A Subtle Shift

By Steve Bobbitt

A close look at the history of the churches of Christ will disclose a new movement. It has a new attitude. Great emphasis is upon the idea that the congregation ought to provide wholesome entertainment and fun for its young people. It has new facilities. First, an old cooler was moved into an unused room at the church building. Later a special room was equipped for parties and known as the Fellowship Hall and/or the Multipurpose Room. Recently churches have begun to erect whole buildings called Family Life Centers. These feature gyms, exercise rooms and such. The movement also has new personnel. Suddenly no church was complete without a Youth Minister. His job is to create and maintain a spate of recreational programs to keep the young people interested and involved in the church.

Along the way some brethren have protested. Yes, young people (as well as the others) need wholesome recreation, but is recreation the work which God wants His churches to do? Does the Bible authorize a congregation to build and equip game rooms? If so, where is the Scripture? The churches can provide wages for gospel preachers, but can they employ ministers whose sole service is fun and games? Again, where is the Scripture which authorizes a church to be in the entertainment business?

In this connection, consider this from a Tennessee church bulletin. It shows a subtle shift from truth to error.

“‘The church is not in the entertaining business.’ This and other statements are very common when activities for young people are being planned. There seems to be an attitude among many that Christians should only be concerned with spiritual matters and that any fun should be left up to the home. Therefore, any activity for teenagers from the congregation which is classified as ‘fun’ is suspect and inappropriate. But is this attitude right?

“To be sure the church is not in the entertainment business. Rather we have a responsibility before God to seek the lost, build up the church, and help those who may be in need (Matt. 28-.19,20; Eph. 4:11,12; Gal. 6:10). And, without exception, spiritual matters should be the first priority in our lives. But does this mean that Christians should not come together for fellowship and fun? If we cannot have fun with Christians, to whom do we turn? Any activity which encourages Christian fellowship among our teenagers should not only be desired, but greatly encouraged. Paul stated, ‘Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Cor. 15:33). May I encourage our parents to cooperate with us as we strive to provide a wholesome and Christian atmosphere for our young people. I have seen too many teenagers caught up in the wrong crowd for us to neglect this very vital area” (my emphasis).

The subtle shift is this: from the organized congregation to the private lives of its members. This brother betrays himself. It is apparent that he does not understand the distinction between congregation work and personal duty (see 1 Tim. 5:8,16).

This leads to a false dilemma. “If the church doesn’t entertain them, they cannot have good clean fun.” That is not true. We need not choose between church entertainment and no entertainment at all. How did young people ever survive without Youth Ministers, Fellowship Halls and church entertainment? I know how. They recognized that such is a personal duty, not congregational work. They had read 1 Corinthians 11:22,34 and 1 Timothy 3:15. You need to read them as well.

A church should support gospel preachers who preach, not Youth Ministers who entertain. Its facilities should be used to spread the truth, not to spread the table. It should train its members to work hard and to play well – at home.

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 11, p. 326
June 7, 1984