some talented vocalists to sing and play. We would bring some creativity to our Sunday assemblies. We could even have some pretty and talented women to “dance in the name of Jesus.” (Read Psalm 150:4). Besides, that would draw a crowd and inspire the multitudes, wouldn’t it?

But good people, it’s not left up to me. Worship is not about what I want or what I like or what makes me happy. Worship is about making God happy. Jesus said, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

In every religious matter, there’s a way that absolutely cannot be wrong. And I know that singing spiritual songs to teach and admonish other Christians and singing hymns of praise to God cannot be wrong.

By Keith Parker