Issues that Divide Us (IX): Understanding Recreation

By Robert Jackson

In dealing with the issues that divide us, I have brought to your attention the fact we have been divided within our ranks throughout the years, and as long as brethren have no respect for Bible authority, there will continue to be division, though such ought not to be so. Brethren ought to love the word of God and respect it enough to abide by the teachings of Christ. The missionary society divided us in 1849, then came instrumental music. Then as years went by we had another division within our ranks over the Sponsoring Church, over the benevolent societies, and over the college tacked on to the church. All of these things were without Bible authority. By no means does it mean that we are opposed to a college existing separate and apart from the church, or a benevolent society separate and apart from the church. The thing that we oppose is the fact that they have been tacked onto the church of Christ without any Bible authority whatsoever.

Now then, you know when there comes division within the ranks of the body of Christ and you open the gate for things to take place without Bible authority, there is just no stopping place. Some of my brethren have started preaching, “We can do things without Bible authority.” Well, when you start doing one thing without Bible authority, then somebody else decides to do something else without Bible authority. Then you are just going to have anything and everything taking place in the church, and that is exactly what has happened in our day and time. We have watched, in our generation, things come into the church where there is no Bible authority whatsoever. I have found some brethren who make no claim whatsoever to give Bible authority for it. But yet throughout all the years, the churches of Christ made their plea: We speak where the Bible speaks and we are silent where the Bible is silent. We still ought to make that plea.

Let me show some things that divided us again, besides the benevolent society, the college, the sponsoring church and the missionary society, for an example, the recreational craze that is taking place in the churches of Christ. I have never in my life witnessed anything that has gone over the people any more than the recreational craze within the churches of Christ. I recall that before I was a member of the church of Christ people used to say that it was wrong for churches to be engaged in recreational activities, that the church is spiritual and ought to remain spiritual; and that recreation ought to be outside of church activities. But now today all the churches of Christ who claim to be “on the march” are providing and overseeing some form of recreation for people.

Today we find churches where they have built their gymnasiums. They have got their fellowship halls and they have got their baseball teams. They have got just about everything in the world that you can think of, and they couldn’t give you any Bible authority for it if they had to. In John 18:36, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” but my friend, they have made His kingdom a social institution. It is not any’ different than a social country club. You can get just about everything at a country club that you can find at some of the churches. They have got gymnasiums, they have got fellowship halls, and they have got everything that you can think of.

Now if you think I am wrong in this, let me cite just a few things. In the paper in Nashville, Tennessee, there was a young man who graduated from David Lipscomb College. It was his desire to go out and to be a preacher. Here is what he said, “I want a church with a gym where I can work with the kids, teach them healthy living, and keep them off of the street.” Now notice, he said, “I want to have a church with a gym.” Now wouldn’t it be wonderful if he had said, “God said to have a church with a gym”? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this young man, or whoever has taught this young man to have this desire, said, “Now here is the Bible authority for this recreation, and you can build a gym.” When you establish the authority for recreation, then you can build the gym. But so far, no one has given any Bible authority for it. He just said, “I want to have one.” Do you know what the feeling of people is today? “If I want something, I’ll get it!” “Let every man do that which is right in his own eyes!” But that is not so with the teachings of God’s word. There needs to be Bible authority for it.

Notice what else he said, “I think I could do more work because being in shape makes you feel better.” Well, now that is wonderful-get a gymnasium, work out, and you will feel better. But I wonder if anybody can give any Bible authority for it? I wonder if anyone could give a scripture-chapter and verse-where you ought to have a gymnasium? And then he said, “I suppose most people picture preachers kind of fat and disagreeable.” So then, if we build a gym we could slim him down. He would have a very pleasant personality, and everything would go along just fine. But I wonder if they can give us Bible authority for that? We are not concerned about getting preachers any slenderer and making them have a better personality. What we are concerned about is, “Where is there Bible authority for the church to be engaged in such activity as this?” This is what has caused division within the body of Christ.

But let me read to you again in the Nashville papers. I was reading one morning: “The East Nashville League: Dan Mills Club-23, Jackson Park Church of Christ-5.” Now I would like to know where there is Bible authority for the church of Christ to have a baseball team, a basketball team or a football team? They call it the Jackson Park Church of Christ team. But someone will say, “Well, the money is not used from the church.” Then why does it have the right to use the name “Church of Christ”? I don’t read anywhere where anything else has the authority to tack “the church of Christ” onto it. It violates Bible authority. When you talk about having baseball teams and basketball teams, you are acting without divine authority, and when you put the name of “Church of Christ” on anything but the church of Christ. When brethren do this — and they aim to do it and they want to do it — then this is what has caused division within our ranks.

I went in a building not long ago, and the first thing that I bumped into was some kind of a “thing” standing there that said, “See Herman the Monster.” Then I went down the aisle and there they had all of their trophies that they had won in baseball. I just wonder: Where did they get their Bible authority for that? Where IS the authority for it? Now my friends, if you know where there is authority for it, I would be glad to preach it. We would be glad to build a gym. I would like to have a gym to work out in. But I just do not believe that the church has the right to build that gym and support it in that work.

Then here was a card that I read in Nashville, Tennessee, where there was a church having a special team night on Thursday, July 13, as a part of the gospel meeting. Now get that my friends, “as a part of the gospel meeting.” “Following the service” (which began at 7:30), “there will be a hooten-nanny party.” Now I want to know where did we ever get the authority for a hooten-nanny party as a part of a gospel meeting? Brethren, just where did we ever pick up all this? The very idea of churches of Christ being engaged in a hooten-nanny party, tacked onto a gospel meeting, and saying that this is going to be a “special team night.” But I will tell you something, brethren, when you start saying that you can do something without Bible authority, that is exactly what you are going to get into. You are going to have people who want to build gymnasiums to make preachers slender. You are going to have people who want to have baseball teams and basketball teams. You are going to have hooten-nanny parties and everything else going on. But you are not going to have any Bible authority for it!

When brethren say we are going to do things like they did in Bible days, they are going to oppose these things and it is going to cause division. The division came not as a result of people opposing the things, but the division was caused over people adding these things on. Now some of the brethren said years ago, “Oh you preachers are making a mountain out of a molehill-there is not anything wrong with the church supporting the orphans home or the college with any Bible authority.” Where are you going to put on the brakes, brethren? Building gymnasiums? Homes for unwed mothers? Hospitals? Where are we going to stop, brethren? There is no stopping place once you let the gap down. There is no way to stop everything from going out, and that is exactly what has happened in the churches of Christ.

Somebody says, “Preacher, you are just anti-recreation.” Why my friends, I enjoy golf. I enjoy basketball. I enjoy working out in the gym. But, I just don’t believe that we have any Bible authority for the church to be engaged in such activities.

Again let me remind you that this also was opposed by brethren before my day. In 1951, the Gospel Advocate Quarterly said on page 229: “Building recreation rooms, and providing and supervising recreational activities at the expense of the church, is a departure from the simple gospel plan as revealed in the New Testament.” Get this: “The church might as well relieve the parents of feeding and disciplining all of the young people at church expense as to take over the job of entertaining and supervising the recreation at church expense.” The Gospel Advocate Quarterly said in 1951 that such is sin, and brethren, I still believe that it is. I want to know, Where is the Bible authority for it? Now, what are the issues that have divided us? The issue that has divided us has been acting without Bible authority — Hootennanny parties, fellowships halls, gymnasiums, etc. have brought division within the ranks of the body of Christ.

But what has this led to? Did it stop there? Why no! It has not stopped there. Today we hear a lot about the “Holy Spirit movement.” We hear about young people getting together and holding hands, and the Spirit moving through them. They “speak” in tongues and they sing spontaneous songs, and have spontaneous prayers, etc. Now where in the world did people ever talk about the Holy Spirit dwelling in anyone personally and giving them this kind of emotional appeal? Brethren, all of this leads up to the fact of the departure from the New Testament order. They are acting without Bible authority. Our young people have been told that you can support colleges, benevolent societies, gymnasiums and such like without Bible authority. Now they are going to have the Holy Spirit movement, and there is not any Bible authority for that either. So how are you going to stop them? Are you going to tell them that they can’t do it? Or are you going to tell them that it is contrary to the word of God? Will you plead with them to come back to the Bible, and speak where the Bible speaks-or are you just going to continue to go on and divide brethren over things for which there is no Bible authority?

What is going to be added next? Instrumental music in the worship! And there are some today who no longer oppose instrumental music in worship. If you can have a gymnasium tacked on to the church without Bible authority, then brethren, what is wrong with bringing a piano into worshiping God without Bible authority? What is wrong with calling the church some other name other than the church of the Lord, without Bible authority? I want you to tell me, where is the stopping place?

Now when we talk about issues that divide us, the thing that has divided us is the fact that brethren have gotten away from speaking where the Bible speaks and remaining silent where the Bible is silent. I believe that the church ought to be the church, that it ought to remain the church, and not be identified as a social club or a fellowship hall or have anything else connected to it. I believe that our young people should respect the church as a spiritual institution. We beg and plead with you to be baptized into Christ, be added to the body of the Lord, and then be identified with a local church which continues to say, We speak where the Bible speaks. Yes, there is division. But division was brought about by a lack of respect for Bible authority!

Truth Magazine XXI: 21, pp. 325-327
May 26, 1977