Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 27, 1971
NUMBER 4, PAGE 10-11

"Churches To The People" Movement

Hoyt H. Houchen

Across our nation church buildings are filled with the sounds of rock music, theatrical dramas, rap sessions, and as a United Press International writer, in an article which appeared in the Rocky Mountain News, March 21, 1971, expressed it: "everything from marriage and homosexuality to war, peace, and politics". Heading the article, which reports the churches-to-the-people movement, is a picture of teen-agers dancing in the main aisle of the Old South Church in Boston during a "contemporary service." Hooting, hollering, and clapping of the hands to jazz music is now heard in buildings which were at least supposed to be houses of worship.

The article cites a few examples of the churches-tothe-people movement: a drama, TS. Elliot's "Murder in the Cathedral" was staged at the First Unitarian Church in Oklahoma City last January 3rd. Duke Ellington was invited to perform at the Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco in 1965 (where and when the late James Pike was bishop). Trinity Episcopal Church in New York is negotiating for a performance of "Jesus Christ Superstar," a rock opera. Rock concerts are held every noon at a church on Wall Street, Monday through Friday, and they have been drawing secretaries and brokers for more than a year. The Spencer Memorial Church (Presbyterian) recently sponsored an art exhibit, some of the photos being of the "X" variety.

We have always expected about anything from the denominations but the foregoing examples illustrate the same old "social gospel" which is being promoted in many liberal churches of Christ, so what is transpiring in the denominations does not raise our eye brows very high. The hooping, hollering, hand clapping, rock music, theatrical dramas, and art exhibits which are heard and seen in these denominational church buildings is nothing more than the result of their efforts for many years to draw people by entertainment. Thirty or thirty-five years ago our brethren generally remarked that entertainment and recreational functions were practices of the denominations but very few would have dreamed that such social activities would ever be promoted by churches of Christ. The incidents to which our attention is focused are but the ultimate of the church sponsored youth camps, church provided recreational facilities, and the eating and drinking "fellowships" which have been fomented by our liberal brethren. Our files are bulging to capacity with publications by liberal churches announcing their giant youth rallies, "Christian Youth" conferences, ball teams, camps, greased pig chases, Boy Scout troops, picnics, youth departments, ad infinitum!

A report comes to us that one of the churches of Christ in Indianapolis announced a Junior-Senior banquet for May 26, 1967 at which there would be various sorts of entertainment, including the United Radio Chorus, Nick Boone, the Bel Aires Quartet, and the Melody Boys Quartet, highlighted by the selection of a queen. This church sponsored Indiana frolic was more than even brethren with whom we differ on the church support of human institutions and sponsoring church arrangements could stomach. We used to say that our brethren could not match the denominations in the field of entertainment because they were old experienced hands and experts in the field, but now we are not so sure but what some liberal churches of Christ might be teaching the denominations a few tricks.

The churches-to-the-people movement among the denominations is not only manifested in principle among some churches of Christ in the area of the church promoted social activities, but also in the area of benevolence. Welfare programs — which extend beyond the scope of indigent saints for whom the church is responsible are but efforts to carry the church to the people and is no different from the appeals of the denominations to the masses in the church-to-the-people movement.

The church in the first century did not make its appeal to the world by offering to the world that which the world already had. People were urged to come out of the world (Rom. 12:1,2; II Cor. 6:14-18; I John 2:15-17). They were encouraged by teachers and writers to obey the gospel of Christ which would free them from sin (Rom. 1:16; 6:17,18). The church offered no material wealth or recreation. The world could offer these things, so what incentive would people have to accept from the church that which the world could already offer and in much greater quantity?

Peter said to the lame man in Acts 3:6, "Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that I give thee." We must remember that the coffers of the Jerusalem church were filled at the time the lame man was expecting alms. Christians sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need (Acts 2:45). Obviously the church was not presenting a welfare program to the world. The church offers to the world the greatest and most valuable attraction to man: the plain, simple, unadulterated gospel of the precious Son of God. It is not a worldly church that is to be presented to the world. The church is a spiritual institution and it has a spiritual message and it is the main mission of the church to preach that message to the millions of souls who are thirsting and hungering for it.

When the church is put into the wrong business, no holds are barred and we need not be shocked by practices which portend a spiritual decadence and an eventual nonexistence of churches once known to the Lord. May we ever strive to keep each congregation of the Lord "a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27).

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