Can you tell me if “responsive reading” by the congregation during worship service is scripturally wrong? Also, is the use of a microphoned “praise team” (not standing in front of the congregation) to enhance the song service in violation of scripture? I’m struggling to find sources of information on these matters and will appreciate any information you can offer.
The first of these two questions can be answered briefly. Assuming that the responsive reading is done under male leadership, it is scriptural. Responsive reading is much like singing without the music. It is different from the manner in which churches of Christ have normally had public readings from the scripture, but different does not mean unscriptural. Unfortunately, seeking that which is “different” is sometimes done for the wrong reason – the desire to be like the “nations” round about. The danger, of course, is that some folks don’t know where to quit being different, and their desire for “some new thing” often leads them to do things “different” from scripture.
This brings us to the second question. There is no indication in the question that there is other than male leadership in the pulpit. The “microphoned praise team” is seated in the congregation. While the argument can be, and most likely is made that nothing but “congregational singing” is occurring, it is clear that at least two women (assuming there is one soprano and one alto) have been elevated to lead electronically. What is said in connection with women preachers applies here as well. The argument is often made that some songs are new and others are difficult to sing. That is certainly true, but it is not justification for varying from scripture by putting women in a leadership role in the assembly, with or without a microphone. Moreover, the four (assuming the women are joined by a tenor and a bass) members of the praise team are nothing but a “seated” or “microphoned” choir. The only way to avoid that conclusion is to provide a microphone for each member of the assembly. In Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5:18-19 and Colossians 3:16, each member of the assembly stands on the same footing “speaking one to another” and “teaching and admonishing one another.” This was the practice of the early church. The early “church fathers,” in writing of early worship in song, described it as song in which “the whole congregation form[ed] one general chorus” (Chrysostom), and “to a man . . . make up a chorus” (Ignatius), wherein “the whole people join in song” (Ambrose) unto God. Eusebius, known as the “father of church history,” said that the churches’ congregational singing was so loud that it could be heard “by those standing outside.” M’Clintock and Strong note that: “From the apostolic age singing was always a part of divine service, in which the whole body of the church joined together; and it was the decay of this practice that first brought the order of singers into the Church.” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says that the first singing was congregational, “but gradually the practice of having a body of trained singer was introduced.” By the 4 th Century A.D., choral groups were being employed in some of the churches. By the time of Gregory the Great (d. 604), “the Schola Cantorum [school of singers] was fully established.” Had these departures begun in our day, they would most likely have started with the exclamation, “But it’s just a praise team!” A rose by any other name is still a rose. So is a choir!
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)