By Lewis Willis
At some point in every assembly of the church, some brother makes some announcements which are of interest to those who assemble. Usually these announcements consist of a welcome to our guests, an announcement of the hours of worship, a mention of the sick, possibly an expression of sympathy and such things as gospel meetings being conducted by area churches. The mention of these kinds of things is designed to elicit a response of some sort from those who hear the announcements.
One would think that such a thing would be more or less accepted and very little confusion would surround such a practice. However, in 25 years of preaching, I have observed a lot of controversy about this subject. Some of the questions are: Who is going to make the announcements? When will they be made? What will or will not be announced? I have attended many meetings where these things were discussed – sometimes hotly! I have heard brethren ask by what authority certain things were announced. For instance, by what authority do we announce the wedding of one of the members? It would seem that folks would finally come to realize that God did not legislate with reference to the practice under consideration. He would recognize that those of us who are members of the church have to have sufficient intelligence to obey the gospel and He apparently intended that we use that intelligence with reference to the practice of imparting information to each other such as is done with public announcements.
Throughout the Scriptures, we read of the gathering together of God’s people for worship. We read of their involvement with each other on a daily basis and how they treasured their association together. They shared a common faith (2 Pet. 1:2), and what happened to one of them seemed to happen to all of them. We are also aware that when these people came together, certain things were said that did not specifically pertain to acts of teaching. When Peter and John had healed the man at the gate of the temple, they were called before the leadership of the Jews and questioned to determine if charges might be brought against them for what they had done. The Jews determined all they could do was to threaten them not preach in the name of Jesus any more and they let them go. “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them” (Acts 4:23). When Paul returned to Antioch after his first preaching tour, he “gathered the church together” and “rehearsed all that God had done with them” (Acts 14:27). It seems rather obvious to me that there was a practice in the early church of imparting important information to the church which it would benefit from knowing or which would arouse in them a reasonable response to that information. I should be greatly surprised in the early churches did not have announcements made to them that James had been murdered and that Paul had been imprisoned. I also suspect that announcements were made throughout the churches that Paul had been released. Specifically, these events had absolutely nothing to do with the acts of singing, praying, communing, giving and teaching. But while gathered together, reports were given about preaching and about the legal difficulties of the saints and I am rather persuaded some delight was experienced in knowing that some good things were happening to the disciples as well.
In fact, the principles set forth in the Scriptures teach that there are at least two responses that we ought to share with one another. They are happiness and sorrow. Paul wrote, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Rom. 12:15). If the church is made aware of sadness experienced by some of the members, it can weep with them and possibly be able to support and encourage those members in their sorrow. Conversely, if the church is aware of some happiness being experienced by some of the members, they can rejoice with them and share their happiness. In spite of all of the charges and counter charges that are raised, most people understand that imparting information about the members has no other purpose than to inform so that we can react to each other as we are taught in the Scriptures to react.
My observation is that we have often been so afraid that we might do something that is wrong, that we frequently do not do some things that are right. We have been very careful to announce all of the sickness, the tragedy, the heartache and the death affecting the membership. And with these announcements, we have truly learned to weep with those who weep. We usually act as though we are afraid to announce the weddings, the births, the accomplishments and joys of the members. Are we afraid to rejoice with each other? Frequently people need someone to share their joy with as much as they need someone with whom to share their sorrow. We might want to be careful or we will become better weepers than we are rejoicers! The announcements can often leave us so depressed that it is difficult to focus attention on the worship in which we engage. There has to be a balance in these tings. Not all that happens to God’s people is bad. Some of it is good, and if we don’t want to be a people with a constant frown of distress upon our face, we are going to have to learn to share the good with each other as well as the bad.
It never had been right for the Lord’s church to divert its attention from its God appointed duty and spend its money to build fantastic fellowship halls and serve great feats to fatten the members. But, if brethren who recognize that unscriptural practice go out of their way to provide a social gathering that is right, I fail to see why it is wrong to announce it so that all of the brethren who wish to can participate in it. If some of the ladies are going to give a wedding shower, or a baby shower, in anticipation of the happy event, and the way they are doing it right, what principle of truth is violated if you tell everybody it in an announcement so they can participate if they wish? If we announce that a new baby has been born, why can’t we announce that the baby’s grandfather is 89 years old so that the members can remember him in some special way? IF we can announce the marriage of a couple, what principle is violated if we announce a 50th anniversary? Consistency says if you can do one, you can do the other. Yet many people have no problem with one, but have scruples of conscience about the other.
Now in all of these things that God leaves to our judgment, He expects that we use good judgment. Again, in some areas, we don’t have any problem decided what good judgment is. In announcing the names of those who are sick, we do not mention everyone who has had a headache in the past week, and everybody who had a tooth filled and everybody who stumped his toe. We just mention those who are sick enough that some specific attention might be needed from the membership. Nor are we going to announce everybody’s birthday. It would be a waste of time if we announced the 14th birthday of Jane and the 16th birthday of Tom. Also, it might be embarrassing to their mother if we announced that she will be 45 next Tuesday if she has been trying to convince everyone that she is 39! But, we can use good judgment in making a determination about that kind of thing. I announced a 40th anniversary recently and someone hastened to tell me that they did not agree with my going that and they thought it was wrong. I fail to see where the wrong is. If I had announced the 40th accident the couple had had, would there have been the same reaction? I think not. The information was presented so the brethren could rejoice with the couple over this significant achievement if they desired to do so. And that is exactly what the Scriptures teach us to do. I think that all of these announcements, good or bad, should be made without showing partiality among the members. I also think that the worship would not begin so morbidly if we would learn to balance these announcements of the bad with the good. I was just thinkin’, it might help if we would re-think this whole procedure.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 5, pp. 140-141
March 7, 1985