Mike Cope's blog

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Today was supposed to be my last day to speak at the Ozark Christian College Bible lectureship, but that was one of several trips I've cancelled through April because of Chris's injuries from the wreck. It's been a few years since I've spoken at OCC, but I love that place. And Ken Idleman is one of the best Christian college presidents I've ever met. You can't believe how many devoted missionaries and church-planters have come from this relatively small campus. Here's what saddens me: I was born and raised 18 miles from that campus, but I didn't know it existed until I was in my late 20s. In the church I grew up in (filled with loving, godly people), we had a slight disagreement on the Independent Christian Churches: some considered them "erring brothers" while others wouldn't go so far as to actually admit they were "brothers." The main issue was instrumental music. If you worshiped with instruments (rather than a cappella -- just a bit of background for those who aren't on the inside of this and can't make any sense of it), you couldn't be the people of God. You've added something to worship, disobeyed God, and therefore are not the people of God. And so I grew up not knowing that 18 miles from me was a vibrant campus filled with Christ-loving people who could have nurtured my faith. I can't help but wonder how the spiritual lives of some of the teens at our church might have ended up much healthier if we'd come under the influence of some of the teachers and students at Ozark Christian. Now, I find this almost a mystery. No matter what you think about instrumental music (check my ipod), being right on that issue does not make you the people of God! No wonder we've cranked out so many spiritual neurotics who wind up scared to death of death. Who wants to face judgment when you believe you had to be right on every matter of biblical interpretation? The funny thing is that we knew better in our hymns. My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus' blood and righteousness. Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to the cross I cling. My sin--o the bliss of this glorious thought-- My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, And I bear it no more! Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. Now I'm so thankful to know what God is doing through these dear brothers and sisters at Ozark Christian College. Tucked away in SW Missouri is a campus that is changing the world. For that, I give God thanks.


  • I so agree with you--I missed out on so many blessings through the years because I didn't recognize so many children of God. One of my favorite quotes from "Blue Like Jazz" is:

    "At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay. And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow. I don't think there is any better worship than wonder."--Donald Miller

    I don't even want to debate if intstrumental music is right or wrong--because we all need God's grace--even if I get just one thing wrong.

    I am thankful my spiritual family has "grown" through the years!


    By Blogger jettybetty, at 2/23/2005 03:27:00 AM  

  • Both of my mother's parents were from the Neosho/Joplin area and several of my great-uncles served as long-time elders of the the First Christian Church in Joplin. About ten years ago, I was helping my grandparents unpack at their new house when I came across a collector's plate bearing the name and picture of the church in Joplin. My grandmother was looking at it and told me how this church had been so significant in her family's life for decades. So then I asked her where she wanted me to hang the plate and she said, "Oh, don't hang that up. We're not Christian any more." I said, "You're not?" She said, "No, we're Church of Christ."

    I remember what a load off my shoulders it was to realize "The Book of Life" wasn't simply a Church of Christ membership roll. As a kid, I used to agonize over the fact that my favorite author Laura Ingalls Wilder was burning in hell because there was no "Little Church of Christ on the Prairie."

    By Blogger Deana Nall, at 2/23/2005 03:38:00 AM  

  • Oh come now, Mike. Since when do we actually pay attention to the words that we sing? :)

    I'm glad the Kingdom is bigger than what is posted on our church signs. I'm glad those old hymns really do reflect the truth of God's saving power.

    By Blogger Jon, at 2/23/2005 04:50:00 AM  

  • I wonder if there are Christians who hesitate to sing "Lord, Make Us Instruments (of Your Peace)" ... just because of the word "instruments."

    If there comes a time when we can accept musical instruments in our assemblies, I feel certain we'll approach it scripturally.

    Only the harp, cymbals and sackbut will be permitted.

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 2/23/2005 05:13:00 AM  

  • posts like these make me thank God so much for the experiences he has blessed me with so early in life. I have worshipped and ministered with many spectrums of churches.. from instrumental to a cappella, from legalistic to evangelical and pentecostal. All of which have amazing people with hearts for God that have encouraged and blessed my faith in so many ways. It is so good to hear people exclaim over the larger Church body than their own "superior denomination". I am so young and have so much to learn, but I am grateful for the diverse experiences thus far, and the amazing people (like y'all) that I get to worship Him with.

    By Blogger Phyllistene, at 2/23/2005 05:31:00 AM  

  • Every summer in the fields near where I grew up in Kentucky was a big event called "Igthus." It brought all the young, up-and-coming Christian bands and singers for a three-day worship opporunity. Or so I heard. I never went because my church didn't support it.

    We at Boulder Valley Church of Christ in Colorado have begun to accept instruments into our worship. Because we are still transitional, in true CofC form we only allow it once every quarter with a two-week 'warning' :). The two offerings we have had have been beautiful songs written and performed by our own members. We've decided at this time to stay acoustic. Whether this sounds really progressive or really backward, I have to lift up our eldership for taking such a bold step.

    By Blogger Cindy, at 2/23/2005 05:59:00 AM  

  • Wait, wait, wait.

    Women doing stuff in the church service and now the instrumental issue. If you're not careful, you and Highland are going to get written off by conservative churches of Christ.

    Next, you're going to start talking about how the Kingdom of God contains sinners and how grace is not done by any of our works. Crazy talk like that.

    By Blogger Phil, at 2/23/2005 06:48:00 AM  

  • I'm 30 years old and just now starting to get this grace thing. So thankful that I don't have to be right on every count. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast." (Eph 2)

    By Blogger Jana, at 2/23/2005 06:58:00 AM  

  • Spiritual anorexia in our fellowship of churches of Christ is of constant amazement to me.

    I was brought up in the church-teaching rather than Jesus/Bible-teaching era. We were so bent on proving "our" church was the right one, we completely set aside extending grace and forgiveness to those of other fellowships. As a result, we starved our souls - we nurtured a 'we can work our way into God's good graces' spiritual diet, rather than teaching God's grace is what saves us, not our 'filthy rags' of good works.

    It took the pastor/teacher and members of an interdenominational evangelical community church to free me from that struggle, teaching me the greatness and completeness of God's grace for us.

    The presence of instruments in the music worship not only did not bother me, but in many cases, especially in the more joyful, upbeat praise songs, they were true instruments of praise to our LORD.

    It was at Scott Memorial that I began to realize the richness of different 'flavors' of believers, their writers, musicians, and as you mention Mike, colleges. What a shock! ;) There were true, dedicated belivers in Jesus. Believers that have and are dedicating their lives to His service and spreading the word.

    I'm so thankful that my childhood fellowship of churches of Christ is beginning to come out its cocoon and isolation, and is beginning to enjoy fellowship with co-heirs in other groups. PTL!! May it all be to HIS glory and worship!!

    By Blogger Kathy, at 2/23/2005 07:01:00 AM  

  • During my sabbatical from the c of C, I spent six months at a local Christian church. It was a plant that had grown from 30 to 400 in a matter of a year. The youth minister and worship minister were both Ozark graduates and Spirit led leaders and their ministries flourished. They loved Ozark and still got a fair amount of council from people there.

    Great Bruce Hancock "Boxcars" song:

    There's some big ol' Buicks by the Baptist church,
    Cadillacs at the Church of Christ.
    I parked my camel by an ol' haystack:
    I'll be lookin for that needle all night.
    Well, There ain't gonna be no radial tires,
    Turnin' down the streets of gold.
    An' I'm goin down to the railroad tracks,
    Watch them lonesome boxcars roll.

    By Blogger happytheman, at 2/23/2005 07:14:00 AM  

  • If there were a religious version of SNL, there for sure would be a skit about us and the irony of our stances.

    A.) Scripture alone is our guide
    B.) Scripture tells us to love our fellow believers because if we don't then we can't possibly love God.
    C.) We can't "fellowship" other believers because they don't adhere to a tradition we have that is based on history.

    How much love do you have for another believer if you can't call them a brother or sister, or "fellowship" them?

    "For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." I John 4:20

    I am not sure that was in our Canon.

    By Blogger David U, at 2/23/2005 07:18:00 AM  

  • And David, if it was an SNL skit, surely our Christian church brethren (and sistren) would be screaming at the top of their lungs, "We need more cowbell, baby."

    By Blogger Grant, at 2/23/2005 08:07:00 AM  

  • Great! Now for the rest of the day I will carry the vision of Grant, Brandon, Chris Seidman, Nino?, Val?, Stephan Bailey?, Lovell? Quile? Mitch Wilburn? Matt Murphy? ... creating a christian version of SNL. The imagination runs wild... I would pay good money to see that show.

    By Blogger SG, at 2/23/2005 08:38:00 AM  

  • I can't even remember how many friends I told as a child that we (the CofC) were the only ones going to heaven. I said that to my friends! And that was mainly over instrumental music, and a few other "less important" issues. I could have been an encourager to them, a real friend, if I had only known.

    By Blogger Jenni Jamison, at 2/23/2005 09:42:00 AM  

  • I can only imagine the Lord at judgement day. He's asking me questions about my life, i.e. how did i show my love for Him, how did I show my love for my neighbors, did I show compassion and understanding to my fellow man, and oh, by the way, "Did you ever sing in church with instrumental music?"

    Somehow, I don't think that question is ever going to come up. But, it is interesting, my son recently told me about a girl inviting him to church, and that this particular church had instrumental music. He then told her that he grew up in church that only used a pitch pipe and vocal cords. No instruments, and certainly no band! I had to then remind him that his father had once played in one of those bands.

    By Blogger terry, at 2/23/2005 11:32:00 AM  

  • I, too, grew up in a small West Texas town (of about 3,000 just north of Lubbock, which shall remain nameless) believing that "we" were the only ones going to Heaven, although, I don't know that I ever said that to anyone out loud. But, my Baptist and Methodist friends all knew it and some remind me to this day (some 40 something years later) that that was our "theology" and deepest belief.

    In our town, it was the Baptists, Methodists and Church of Christ, which was a big issue when it came to electing members of the school board because neither the Baptists nor the c of C believed in dancing, while with Methodists, pretty much anything went. Not that anything much went on. I grew up in a time and age where no one I knew at all smoked or drank and I never heard four letter words or bad language from anyone in the entire town! Those were the days, in a lot of ways, but the religious prejudices and practices we learned and lived left a lot to be desired.

    Fortunately, I left there, as did my entire family(even though my parents had grown up there, too), who all learned a much better way and we are all much better Christians for the changes, thanks be to God's grace and love in our lives and the influences of many vibrant Christians in other places.

    But, I think that we most times over complicate the entire matter of differences we have with other religious groups on a lot of issues, but, in particular, instrumental music. I live far away from Abilene, which is rather a world unto itself, in my opinion, because of the strong Christian influences there, and perhaps not in touch as much with how things "really are" out here in the "hinterlands," (in South Louisiana, which is predominately Catholic, with innumerable varieties of Baptists right up the road in Mississippi). This is really a mission area in many ways. We don't have the luxury of having a congregation on every corner, with a lot of different views on worship and/or everything else to choose from in inviting people where to attend and participate, and have to approach Christianity from a very simple, practical perspective, which I believe is Biblical.

    It seems to me in talking with people outside the c of C, which I do a LOT, where not much about the c of C is known at all and what is known is not negative in any way (from lack of background and the understanding that we have about church "politics")that the best way to identify ourselves is just as "Christians," too, who practice and worship the way we do because God intended, thorough Jesus and the Gospel, for us to be able to worship in "Spirit and in truth," - anywhere in the world - in any situation imaginable - without needing anything other than our own bodies - for singing, praying, testifying, preaching, edifying, fellowshipping, and so on - and some bread and some grape juice (or dare I say it?) wine.

    You know what's really amazing. Everyone I talk with - without exception - understands that and thinks that it makes a lot of sense! That approach solves the need to get into long theological discussions about whether instrumental music is correct and/or appropriate and on and on, and covers a multitude of other issues, too, without anyone getting upset or turned off by our attitude.

    It's not opinion. It's what we find that Jesus taught in the New Testament and that early Christians practiced. It's not that I believe we have to go back and do everything as they did, because we don't. We can't. We don't have to. God made it very simple. Wherever we are, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in our journey through life, we can worship, we can praise, we can fellowship, with or without many things we sometimes want to make issues of. Who cares? I truly don't believe that God does!

    To God be the glory, forever and ever, in whatever we do and however we do it. - Dee Andrews

    By Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews, at 2/23/2005 11:37:00 AM  

  • i was a child in the southern churches of Christ in the '50s. my favorite ironic hymn lyric that we used to sing with such fervor was from the song "Break Thou the Bread of Life"-
    "beyond the sacred page I seek Thee Lord."
    interesting sentiment for people who believed the sum total of God's revelation was contained exclusively between the covers of the Bible.

    By Blogger ed, at 2/23/2005 12:00:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    I am an Ozark Graduate, and had a great experience there. I am sorry that they are missing out on hearing you speak!

    I am hopeful that someday we can bring some of the Ozark folks here (Abilene/Highland). I would love to have our folks hear people like Mark Scott, Jackina Stark, and so many others who blessed me during my time there. Any chance that something like that is in the works?

    I will close, trusting that you will be able to be there next time!


    By Blogger Beverly, at 2/23/2005 12:07:00 PM  

  • A few years back I was working in the DC area for several months and worshipped with the folks at Journey's Crossing (www.ilovethischurch.com). They are an independent Christian church that "rocks." It was my first experience really getting to know the folks on the other side of 1906, and it was one of the greatest spiritual blessings of my life.

    By Blogger David Michael, at 2/23/2005 02:14:00 PM  

  • It would be a lot funnier topic if it were not so sad.

    However, like so many issues, it is not the issue that is the issue, but rather what the issue reveals about the people with whom it is an issue.

    You think no instruments is right? Fine. How are you treating those with instruments? And vice versa.

    My personal history reveals me to be one kind of idiot on two sides of the issue.

    My goal now is to revere God and love people when I talk of this or any other issue. God give me the courage to do just that.

    By Blogger Fajita, at 2/23/2005 06:43:00 PM  

  • I like Dee Andrews'post!

    By Blogger don, at 2/24/2005 06:40:00 AM  

  • Amen to "Fajita". To treat others like I want to be treated is one of the hardest things to actually do--I pray daily that I can just study God's Word, grow in the Spirit, and experience joy and peace, and not let differing opinions get in the way of my walk with Our Father.

    By Blogger annie, at 2/24/2005 06:52:00 AM  

  • It's been SO encouraging uplifting to come out of legalism and to see so many others doing so. The restoration movement is becoming a movement again instead of a monument.

    Kevin Harper

    By Blogger Kevin Harper, at 2/24/2005 09:35:00 AM  

  • Intro to neo tech secret

    By Blogger Emily, at 2/28/2006 04:56:00 AM  

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