By Luther Blackmon (1907-1977)
A church bulletin came to my hands the other day that carried the following short article:
The Drinking Fountain
Many meeting houses now contain drinking fountains in the basement or somewhere in the building. What is the difference in principle in drinking in the basement of the meeting house and in bringing food for a meal in the basement, all apart from the worship, the church assembly (1 Cor. 14:23)? What is the difference in eating to satisfy hunger and drinking to satisfy thirst? Such eating and drinking are both condemned in the church, in the assembly worship, but not in the meeting house (1 Cor. 11:22). Remember the church may meet in a house or home where there is eating and drinking daily by those who live there (Rom. 16:5). – Gus Nichols
The above article is misleading. Whether the writer intended it so to be I would not attempt to say. But I will attempt to point out wherein it is misleading. In the first place, there is no one, so far as I know, who thinks that it is wrong to eat a meal in the church building. I often bring food to the study when I plan to be there most of the day. If I believed that it was wrong to eat in the church building I would not do that. Long ago brethren had to drive long distances to the meeting house, they would often bring their lunch, and after the morning worship was over they would get out under the trees, if the weather was good, spread their lunch and eat it. If it was raining or cold they would get inside the building and eat it. Then they would sit and talk about Scriptures and other subjects until the night service, after which they would drive back home. I never thought of this as being wrong. I doubt that anyone else thinks that it is wrong.
When the Lord commanded his people to assemble for worship there is implied in that command authority to provide a place and facilities for such assemblies. The command to assemble includes a place to assemble; a place to assemble includes a house to get in out of the weather, a stove to keep warm in winter and a fan to keep cool in the summer, a watering place for thirsty people and particularly small children, and rest rooms for both sexes.
Now if brother Nichols will find where God authorized the church to get together for a banquet, I will admit that we have Scripture for a banquet hall, a kitchen and all the other things necessary to having a banquet. If he will find the Scripture that authorizes the church to get together for feasting and merriment, or for a “Fellowship Dinner” then I will admit that the church has Scripture for building a house in which to have feasts and fellowship dinners. The same command that authorizes the church to meet for such an affair will authorize it to provide a place to meet for such an affair. But brother Nichols cannot find that Scripture. You may be sure that if he could have found it he would have used it instead of the ones he did use. Look at them: 1 Corinthians 14:23: “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” What on earth does this have to do with eating in the church building? 1 Corinthians 11:22: “What? Have ye not houses to eat and 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.” True the apostle is rebuking them for perverting the worship, but he still says, “What, have ye not houses to eat and drink in?” Then Romans 16:5 refers to the church that met in some home or house, and our brother makes a play on the fact that there must have been eating and drinking in this house since it was a dwelling. Let me repeat that I know of no one who thinks that merely eating and drinking in a church building is a sin. That is not the question. The question is, and don’t be mislead: Is it the business of the church to build a kitchen, dining rooms (mis-named ‘fellowship halls”), banquet halls, recreation rooms, and such like? Is it the business of the church to provide for the social activities of its members and others? This is the issue! This is what the brethren are doing all over the country. And this is what brother Nichols and others would like to defend, if there were any scriptural defense for it. But having no scriptural defense they come out shadow boxing with an imaginary opponent, and hope to draw the attention of the people from the real issue.
The Bible authorizes the church to meet for worship, to preach the gospel to the lost, to edify the saints and relieve the needy within certain limitations. Any houses or facilities that are necessary to the church doing these four things, comes within the authority of the command to do them. But until someone finds some Scriptures authorizing the church to have parties and banquets, I will continue to teach that no provisions can be made by the church for such things and although the church building is not defiled because someone eats in it, the church building was built for a place to worship and ought not to be used as a banquet hall (Truth Magazine, Jan. 1963, pp. 92-93).
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 13, p. 394
July 5, 1990