"Operating Exclusively As A Church . . ."

Bill Crews
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Probably still pending is the resolution of a local controversy that came to light the middle of June of this year. My source of information is a newspaper article in the Morning Advocate (Baton Rouge) of June 14, 1986.

A Roman Catholic Church with its property on North Sherwood Forest Boulevard had lodged a protest against two restaurants and a convenience store, all located across the street. The church charged that the three businesses are violating a city-parish ordinance prohibiting the We of intoxicating beverages within 300 feet of "a church."

On the surface it sounds like a clear-cut case of definite violations. It would seem that the licenses to sell beer and liquor should never have been issued in the first place, but now that they have, they should be revoked. But that is only on the surface.

The article also points out (1) that the Catholic Church in question has had a Class A beer permit since 1983, (2) that it sells beer at the softball games conducted in its ball park from March through July between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m., (3) that it makes from these beer sales between $10,000 and $12,000 profit which is used for its athletic programs, (4) "that the church had been selling beer at the softball games for 10 years before it got a license at the insistence of the local Alcoholic Beverage Control Board," (5) that this church is the only church in the parish with a full Class A beer license (I should hope so), and (6) that the Metro Council had in 1983 waived the city-parish ordinance in granting the church its beer license.

Well, you can't "have your cake and eat it too," as they say. For 10 years this church was both violating the ordinance that prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages "within 300 feet of a church" and violating another ordinance by selling beer without a permit to do so - while the authorities looked the other way. Then they obtained a license which supposedly made it legal for them to violate the other ordinance. Now they want the businesses to stop violating the ordinance which they intend to continue to violate. No wonder some people are disgusted with religion in general and churches in particular.

Officials at the local Alcoholic Beverage Control Board are justifying their actions in granting both church and businesses the licenses, and the businesses are defending their activities by pointing out that the church is not "operating exclusively as a church." That is surely an understatement! Many churches stopped long ago operating exclusively as churches, and now involve themselves in nearly every activity under the sun. People love to have it so, but God's word doesn't authorize it.

A church ought to exist for the purpose of saving the lost and keeping the saved saved; for the purpose of teaching only God's word, exalting the Father, and honoring the Son; for the purpose of ministering to the spiritual needs of men. The Bible is the revelation of God's will to men. The New Testament is the perfect new covenant of our Lord for His followers. The churches of the New Testament present to us the model that our Lord wants us to follow. The New Testament churches did not involve themselves in all manner of social, recreational, athletic, cultural, diversional, and amusing activities. Theirs was all serious business, eternal business, and ours today ought to be.

Let us not close without giving some good passages on alcoholic beverages: Gen. 9:20-21; Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35; Isa. 5:1112,20,22; 28:7; 1 Thess. 5:7; Gal. 5:19-21 and 1 Cor. 6:9-11. Unknown in the times when the Bible books were written were alcoholic beverages such as fortified wines and distilled spirits with their high alcohol content. The "strong drink" of the Bible would be considered mild today. In our wildest imaginations we cannot envision churches in the first century having ball parks and athletic programs and selling alcoholic beverages.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 21, p. 658
November 6, 1986