By Lowell Blasingame
Fellowship! It’s a good Bible word but like some others, it is often abused and mis-used. John said that we have fellowship with God by walking in the light (1 Jn. 1:7). Some folks don’t seem to be able to say the word without conjuring visions of fried chicken, coffee and donuts, etc. or without frolicking through church sponsored social activities.
The truth is that such no more fits the biblical use of the word fellowship than do sprinkling or pouring fit the biblical use of baptism. Neither do such activities conform to what former gospel preachers have taught us about the work of the church. The late B.C. Goodpasture, who edited the Gospel Advocate for years, in answering a question about the work of the church, said:
This question can be answered both negatively and positively. It is not the mission of the church to furnish amusement for the world, or even for its members. For the church to turn aside from its divine work to furnish amusement and recreation is to pervert its mission. If the church will discharge its duty in preaching the gospel, in edifying its members, and in helping the worthy poor, it will not have desire or the time to amuse or entertain (Gospel Advocate, p. 484, 1948).
Former gospel preachers taught us that it was the duty of the home, not the church, to provide recreational activities. I believe that, not just because preachers such as Hardeman, Goodpasture, Lyles, Boles, etc. taught it, but because it is what the Bible teaches (1 Cor. 11:22,34). Don’t be fooled into thinking that Paul is merely dealing with an abuse of the Lord’s supper. He’s pointing out that social activities belong to the home and ought to be kept there.
Some churches of Christ have adopted this denominational folly. Like Israel of old, they have sat down to eat and drink and arisen to play! They erect play houses called “fellowship halls” or “multi-purpose” buildings, employ a “Youth Minister” to cheerlead the folly and immediately following the worship, the pulpit is removed, the goal posts set in place, the chairs pushed back and the ball game or shuffleboard play begins I I’m not exaggerating. I have before me at this writing The Family Flyer of the Madison church of Christ, Madison, TN and among its activities are listed softball, volleyball, Ping Pong, Ladies Slimnastics, Bowling, a CPR class, jogging (included is a joggers’s prayer), Golf and among the events for the “Golden Agers” are a Halloween party, Christmas crafts and a Valentine party!
Now if you think that these are activities belonging to the work of the church of Christ bought with with his blood, you and I have been reading two different books.
I’m wondering just how much longer it will be before some enterprising Youth Minister sees the advantage of having a “multi-purpose” baptistry and persuades some church into building one large enough to double for a swimming pool! After all, if eating and playing together are fellowship, why would not swimming together, also, be fellowship? And, just think what a crowd we could draw if we could get granny, in her bikini, and the Youth Minister to have “fellowship” in the church sponsored, multi-purpose baptistry! For an encore, we might have “pot-luck” or a “spaghetti supper” for all in “Room I” of the church building.
John Townsdin, preacher for Whitehall church of Christ, tried to justify church sponsored recreation on the grounds that it is a “good work” and the church can “engage in any good work” (taken from a taped conversation with Ron Daly, Hepburn St. church of Christ). What brother Townsdin overlooked is that no unauthorized work can in the scriptural sense be a good work” for the church to perform (Matt. 7:22-23). What he needs first is the authority from the Lord for the church to provide recreation.
Fellowship or folly-ship, which is it, brethren? If we initiate a practice that is unscriptural, then mis-use a Bible word for its justification, are we any different from those who substitute sprinkling for immersion and call it baptism? Are we so foolish as to suppose that gospel preachers of the past who rejected church sponsored recreation did not believe in and have fellowship with other children of God?
Jeremiah called Judah a gadding bride for trimming her ways to be like nations about her (Jer. 2:32-27). Is the church of Christ of which you are a member becoming more like the denominations about us? If it has a “Youth Minister” will he have a “youth gospel” and preach to a “youth church”? Why not a special “ministry” for spinsters and bachelors. Such foolishness simply paves the way for further deviations from the Lord’s way.
There are still those who cry for the old paths (Jer. 6:16) and plead for brethren to walk in them. Are you one of them?
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 5, p. 141
March 2, 1989