On Monday, August 20th, the pastoral staff at Berean Baptist Church came to a unanimous decision after about two solid hours of discussion among the eight that were present—the drum set will not be used during corporate worship in the main auditorium.
The reason the discussion went so long is because the issue we discussed had nothing to do with sound doctrine. No, the issue we discussed falls in the category of a preference and dealing with preferences is so much harder. I began the discussion with this lead in:
Men, suppose with me for just a minute that each week we met we began with some singing and in the process of picking and singing songs we discovered that Steve Wilson was offended by one of the songs we were singing. Would we continue to sing that song each week in spite of the offense? Of course the group immediately concurred that: NO, we would not continue to offend that brother in Christ each week and the group would yield to the one brother. Then I asked if it is fair to apply that same principle to the inclusion of a drum set in our Sunday corporate worship?
We then spent two hours discussing the issue. All kinds of questions were asked. Every possible angle was considered. How will this affect future growth? Pastor Sean, what if another person tells you they are offended by the trumpet? And on and on, what does this mean about our music? Are we going to lose our young people? Will we become a church with dead music? We so wanted to find a verse that told us: “thou shalt not use a drum set in corporate worship,” but there isn’t such a verse.
So the decision came down to one simple thing, and it is the question that Christians must ask themselves anytime they are wrestling with such a decision: “What would Christ do?” Jesus said he came to provide for us an example (John 13.15). Christ is our example. Washing feet dirty nasty feet is a great example of preferring one another.
Berean Baptist Church is an independent fundamental Baptist church. We are not a community church. (Although there is nothing wrong with being a community church and God is certainly being most glorified in many Bible believing community churches all over the world; I refuse to stand in judgment of them.) We are a Baptist church. We are a very conservative Baptist church. Our doctrine is based exclusively on God’s word. My preaching is absolutely some of the most conservative in town. It should not be a surprise that conservative Baptist visitors moving into Fayetteville from another town may struggle with drums in the auditorium—we have now removed this struggle. (There are in fact some who would love to return to Berean but the drums have kept them away—we have removed this obstacle.)
Many of our members have spent decades in Berean or churches like Berean. Some have been saved out of a rebellious rock culture. For them, the drums and the associated beat are an icon of the world and all it represents. Personally, I was never involved in that rock world—AC/DC and all the rest never appealed to me so I struggle at relating to this, but I know for them their perception is reality and they believe it is based on conviction; not a preference. Something could be sin for one person and not another (see James 4.17).
I met with a family that shared with me that Berean was number 6 or 7 on their list of Baptist churches to visit because of the inclusion of the drums. From a pastoral perspective, this pains me. I don’t want to be number 6; I want to be number 1 on their list. When a preacher pours his life each week into preparing messages he wants to reach the largest possible audience. Furthermore, when he hears that the preaching was great but the music was too much that speaks to him over and over again.
Do I want dead music, absolutely not! Do I think that those who oppose the drums want dead music? No. If they did they would have left years ago. But these are people who have been involved in the church for decades and they love Berean and Berean is a major part of their lives. One person who is very concerned was a member of the church when it met on Bragg Blvd. But the music has become an incredible obstacle that is keeping them from connecting with God each week, and I know Jesus would instruct me to remove any obstacle that was keeping people from connecting with God.
This isn’t a decision that you vote about. This is a decision that the pastor who leads the church must make with the counsel of other wise men. The church constitution states, “The Pastor shall oversee and/or conduct all aspects of this Church” (paragraph 3, pg. 8). There can be no division in the church over this matter—division is disruptive and God expects unity in the body of Christ—he prayed for it three times in John 17. Those who enjoy the inclusion of drums in corporate worship please love your brothers in Christ more than the drums. Please understand how the drums could be an obstacle and respect that in Christ. Those who oppose the drums please don’t ask for more and more. Please recognize that many of your brothers and sisters in Christ love a more lively upbeat music and they personally connect exceptionally well with this kind of music. We must prefer one another.
For a year I have been struggling with this; for a year I have known that it would come down to this. I do not believe that the drums are inherently sinful. Drums are neither moral nor immoral, but for some they are an icon of the world and in respect for my brother and sister in Christ I directed that the drums be removed from the auditorium, but not from the campus.
Pastor Steve Rahn is going to continue to include the drums in teen music on Wednesdays and drum players will be able to continue to use their talents for the Lord in this venue and possibly others in the future. Steve knows that I do not believe that “rocking to Jesus” is glorifying to God. And we will NOT “rock to Jesus” in any venue anywhere on the campus. He is striving to combat the influence of MTV, the Disney channel, and the Internet on our youth, but pulling the drums out is not going to fix that problem. Only a heart for God will fix that. There are many, many Baptist churches that refuse to have drums and their youth are struggling at having a heart for God—don’t think for one minute that drums are an obstacle for our younger generation in connecting with God.
For me this decision has nothing to do with drums and everything to do with love. It pains me to think that I have members of the church who stay out in the parking lot until the music is over. That should pain every member of Berean unless “self “is in the way.
This isn’t a conviction for me. My convictions are based on the Word of God. My conviction is that I must love my brother and sister in Christ more than myself and lead the church to do the same.
The inclusion or exclusion of drums in corporate music is not a hill worthy of dying on. This isn’t a situation where the majority wins. This is a Romans 14 situation. “For none of us lives to himself” and “let’s resolve not to put a stumbling block—an obstacle—or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” and “I am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” Read the entire chapter several times it speaks so clearly to this issue.
How will the world—Fayetteville—and the Baptist community know we are followers of Christ if we don’t have love one for another? Love your brother in spite of whether he wants or doesn’t want drums in the auditorium—love him or her anyway. Love him because Christ first loved you and gave his life for you. Love him because God is glorified when Christians prefer one another in spite of a significant difference of opinion. Let us all work hard at maintaining the unity of the body of Christ in the Spirit of Christ (Eph 4.3).