Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 21, 1952
NUMBER 16, PAGE 11-12

Let's Keep The Church The Church!

Robert A. Bolton. Chowchilla, California

"For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10) In carrying out this greatest of all missions, Jesus said, "I will build my church." (Matt. 16:18) Emphasizing the importance of the church, the apostle Paul speaks of it as the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28), and of Christ as "the head of the body, the church." (Col. 1:18) Having purchased unto God with his blood "men" of every tribe, and tongue, and people and nation, and made them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests" (Rev. 5:9-10), the Lord gave unto them the specific mission of making "known through the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10), and, as they have opportunity of "working that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith." (Gal. 6:10) So far as the Scriptures are concerned, these two works: that of preaching "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16) and benevolent work or "visiting the fatherless and widows in their afflictions" (James 1:27) coupled with the act of worshipping God "in spirit and truth" (John 4:24), are the only responsibilities of the church.

The question is raised, "How is the church today to meet these obligations?" The answer can be found in the same manner in which we learned what the responsibilities are; by "examining the Scriptures." (Acts 17:11) From the New Testament we learn that the early church "upon the first day of the week...gathered together to break bread" (Acts 20:7), and that "Paul discoursed with them." We learn that each was commanded to "lay by in store as he may prosper" (1 Cor. 16:2), that the church was commanded to "teach and admonish one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God" (Col. 3:16), and to "pray without ceasing." (1 These. 5:17) We also learn that the early church "every day, in the temple and at home...ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus as the Christ." (Acts 5:42) In meeting their responsibility of benevolence, they went so far as to sell "their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man hath need." (Acts 2:44)

The fact that the early church met together demands a meeting place, and by example we find them in "the upper chamber" (Acts 20:8), meeting in "the temple and at home." (Acts 2:46; 5:42) On one occasion we find Paul speaking unto the women that were come together "by a riverside" (Acts 16:13), and the disciples in Tyre kneeling in prayer "down on the beach." (Acts 21:6) Also, Paul in asking the Saints in Rome to greet Priscilla and Aquila says, "salute the church that is in their house." (Rom. 16:5) Today, the church buildings serve the purpose of providing a convenient meeting place for the disciples to work and worship according to the commands of the Lord.

In order to carry on the period of worship "decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40), certain things must necessarily be inferred from the Scriptures and provided by the church. For example, in order to carry out the command to "lay by in store upon the first day of the week," some method must be decided upon to do this. Perhaps the most convenient way is to have collection plates to be passed among those present for this purpose. This in no way violates the principles of truth. Similarly, such things as communion trays for the Lord's Supper, song books for singing, blackboards, charts, microphones, etc., for "preaching the word," and a baptistery for use in baptizing penitent believers, are simply conveniences and aids in carrying out that which has been commanded by the Savior. In some instances, it might be wise for the church to have set aside a room or rooms for the specific purpose of better enabling them to carry out their benevolent program. For example, a storeroom for food; a room for clothing for the poor and needy; perhaps also a sewing room for the good women to use in making and repairing clothing. Perhaps, on the same principle, a kitchen of some sort in the building could be put to good use in canning fruit and vegetables for distribution among the poor, or if not an entire kitchen for this purpose at least a sink and cabinet for use in taking care of the communion trays, etc. Yet, all of these things would be simple aids in carrying out that which the Lord has commanded, and as such would contribute directly to the growth of the kingdom; and as long as they were used for that purpose, no objections could be raised.

But now comes some one with the idea that in order to hold the members and attract outsiders to the gospel and to keep the young people out of trouble, off the streets, and in the right kind of environment the church property could be used to good advantage as a dining hall for fellowship meals and as a recreation or entertainment center for parties, etc. Could there be any reasonable objections to these things?

First of all, as far as the fellowship meal idea is concerned, there could be no objection as long as such was an expedient in carrying out the God given responsibilities of the church. For example, when the ladies of the church have met to sew and repair clothing and can food for the needy, meeting all day in the rooms at the church building provided for this purpose, perhaps a meal eaten together here would expedite the carrying out of this divine command. Also, perhaps the same would be true when the church has met together for an all day meeting for "preaching the word," "singing," "prayer," etc., as in a gospel meeting, for here again the fellowship meal is simply an expedient in doing the will of God. But the moment these meals become mere social affairs, having little, if anything, to do with carrying out God's will, they become important within themselves and tend to corrupt and pervert the body of Christ with relation to its divine mission.

But some one says that my husband, or wife will not come to church and study with me and is not interested at all, and I feel that he or she will come to a social affair of the church, and perhaps by this means will be led to the truth. Dear friend, granting that your motives are noble and that you are honestly and sincerely endeavoring to bring your loved ones to a "knowledge of the truth that they might be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4), any individual who has to be fed and entertained in order to hear the gospel makes a mighty poor listener. The Holy Spirit's admonition for bringing these to "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) is "even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16), and in "like manner, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, even if any obey not the word, they may without the word be gained by the behavior of their wives; beholding your chaste behavior coupled with fear." (1 Peter 3:1-2) If the church suppers, fellowship meals, socials, etc., are as important in winning lost souls for Christ as many in the church emphasize today, then the inspired apostles and the early disciples in New Testament times certainly overlooked a wonderful way to reach people, for the Scriptures do not even hint of this means in carrying out the God given responsibility of the church. Let it be definitely understood, neighbor, that this is no objection to fellowship and entertainment as such, for definitely a certain amount of man's time in this day and age ought to be devoted to relaxation in this manner, but the church building is no place for such activities; rather let us entertain one another in our homes, on picnics, in the park, or on the open lakesides.

True, the church building is not sacred in the sense the materials with which it is constructed are holy, yet the building was erected with the money contributed "upon the first day of the week" by the Lord's people, for His church, and set aside as a worship place and workshop for the church, with such building or buildings needed to expedite the carrying out of the Lord's commands. Let us have our dinners, socials, parties, etc., but let us have them in places other than the buildings that have been built for the work and worship of the church.

As far as the young people are concerned, it is true that they need, like the older people as well, some properly supervised recreation and entertainment, but is not this a responsibility of the parents and the home rather than the church? The fact that parents themselves are calling on the church to provide entertainment and recreation for their young people, in order to keep them out of trouble and with the right crowd, is an admission that they have failed in their responsibility in the home of training "up a child in the way he should go." (Pro. 22:6) If faulty conditions exist among young people in this manner, the church cannot be blamed for not having met its responsibility here, for this is not a responsibility of the church, and parents should not attempt to console themselves by placing the blame on the church and demand that in the future the church take care of this problem. If anyone is to be blamed for such conditions, it is the home for it has the obligation of furnishing entertainment and recreation in a Christian atmosphere and environment for the young people in that home. Let not the church be burdened with obligations that God intended should be met in the home. Let the church preach the gospel and let the home look after the recreational needs of both young and old.

I am afraid there is altogether too much of a tendency on the part of members of the church today, to become pleasure hungry. Jesus says "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." (Matt. 5:6) In writing to Timothy, Paul says, "exercise thyself unto godliness; for bodily exercise is profitable for a little; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come." (1 Tim. 4:7-8) From all indications, bodily exercise and hunger for pleasure is taking precedence over godliness and hunger for righteousness, on the part of many members of the church today. Brethren, these things ought not to be so.

As members of the body of Christ, let us strive to become stronger in "the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3), to the end that men will understand that the Lord's church exists to save men's souls and that it is not just a high class social organization for the satisfying of their fleshly lusts. For this reason, let us keep the "church kitchens," "recreational," "entertainment," and "fellowship halls" out of the church. Let us "lift up our eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white already unto harvest" (John 4:35), realizing that men are dying daily out of Christ, lost, condemned, and that we are responsible "to preach the gospel to every creature." (Luke 16:15) Let us keep in mind that our life is "a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14), and that therefore, "we must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." (John 9:4) When the church becomes active and busy in the Lord's work, it will experience a fellowship that will be so absorbing and soul satisfying that there will be no recreational or entertainment problems.

Let the church, a "peculiar people" (Titus 2:14), be sound in doctrine and pure in life, that mankind will not be prone to follow the multitude of whom Jesus said, "Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs, but because ye ate of the loaves, and were filled." (John 6:26) Let the church of the Lord be a "glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish." (Eph. 5:27) Let the church be the church.