Saturday, January 6, 2024

Balance: A Tried and Tested Formula for Church Growth by Ira North


Balance: A Tried and Tested Formula for Church Growth

by Ira North

I recall Balance by Ira North coming out back in 1984. My father had purchased two copies of it to share with the leadership and membership of the congregation. He wanted everyone to read what was a new work in 1983 but is now reprinted in the Gospel Advocate’s Classics Series. I have both copies of that work from my father’s preaching days. It is among my treasured books and includes signatures of several saints that have since gone onto their reward. My father requested that everyone who read one of the copies sign their names to it.

I recently had the blessing of taking “Education Program in the Church” taught by Dr. David Powell at the FHU School of Theology and this was one of the several works we were assigned to read. Part of the assignment of reading this work was writing a book review of it including some background information on brother North. Some called him “Fiery Irey” and he work a bright red sport jacket to match. Dad and I were able to see it on display at the Gospel Advocate Bookstore several years ago now.

Ira North conducted the Amazing Grace Bible Hour which was aired on television originating from Madison, Tennessee. It was formatted more like a Bible Class; however, it did have congregational singing from the Madison Church of Christ. I recall my parents watching it at times when it was available in our viewing area. The congregation in Madison grew from 400 to 4,000 membership. While circumstances vary from congregation to congregation, I believe all can profit from reading (or re-reading) this book.

North uses Acts 2:40–47 as his text and model for this work. In it, he stresses the importance in balance in three major areas of work: teaching, evangelism, and benevolence. North suggested this model led to church growth then and will do so today. He emphasizes ten principles of church growth that were successful where he labored for several years. Ira North stated that the key to church growth is found in Ephesians 4:3, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (NKJV). Of this passage, North noted the “number one problem in the local congregation today is keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” The point needs to be made from our pulpits continually. Bickering and backbiting have ruined many congregations, and we must be on guard to squash such from our conduct. The apostle Paul wrote “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Galatians 5:15) Leadership needs to be vigilant that the truth of God’s word is taught, but they also need to be on guard to make sure it is presented in love and free of rancor, malice or a caustic attitude. The truth will be offensive enough; we cannot allow our imbalance to be a stumbling block to the lost learning the gospel.               

Originally printed in the West Virginia Christian, Vol. 30, No. 12, December 2023, p. 8. Reprinted by permission.

Instrumental Music in The Worship by M. C. Kurfees


Instrumental Music in The Worship

by M. C. Kurfees

The full title of this book is Instrumental Music in the Worship or the Greek Verb Psallo Philologically and Historically Examined. The original copyright to this book is 1911. This gives an idea just how long the pro-manmade instrument crowd has been attempting to make the Greek word in Ephesians 5:19, psallo, to include or allow manmade instruments. Note that!

I recently saw a video which misrepresented the acapella position as wholly contingent on psallo excluding an instrument as if our whole case hinged on that one word and cited Kurfees’ work as evidence. Anyone who has read this work will quickly realize the video not only misrepresents the view on Ephesians 5:19 but also this work by Kurfees. Kurfees’ treatment of psallo was NOT to show that instruments were absolutely excluded by the term. In fact, Kurfees shows that the term was changing in meaning basically from a manmade instrument exclusively to one without a manmade instrument being required.

The Koine Greek was going through major changes due to Hellenism, and psallo was one such term. However, Kurfees did not advocate the position that psallo absolutely excludes the instrument in Ephesians 5:19. He merely proved the term had evolved to include singing without a manmade instrument being required. Or as one of the more up-to-date lexicon states “to sing songs of praise with or without instrumental accompaniment” (BDAG 1096). Incidentally, through the Byzantine Greek the narrowing would continue until in Modern Greek psallo evolved to mean vocal music exclusively (BDAG, 1096). Now, why would this narrowing trend continue toward vocal only? Because the early church utilized only the human voice for centuries before the adoption of the manmade instrument intruded upon acapella music. Incidentally, acapella not only meant vocal alone but also designated the type of music–sacred versus profane.

Some claim churches of Christ are deliberately obscuring the instrument in psallo, but that is a false charge. Question: Why do nearly all English translations, not produced by churches of Christ, not translate psallo as “play?” Translators recognized that psallo did not require a manmade instrument but the heart as the instrument. A comparison of Colossians 3:16 also shows this to be true. The challenge to the psallo argument in a nutshell is this: name the manmade instrument in the verse or in the worship of the first century church. The term psallo is a verb which does NOT include any manmade instrument. It is modified by the God-made instrument of the heart in Ephesians 5:19. We are to make melody with our hearts in devotion to God. No manmade instruments were named or included in First Century Worship, and we should continue to abide in that pattern!

Kurfees began his research at the request of preacher students in his class on New Testament Exegesis. Why? Because preachers were looking for an answer about psallo as justification for manmade instruments. What started as a paper was expanded into this work for publication. Its endurance is seen in being included in the Gospel Advocate Classic Series. 

If the reader would like a fuller treatment of this subject of controversy, see Dave Miller’s video lessons available on Apologetics Press’ YouTube Channel. Here is the link:

 Worship and the Instrument by Dave Miller

Originally printed in the West Virginia Christian, Vol. 30, No. 11, November 2023, p. 8. Reprinted by permission.