Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 9, 1956
NUMBER 43, PAGE 8-10a

"... And A Kitchen"

J. Edward Nowlin, Atlanta, Georgia

News reports of proposed new church buildings these days often enumerate various parts of the buildings; such as, auditorium, classrooms, office, restrooms, etc., and end with "and a kitchen." The list may include a social hall or gymnasium. Those who are not novices recognize these as recreational facilities. Gospel preachers who take seriously Paul's admonition to Timothy to "watch thou in all things" (2 Tim. 4:5) are seeing among churches of Christ

today many tendencies toward a new apostasy, not the least of which is the trend toward "church-sponsored" recreational endeavors. There seems to be a widespread

effort to put the church into the entertainment business.

For the benefit of sleepy souls who doubt this statement, the following quotations are taken from church bulletins:

  1. "Our visitors and members of the armed services are most cordially invited to a free, hot luncheon served in the Assembly Room downstairs directly after the morning worship."
  2. "CHRISTIAN MEN'S LUNCHEON TO BE HELD FRIDAY NIGHT AT CHURCH OF CHRIST . . . . There will be a surprise program for this initial gathering which is to begin at 7 o'clock." (Same bulletin) "COSTUMED HALLOWEEN PARTY — YOUNG AND OLD — October 31 — Friday night — 8 o'clock _________ CHURCH OF CHRIST." (Same bulletin) "The young people of __________ and ___________ are scheduled to have a joint devotional and recreational period on the evening of November 8."
  3. "We hope you will be with us Sunday, November 1st for all of our regular services and for the luncheon immediately following our morning worship service. Mrs. ________ and Mrs. _________ are the hostesses this month. They have planned a nice dinner consisting of ham, and the trimmings for you and your friends."
  4. "FELLOWSHIP DINNER: There will be a dinner at the church building, Saturday. May 2nd at 7:00 p.m. Price per plate, $1.00."

As far as this writer knows, the nearest that brethren who promote such as the above have ever come to defending their practices has been to offer a few excuses for eating in the church building and to ridicule opposers by charges of inconsistency and insincerity. The mere act of eating in the church building is not the issue. We have no objection to the Janitor's lunch being brought and eaten whenever he sees fit in any part of the building. Neither do we object to facilities to feed the poor where such may be needed.. Efforts to prove us inconsistent by the presence of drinking fountains or water buckets in our church buildings are mere quibbles. If we are inconsistent in practice, this does not prove our preaching wrong. For instance, we preach that it is wrong to commit adultery. If we commit adultery, does our inconsistency prove that it is right to commit adultery? If not, it necessarily follows that proving our inconsistency in not opposing drinking fountains while we oppose feasts in the church building would not prove it right to have feasts! The question is not, "Who is consistent?" The question is: "What is right?" Our opposition, again, is not to merely eating or drinking, as such, in church buildings. Our opposition is to social entertainments in church buildings, whether they involve feasting, masquerading, card playing, dancing, clowning or athletic games.

Who ever heard of a group of people being invited to enjoy an occasion of water-drinking from the church spigot on a Saturday night at 7:30 anyway?

Brethren say they have been having these social gatherings in their church building "for many years." Does the antiquity of a thing necessarily make it right? Catholics have been praying to Mary for centuries! Does that make it right? A group of elders in Tennessee once agreed to abandon the scriptural plea and line up with the Disciples of Christ! Did their agreement make it right? They say, "we have no agitation against it here." Does that make it right? Should it be the policy of the elders of a congregation to adopt whatever practice the membership does not object to? They claim to think these practices are "within the scriptural permission for fellowship." But "one thing needful" in this matter is the passage which grants the church permission to go into the recreation business! They say these practices are not "Sectarian" just because the sects do them. To this we agree, and respectfully ask for the scriptural proof that they are right in spite of the fact that those in religious error do them! They grant that "most of them are sincere" who oppose such festivities in church buildings; they question the sincerity of some! We are not interested in knowing who the "some" are, for if all who oppose such were insincere that would not establish the scripturalness of the practice.

It is "a grievous error" and "one of the most glaring exhibitions of the wrong application of scripture on record" for us to cite Paul's rebuke to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:22, 34) on this subject. We do not cite it to prove it wrong to supply the needs of the flesh in the church building. We cite it for the reason shown in the context; namely, to show that such "fellowship" dinners as the Corinthians were having in their place of meeting should be elsewhere. They say that Paul was condemning the Corinthian church for "having a common meal in the church assembly, and mixing the Lord's Supper with it." If this be granted, what did Paul say to do about the common meal? They intended to eat the Lord's Supper, "but by unworthy behavior neutralized their purpose." (Expositor's Greek New Testament) How did Paul say to prevent such unworthy behavior in their place of meeting? They admit that the "ordinary place" for a common meal was the home. Since Paul said to eat in the "ordinary" place, where did God ever authorize the "extra ordinary" place, the church building?

True, the passage does not mention the church house. This is beside the point. Luke does not mention a school house, either, but he implies one when he says, ". . . . in the school of one Tyrannus ...." (Acts 19:9.) Likewise, a place of meeting is implied when Paul says, ".. . . when ye come together in the church." (1 Cor. 11:8.)

Now, we wish to file the following objections to social entertainment in the church building:

  1. It is not the mission of the church to entertain sinners or saints. Its mission is to preach the gospel. (Eph. 3:10.)
  2. It is not expedient to use church buildings for recreational purposes, because to be expedient it must first be lawful or scriptural.
  3. It is not scriptural, for no scripture authorizes it.
  4. It brings criticism upon the church from nonmembers.
  5. It brings embarrassment to members of the church who try to show denominational people the differences between churches of Christ and denominational churches.
  6. It alienates brethren.
  7. It leads away from spirituality by substituting food for the stomach for food for the soul, music and laughter for meditation and prayer.
  8. It often results in questionable amusements. When worldly-minded members plan programs anything can happen; and probably will. Elders do not always know what is going on in the social hall and kitchen. Imagine the surprise of a Tennessee elder who looked through a window and saw a woman putting a dress over a man's head! This kind of horse-play, the aroma of roast chicken, false faces, pumpkin heads and horn-tooting are all out of place in the church house.
  9. It profanes the house of worship by making it a house of play, just as certainly as the Jews profaned the temple at Jerusalem by transacting business in it.
  10. It is anti-scriptural, for Paul condemned the practice in Corinth. (1 Corinthians 11:22, 34.) Note the words of the following scholars:

LIPSCOMB'S COMMENTARY: "34 (If any man hunger) He should take that in his own home which is necessary for the support of the body before he comes to the assembly, where he should have the feeding of the spiritual man, alone, in view."

PEOPLE'S NEW TESTAMENT, Johnson: "It was customary in Corinth to eat a meal together as Christ and his disciples the night of the Lord's Supper. After this came the Lord's Supper. At this meal each party in Corinth sat apart and ate when it was ready. The result was that some began before others. One would be hungry and another drunken. This last phrase means that he had eaten and was satisfied. 22. (What? Have you not houses to eat and drink in?) The practice was rebuked. The place to eat their feasts was at home." CLARKE'S COMMENTARY: "Verse 22. (Have ye not houses to eat and drink in?) They should have taken their ordinary meal at home, and have come together in the church to celebrate the Lord's Supper." "Verse 34. (And if any man hunger.) Let him not come to the house of God to eat an ordinary meal, let him eat at home — take that in his own house which is necessary for the support of his body before he comes to that sacred repast, where he should have the feeding of his soul alone in view." BARNES' NOTES: "Have ye not houses . . . .! Do you know that the church of God is not designed to be a place of your ordinary meals? Can it be that you will come to the places of public worship and make them the scenes of feasting and riot? Even on the supposition that there had been no disorder; no revelry; no intemperance; yet on every account it was grossly irregular and disorderly to make the place of public worship a place for festival entertainment." Macknight, APOSTOLIC EPISTLES: "What! have ye not houses to eat and to drink in with your friends? Or do ye mistake the church of God for an idol's temple in which feasts are made; and put to shame those who have not a supper to eat, while ye are feasting luxuriously? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this, as having kept my precepts? I praise you not, but utterly condemn you for these scandalous practices."

  1. Respected brethren have opposed it. Of course, we do not propose to accept the convictions of men as being the will of God, but it certainly behooves us to sit up and take notice of what able brethren have said on a matter. They just might agree with the Bible! For this reason we wish to quote from various brethren on this subject. Not the least of our brethren was David Lipscomb, whose convictions concerning this matter are set forth above in the quotation from his Commentary on First Corinthians. He was a great Bible scholar. He established Nashville Bible School, which is now a college bearing his name, and edited the Gospel Advocate for many years.

N. B. Hardeman, who was president of Freed-Hardeman College for many years had this to say in 1942: "Now, may I ask, what is the purpose of the church of the Lord? Suppose I discuss the negative side first. I may say things with which you do not agree, but I bid you hear me regardless. I do not consider it a part of the work of the church to try to run the government. I am taught in the Bible to be subject unto the powers that be, just so far as I think they do not conflict with some law of God. Again, I say to you, with caution and thought, that it is not the work of the church to furnish entertainment for the members. And yet many churches have drifted into such an effort. They enlarge their basements, put in all kinds of gymnastic apparatus, and make every sort of an appeal to the young people of the congregation. I have never read anything in the Bible that indicated to me that such was a part of the work of the church. I am wholly ignorant of any scripture that even points in that direction." (Hardeman's Tabernacle Sermons, Volume 5, Page 50.

John Paul Gibson, medical doctor, preacher and church leader, has written a book entitled, "The Church At Work," which contains forty-five chapters of worthwhile instructions concerning just that. In his chapter on "Making Full Use of the Church Building" he says, "Among the uses of the church building omitted in these recommendations are the recreational. It is not the business of the church to provide recreation. That is the business of the home. Let us then omit the young people's recreational hall. Let them have their parties in the homes. Let us omit the church kitchens. 'What, have ye not houses to eat and drink in?' (1 Corinthians 11:22.) `If any man is hungry, let him eat at home.' (1 Corinthians 11:34.) let us entertain one another in our homes, and on picnics'." (Pages 239, 240.)

In conclusion, we wish to cite the example of the Christian Church members, who have adopted one unscriptural practice after another during the past hundred years in their digression from the old paths. There was a day when they stood where we stand, but some leaders were not content to follow the New Testament pattern. Beginning with the missionary society and instrumental music, they added foolishness to folly. They planned "Pentecost Services," they ordained women preachers, fraternized with denominations, adopted unscriptural titles; and turned their church buildings into places of entertainment with choirs, soloists, quartets, feasting, "Kum Dubble Klubs," Christmas parties, card parties, pretty baby contests, Halloween parties, mock funerals, mock weddings, square dances, fish fries, bowling teams, ball teams, and exhibition halls for preachers who refused to shave until their attendance reached a certain number! With all of this "funnybone-tickling" going on, one of their big Louisville churches which claimed a membership of 975 in 1952 was having an average attendance of only about 500 per Sunday. Furthermore, their own statement says, "In ten years we have closed 300 churches and lost approximately 20,000 members. Our per capita giving to missions (Unified Promotion) which includes the United Missionary Society, Kentucky Widows and Orphans Home, Transylvania College and the College of the Bible has been $2.16." (THE CHIMES, Douglass Blvd. Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky, Volume VIII, Number 2, November, 1952, page 2.)

A mere novice can see that all of this mania for church kitchens and recreational halls which is asserting itself in the brotherhood today can lead churches of Christ nowhere but away from our divine mission. It emphasizes recreation to the neglect of indoctrination. It substitutes play for prayer, wieners for warfare, social graces for the Sword of the Spirit and outward appearances for inward sanctification. It is another of Satan's delusions.