Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dave Miller's book

Dave Miller's book, Richland Hills and Instrumental Music: A Plea to Reconsider, deserves a fair hearing by anyone who would like to think through this issue.

Dave is a good friend, a careful student, and well-qualified to deal with this discussion. Thanks to Paul Sain and the brethren at Pulaski, thousands of copies have been distributed quite widely. They need to be.

Miller's handling of the disciples teaching in the Temple is worth the price of the book.

We are to buy the truth, and truth is not always cheap. It is easy for people to accommodate the popular in our culture and not ask the harder question: what does God will? You see, it costs to do what is right rather than what is popular.

Go to to find out more about Dave. Books will available quite widely.

With thanks to Dave Miller,


Anonymous said...

What the autonomous Richland Hills Church of Christ does under the leadership of its elders is really between them and God, is it not? If we are autonomous, then why are folks trying to tell their leadership how to lead? Or could it be that we are not really as autonomous as we have led folks to believe in times past?

It seems that the prevailing idea here is that a church can be under the oversight of their elders as long as their elders line up with the prescribed orthodoxy and when they do not, then it is time to throw autonomy out the window!

Matthew said...


Dave taught me at Brown Trail School of Preaching. He is a great man. I truly respected him. Also, I picked up your book "Let the Heavens be Silence." Did not know you wrote a book about this stuff. Looking forward to studying it. Thank you for your ministry and letting me know about Dave's book. I will check that out too.


Also, I have written some stuff about Spirituality in my blog. Give it a check out too.

Phil Sanders said...

Dear Anonymous,

I certainly believe in the autonomy of each congregation and the right of elders to oversee their congregations in matters of expediency.

The problem with this situation is that Rick has sent a book to every congregation in the country arguing FOR instrumental music. He is the one who has made this a brotherhood-wide issue.

I don't expect any eldership to line up with my opinions. I do expect them to obey the Lord's teaching on music, the Lord's Supper, and every other matter.

When they rebel and ask everyone to join in their sinful behavior, it is indeed time to speak.


Phil Sanders said...

the book is Let All the Earth Keep Silence. I want the Lord to speak and to be quiet enough to hear when He does so.

God bless you, my friend, I still think we need to have lunch soon.


Anonymous said...

So Brother Phil, are you not going to allow any more comments on this thread? Just wondering...

Phil Sanders said...

Dear Anonymous,

I will happily allow fair-minded and signed comments. I don't appreciate cowardly anonymous posts that do not edify me or the readers.

If someone wishes to make sarcastic, unfair, or harsh remarks, let them make it on their own blog. This is my blog, and I will publish what I think best.


preacherman said...

Do you think this will stir up more trouble within the brotherhood? Does is divide the church more than it already is? In what way does this do you see this book help bring unity within the bortherhood Phil? I really want to know.

Phil Sanders said...


No, I don't. I believe Dave's good book will bring clarity to an issue muddied up by Rick Atchley. What I do not understand is why you think that Atchley's insistence on change to be like the denominations is not divisive. We've had unity on this subject until he and others started sending out sermons, articles, and other information encouraging unsettling views. Who has caused this rift. Not us.

Further, we have an obligaiton to speak out the truth and to call error for what it is.

I don't we are creating the division any more than John the Baptist or Jesus caused division by calling men out of sectarian error.

We can all unite in singing. It is the introduction of self-made religion in the form of instrumental music that is causing the division.


Anonymous said...


I do appreciate your comments on this subject because so many today desire to make good men the bad guys - but that is not anything new -men have been calling good evil and evil good for a long time.

It will refine the church...


Anonymous said...

Kindly?? Hmmm, what you said didn't seem too kind to me.

You are right about me being a coward. I am not afraid of the issues or of your replies, but frankly I am afraid of what folks on the far right will do to retaliate when someone disagrees with them. I have seen it before and it is ugly. And the tone of your last reply, to me, proves my point. I don't expect you to publish this post and I am through with this. I was hoping we could have an honest dialog but when you feel the need to control what is said, that takes away the chance for honest discussion. But like you said, it is your blog and you can do with it what you wish.

Phil Sanders said...


I do not publish everything, because I have been the recipient of much anger, bitterness, and hatefulness from the left.

I am not on the far right. I began this blog defending myself from some unfair charges made by the right.

I stand against the introduction of self-made religion on both sides, the far right and the far left. Both groups are reactions to each other.

I have recently been called a Pharisee, a legalist, and consigned to the hot spot in the hereafter by the gracious, loving left. (No one understands grace like them.)

I am interested in everyone hearing the names I have been called, so I don't publish those.


Kent said...

Brother Phil-

It breaks my heart to hear that you have been called names. Christians should never resort to that over petty disagreements. Even though I do not agree with you I can see that you love the Lord and desire with your heart to follow him. That is more than we can say for most. So, keep up the good work.

The tone of these comments and the tone of this post in general illustrates to me why this book was a bad idea. The fact is that I seriously doubt that this book will sway opinion either way. Those who are against instrumental music made up their minds long ago. Those who do not think it to be wrong made up their minds long ago. For me, we need to be spending our time and our energy on formulating strategies for reaching the lost, as you talked about in a recent post. While we are arguing about this same issue that has been around for over a century now, there are people out there who are not coming to know Jesus. If we could put this argument aside we might actually be able to do something about this. My issue with the book is in the amount of money it cost to write, publish, and mail out. I have no doubt as to the belief of Brother Miller. I am sure he is a fine Christian gentleman and a lover of God. But, it seems to me that that money could have been spent in areas that are more in need than this one.

Thank you for the dialogue. I appreciate your willingness to throw yourself out there even though you know you have those who disagree. I also would encourage all people to approach these discussions with open minds. And approach these issues knowing that people on the other side of the issue from you are not bad people. Rick Atchley is not a bad person. In fact, I know Rick to be a devoted servant of God. I don't know you personally, Phil, but I can see that you love God just as much as Rick and others.

Thank you.

Kent Benfer

Phil Sanders said...

thank you for a great post, the kind I like to publish. This whole matter is heartbreaking. I am deeply grieved. I could not agree with you more that we need to be evangelizing. The devil is tangling us up with this side issue.

I believe strongly in evangelism, and my evangelism handbook (go to to download a copy) is perhaps the best thing I have ever done. I would also point you to the "Upon the Rock" Bible studies. A friend of mine and I are working on a project using these studies now. I will let you know more in the future. Believe me, this is far more where my heart is. This blog was set up to deal with other issues, but my heart is in taking the gospel to a lost and dying world that thinks "whatever" about my Lord. I am deeply concerned with a generation that has no clue about the Lord.

It is disappointing to me that some brethren like Rick are so caught up in pushing popular religion. I am not convinced their way saves that many souls. I can think of a handful of "progressive" congregations in the Nashville area (that permit the instrument in their devotionals) that have not grown significantly. In fact, some have greatly shrunk. So I am not convinced that changing cosmetics is the answer to this dilemma.

Church growth comes through God's blessing, loving people, working hard, and reaching out. You have to get them through the doors, give them something, and follow up.

But no matter how good your efforts, if people do not know the truth and obey it, what have you done???

Thanks again for a good spirit,

Kent said...


It just seems to me as though we should worry about getting everyone in the door first and then worry about these other issues later on. Once everyone has heard about Jesus, then we can focus on the more peripheral matters. That is my perspective and what I try to focus my congregation on, a congregation that split a year and a half ago because of debates over similar issues.

As for Richland Hills, I would not be so quick to claim that there efforts do not work. They do truly great ministry. They have adopted a local elementary school where many children are in need and they help them. They have a massive community service center where people who are in need in the DFW community can come for help. They are heavily involved in church planting and missions as well. They do great work, the Lord's work. I would dare say that they are introducing more people to Jesus Christ than the vast, vast majority of Churches of Christ are. They are just in a different place than others are in terms of worship. And this was not a decision, as I understand it that was made quickly or lightly. It was a decision made after years of prayer and faithful study.

The bottom line, though, is that we need to worry about ourselves and what we are doing. Let God worry about all others. We need to be asking the question, "Are we doing the most with what God has entrusted us with?" God has entrusted us with a mission to take the gospel to all the world. If we are focused on other things then we won't be able to answer that question as we or God would like. I am convinced that one of Satan's ploys is to get us to focus on others and what they do and to forget about our own responsibilities.

Best of luck to you. Even though I am more on the left (as you put it) and you are more on the right than me, I truly hope that you and your church are successful in bringing people to Christ and in helping others because there is so much hurting going on out in our world.


Phil Sanders said...


At first your suggestion of letting others deal with it because there are so many other problems sounds good, but a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.

Atchley and Russell wrote a book in order to get everyone else aboard. They are not waiting. The devil doesn't wait either. If IM is wrong, then it is necessary to speak now.

As to introducing people to Christ, I have to ask, what kind of Christianity? One that looks amazingly like denominational churches. If we convert people but do not teach them to observe "all" that Jesus commands, we have not done our job. The latter also belongs to the Great Commission. Our job is not done by getting them wet.

One can look at many denominational churches and community churches that do good deeds and draw a big crowd but have little to do with teaching them the truth.

I recall vividly the church growth argument used by the Boston movement sometime back. We were told we gotta change and be like them. Then their fruit withered.

I dare say that you take 4000 sound faithful brethren in middle Tennessee, and you will find them producing as much fruit as Richland Hills--all without IM or seventh day Lord Suppers.

As to efforts, I preach to 10,000+ people every week throughout middle Tennessee via a television program. I am often meeting folks who watch that aren't associated with churches of Christ. Our website has hundreds of visits daily--and from as many as 95 countries in the last year.

I can point to several middle Tennessee churches that are bursting at the seams and have not compromised one whit. This is a remarkable contrast to the handful of progressives that have dramatically shrunk in this area.

thanks for your kind posts, Kent. I know you care. I deeply appreciate that.


preacherman said...

I believe if we are autonymous we should leave the leading up to other Churches and tell them how to worship. It should be up to their leadership. I believe that Christians should strive for unity. I believe that you don't see the Roman Church tell the Corithian church what to do? & vice versa.

Phil Sanders said...


the reason Dave responded is because Richland Hills sent out books and other materials quite widely. They wanted us to join them. We are responding, telling them why we will not join their self-made religion, their sinful behavior.

We did not look for someone to fight. They are the ones who initiated this.


AncientWanderer said...

I would have say that Colossians 4 is an example of one congregation telling another congregation "what to do". Or at least suggesting they follow a path that is Scriptural.

I think this "autonomy" that we value so highly has led us (American Christians) to believing that it may even go so far/high as heaven.

I understand the concept of being autonomous but I think it would be hard to find it in its strictest sense in the Bible.

I think we could also add:
1 Thessalonians 5.27
Galatians 1.1
2 Corinthians 1.1; 9.1-5
to that list of scripture that has one congregation or a group of congregations instructing, encouraging, admonishing, teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training another congregation or congregations.

And I have to agree that RHCoC's desire to export their doctrine opens them up to global scrutiny.

"Am I my brother's keeper?"

Keith said...

Thanks for the Post, the church I have attended for 15 years split largely because of the teaching of Rick Atchley. The group that left were former elders and were twisted by these and other teachings. They meet together and now use instuments regularly. I have requested Millers book and have reviewed some of it on line. I plan to approach those who left with the hope of them reconsidering as well. By the way, I pass the Richland Hill church on the way to work, and their sign last week said Instumental Sunday, I think they now worship with instumental music all the time.