A Response to Brother Kearley

By Larry Ray Hafley

Thank you for your letter and accompanying enclosures. Your brotherly spirit was much appreciated, and I shall seek to respond accordingly.

In my article of June 1, 1989, I plead guilty to putting words in your mouth via an imaginary conversation. In so doing, I did not misrepresent your position. Yea, verify, your letter argues that gymnasiums and Family Life Centers are scriptures. Bill Jackson is, as you say, in a “contradictory position.” He espouses “Fellowship Halls” but eschews gymnasiums. I used an imaginary argument between you and Bill to expose his “inconsistency.” In so doing, I did not misrepresent your “true beliefs,” nor Bill’s, as your letter demonstrates.

Regarding brother Guy N. Woods, I certainly meant no disrespect. Paul said some were “dead” while they lived (1 Tim. 5:6; Eph. 5:14), and on the issue of church funded gyms and Family Life Centers, I believe that included brother Woods. I hope he will come to life and oppose such innovations in the Gospel Advocate. The brother Woods of 1939 to 1946 would not have “kept silence” against Family Life and Day Care Centers, secular schools, and other denominational, human works and organizations. Indeed, it is my appreciate ion for his former years of contention “For a pure faith and a faultless practice” that has caused me such disappointment in his present silence against modern innovations. See the context of my statement. Perhaps the word so Bill Jackson are pertinent and relevant:

. . . we, in the kingdom, need the advice of the older . . . gospel preachers. . . I remember so many of them as powerful preachers and writes or the 50’s and 60’s, and you could hardly pick up a gospel paper without their great articles being there to inform, warn and guide. But, where are they now, and where is their voice being heard? I would think articles on the great issues of today would wield great influence, and perhaps turn some young preacher away from error and toward truth . . Again we ask, “Where is the voice of the older men?” (Bill Jackson, The Southwesterner, Vol. 17, No. 1, October 4, 1989).

Bible Authority

There is Bible authority for the church to come together in one place (Heb. 10:25). Hence, meeting places are authorized. There is scriptural authority for the church to teach (1 Thess. 1:8), thus, various aids (projectors, boards, charts) are authorized. Singing is approved of God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Songbooks, notes and leaders are authorized. The Lord’s supper is to be eaten (1 Cor. 11). Items essential to carrying out the command to eat the Lords’ supper (table, trays, plates, containers) are authorized. Laying by “in store” is commanded (1 Cor. 16:2), so, collection baskets are scriptural.

If one wants a gymnasium or a Family Life Center, he will have to find authority for the church to engage in social, recreational activities. Where is the Scripture? If one wants the church to build schools to teach secular subjects (History, English, Math, Spelling), he will have to find Bible authority for it. Where is the Scripture? If one wants a piano, organ or guitar in worship, he will have to find authority for playing. Where is the Scripture? If the church wants to raise its money by selling, it will have to cite book, chapter and verse for doing so. Where is the Scripture?

We will not argue about church supported cabins, canoes, archery ranges and ping pong tables. Just cite the passage that authorities the church to furnish fun, food and frolic. We will not argue about church supported colleges which teach algebra or economics. Just cite the passage that authorizes the church to provide secular education. We will not argue about tambourines and violins with the Christian Church.

Brother Kearley, fertilizers, light bulbs, paper towels, parking lots and toilets are not the problem. The issue is not tissue. Those items merely expedite our doing the things the Lord has authorized us to do. If the Lord authorized the church to provide secular education, then it follows that fertilizers, light bulbs, paper towels, parking lots, bike racks and toilets would all be furnished, along with math books, rulers, pens, pencils, etc. First, though, someone must show Bible authority for the doing of the work of secular education itself.

There is no command, example or necessary implication, no authority, either generic or -specific, that allows the church to provide ball gloves or pianos, to teach algebra or preach arts and crafts, to provide bath houses or sell car washes. If you find Bible authority for the church to provide amusement and entertainment, I will not quibble over a checker board. If you find Scripture for the church to furnish exercise areas or health spas, I will not quarrel about a locker room in which perspiring players may shower.

What Others Have Said

1. N.B. Hardeman: “. . . 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 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” (Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. V).

2. B.C. Goodpasture: “It is not the mission of the church to furnish amusement for the world or even for its own members. Innocent amusement in proper proportion has its place in the life of all normal persons, but it is not the business of the church to furnish it. The church would come off a poor second if it undertook to compete with institutions established for the express purpose of entertaining people. It would make itself ridiculous if it entered into such competition. Again, it is not the responsibility of the church as such to furnish recreation for its members. A certain amount of recreation is necessary to the health and happiness of the individual . . . but it is not the function of the church to furnish the play. The church was not established to furnish athletics. .

“For the church to turn aside from its divine work to furnish amusement and recreation is to pervert its mission. It is to degrade its mission. Amusement and recreation should stem from the home rather than the church. The church, like Nehemiah, has a great work to do; and it should not come down on the plains of Ono to amuse and entertain. 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. Only as the church becomes worldly, as it pillows its head on the lap of Delilah, will it want to turn from its wonted course to relatively unimportant matters. Imagine Paul selecting and training a group of brethren to compete in the Isthmian games!” (Gospel Advocate, May 20, 1948, p. 484)

3. Roy H. Lanier, Sr.: “Recreation and entertainment are good for young people,. . . But such activities are the responsibility of the home, not the church. . .

“And there are congregations which have kindergartens five days a week for children under school age. Some of them charge tuition, but some do not. . . Where is the Scripture which authorizes a church to educate the children of parents who are able to pay for their education? And if the church charges tuition, where is the Scripture that authorizes the church to charge for its services? A church may as well charge for its Sunday school instruction as to charge for its Monday school instruction.

“The truth of the matter is that the church is involved in a work which it is not authorized to do, and using the time and energy of its members in a work which is the responsibility of the home” (Firm Foundation, March 22, 1977, p. 201).

4. Bill Jackson: “One can immediately call to mind . . . problems currently ongoing in the church, all of them residing in the false doctrine that the church has a mission to the ‘whole man’ . . . as to his family, his work, his finances, his health, his recreation, etc. Years ago, as some of the denominations . . . began to develop a ‘social gospel,’ they turned more and more to this ‘whole man’ idea. It is amazing that some in the Lord would pick up such a false idea!

“. . . The concern for ‘ministering to the whole man’ has had the church involved in child-rearing, to provide some with ‘mothers-day-out.’ Such has had the church involved in all manner of recreational activities. . .

“The point is simple . . . the church’s ministry is not to the ‘whole man,’ but it is a ministry of the word. . . There’s a world of difference in the church administering the whole Word to man, and the church administering to the whole man! Inspiration teaches the first, and sectarian man teaches the latter” (The Southwesterner, Vol. XVI, No. 48, September 20, 1989, pp. 1,2).

The brethren quoted above are not the standard of authority. But what do you know that they did not know? Scripture, please.

Church Owned Businesses

Next, I want to take your arguments, which are based on ‘purpose and need” (See your editorial in the Gospel Advocate, November, 1988), for church support of schools, day care centers, health clubs, camps and Family Life Centers and apply them to the church’s owning and operating business, industrial complexes, According to “purpose and need,” and using your own words and ideas in your letter to me, what would be wrong with the following proposal?

Remember that, “Due to the history of these problems it behooves all of us to be very tolerant and gracious to the other in discussing and applying these matters.” So, bear with me while I use your reasoning to authorize the church to own and operate an automobile plant.

First, the elders ask themselves, “What is the purpose for which this money is to be expended? Will it contribute significantly to the evangelization work, the edification work, the worship activity or the benevolent work for which the church is responsible?” Their “studied answer is, ‘Yes, it does contribute significantly to these,’ then I believe it is permissible for the leadership of the church to expend the money for that item or project.” Note that no Scripture is necessary. It is their “studied answer” (cf. 1 Chron. 13:4; 15:13-15). Before you dismiss these comments as absurd, please remember that many of the Protestant and Catholic denominations have already become involved in such businesses (Hospitals, Burlington Mills’ towels, Goodwill Industries, etc.).

Financing is not a problem. Simply announce to all the world that this church is the sponsoring church for “Abilene Christian Cars.” The Bible says, “Go,” and cars are one way to do it. Churches can fund the company and be heralds of truth by helping to furnish “Christian” transportation.

Second, the same church (and I do not have a specific congregation in mind) buys 500 acres of land for $500,000 and builds worker cottages, bathhouses, a dining and rec hall and several other facilities for $1,450,000 for a total of $1,950,OW, one-half the cost of the church building (fellowship hall, gym, etc.) in town. In these facilities they conduct Christian work (Eph. 4:28; Tit. 3:14) 52 weeks during the year. During the year, the first, second and third .shifts average at least 20 hours per day “doing service, as to the Lord” (Eph. 6:7); in “break time” prayers, singing and labor training in the “cars for Christ” campaign. This totals 140 hours per week, year round, for a total of 7,280 hours per year.

The Abilene Christian Cars Company over a one year period accomplishes many times as much teaching, edification and evangelization as the church’s Family Life Center, gym and camp. Though it may cost a bit more than a camp or a cabin on the lake, which is the best use of the Lord’s money? Both of these (the car company and the Family Life Center) are operated completely by the church and are under the control of the elders. No para-church is involved, of course.

Third, before I would take a position on whether it is right or wrong, good or bad, to build a “church car company,” I would need to see a thorough justification paper (not to mention scriptural authority) indicating clearly what the purpose for this was, how it was intended to be used and what was hoped to be accomplished. I would like to see evidence from a similar program and how many have been led to Christ in obedience to the gospel, how many have been retained in the church and how they have grown spiritually as a result of the use of the car company.

(The statistics requested above were the ones the Christian Church gave in their “justification papers” 140 years ago to authorize the Missionary Society. A car company, like the first gym or Family Life Center, would be a novel idea, so pertinent data could not be cited, but that did not prohibit the first Missionary Society among us. It did not deter the first gym and camp ground, so why should it stop or stifle the first car company?)

Fourth, brethren working at a car company would promote fellowship. Now, obviously I know that fellowship is sharing in Christ Jesus, but it does include growing to love, appreciate, care for and work with one another. This cannot happen sufficiently with people looking at the back of one another’s heads. (This is a snide aside at what allegedly occurs in a scriptural worship service, but what else would some do on a bench in the stands of a “church” basketball game?) Genuine Christian fellowship comes when people are involved in one another’s lives or working side by side and shoulder to shoulder in the cause of Christ, but fellowship does include getting to know each other, sharing our work (e.g., at the Abilene Christian Car Company), our hobbies, our families and other interests and activities. It is only when people really grow to love one another that they are going to miss one another for disfellowship to have any meaning.

(So, when a brother is “disfellowshipped” at church, he loses his job at our car company, his kids are kicked out of our day care center and/or expelled from our “Christian” school, and they lose membership privileges in our health clubs, spas and Family Life Centers. Now, that, friends, is “disfellowship” with a vengeance! Hence, they really feel the true meaning of fellowship, and since it enhances the sense of true fellowship, “church” owned car companies are authorized!) Fellowship, then, in the full sense of the word, including friendship and brotherly love which is one of the Christian graces, is a part of the work of the church. Using your reasoning, brother Kearley, I conclude that car companies, as well as gyms and camps, owned and operated by the church, are scriptural.

Note: The above caricature, paraphrase and partial quotations of you, brother Kearley, will justify Abilene Christian Car Company as surely as it will authorize church support of Abilene Christian University, cabins, crafts and canoes. Having noted that, I continue with my parallel justification paper. Remember, now, that I am using your words to authorize the church to own and operate a business industrial complex. I do so in the same way you attempted to justify the church’s owning and operating gyms, recreational resorts, Family Life Centers and day care facilities.

After making your arguments for gyms, brother Kearley, you state, “I certainly am on no campaign for churches to build gymnasiums.” In parallel fashion, I argue that I am on no campaign for churches to build car companies. The campaign I am on is for churches to use their building to the glory of God more than four or five hours per week, and a church owned car company will do that and more. I believe churches should be conducting daily Bible study sessions. Some might use the term, “car manufacturing plants,” but by car manufacturing I do not mean the secular type. I mean a situation where the church takes advantage of the opportunities provided by our culture and offers a haven to workers from first through the third shift. During this time the auto workers should be taught Bible stories, shown video cassettes of Bible lessons, played audio cassettes of Bible lessons. They should sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in contrast to filthy, smutty songs being piped into worldly work places. They should learn, learn, learn all they possibly can about the Lord Jesus Christ, salvation and his church. They should learn to love one another and have the love of Christians showered upon them in a “Christian” work place.

Then I think it would be good, when some of the workers have a limited education, for the church to use its church building to operate a Christian school to watch on behalf of the souls of the workers and their children by teaching them all subjects (including car maintenance, repair and autobody work) from a Christian point of view rather than turning them to the public schools that are filled with atheists and infidels and many ungodly, immoral people. (I am delighted for every Christian who is working in a secular car plant, and we need more, but I know from study and experience that there are far too many business men who are exerting a wrong influence on workers and their children, teaching them evolution, humanism and other forms of ungodliness that undermine the faith of workers.)

Hebrews 13:17 says that leaders in the church watch in behalf of the souls of workers and must give account for them. Leaders of our present generation have watched many a worker have his faith destroyed by worldliness while saying it is a sin for the church to own a manufacturing company. It is far better for the church to provide the worker a good job from a Christian point of view and help the worker develop a good trade by which to make a livelihood in a Christian environment along with Bible teaching than to send the worker into an environment that destroys his faith and soul. Hence, church owned and operated business enterprises are scriptural!

Finally, brother Kearley, have I correctly applied your arguments as authority for the church to build and maintain business and industrial enterprises? If not, can you show me that a church owned business is unscriptural without at the same time destroying your arguments for church sponsored gymnasiums, Family Life Centers, day care facilities and secular education? If you can do so, I will be pleased the see your reasoning, based on your own arguments, which denies the former but supports the latter. If you cannot show the difference, will you say that a church may indeed scripturally own and operate a business? I am not saying that is what you believe. I am saying that is where your arguments lead. If I am wrong, please correct me.

Frankly, brother Kearley, all this talk about wanting to see statistics and a “thorough justification paper” is largely irrelevant. A “thorough justification paper” is simply a piece of paper with a passage of Scripture on it.

This letter is too long, but if it were not, I could take your arguments for fellowship, purpose and the use of time and facilities and make a strong case for a traveling circus on the order of “Barnabas & Bailey” (the greatest gospel show on earth), complete with elephants and cotton candy. Using your reasoning, if brethren had a proper motive, noble aims and pure purpose, what would be wrong with a brotherhood circus? Think of the teaching opportunities, the fellowship, the clean wholesome fun, as opposed to worldly amusements I But, alas, I will have to leave that for another time.

As you are aware in communication with brother Willis, both your letter to me and mine to you are to be published in Guardian of Truth. If possible, I would be happy to engage with you in a written debate on these and related issues with our exchanges to be published in both the Gospel Advocate and Guardian of Truth. We can work out the necessary details if you are amenable to such a proposal.

Please let me hear from you again. The issues that divide us are not only temporal but eternal in their effect. I pray that we shall both maintain an open Bible and an open mind as we study together.

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 3, pp. 80-83
February 1, 1990