Church Or Country Club?
The Nashville Banner (7/1/59) carried a news item about a Louisville, Kentucky Methodist minister who helped design "a new church that can double for a Country Club." The building "will include a swimming pool, tennis court, snack bar, and unloading ramp for motorists and the largest outdoor church bulletin board in the city." The Rev. Mr. Weir said, "The play ground aspect is to cause kids to want to come to church. That's the way to combat juvenile delinquency." This Methodist minister, according to the news item, "wears a crucifix around his neck" which he says "reminds me of God and the Christian way of life," and will change the name of the church to St. Peter. He explains, "there's too much old fashioned thinking and too many hidden prejudices." — "There's no reason to reject something because the Catholics adopted it." — "There is a need to break through conventional barriers in many areas of religious life."
Such a report is shocking to two classes of people, (1) Those who realize Jesus is head of His church and who believe the "pattern" of the church given in the New Testament is to be followed and (2) people who are wedded to conventional practices. If objections are registered on the ground of it's being unconventional, they are unfounded. Conventionality is not, and never has been, a standard for right and wrong. Jesus often broke with the conventional "commandments and doctrines of men" while He was on earth.
Since Methodism changes "buried in baptism" to "sprinkle", "not by faith only" — Jas. 2:24 — to "The doctrine of justification by faith only is a good and wholesome doctrine," congregational autonomy to a hierarchy and many other things, why should this minister not make other changes? There has been nothing in his training or the examples of his predecessors to cause him to doubt the wisdom of human thinking and actions. Indeed, the most severe charge his colleagues could consistently lay against him would be "breaking with the conventional."
The Lord's church is composed of people who recognize Jesus as head. They have submitted themselves to Him and move only at His direction. They fit the pattern of the church as it is presented in the New Testament. The New Testament churches in congregational capacities can only operate, according to the pattern, in the realms of evangelism, edification, and restricted benevolence. Because it is not the mission of the church to furnish the recreational and social needs of man, those who understand this are naturally shocked when a preacher advocates and acts as this Methodist preacher. But, someone says, "no preacher in the church of Christ would advocate the things this Methodist preacher does!" Judging from the writings of many brethren in defense of church kitchens, recreational halls, etc. and the actions of many congregations today, I am thoroughly convinced that there is not one thing mentioned in this news paper article as a "shocker" to the religious world, done by this Methodist preacher, that some of our brethren would oppose — unless it be calling the church "St. Peter."
If the church can furnish a swimming pool at a church camp for one month, why not build one in the basement of the church building? What is the difference in the church furnishing a ball field and ball equipment and a swimming pool?
A Snack Bar would be as legitimate as a dining room for banquets — "love feasts." "But," someone says, "the snack bar would be a money making project!" Well, if a church can operate a farm, raise cows and chickens to help finance one of it's benevolent projects, why could it not operate a snack bar to help finance its recreational program?
And, would a crucifix around the neck of a preacher to "remind him of God and the Christian way of life" be any worse than the cross on the steeple of the church building or behind the pulpit stand that many brethren have?
The justification for these acts offered by this Methodist preacher are the very same as those offered by brethren today for like projects. This preacher may be just a little further along and a little bolder than some of our brethren, but now that he has braved the way, no doubt, some will hurry to follow suit — "lest the Methodists get ahead of us!" You know, "a thing is not wrong just because the Methodists do it."
If the Lord had intended for His church to "double for a Country Club," He would have so designed it. But, instead, He designed it to be a spiritual body, dealing in souls and rendering a spiritual service. It is high time that brethren learned that the right or wrong of such things is not determined by what others do, have done, or would like to do, but by the Will of the Lord concerning the mission of the church. Paul wrote the Corinthians that those who commend themselves and compare themselves among themselves are not wise (R.V. without understanding) 2 Cor. 10:12. Brethren need to cease commending themselves on their big, flesh-pleasing programs in their efforts to compare favorably with Catholic and Sectarian doings, and start seeking the approval of God by doing HIS WILL — following the pattern He has given.