Why do churches seem to pick and choose what they practice?


I am a married woman who has a general question regarding the Stone-Campbell Movement churches, of which I have been a part of (the 'fiddling' branch) since the day I was born. I understand that "where the Bible speaks, we speak," and that is the reason why we celebrate the practice of communion each and every week, although I don't understand exactly how "as often as you do this" translates into "do this every Sunday" (I Corinthians 11:25-26). I also understand that the church of the New Testament did not employ the use of musical instruments during worship, which is why our "non-fiddling" brothers and sisters do not use them.

While doing our devotions this morning, we read I Corinthians 11:1-16. I never really thought about this passage before, and no preacher has ever preached on this passage in my presence before. If we practice what the Bible says, women should be wearing a head covering during the worship service, yet I've never been to a Stone-Campbell church where this is practiced. Today, while searching the internet for answers to this question, I found your wonderful website with your thoughts and views on this subject. I feel that after reading this passage in I Corinthians, and after reading your articles on the subject, I should wear a head covering, but am afraid to do this at my church. My husband approved of my writing this e-mail to you for assistance in this matter, since he has been in churches where women do wear head coverings (not Stone-Campbell churches),

Why does the Stone-Campbell Movement appear to "pick and choose" what is practiced, as regarding communion and musical instruments, but ignore other parts, such as women covering their heads?  I am not trying to be contentious, but am just trying to better understand this movement in my effort to teach my children correctly.

Thank you so much for your time,


I find the wording of your question odd. The phrase "Stone-Campbell Movement" is just not used among the churches of Christ. Perhaps a quick history will help. In the early 1800s, numerous people started thinking about going back to the original teachings of the Bible. People saw that the various denominations had strayed quite a ways from God's teachings. Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone were prominent preachers, but they were not the only ones by far. Nor were these efforts to return to biblical teaching coordinated, especially near the beginning. It was the loose-knit structure containing a large variety of views that lead to major splits near the end of the 1800s. The majority of the churches called themselves the Christian Church, though a good number used the name Church of Christ for many decades. The most liberal element called themselves Disciples of Christ and the most conservative element called themselves the churches of Christ.

I use liberal and conservative to describe the basic approach to the Scriptures. A liberal-minded person looks at law and concludes that anything not forbidden directly is allowed. A conservative-minded person looks at law and concludes that anything not authorized is forbidden. One characteristic of a liberal approach is that there is no restraint on practices beyond tradition. Thus, it is the nature of liberal groups to move further from authority over time. See Finding Liberty in Silence.

I assume from the way you wrote your question that you are from among the Disciples of Christ.

In regards to why we partake of the Lord's Supper weekly, the answer is simple -- it is what the early disciples did, as evidenced by Acts 20:7. See The Sunday Supper and Why must the Lord's Supper be taken every week? for more details.

The lack of instrumental music is not a matter of picking and choosing. In fact, this was one of the major issues that lead to the split of the Disciples of Christ and the Christian Church from the churches of Christ. I word it this way because early on none of the churches accepted instrumental music. It was something added in later. As you noted, the early church in the New Testament did not use instrumental music and neither do the churches of Christ today. See: Have I been worshiping in vain all these years by using instrumental music in worship? for more information.

In regards to the head covering, the practice is common among churches of Christ, but not widespread. The reason is that many are convinced that this particular passage was only talking about a local custom at Corinth and not a common practice among the churches. Since the teaching is about submission, the application must be voluntary. Being forced to wear what a person thinks is unnecessary is not an act of submission. A woman choosing to wear a head covering during worship makes no impact on anyone else's worship. "For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Romans 14:7-10). You should make up your own mind based on what the Bible teaches regarding your religious practice. Fear of peer pressure is not a reason for not following a command of God.

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