The Mission of the Church
Recently I had a letter from a member of the church that I have known most of my life with this question: "Are drinking fountains and a restroom in wrong in a church building, I mean the same as a kitchen and all this other mess they are bringing in the church building?"
Much has been said recently pro and con concerning the church building, and especially what can be done in the building. Many are saying: "If we can have drinking fountains, and rest rooms in the church building, then why not a kitchen and other things?" It seems to me that many do not understand the mission, or the work of the church. I am not saying that the "church building" is holy. It is a building constructed that the church can meet in for the purpose of worshiping God.
What Is the Mission of the Church?
I think we can all agree that it is three-fold. The King James Version says: "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" The New American Standard version says: "For the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12). The "perfecting of the saints" would signify training or teaching Christians in right living (Titus 2:11, 12). The "work of the ministry" comes from the word which means to serve. From this comes the idea of helping or sending relief to the needy (I Cor. 16:1, 2). The "edifying of the body of Christ" carries the idea of building up the church, and this is done through the preaching of the gospel (Mark 16:15, 16; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:21). To sum it up, the work of the church is to teach and instruct its members, preach the gospel and care for the needy.
What Is Not the Mission of the Church?
It is not the work of the church to engage in business of any kind. I read a few years ago in the Reader's Digest of some denominational churches that had gone into the Hotel business. Paul told the church in Corinth how to raise money to do the work of helping the needy (1 Cor. 16:1, 2).
It is not the work of the church to provide recreation for its members. This is the duty of the home or individuals. Do we read in the N. T. of the baseball team of the church in Jerusalem beating the team of the church in Antioch by the score of two to nothing? I am simply saying you cannot find the authority in the N. T. to take the Lord's money for the purpose of supporting a ball team.
The mission of the church is not social. The home should be the center of social activity. There is a tendency today for many churches to have "fellowship banquets" for the purpose of increasing the attendance. It is not wrong to be associated with other Christians, or even those who are not members of the church, if it is kept on home basis or as individuals. In other words, it is not the work of the church to buy hams, chickens, etc. to throw a "big party" to impress the people.
Now, let us go back to the thought of drinking fountains, rest rooms, and a kitchen in the church building. Some say they are parallel. But are they? Why was the kitchen built in the church building? It was placed there for recreation, or to have a good time socially. Most of us could do without food for two or three hours, or until we get home. Why are rest rooms and drinking fountains placed in the church building? If they are placed there for recreation, then I would say they would be wrong. We all know sometime because of sickness, or for other reasons we may have need of a rest room, whether it be in the building, or outside of the building. We have stoves or furnaces in church buildings. I don't think anyone would say they were wrong.
Different things are advanced trying to justify the idea that it is right for the church to pay out of its treasury to build kitchens in church buildings, and to keep them going full swing in social activities. Some one comes up with this question: "Is it wrong to eat in a church building?" Suppose two or three brethren are painting the inside of the building and bring sandwiches from home, and when lunch time came, 'would it be wrong for them to eat inside the church building?' Personally, I would not say it would be sinful. Then again, suppose some wanted coffee with their lunch, and a brother brought an electric coffee pot along. Then just before they had lunch he would "plug it in" to have warm coffee. Some ask the question: "Would this be wrong?" It would be hard to draw a line and say this would be wrong. But where will it stop? I know something like this happened with a congregation, then in just a short time, or by the time the building was completed, it had a full kitchen with stove, refrigerator, etc.
Paul in writing to the church in Corinth said: "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunk. What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. . . . . And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that he come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come" (I Cor. 11: 20, 22, 34).
We know the Bible is right regardless of what men may say, but I would like to leave this quotation with you from the pen of the late brother N. B. Hardeman. Speaking regarding "The Mission and Work of the Church" he said Again, I say to you, with caution and thought, that 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 an 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". (Hardeman's Tabernacle Sermons, Volume 5. Page 50)
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 7, pp. 19-20