Opinions, and Religious Objectives
William C. Sexton
St. Joseph, Missouri
Recently while traveling in Southeast Missouri, I attended the services of a congregation in a small town. I was on my way to Lowell, from a visit with my parents in Arkansas. I had planned to stop somewhere along the way to worship, depending on where I was at service time. I had left my parents about four o'clock in the morning, with two or three places in mind, but it happened that I had made better time than planned, thus I was farther up the way at service time. As I approached this little town, my watch told me that this was the place to stop. I had been in this town some twenty years before, at which time I was far from being a Christian, thus I was desirous of seeing how it was now; it had had a reputation for "wildness."
A member of the Lowell congregation had told me, that there were two congregations is this town: one I would call "Liberal," and another, "Conservative." It being close to service time, we stopped at a service station, and asked where the church of Christ met. "Well," there is one over the track to the south, a few blocks and to the left, there is a church of Christ." I said, "there are two congregations here, I understand." "Yes, there is one over the trackpointing to the West.'' He asked, "Which one were you wanting?" I did not know, and asked if he was a member. He was not, so I asked, "which is the smaller?" "The one to the West," was the reply, thus we chose to try it.
When we arrived at the building, it was time for service. We met one person outside. After some songs and a prayer, the preacher got in the pulpit. One of the first things he said was, "The can goods for the 'Orphan Home' this week, is Pork and Beans." He went on to encourage all to be sure contributing in this respect. When he had finished talking about the can goods, he mentioned that there would be no service there that night, because he had to be out of town; but he urged the members to attend somewhere. He informed them of some places several miles away where they could attend, but he did not mention them attending the other congregation in town. He told them that there was a meeting in progress over in .... and a "Dynamic Speaker" was doing the preaching; they would enjoy attending there. I looked at my wife who in turn smiled as to say, "The 'Few' idea did not work this time did it? ", knowing that we were in the "Liberal" congregation.
At the door after the sermon, I introduced myself, and said, "I gather from what you said that you believe that the church can support the 'Institutional Home' . . ." "Yes" he replied. "And the other congregation in town does not, I gather . . ." I said. "Well" he said, "there is a small group over there across town . . . but I do not know if they believe in anything or not . . ." To which I smiled . . . not knowing the other brethren . . . but having heard that type of verbal display before. I did not believe that he was really saying what he believed. It was not something to smile about; it was serious. Yet perhaps my smile was a way of showing my disbelief in what he said!
He had used II John 9 in his lesson. I said, "The scriptures you used condemns such, in my judgment; to go beyond is to be without Christ and the Father, and this is to go beyond . . . They are not found therein." "I could support an 'Institutional Home' as an individual, if it did not take support from churches, but when the church starts contributing, then I must stop contributing in that congregation. My conscience will not allow me to support such," I said. "Well," he said, "it is a matter of opinion, as far as I am concerned. They can do it any way. And I find less and less trouble over this; people are willing to do it either way . . ." Of course I had heard that many times too. Many, who support such, have for the last ten years said, "it is only a handful of cranks, that oppose such." This I do not believe to be true, for I find brethren all over the country who oppose such and they are not "Cranks!" However, the supporters of these man-made institutions, no doubt, would like to think that we are "few," and really believe "in nothing." It is true that there is less and less "trouble," in a sense, in that supporter have gone on and supported these things and given the others a choice of "get out or get on the band wagon," and the objectors have gotten out. While the supporters have refused to discuss the issues there is little trouble, the objectors have gone on to serve the Lord, while the others are wrapped up in their projects.
Strange to me indeed, is the sound that it is an "Opinion," yet they will force one to violate his conscience by contributing from the church treasury, or get out. If it is a matter of opinion, why not give it up, if it violates a brother's conscience? This is the teaching of I Cor. 8:13 if it is a matter of opinion, then all could have supported the homes that are among us individually, and left the church out of it. This would have been no division, the children would have been supported, and the church would have been at "Peace." Instead, some insisted that the church support them; others opposed. Thus the division does exist, and there is indeed trouble in the heart of every CHILD OF GOD who is as concerned as he should be. The actions of those who support these "Homes," show that it is not really "an opinion" with them or that God condemns them.
But as I traveled on, and since that time, I have considered more, "Just what is religion for anyway? What is it accomplishing? What shall it bring in the future? '
I contend that the OBJECTIVES of TRUE Religion, the religion of Christ, are Spiritual, and not Material. Every religion claiming to be of Christ, yet which is not governed by Him, is a Fraud! Every group of His people that does not follow His teaching is perverting the energy of Christ and shall fail in the end to accomplish its mission.
I see a great deal of emphasis being placed on the material aspect of "religious work" today by members of the church, as in past times by denominational people. A church near Kansas City is making pleas for the members to bring food and store it in the building so they will have a regular supply. Also, they ask that clothes be brought and stored for future needs. Recently, I saw an article, which stated that to "let your light shine" means to do benevolent work through the church. They say that people do not know about the church because we have not done a lot of "good works,' of helping the needy through the church to attract their attention. I suggest that if this is the way it must be done to gain recognition, the Lord did not approve of it, for nowhere in the scriptures does he teach it. He was speaking to the disciples (Matt. 5: 13-16). If the Lord does not approve of the only way of gaining recognition, then we are better off without it, remaining un-recognized by the world. Recognition of the world can be gained some other way. Why try to do it through the church, if that is our aim? I deny that this is a scriptural objective!
I suggest that it will run its course. People have been known to "Join Organizations" for material gains. I suggest that they will gain some members this way. But the tragedy is that both the church and the people whom they gather in shall be in a worse condition than they were before. Such persons will not be converted to Christ, neither will the church be doing and accomplishing the mission God gave it, but conversely, losing its "candle stick" (Rev. 2: 5 ) .
I have noticed that one of the denominational churches in town needs a larger dining room than they do an assembly hall. More attend the "fellowship dinner' than the meetings for religious teaching! Again, I say, "Religion is not to provide these things." If this is what religion has to offer, then the church has no purpose. There are other institutions, which can provide these things better!
In our society, every organization or institution has a mission. No two are set up for the same purpose. In a Corporation no two departments are to do the same thing. If it is found that two are doing the same thing, then one is eliminated. The Post Office does not build roads; neither does the highway department carry the mail. So in religion the church is commissioned to supply the spiritual needs of man. There are other institutions to provide the material needs. The opinions of men injected into the minds of men, instead of the revealed will of God, have changed the objective of true Religion! Let us keep the church doing what God built it to do provide spiritual needs (Acts 2:47; 20:28; Eph. 5:25-30; I Tim. 3:15; Eph 3:10-11; Eph. 4:11-12). Let us contend with all of our energy too, for "The Faith" once delivered!
TRUTH MAGAZINE XI: 3, pp. 17-19