By Mark Mayberry
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, were Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory (Col. 3:14).
The gospel is a spiritual message, which is founded on the resurrection of the Lord. It deals with man’s problem of sin, and provides forgiveness through the sacrifice of Christ. The ultimate design of the gospel is to save men from everlasting destruction, and provide for eternal life with God in heaven. The emphasis in the gospel is on things spiritual and eternal (Col. 3:1-4).
In the last several generations, however, many leading theologians began to outgrow their belief in such spiritual concepts. They came to question the reality of sin, and denied the vicarious atonement. They rejected the Bible’s teaching on miracles, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, and ridiculed the whole idea of heaven and hell. Like the ancient Greeks, they considered the preaching of the cross foolishness.
Following this loss of faith, a shift of emphasis occurred. Since the spiritual aspect of Christianity was rejected, they began to redirect the church in What they considered more relevant pursuits. They taught. that the church should be a brave and fearless champion of social and economic ideals. They sought to create a better social order in the “here and now.” The emphasis in, religion turned to education, kindergartens and day care, family counseling, fellowship centers, athletics, etc. Today on the modern religious scene, the average church is little more than a social club or a community recreational center. The fact. that the New Testament church was totally different from this does not concern most religious people in the least.
It is even more unfortunate that we have even witnessed a similar change of emphasis in the Lord’s church. Many congregations which had long adhered to the New Testament order have now adopted the methods and concepts of denominationalism. Consider the following examples:
1. Brethren have dreamed up a variety of ministries such as “Gymnastics to the Glory of God,” “The Martial Arts Gospel Ministry,” “Clown Ministries,” “Goliath’s for God,” etc. Isn’t it amazing how people seek to reduce the, church to the level of a carnival?
2. Brethren use incentive programs, such as the Bus ministry, to get people to attend. There is nothing wrong with offering someone a ride to church, but consider all that goes, on: In order to increase the number of riders, brethren offer free hamburgers, lollipops and ice cream, $5 hidden under a seat, trips to the skating rink after the services, etc. The appeal is carnal.
3. Special facilities have been built to provide kindergartens and day care centers, kitchens, student, centers, fellowship halls, etc. The Family Life and Education Center built by the Church of Christ in Madison,. Tennessee is typical of the direction many of our liberal brethren have taken in recent years. When the center first opened, a half-page ad in the Nashville Banner (11/18/78) announced “Madison Takes a Giant Step Forward!” Special speakers from Abilene, Pepperdine, Freed Hardeman, and David Lipscomb were on hand to help Ira North commemorate the occasion. The facility was complete with a. Gymnasium, Exercise Room, Sunset Room, Reception Room, Fellowship Room, etc. planned activities included Walking/Jogging, Bowling, Volleyball, Ping Pong, Tennis, Golf, Fuss Ball, Ladies Slimnastics, Basketball, Officiating Clinics for Referees of Church Sporting Events, Classes on First Aid, CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), and Arts and Crafts, such as macrame and ceramics, etc. we should stop and ask, “Was this really a giant step forward?”
4. The following bulletin represents the view which liberal brethren have of the church. The Church of Christ which meets at 402 W. Danieldale in Duncanville, TX publishes a bulletin called “The Exhorter. ” The November, 1987 edition has a decided social emphasis. It lists I the menu for the next several Wednesday Night Church suppers. Servings included Apricot Baked Chicken, Italian Spaghetti, Beef Tips & Homemade noodles, etc. Congratulations were extended to the local football team for clinching a spot in the play-offs. Announcements were made concerning an upcoming Church Golf Tournament, a Craft Sale, a Winter Ski trip, a High School Retreat, etc. The only Scripture quoted in the bulletin was Romans 8:31, which says, “if God be for us, who can be against us?” This strikes me as ironic. Is this the kind of religion that God really desires? Is he “for us” when we engage in such practices?
The Scriptural Appeal
Is this the direction that religion should be headed? Is all this a step forward? Going forward is good if it is along the path of faith, but those churches that preach a “social gospel” have actually taken a giant step away from the Scriptures (Jer. 6:16). It’s sad to realize just how far down the road to denominationalism many “Churches of Christ” have already gone.
Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye *in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk therein (Jer. 6.-16).
The Church today is no longer “Christ-centered.” It has allowed itself to be seduced into meeting the world’s needs of recreation and entertainment. Instead of focusing on the ultimate need, that is, the salvation of man’s soul, the church is rushing headlong to become just another denomination. From such a secular standpoint, we no longer view God as one who possesses awesome majesty and power. Instead he becomes merely an “assistant” who helps us with what we want.
Men are drawn to God by being taught the truth (Jn. 6:44-45). Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (Jn.8:32). Salvation can only be found when the gospel is preached in its purity and simplicity (Rom. 1:16-17). It is a fact that if you draw men with something else, you will draw them to something else. Offering any kind of appeal or incentive other than the gospel itself is wrong. One who does this is guilty of teaching another gospel.
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me (Jn. 6:44).
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith tofaith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Rom. 1:16-17).
Let’s realize that food and fun will not genuinely draw souls (Jn 6:26). It fills the church with untaught and uncoverted people whose main interest is not on spiritual things (Jn. 6:63). The early church offered the world nothing but the gospel, and their message called for a life of sacrifice and obedience. When that message fell into good and honest hearts, it bore fruit. The same seed will bear fruit today. However, a perverted gospel, offering materialistic incentives, cannot save the world. Someone once said that “If you try to draw people with tea, ice cream, and chicken . . . they will be as weak as the tea, as cold as the ice cream and as dead as the chicken.” Are we going to trust in the Gospel or in Gimmicks?
Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled (Jn. 6:26).
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life (Jn. 6:63).
The Need For Authority
For years, members of the church have argued for the need to give “Book, Chapter, and Verse” for everything we teach or practice. The watchword of the Restoration Movement was, “We speak where the Bible speaks, and we are silent where the Bible is silent.” For many this principle no longer exists. Where is the authority to take church resources (time, money, facilities, personnel, etc.) to provide for these kinds of recreational and secular activities?
We must have authority for all that we do in religion (Matt. 28:18; Col. 3:17). The authorized work of the church is evangelism, edification and benevolence. There is absolutely no scriptural authority for the church to engage in social, secular, and recreational activities. God gave the church to provide for our spiritual fellowship with him. God instituted’the home, and ordained it for social, secular, and recreational purposes. To add these functions to the work of the church is to follow the commandments of men, and such is condemned by our Lord (Matt. 7:21-23; 15:9; 1 Cor. 11:22,34; 2 Jn. 9).
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth (Matt. 28:18).
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Col. 3:17).
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matt. 7:21-23).
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Matt. 15:9).
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 ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come (1 Cor. 11:22,34).
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he that hath both the Father and the Son (2 Jn. 9).
Over 30 years ago in the Gospel Advocate, B.C. Goodpasture wrote, “It is not the mission of the church to furnish amusement for the world or even for its members. Innocent amusement in proper proportion has its place in the life of all normal persons, but it is not the business of the church to furnish it . . . The church was not established to feature athletics. Rather it emphasizes the principle that ‘bodily exercise is profitable for little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of life which now is, and of that which is to come’ (1 Tim. 4:8). For the church to turn aside from its divine work to furnish amusement and recreation is to pervert its mission. It is to degrade its mission. Amusement and recreation should stem from the home rather than the church. The church, like Nehemiah, has a great work to do and should not come down on the plains of Ono to amuse and entertain. As the church turns its attention to amusement and recreation, it will be shorn of its power as Samson was when his hair was cut. Only when the church becomes worldly, as it pillows its head in the lap of Delilah, will it turn from its wonted course to relatively unimportant matters” (1951 Gospel Advocate Annual Lesson Commentary).
Consider the supreme price that was paid for the church (Eph. 5:25-27). If you and I are saved eternally it will be because we constituted a faithful part of the church, of which Christ is the Savior (Eph. 1:3-5; 5:23). Furthermore, the church has the exalted privilege and precious responsibility of being the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:25-27).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will (Eph. 1:3-5).
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body (Eph. 5:23).
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3: 15).
In view of the greatness of the church and the gospel which it must uphold and support, how can we dare depreciate it by implying that it is incapable of accomplishing the purpose for which it was intended? The gospel is cheapened and the function of the church thwarted by those who preach and practice a social gospel. Such promoters specialize in gimmickry because they have evidently lost faith in the power of the gospel. In the time of Samuel, Israel grew restless because they had no king like the nations around them. This desire brought many problems for Israel, and will do likewise for the church today.
The church will grow if we follow God’s pattern! By fulfilling our responsibilities, we will grow personally and others will be brought to the Lord. Let’s not turn from our God-given mission to dissipate our energies and resources in a vain attempt to be like the denominations around us.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 23, pp. 720-722
December 1, 1988