By Mike Willis
I recently received a question from a friend who asked me to write an editorial on the subject of making announcements in the public worship. My friend asked if the church was digressing into the social gospel when it announced privately arranged social gatherings in its bulletin, posted them on the bulletin board, or announced them in the assembly.
Churches have generally handled such matters in a variety of ways. Some allow such announcements in the assembly, some will announce that members need to wait until the final prayer is over for an announcement unrelated to their assembly, and some will not even allow such announcements in that circumstance. I appreciate the disposition of brethren to guard against encroaching trends that may lead to steps of apostasy, whether or not I agree with their judgment. I would like to make some observations that may give us some insight into this subject.
1. We allow announcements regarding occasions for sharing grief, but not announcements of occasions for sharing joy. I don’t know how some have gotten into this cycle, but they are there. They will allow brethren to make announcements from the pulpit of someone who died, to announce the viewing and the funeral. However, they will not allow announcements of joy to be made in the services, to tell brethren about someone’s 50th wedding anniversary, a bridal shower, or a shower for an expectant mother. They will not allow anyone to announce that a member has invited all of the teenagers to his home. How would one justify announcing a funeral service in their announcements? Perhaps he would go to 1 Corinthians 12:26, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” Certainly the command for members to share each other’s burdens of sorrow would authorize the church to announce such things that prayer might be offered and their needs be met. The church prayed for Peter while he was in prison, so the church had to be informed in some manner of his being in prison (Acts 12:12). But, the same passage that commands us to share our occasions of sorrow commands us to share one another’s joys and the only way we can to do is to be informed of those occasions of joy.
The same passage that we would use to give authority for announcing occasions to bear each other’s burdens would also provide authority for announcing occasions of joy.
2. We can tell people what not to do, but not tell them what to do. Somehow we have evolved into a group that can tell people what they can’t do, but would protest if someone told others what they should do. We will allow our gospel preachers to stand in a pulpit and tell our members that they should not be reading such pornographic magazines as Playboy, Penthouse, and such like magazines. No one would say a word about such preaching; they may even “Amen!” it. However, if a person were to say, “Brethren, you need to be reading such magazines as Guardian of Truth” someone would probably object. What is wrong with telling brethren about and exhorting them to read good literature that will edify them spiritually? Paul wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). If that Scripture can legitimately be used to tell brethren what they should not read, it can be used just as legitimately to tell them what they should read.
We use 1 Corinthians 15:33 in the same inconsistent manner. Paul wrote, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” We use that to preach to our young folks about places they do not need to go, where evil associations will corrupt their morals. We advise them to stay away from dances, gambling casinos, taverns, and such like things. No one would criticize us for exhorting our young people to stay away from those kinds of establishments. If we can announce from our pulpits places where our young people should not go, why can’t we tell our young people of occasions provided to have associations of a good kind?
3. Look at the announcements in sacred Scripture. Rhoda announced to an assembly gathered for prayer that Peter stood at the door (Acts 12:14). Paul sent personal greetings to a number of people in Romans 16:1-15. He instructed Timothy to come see him and bring his cloak and parchments (2 Tim. 4:9, 13). Can we study such statements in our assembly but cannot make similar announcements? In the last chapter of 2 Timothy, he reported the sickness of Trophimus (4:20), sent greetings to a variety of people, and related various tidbits of information that he wanted them to know. A listing of such things would show that the early church was informed of a variety of things that pertained to daily living, making it possible for “each to feel his brother’s sigh and with him bear a part.” This enabled them to share their sorrows “from eye to eye and joy from heart to heart.”
Is it possible that some of us have stood up so straight in opposing liberalism that we have leaned over backwards? There is nothing wrong with brethren making relevant announcements in their meetings to enable Christians to do those things that Christ has commanded!
Guardian of Truth XLI: 20 p. 2
October 16, 1997