By Hayse Reneau
It is disturbing to see and to contemplate the rapid digression of churches who claim to be of Christ. Beginning with small steps it quickly moved by leaps and bounds from the fifties through the eighties, leaving in its wake a torn and bleeding brotherhood.
Several years before the division-causing innovations were introduced there were some brethren bent on imitating the denominations, who were “waiting in the wings” for a convenient season to make their proposals. The division over societies and mechanical music in worship were remembered and some hearts were still sobbing, so the hesitation could be expected. Finally a generation arose who were untaught in the essentials of abiding in the doctrine of Christ, and who were gullible enough to swallow the bait. Originally, the proposal was to add the colleges into church budgets. The momentary objections were greater than anticipated so it was put on hold. The so-called Orphanages were then introduced and accepted. The emotional overtones of stories about little babies being cast out of their homes, neglected, bruised, hungry and naked caused many to ignore scriptural precedent of how the first century churches accomplished their work of benevolence. Now, there were no legitimate and logical objections, from those who had already accepted the orphanages, to colleges also being put in the church budget (they were told “they stand or fall together”), so they were summarily accepted. It was an immoral and deceitful strategy but it worked.
Homes for the elderly, institutions for unwed mothers, soup lines and kitchens for the hungry, and many more social programs rapidly followed and were included in church budgets. Next came the bus fleets, and the youth ministers, who plan and bus children on ski trips, busing children to six flags, and various other recreational outings. “Family life centers” are a measure of their prosperity. Equipped with the latest exercise equipment, TVs, ping pong tables, and other entertainment features, these churches are really “on the move.”
The sponsoring church concept has linked local churches into national and even international ties with like-minded churches. The formation of a full-blown ecclesiastic system of religion, known as “churches of Christ,” is concreted in place and no one or nothing will change it to any great degree. I was told, “We are no longer ashamed to invite someone to join our church!”
Many churches today are plainly no more than denominations bearing the designation “church of Christ.” It is disastrous to souls for whom Christ died. I want to observe some of the attitudes which promote such digressions.
When there is a decreased emphasis on a “Thus saith the Lord,” people eventually give no thought whether a practice is scriptural (revealed in the Scriptures) or unscriptural. This promotes an uncaring attitude for what God says. I can remember when churches who had the funds to publish a bulletin, filled those pages with Bible-centered lessons. I can also remember when those pages were filled with social activities offered to the members and seldom do you find a Bible quoted. The word of God still admonishes “If any man speak let him speak as the oracles of God,” and “Preach the word” (1 Pet. 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:2).
An increasing spirit of materialism and secularism promoted the various social enterprises which serve as entertainment for the body while souls dry and wither. Choosing a church for many is based upon finding one which offers the most entertainment. Romans 14:17 emphasizes the church established by the Lord is for the spiritual nature of man, and not meat and drink (physical items).
Vanity is an attitude promoting competitiveness with denominationalism. Meeting houses take on a cathedral look: stained glass and steeples, etc. Such things are pointed to with pride, as if it is a measure of God’s approval. Vanity cultivates an attitude of prominence and improper self-esteem. Such has led to a substitution of human plans and programs and all manner of promotional machinery, replacing God’s way which is plainly revealed in the Bible.
The Word of God insists: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen ” (1 Pet. 4:11). Beloved, no man speaks according to God’s oracles while harboring such attitudes which have brought such misery and harm to the cause of Christ!
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 11, p. 329
June 7, 1990