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Frank Jamerson


   When I was young (a few years ago) nearly every gospel preacher (in fact everyone that I knew) taught that churches should have divine authority for everything they practice. They taught that the church should teach the gospel at home and support preachers in other places and take care of their own needy members and help other congregations that had needy members they could not care for without assistance. Anything that was necessary, or incidental to the accomplishing of these works would be included, but other works such as providing social meals or recreation were opposed as being without Biblical authorization.

    In 1944, Floyd A. Decker (who preached for a time at the Rose Hill congregation in Columbus, Ga., where I preached for six and a half years) wrote an article on why he left the Christian Church.

    One of the reasons he gave for his change  was “The Christian Church emphasizes society and the physical man by appealing to the carnal nature, with church carnivals, bands, plays, choruses, dramatics, church kitchens, church camps, and elaborate fellowship halls; the church of Christ does not (1 Cor. 10:7; Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 11:22,34).” In 1948, B.C. Goodpasture wrote in the Gospel Advocate: “For the church to turn aside from its divine work to furnish amusement and recreation is to pervert its mission...as the church turns its attention to amusement and recreation, it will be shorn of its power as Samson was when his hair was cut.” A TV ad  used to say,  “we have come a long way, baby!” When brethren neglected to teach on how Bible authority is established and   the  difference   between  individual and congregational actions, the door was opened for church kitchens, gymnasiums, etc.

    The Bible teaches that some things should be done at home, rather than when we assemble as the church. Paul said, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you” (1 Cor. 11:22). They were either turning the Lord’s supper into a common meal, or they were eating a common meal in connection with the Lord’s supper. Paul concluded his rebuke of this by saying, “But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come” (v. 34). If the church is authorized to provide a place for social meals, it may also provide whatever else is necessary, or incidental to such meals—including the food and support for those who serve it.

    Some have tried to justify such by our providing rest rooms and water fountains and children playing on the grounds owned by the church. This thinking simply shows that they do not understand the principle of authority and the difference between incidental matters and additions. There are incidental things to our coming together for the purposes the church is to assemble. When a mother feeds her baby, or a member takes a nap on the pew, the church has not provided for a social meal nor a bedroom for a siesta. In fact, when brethren used to bring their food and eat on church grounds, then spend the day singing and studying together, the churches had not provided those activities. Granted, that some may have used this as their justification for building kitchens and recreation halls. Whether these things are right or wrong, they provide no Scriptural authority for churches building kitchens, ball fields, bowling alleys or anything else for socials and recreation. Authority can only be established by the teaching of Scripture.

    Some think that when we oppose churches providing social and recreational facilities  we think the church property is holy. No, but the work of the church is holy—set apart by the word of God. When members talk about sports before or after the worship, that does not mean that the church may provide for whatever sports activity they are discussing. When brethren are friendly and socialize with one another before or after worship, that does not mean that the church is engaged in providing social activities. There are things that are incidental to our coming together, but they should be kept as incidental and not made a part of the mission of the church.  The church provides the place, personnel and provisions for accomplishing its work, not for things that are not its work.


                       Copyright Midway Church of Christ 2014    This page last modified July 03, 2014