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A Personal Story: What Has Happened at Oak Hills When….

July 9 2006 at 2:14 AM
Donnie Cruz  (Login Donnie.Cruz)
from IP address

Perhaps, this thread should have been titled, “Showing What Has Happened to a Congregation with the Implementation of Instruments” as quoted in the article below. But the last few words of that lengthy title would have been truncated. Perhaps, “Transition to IM — A Personal Story” as in its original title; but then where the transition has actually taken place would cause the reader a bit of anxiety, it seems:

    Transition to IM — A Personal Story

    By wave runner
    Posted on 6/28 9:26 AM

    Most of you know that I am a member of Oak Hills Church (of Christ) in San Antonio. (The congregation where Max Lucado preaches.) I have been a member of this congregation for 24 years and have been very active in various ministries throughout this time. I have personally witnessed the slow in-roads that instrumental music has made into Oak Hills during this time.

    About two years ago, the Elders decided to move to a mostly instrumental worship service in four of the five main worship services on the weekends, two on Saturday night and two on Sunday morning. One service remained totally non-instrumental. During this period, I have chosen to worship at the non-instumental service, because that is my preference and I personally find the singing to be much better without instruments. As a former song leader at Oak Hills, I have always been impressed at the song service there and have found it to be moving and inspirational.

    Two weeks ago, due to schedule conflicts, we had to attend an instrumental service. I was actually shocked and appalled at what I witnessed in that service. The bottom line was that very few of the 1500 people or so in attendance were singing. It was as if everyone came to listen and not participate in the service, other than being a member of an audience who was there to watch, not worship. The difference was dramatic. A building that used to be filled with voices blending was filled with the sound of instruments and very little voices discernable.

    I am posting this not as a way of arguing one way or the other biblically, but trying to approach this from a realistic method of showing what has happened to a congregation with the implementation of instruments. (I think it is a result that many could have predicted, but nonetheless is shocking to actually see in person.)

FYI, the above article came from another website. I believe it is the intent of the author that no deviation from the topic of instrumental music is allowed in discussing this thread. We would like to honor that intent and reserve the discretion not to post certain responses concerning Oak Hills. Responses that pertain to experiences with instrumental music in certain congregations in the brotherhood will be acceptable.


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Donnie Cruz
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“I think the Elders owe it to the congregation to honestly tell them….”

July 9 2006, 2:20 AM 

In response to one poster, here’s more of wave runner’s information concerning Oak Hills’ history:

    . . . I think the Elders owe it to the congregation to honestly tell them where the funds are going and where the congregation is going. When I started at Oak Hills in 1982, there were @450 members, but the congregation was waking up and experiencing significant growth.

    Soon attendance was near 700 and plans for a new auditorium were made. That $3 million was easily raised through the significant sacrifice of many people who were convinced that the congregation was headed in the right direction.

    In 1987, when Max was hired as the minister, strong, even growth continued. Soon we were over 2000 in a building designed to comfortably hold 800. There were many great programs and many were being led to Christ. In the late 90's, the decision was made to move to a new location on 36 acres with a commitment of @$12 million required to buy the land on an interstate and build the initial phase of the complex.

    At that time, a question arose as to whether Oak Hills would remain "Church of Christ" and, after some discussion and debate, the Elders made the decision to retain the name. This, I thought was fair, because people needed to know this decision before committing to giving funds.

    In December 98, we moved to the new facility. Within a year of the move, the announcement came that the Elders did not think that instrumental music was a salvation issue, but that Oak Hills would remain non-instrumental. Then a service was added in a newly completed fellowhip hall that was instrumental. Giving people a choice of what type service they could attend.

    Within another two years, the decision was made to drop "Church of Christ" from the public name of the church and to add instrumental service in 4 of 5 weekend services. (And, I might add, make the non-instrumental service the most inconvenient service of any of them to attend - 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning.)

    Along the way, many who had been there since before me made the painful decision to leave. I have tried to hang in there, but find it difficult. There are still many good people there. I honestly do not think that things have worked out like the Elders thought they would. And, many have seen thousands upon thousands of dollars left behind because they could not support the later decisions to alter the name of the congregation or add instruments. (All while these things had been affirmed just prior to the need for funds prior to the 1998 move.)

    I agree with you that we should not give with any expectation of getting anything back, but I also believe that giving based upon the representations of those in leadership positions should give some basis for your decision to support or not support monetarily, the requested commitment of money and other resources.

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Wave Runner
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Re: “I think the Elders owe it to the congregation to honestly tell them….”

July 9 2006, 10:31 AM 

Donnie, thank you for the way in which you have presented my thoughts.

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Donnie Cruz
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Wave Runner’s Responses to Comments and Asked Questions (CAQ)

July 10 2006, 1:08 AM 

  • CAQ: I have a question. Could you get a ratio of the contribution in the IM services compared to the non-IM service? I do not need the dollar amount, I only want percentage … I have been trying to get some stats on IM services vs non-IM from congregations that have both an IM and a non-IM.

    Answer: . . . I do not think I can get this type of information. The collection is reported in total and not by service. I believe that the average weekly contribution is around $150,000.

  • CAQ: Does this relate to "7-11 songs" that are uncomfortable? Does this relate to the comfort level of those at Oak Hills with instrumental use? … If I were an elder at Oak Hills, I don't think I could bring myself to introduce instruments to a congregation that has a history of non-use, where many may have their conscience violated with the use. … However, I've seen just as much singing (or more) at an old timey hymnal using instrumental congregation that is small, as I have in an old timey hymnal using capella CofC of a similar size.

    Answer: ________, thanks for your words. I certainly could not either. I have seen many older people who have worshipped at Oak Hills for decades decide that they must leave.

    Is it stealing, not legally, because the decisions were made by the Elders. But realistically, I would have to say yes. Many who worked for many years and gave lots of money to build that congregation no longer attend there. It is sad.

  • CAQ: wave, I admire you because you have the courage to say, This is where I attend, this is what it is like at one of the serices here." … This is so different from many of the posters here. … Here writes an honest man walking in truth.

    CAQ: Amen: I can feel the cloud pain all the way to happy valley. … Martin Luther said something to the effect that if you don't "fight the issue at hand then you are a coward." … I know the diverters always want to drag the red herring of "just love" or "just Jesus" but the issue at hand is the music issue. … We always wonder What would I have done at the cross: everyone gets their shot and if you blink in the face of danger there is no place in the Kingdom of the Suffering Servant.

    Answer: Thanks guys! I respect both of you, you have both helped me. Trying times ahead as I realize I must write a letter pointing this out to the Elders, all of whom I love.

  • CAQ: Wave, an interesting number would be those who attended when you were on a growth curve without Max. Then, determine how many of those who are left. … The Purpose Driven Cult plans to loose half of the "owners" but the warning is to get the new property and finances in order, change the name and THEN make the leap. All the while it is supposed to be a secret agenda. Madison got caught mid air in the great LEAP….

    Answer: ______, that number would be small. I would guess 150 or so at best. That includes 9 or so Elders who have been around for quite a while.

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chuck sonn
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July 11 2006, 10:42 PM 


why would you not start a thread for oak hills instead of placing this in madison's list? is there an agenda? or is there a connection between what has been going on in texas for 15+ years to what is happening at madison? you got some juicy info you are holding back?


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Donnie Cruz
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No hidden agenda

July 12 2006, 12:10 AM 

Chuck, did you mean a separate forum for Oak Hills … just like the one for Richland Hills? That’s really not my decision to make. Besides, we’ve had already a number of threads here dealing with Oak Hills and Max Lucado.

There’s no hidden agenda unless you know or suspect something that’s about to happen at Madison that we need to know—you’re pretty close to the leaders and perhaps you can tell us what you know.

I was really very interested in what Wave Runner had to say about musical instruments participating in the assemblies at Oak Hills. I can empathize with Wave—how he feels about this controversial issue. I can also see when leaders of the church can be influenced by a prominent religious figure in their midst … like “Reverend” Max Lucado—he loves being addressed that way, BTW.

Before I started this thread, I had promised myself to just concentrate on the music issue—I think Wave really preferred it that way. If you notice the questions and responses posted above, those were the ones addressed by Wave.

As far as Madison goes, the leaders at Madison should know better than to make it worse for the congregation. The Praise Team in itself is bad enough—personally, I think it’s even worse that using musical instruments. Performance! Performance! Performance! And your “Worship Leader” and the Praise Team were the instantaneous trouble makers at the outset. Remember the mass exodus in early 2001?

Well, the main point of this thread is to let peaceful congregations be aware of the intruders. It is just not worth dividing the church by implementing controversial and unnecessary changes—“salvation issue” or not.


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Donnie Cruz
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Questions for Wave Runner

July 16 2006, 2:11 PM 

Wave Runner:

In “The Story of Oak Hills Church” [ ], I read:

    “. . . Max Lucado, world-renowned Christian author, has been minister at Oak Hills since 1988. Today's attendance numbers about 3,500. Under Max's ministry, a profound shift has occurred in that new members are coming from increasingly diverse faith backgrounds.”

I get the impression that “diverse faith backgrounds” signifies inclusiveness—acceptance of folks from various denominations—perhaps, one reason for accommodating those from other faiths where instrumental music is commonly practiced. Aside from HOW [denoting the purpose of baptism—an important issue but is not discussed here] these folks are accepted, it appears that providing the use of instrumental music in the assembly was intended to be a gateway to accepting these folks as members of Oak Hills. Would you agree or disagree with this assessment? And, perhaps, one way to increase this church’s membership count—undoubtedly a primary objective (a cause at any cost) in the minds of the elders?

The menu item “About Us” that points to the “Max Lucado” page [ ], it is stated:

    “. . . Max and the Oak Hills leadership believe that God is blessing the work of this church. Together, they dream of impacting the city of San Antonio by raising up 10,000 members who will pray for 10 people a day, thereby interceding for at least a tenth of the city.”

Such a bold objective prompts me to ask further question(s). How accurate or recent is the count of 3,500 as “today’s attendance” mentioned earlier? I could be misstating this, but I recall that attendance has reached somewhere around 4,500 a couple of years ago—seemingly prior to dropping the precious name “of Christ” … considered a stumbling block to “open fellowship” with those of other religious faiths. Could you please confirm or deny that a decrease in attendance has occurred recently—which leads me to believe that folks have left and are still leaving for obvious reasons?

My other questions deal with the schedule of “worship services”—and I’m still trying not to deviate from, but to relate this to, the instrumental music issue. You have mentioned that the only scheduled period for the non-instrumental gathering is at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday—considered by you and others as “the most inconvenient.”

I notice in particular the two of all 5 periods being on Saturday: (1) at 5:00 p.m. and (2) at 6:30 p.m. [cf. ]. Since the likelihood is that a solo performance [or at least some singing] during the partaking of the Lord’s Supper occurs within these periods on Saturday—a part of the innovative, radical movement among the “spiritual mavericks” in a FEW postmodern churches of Christ [take a breath, my question is this…], how do the leaders determine when the SUNDOWN on Saturday that they consider the official beginning of Sunday really BEGINS so that members can partake of the Lord’s Supper? Silly addendum: How does the sunset on Saturdays factor in during the DST (Daylight Savings Time) when it changes? (Please note that I’m acknowledging that the observance of the Communion is only a side issue here—and you’re not obligated to comment on this.)

Wave Runner, I hope that you will take time to answer my questions as you deem necessary.



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Wave Runner
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Re: Questions for Wave Runner

July 16 2006, 10:18 PM 

Donnie, we are leaving on vacation tomorrow and I will not have time to address your questions until we return in a week or so, but I will do my best to answer your questions upon our return.

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Donnie Cruz
(Login Donnie.Cruz)

About IM at Oak Hills (Bumped for Wave Runner)

December 18 2006, 9:04 PM 

Just reminded ... shall we continue? Wave, when you have time.... Thanks!

This message has been edited by Donnie.Cruz from IP address on Dec 19, 2006 9:21 PM

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Wave Runner
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Re: About IM at Oak Hills (Bumped for Wave Runner)

December 19 2006, 7:36 AM 

Sorry, this fell through the cracks. I will work on this.

This message has been edited by Donnie.Cruz from IP address on Dec 19, 2006 9:22 PM

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Wave Runner
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Re: Questions for Wave Runner

December 21 2006, 12:04 PM 

Donnie, I will try to answer your questions as best I can.

Oak Hills has always (since my membership in 1982 anyway) been an "accepting" congregation. Teaching does take place with regard to baptism and the official position is that if you want to have a teaching or leadership position in the congregation then you must be immersed in baptism. They were willing to accept your baptism as a newcomer if you felt that you had been scripturally baptized. But there should have been no doubt in anyone's mind that baptism by immersion was the method taught.

In fact, Oak Hills had quite some success for a number of years in converting Catholics and seeing these people biblically baptized. So, I did not perceive a problem in the teaching of baptism.

Of those who came to be members, I never heard any complaints about the lack of instruments in the service. In fact, just the opposite was true. Those I spoke with were impressed by the acapella singing. Of course, in various polling that the Elders took in the congregation, instrumental music was rarely viewed upon as sinful and the newcomers never indicated that they would leave if instruments were brought in. It was other intangibles, such as the friendliness of the congregation that drew people to join.

It was my observation over the years that the instrumental issue was driven by a few, but very influential, long-term members. It really was not something driven by "newcomers" except for their position that it was not a big deal to them. If Oak Hills adopted instruments, they really did not care.

It seemed that these folk who were very much in favor of instruments were elevated to the Eldership, or had spouses who were Elders. But it was not a problem, because of some very strong Elders who adamently opposed instruments in worship, but acquiesced to instruments in other venues, bible classes, special musical plays, etc. However, those in favor of instruments outlasted those who opposed instruments and, after a some deaths and resignations found themselves with a majority who would allow instruments.

I honestly think that there are a number of current day Elders who found themselves caught up in the instrument issue and voted to support them to just keep the peace among the Eldership. I wonder if these men now regret their decisions. I say this becuase of a conversation I had with one Elder after a separate instrumental service was allowed on Saturday night. He said that he thought that someday many years in the future, Oak Hills would be an instrumental congregation, but that it would not happen until after he was long dead. Well, 15 months later, Oak Hills became mostly instrumental and the Elder is still there.

I hope this answers your questions and informs those who might read it of the "incrementalism" that this issue will take. Some at Richland Hills may think that they should go along with the Saturday night service with instruments so that peace may be preserved. However, I know from first hand experience that it is only the foot in the door. Before they know it, they will be on the outside looking in. Instruments will be the rule, not the Saturday night exception.

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Ken Sublett
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Max new baptism position.

December 21 2006, 11:39 PM 

In a chain circle it is hard to decide who is leader and whose nose follows close behind. Max, Rubel Shelly, Rick Atchley (a Lucado wannabe) some of the Jubilee people out of Madison and Don Finto were all in a circle dance at the founding of Jubilee. The goal was to RESTRUCTURE churches of Christ and that intended to be instrumental music: it god diverted by hard work at Rubel's ex church and Madison. The influence of Max on Rick Atchley is pretty unhealthy and Rick suggests that THEIR move into instruments will influence OTHERS to jump into the boiling water. Indeed, he has convinced himself that God COMMANDED INSTRUMENTAL PRAISE and disobeydience is wrong. Thereforee, like Max, the a capella group is tolerated but only momentarily.

It is too bad that the "founts of prelatal price" has spewed forth MOST preachers who don't have a clue beyond the GOPHER WOOD story. Most will quite ignorant of the history of Israel insist that Amos just condemnes a BAD MENTAL ATTITUDE. As long as preachers like that are tolerated the next step is easy.

Donnie has quoted some stats on those who had to do some kind of pledge to satan before they could become rich and famous. Most of the famous religionists died horrible deaths and one died drunk on the streets of Nashville. Accepting worship from others is so powerful that those who SEEK it cannot survive it.

That is why the new Position of Max is you can just look up into the sky and say WOW and you ae saved. Or call God "fatherr" and you are saved. Max repudiates all of the Baptism passages and shows some fangs when he uses the Thief on the Cross as the exception which negates a RULE. Of course, the thief on the cross was crucified for his sins and he DID NOT go to heaven.

I have reviewed his WHITE PAPER on Baptism which is just as bible-bashing as his white paper on instrumental music.

The Unity Meetings make it almost impossible to preach against that which your new Donut dunkin buddy practices.

No one is talking but I am quite certain that something happened and a small band of men following Don finto convinced themselves that they TOO were apostles and the concept of the 13th apostles floats around. The Missional church insists that you must have unquestioned apostles and prophets and elders are way down the list. I think it was an UNholy spirit which often steals in when you move outside of the spoken Word.

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Donnie Cruz
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Questions for Wave Runner--Answered

December 22 2006, 3:16 PM 

Wave Runner,

Thank you so much for the information. It is greatly appreciated! It provides us with a better perspective of the INANIMATE musical instruments PARTICIPATING in the assembly of the saints.

I still have questions and issues concerning baptism and other important doctrinal matters that Max Lucado espouses. I am not in disagreement with the reference to “scriptural baptism” if only it is in accordance with scriptural specifications, i.e., …

    By immersion in water IN ORDER TO [a forward motion—NOT “in retrospect,” such as the claim that BEFOREHAND sins have already been forgiven ] receive forgiveness of sins in the blood of the Lamb AND also to receive a clear conscience or refreshing—the gift of the/a holy spirit. These two results—forgiveness and refreshing—after repentance and baptism—are clearly explained in Acts 2:38 and a parallel passage in Acts 3:19. I say “parallel” passage because it says, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted [being baptized], that your sins may be blotted out [this is forgiveness], when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord [the gift of the a/the holy spirit].” Indeed, what a great feeling of refreshing or a clear conscience after sins have been blotted out and, then, begin a new life in Christ.

I just wanted to make that clear at the outset the significance of the reason for what a convert prospect must do in order TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN and when he/she begins newness of life in Christ.

[But aside from baptism and other issues—which may be discussed further in other threads, I would like to pursue the instrumental music issue in greater depth. So, I have further questions and in need of more enlightenment in regard to the impact and effects of the instruments participating in the assembly.]

Wave, my understanding is—and it’s not really that surprising since it is a scheme commonly used in the culture-driven, proactive church growth approach—that the elders at Oak Hills based their decision to become musical-instrumentally idolatrous strongly and solely on the polling results, rather than on scriptural authority. In fact, much can be said about the lack of emphasis, if any, in “musical worship” in the New Testament among New Testament Christians. “Music” with dancing is mentioned only once in the NT, and that was related to the party to welcome home the prodigal son. That’s what the elder brother heard from afar. Even singing is hardly mentioned in the NT except in association with “speaking to one another,” letting “the words of Christ dwell in you richly; teaching and admonishing one another….” (Ephesians 5; Colossians 3)

It is pretty revealing, as you mentioned, how that the leaders in favor of instruments outlasted those who were in opposition. It reminds me of the majority rule at Madison when the “majority” [8 of 15—regardless of several others (and 7 is quite a number negating)] overruled the “minority” at the decision to image the congregation after the Rick Warren’s Saddleback Community Church pattern. And, yes, let’s not forget deaths and resignations later on.

I agree with you completely how the gradualism and/or incrementalism principles work in the church growth scheme. We’ve seen these misleading and misguiding principles work at Oak Hills, Madison, Farmers Branch, Woodmont Hills and other “Hills” such as Richland Hills. Shelly in the brotherhood and Lucado in the denominational world already have “big” names. And so does Atchly in the brotherhood and in the Christian Churches. [Oops, I think I would also like to be well-known and have a BIG name! Just kidding! But these guys would like to have MORE+++++ … and BIGGER. Yeah, right!!! Forget about splintering the brotherhood—just go with the cultural flow.]

Wave, I brought up the following in an earlier post:

    “Such a bold objective prompts me to ask further question(s). How accurate or recent is the count of 3,500 as “today’s attendance” mentioned earlier? I could be misstating this, but I recall that attendance has reached somewhere around 4,500 a couple of years ago—seemingly prior to dropping the precious name “of Christ” … considered a stumbling block to “open fellowship” with those of other religious faiths. Could you please confirm or deny that a decrease in attendance has occurred recently—which leads me to believe that folks have left and are still leaving for obvious reasons?”

Would you please address the above further? Madison no longer reports the separate attendance records from: (1) the early assembly and (2) the “contemporary” assembly. I believe that the elders are ashamed to reveal to the public that the departure of hundreds of members is reflected in the low attendance at the early assembly referred to as “traditional.”

If you have statistics on attendance and/contributions resulting mainly from the “instrumental” move, that would help us analyze the adverse effects of such a move at Oak Hills. And the same trend may be expected of Richland Hills which is 4 or 5 years behind Oak Hills in this direction?



This message has been edited by Donnie.Cruz from IP address on Dec 22, 2006 5:22 PM

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Wave Runner
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Re: Questions for Wave Runner--Answered

January 4 2007, 4:12 PM 

Donnie, I apologize for the long delay in answering your questions, it has been a long and busy holiday season.

Oak Hills is averaging about 5,000 on Sunday mornings. (I include the Saturday evening total in this amount as well.) The congregation has just concluded a period of prayer in anticipation of a contribution and pledges toward the construction of a worship center. The goal of the contribution was $20 million. As of today, the contributions are short of the goal - $14.7 million have been pledged or given. The Elders have decided to proceed with the construction plans, albeit on a scaled down version.

It has been several years since I have personally discussed with Max his present belief on baptism. I do know that his belief from about 1995 is reflected in a study that was approved by the Eldership and is posted on the Oak Hills website for anyone to read.

It has been a very painful process to realize that there would be no stopping the instrumental music surge. Richland Hills is facing the same prospect.

Last week, I took a visitor from out of the country to the Alamo. As we stood there, it was his initial belief that this was the place that the Texans won their independence in battle. It was initially hard for him to realize that independence was won at the Alamo, but it took the ultimate sacrifice for all of those within the walls.

Richland Hills faces a similar battle. If the progress is not stopped here and now, then the congregation will be overrun. I believe that your estimate of 5 years is too lax. Probably more like 2-3. The members there need to prepare themselves for battle or the acceptance of the instruments in all services. Before long, they will find themselves looking from the outside in wondering where they will move to next.

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January 4 2007, 9:25 PM 

The above post is heartbreaking & sobering. Donnie thank you for this. These posts about Oak Hills are some of the most profound I've seen on the entire site ever. I posted earlier today my fear that 2007 might be a rough and tumble year with our "reasoning together" on this issue and boy do I hope I'm wrong. I've struggled over this topic and the emotion it brings and the arguments it starts. How are we supposed to be worshiping when everybody is mad at somebody, starting with the leadership who betrayed us. The above reponse speaks volumes. I'm printing it off to reread a few times in 2007. I have a bad feeling about this. Did you ever teach a class and go away asking "wonder if they heard clearly my points" Well,the arguments on music baffle me, and I fear many are arguing just for the sake of venting or disrupting.

My fear is a personal frustration over this lingering issue and I just pray for me and all of us the grace and wisdom to know how to say what needs to be said to be heard clearly and with love. We have been in denial that our members really understood our doctrine.

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Donnie Cruz
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Indeed … “sobering”

January 13 2007, 7:49 PM 


Let’s thank and give a lot of credit to WaveRunner for his willingness to oblige to our request for information. Hopefully, he will continue to keep us posted and give us his take on what is now occurring at Richland Hills. As a member of Oak Hills, he should have an accurate perspective in analyzing the comparative results from both congregations regarding the implementation of instrumental music. [Weren’t Max Lucado of Oak Hills and Rick Atchley of Richland Hills—them “Hills” including Woodmont Hills in Nashville—roommates/schoolmates at ACC (now ACU)]?

It has been my view that the members are not to be faulted for whatever divisive actions are being implemented by the church’s leaders [ELDERS] for the congregation’s welfare. It’s the same feeling I have with my fellow members at Madison.

I agree—it doesn’t make sense whatsoever why Max and Rick, along with the [majority—I think—of their respective] elders of their congregations, would selfishly indulge in such culture-driven preferences to satisfy and please the Christian Church/Community Church proponents and risk the unity in the churches of Christ.


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