Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 1, 1967
NUMBER 5, PAGE 6b-7a

The Activities Of The Church

Luther G. Roberts

(Editor's note: This article was first published in The Oregon Statesman, the morning daily newspaper in Salem, Oregon. Reaction to it was widespread and favorable.)

Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build my church." This church was built on Jesus, the Christ, "For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ." What is the true function of the church?

Religious bodies are tending toward the "social gospel" and are more involved with social issues than with spiritual matters. Mr. Charles A. Sprague, the able Editor and Publisher of The Oregon Statesman, wrote recently concerning the adoption of a new Confession of faith by the United Presbyterians. He states, "The Confession of 1967 leans heavily to the social gospel, calling for full recognition of civil rights and the active concern of the church in the area of social relations. This deep commitment to the social gospel has stirred the opposition among some conservative members of the church..."

In June, 1962, an article appeared in THE READER'S DIGEST by Mr. John Deuss, on the function of the church. He wrote that the church is more concerned with "business and social activities" than with religious affairs. He says that there is a "constant parade of trivialities which the church offers to the public." He stated that "To pay mortgages, to build new parish houses, to put on a drive for new members, to hold bazaars, lunches, dinners, and bake-sales are all admirable pursuits, but they are not religion." "The Early Church did not waste time building buildings, gathering funds, or providing good companionship. Its job was to preach Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead." But the church now, according to this writer, is interested in "a series of promotional, organizational, and semi-commercial activities."

The Honorable Mark O. Hatfield, while governor of Oregon, wrote an article which appeared in July, 1965 on the subject of "The Erosion of Christ." He wrote that "we are witnessing a tragic erosion of the Lordship of Christ. We claim to recognize him as Lord, but we do not." He stated, "We might well ask the question, 'Are we so involved with church activity that we have forgotten the real purpose of the church?' Some churches today are more interested in serving banquets than they are in teaching. Some churches spend more time on activities and social meetings than on winning souls for Christ."

The function of the church according to the Divine revelation made in the New Testament is to proclaim the gospel of Christ to the whole world, acting as the pillar and ground of the truth (I Timothy 3:15), holding "forth the word of life" (Philippians 2:16). In the work of "perfecting the saints" the church is to teach the word of the Lord in bringing its members to spiritual maturity. Also, when its members are in need of physical assistance these needs are to be met as the Lord has obligated the church (I Timothy 5:16; Acts 6:1-6; 11:27-28). The "true function" of the church is spiritual not social.

"We all enjoy social and recreational functions, but such do not belong within the framework of the church according to the New Testament. The church's mission is primarily spiritual as outlined above. We therefore have no dining hall or recreational facilities, nor will we build such in the future. The only power we use to draw and hold men is God's Power - Gospel (Romans 1:16)." (Ralph Williams, Albany, Oregon.)

The Lord gave his life for the church (Acts 20: 28). The church does have an important role in man's salvation, So, it is more important for the church to be concerned with spiritual matters rather than with clearing slums, trying to correct social injustice and inequity among men. "We do not make men spiritually better by curing social ills; we cure social ills by making men spiritually better." This we consider to be the true function of the church.