I Marvel

Irvin Himmel
St. Louis, Missouri

Not long after the gospel was introduced in Galatia, Judaizing teachers began perverting it by advocating a return to the Law of Moses. Paul said in writing to the Galatians, " I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ" (Gal. 1: 7, 8).

Like Paul, I marvel! Like Paul, I marvel at the actions of my own brethren. Like Paul, I marvel at how rapidly they are removing from the gospel.

I stand amazed that so many churches of Christ are losing their distinctive plea for undenominational faith and practice. The craze for church-sponsored recreation, dinners and suppers, parties and special youth activities is sweeping through many congregations like a mighty wave from the ocean.

In the past week a bulletin and two letters have come to the Ferguson church from the Maryland Heights Church of Christ asking that we announce a "Youth Rally," that they are arranging and promoting. The letters are on stationery with the name of the church printed at the top, and they are signed by one of he elders on behalf of the entire eldership. Attached to each letter is a "Tentative Program" for "Maryland Heights Church of Christ Youth Rally." This is clearly an activity of the church under the oversight of its elders. Whether it is being financed out of the church treasury or not is beside the point. The rally is sponsored by the church, promoted by the elders as elders, and clearly labeled "Church of Christ Youth Rally".

This "Youth Rally" begins at 2:30 in the afternoon and continues until 9:00 P.M. Here is what it includes: (1) Introduction and invocation; (2) Competitive games... e.g., Sack and relay races... etc., competition between congregations by respective age groups; (3) Individual competition... e.g., Horseshoes, badminton, ping pony, etc.; (4) Discussion of teenage problems by different preachers; (5) Buffet suppers; (6) Assembly with songs, prayer, and guest speaker.

Observe that this church-sponsored YOUTH RALLY includes relay races, horseshoes, badminton, ping pony, and a buffet supper. The program announcement suggests jeans, slacks, slim jims, etc. be worn. If this sounds like the Methodists and Baptists --well, to many of us it does just that.

WHERE DOES THE BIBLE AUTHORIZE ANY CHURCH OF CHRIST TO SPONSOR RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES? Do you know the scripture? If so, please put it in the following space and send it to this writer:

Let the authorization be by command, example, or necessary inference, it matters not which. We challenge the Maryland Heights church to produce Bible authority for what it is doing as a church! If there is no scriptural authorization for churches engaging in recreational activities, how can such be right? Or have we now come to the point that we no longer need Bible authority?

Let no one misunderstand. No valid objection can be raised against individuals getting together for wholesome recreation. It is fine for Christians to eat together and enjoy each other's company, whether in work or in play. We are not opposing Christians, young or old, enjoying the good association of other Christians. No doubt, more of us who are parents need to give attention to the providing of good, clean entertainment for our youngsters. But the point is this: The church is limited by the Scriptures in its work; the church must not engage in any activity unless Christ, the head, gives us authority to do so.

According to the Bible, the church is to preach the gospel (1 Tim. 3:15; Acts 11:22, 23)) edify itself (Eph. 4:12-16), and minister to the needy saints (Acts 4:32-35; 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 5:16). Under which of these categories can playing horseshoes, badminton, ping pony, etc. be placed? If it be argued that the church can sponsor these things as long as the gospel is preached in connection with them, could the church sponsor a football game with the understanding that a gospel sermon will be preached after the game? Can the church sponsor golf tournaments provided those who play will agree to talk about the Bible while playing? If recreation is included in the work of the church, can it be paid for out of the church treasury? Why not? Is the church authorized to DO anything that it cannot FINANCE out of its Lord's days collections?

I marvel, don't you?

Truth Magazine, VII: 3, pp. 25-26
December 1962