By Larry Ray Hafley
Dear Brother Kearley
Thank you for your brief response. I appreciate the time constraints that forbid you to answer my earlier letter at this time. I shall look forward to a detailed reply.
Brother Kearley, I do not believe that you “advocate gyms,” family life centers, parking lots, or filmstrips per se, but I believe you view all of those items as scriptural, legitimate extensions of the work of the church. Is that not correct?
The command to assemble authorizes a place of assembly (Heb. 10:25; 1 Cor. 14:23; Acts 20:7). If there were no Bible authority for the church to “come together in one place,” buildings for assembly would be unscriptural. See my first letter to you for a list of similar items.
Since I do not find authority in the Bible for the church to provide recreation and entertainment, I do not believe gymnasiums or family life centers are scriptural. If God has so designed and purposed the church in these areas of activity, where is the Scripture?
You state, “I advocate the building of any kind of facility if it is to be used extensively for purposes God has designed for the church, including benevolence, edification, evangelization, worship and continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers, in seeking and saving the lost, in visiting the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, in doing unto each of these as we should do unto Jesus in watching in behalf of the souls of men, women and children.”
Brother Kearley, under which of those designed purposes would you place a gym or family life center? Would you place it under “evangelization”? If so, should not the church construct and staff such facilities in the “inner city” where lost and lonely people can be given a Bible and a basketball?
Would you place gyms under “fellowship”? If so, how could you deny the church’s entrance into the business-industrial world, as per my first letter to you? If gyms are under the general heading of fellowship, that tends to do away with their use by non-Christians on a regular basis, since the lost are not in our fellowship (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Jn. 1:37).
Before your tenure as editor, the Gospel Advocate led the fight to put colleges and benevolent societies into the budget of the churches. It was argued that since the church is not a home, it must support a benevolent organization, such as Child-haven, which provides a home. Likewise, the church is not a gymnasium. It is not a health spa. Would it, therefore, be scriptural to form recreational organizations and institutions whose purpose is to provide “fellowship” facilities in which games, amusements and entertainment are conducted? It would be a sort of YMCA of the churches of Christ. Churches could fund it on a regular basis and the organization could provide the facilities for recreation and fellowship.
Based on the principles of contributions to David Lipscomb College and Schultz-Lewis Orphan Home from the treasury of the churches, could we form similar organizations for recreational fellowship facilities? Or would you prefer that each church which builds a gym simply handle such matters within their own local work, as it generally done today? Regardless of your personal preference, would a YMCA type organization, designed to provide recreational fellowship facilities for the churches, be scriptural? If not, on what scriptural basis would you deny its right to exist?
Brother Kearley, I am sure the Christian Church sees you as one who makes a constant hobby of harassing and disfellowshipping over their music and missionary societies. They, too, might argue for the best use of buildings, and for the teaching of brethren to move and live in a better way, but when it comes to their music and missions, you appear to them to be making a “constant hobby of harassing them about these things.” I do not believe that you do so, but that is how they perceive your opposition to their practices. The truth is that you simply want them to abandon those things for which they cannot cite book, chapter and verse.
The Christian Church preacher may say he does not advocate trumpets and missionary societies, but be believes they are scriptural. I suspect that our situation, yours and mine, is parallel to that above. I question neither your sincerity nor your desire to do only what God has authorized. Hence, if the Christian Church can show authority for their organizations, we will not oppose their buildings which are used to carry on the work of the missionary society. If they can show Scripture for playing on mechanical instruments of music, we will not oppose their provisions for such things. So, I will not question the existence of a gym if I can be shown that such items are tools to do what God has authorized the church to do.
I, too, pray that this letter has made my position clearer to you. Perhaps, when you have time, a more detailed response from you to my first letter will further clarify our issues of difference. Hopefully, with open minds, open hearts and open Bibles, we can achieve the unity of the Spirit and cherish it in the bond of peace.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 4, pp. 105, 119
February 15, 1990