By Weldon E. Warnock
Paul wrote, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient” (1 Cor. 6:12). Obviously, this verse means, “All things are lawful that are lawful, but not all of these lawful things are expedient” (useful, advantageous, profitable). Paul is not including sinful and unauthorized acts in “all things.”
Brethren have had (and are having) difficulty in differentiating between the lawful and unlawful and the expedient and inexpedient. Some of us erroneously oppose inexpedients on the basis of being unlawful and others erroneously advocate unlawful practices as being justifiable expedients. Among those things wherein our thinking is warped are:
1. Eating in the meeting house. God never gave any legislation on this matter. In fact, the first century churches did not have the kind of buildings in which to meet as we do. Hence, the usage of “church buildings” was not a problem with them. Those who met in their private homes would, of course, eat in the place where they assembled.
The nearest the New Testament comes to dealing with this issue is in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 where Paul condemns the abuse of the Lord’s Supper. The apostle states in this regard, “What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God?” (v. 22) It is apparent that Paul is teaching the Corinthians (and all other brethren, including those who meet in private homes) to separate home functions (common meals) from church functions (observing the Lord’s Supper). There is no prohibition of eating a common meal in the meetinghouse, or else a preacher could not. take a sandwich to his office and eat it, or men working on the building could not sit down on a pew and eat their lunch. Surely, no one would go to this extreme.
You will observe that Paul said “eat and drink” (emp. supplied). However, I know of no person who opposes a drinking fountain in the building. We are told a drinking fountain expedites a public assembly (indeed it does) and, therefore, it is permissible. But though a drinking fountain is expeditious, it is not absolutely necessary. Where I grew up we had no drinking fountain in the building, nor a water bucket. Brethren somehow, someway, got by without a drink of water.
Now then, if there is a need to eat in the church building, then eat. There are situations where a family or two may travel a long distance to worship, like the northwest, spread their meal in a classroom after worship, have another religious service after lunch, and then go back home. What is wrong with this? Not a thing I can see.
Furthermore, there is nothing inherently sinful about “dinner-on-the-ground” at an all day meeting. These proved to be uplifting in the past and enhanced brotherly affection. But times have changed and in most places such would be inexpedient and unwise. The trend today is toward the social gospel. Kitchens and “fellowship” (banquet) halls are the modern fads in many churches of Christ. Any practice that would encourage churches in the direction of building kitchens and banquet halls, yea, toward the social gospel, is wrong and should be abandoned. Wisdom teaches us not to use the church building and grounds for pot-luck-dinners, but to obtain other facilities for such social and individual activities. We are now seeing the evil fruits of congregations which have gone too far. (Parenthetically, I have never known a water fountain to encourage brethren to build “fellowship” halls and kitchens.)
2. Busing. We are hearing a lot about the “bus ministry.” This has been, in not a few places, a fiasco. Children gathered up in the neighborhood and bused to “church” have created a disciplinary problem for those involved. Some have discontinued the “bus ministry” because of the various difficulties encountered.
Too, there are many abuses associated with the so-called “bus ministry.” If an outing is planned at an amusement park the buses are used to haul the children to the park. Churches also use their buses to take senior citizens shopping or on excursions of various sorts. These are abuses! Also, to offer candy, cookies, cokes and money to entice children to ride the bus is a carnal ploy that is contrary to the holy appeal of the Lord’s church. Gimmickry is beneath the dignity of the heavenly kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, we need to realize that a bus owned and operated by a church is not wrong in and of itself. Many of us have become prejudiced against churches owning buses for any reason simply because brethren have abused their use. Some equate owning a bus to liberalism. By and large, I do not see any practical use for churches, having buses (or vans), but if a church has a need for a bus or van, to preach and edify, then it is their prerogative to buy one. I see no difference in a church putting a preacher on a bus and sending him to people to preach than the church putting the people on a bus and bringing them to hear the preacher.
3. Singing solos, quartets, etc. Through the years I have preached against “special singing,” such as solos, duets, quartets, etc., because of the danger they propose of making worship theatrical entertainment and the worshipers nothing more than spectators. I doubt there have been many preachers in the last 25-30 years who have been more outspoken against choirs, quartets and other “specials” in the church than I have.
I know by experience what is involved in, “special singing” as I. used to do it when I was 17 and 18 years old. I sang in a quartet, and even sang solos, in some Christian Churches of eastern Kentucky. I was offered a scholarship, everything paid, by a Christian Church to attend Kentucky Christian College at Grayson, KY. I know what the Christian Church was and what it is. I know why I oppose this kind of singing and I know why it is practiced. I have no sympathy toward the false doctrines of the Christian Church.
However, objection to solos and quartets can be only opposed, reasonably and logically, on the basis of inexpediency. 1 Corinthians 14:26 plainly shows solos were sung in the assemblies of the first century church, even at the same time that Paul wrote Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. These passages in Ephesians and Colossians did not condemn and preclude what 1 Corinthians 14:26 allowed, namely, solo singing, and neither do they today.
But somebody says, “1 Corinthians 14:26 does not apply today because it is regulating spiritual gifts which are no longer in operation.” Are we to believe that nothing in 1 Corinthians 14 applies today? The first verse states, “Follow after charity.” Does this apply today? Verse 5 says, “. . . that the church may receive, edifying.” We still need this. Verse 15 reads, “I will pray with the understanding. . . . I will sing with understanding.” You suppose this has no bearing on praying and singing for our time? Verse 33 states, “God is not the author of confusion.” May not this verse still be used to show that God is not the author of confusion? Verse 34 says, “. . . but they (women) are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” Did this principle cease with the miraculous age? “Let all things be done decently and in order” (v. 40) is certainly timely today.
Brethren, we still sing. That did not pass away. It is strange to me that solo singing was scriptural for the first 65 to 70 years of the New Testament church, but sinful today. It is also strange that Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 allowed solo singing then, but not now. Indeed, it is strange! Brethren, let’s oppose “special singing” for the proper reason; not homemade ones.
4. Announcements of social events. Announcements in conjunction with the assemblies of the church have become a problem. This is also true with our bulletins. Some brethren contend that no social occurrences should be announced from the pulpit or put in the bulletin. For example, if there is going to be a picnic (on an individual basis) it will have to be made known by word of mouth before or after the service. Such cannot be announced publicly before the assembly.
Others will allow selected social announcements from the pulpit or bulletin. They will permit birth announcements, but they will not permit announcements of a baby shower for the mother. Women will stand in the vestibule and hand out shower announcements to the other women as they come, in or leave. Also, they may announce deaths, but nobody may announce the arrangements for food to take to a home during the interim between the death and the funeral. A few places dismiss and then tell everyone to remain a few minutes for a special announcement. Such narrow restrictions and convoluted reasoning curtail us in rejoicing with those who rejoice and in weeping with those who weep. This kind of thinking does not permit us to share to the fullest in the joys and needs of our brethren in Christ.
Certainly, some brethren have gone overboard in announcing every little frivolous matter that has nothing to do with church function or a Christian’s responsibility, but let’s not deny ourselves what is beneficial for our own good because of the abuse of others. We can, and do, paralyze ourselves to our own detriment. Some of us have become so rigid that the salutations of the epistles, some highly personal and social in nature, could not be read in our own assemblies without violating our self-devised rules. This is tragic!
In conclusion, let us seriously take to heart what Paul said, “All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient, ” and follow it, applicably. Some good common sense needs to prevail.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 7, pp. 198-199
April 2, 1987