By Mike Willis
Numbers For Number’s Sake
One of the charges which I have made against the bus ministry is that it places an inordinate emphasis on numbers. During the reading of the literature on the subject, I have become even more convinced than ever that this is true. I base this charge on the following evidences:
1. The methods used for attracting riders. The reward motivation method of attracting riders emphasizes numbers for the sake of numbers. It does not seek to attract people through the appeal of a dying Savior; it seeks to attract children with bubble gum. It does not appeal to the spiritual man, but to his carnal desires.
2. The statements to that effect. Consider the following quotations from the literature on the bus ministry:
You are always interested in numbers-large numbs! Think Big and you will get big numbers (Russell L. Sample, op. cit., p. 7).
Some “cannot see afar off” (2 Pet. 1:9) when it comes to bus evangelism. They want to start in as small a way as possible, so they go and purchase as small a van as they can find and plan to have few workers and riders. . And that is exactly what they do have for they do not have the room. For a congregation to purchase a little van for bus evangelism is a splendid way to announce to the community that there is a lack of vision in this congregation and we want to do just as little as possible. It also says we do not believe we can get, many to ride to our services. Brethren do not start a bus program unless you are really serious about it. You will do more harm than good to the cause.
We need to learn to think big like Jesus. Jesus was the world’s greatest optimist when he gave the great commission to that small band of men. A failure to think big and act big retards the growth of the church. Often we exhibit more faith when it comes to our own personal matters than we do in the work of the church (Albert Hill, op. cit., pp. 28-19).
When one adds to those, quotations the number of “success stories” included in these books, he will see that there is too much emphasis on numbers.
3. The problems connected with the bus ministry. Practically every booklet on the bus ministry warns of problems to be faced. The problems cited show that the persons attracted are not attracted to the Christ but to the prizes. Therefore, this causes the following kinds of problems: (1) Disorderly conduct, (2) Damage to facilities, and, (3) Playing “hookey.” Furthermore, promotional contests are necessary for both the children and the workers. All of these problems emphasize this: the bus ministry emphasizes numbers above spirituality.
Part of the Social Gospel
The bus ministry also leads a church further down the social gospel trail. Those who conceive of the benevolent responsibility of the church to be toward non-Christians relate how the bus ministry involves the church in greater benevolent works. Consider the following quotations:
When you start the bus ministry in a successful way, get ready to enlarge your benevolent work (Albert Hill, op. cit., p. 60).
The bus program improves the benevolent program of the average congregation. Where the bus work is begun, cases of benevolence are frequent, as the routes are worked and boys and girls are invited and urged to ride the busses.
Many children, in poor neighborhoods, will not have proper clothing. Families that are truly destitute will be located on routes. This provides the church a marvelous opportunity to provide the necessities of life for those families needing assistance and thus practice pure and undefiled religion (Jas. 1:27) (Ibid., p. 90).
As you get more and more into the Joy Bus Program, you will come more and more into contact with poor, needy people-children and adults. They have pride and do not want charity. But they will respond to loving care and concern by Christians who do their duty and see to the needs of others less fortunate than themselves. A Joy Bus Program will do more than any other thing to spur a church on to being “Good Samaritans”. Then we can show the children the parable in living color! Provision should be made to store furniture, clothing, food, toilet items, etc., for use. Two to five or more men should be assigned to work with the bus captains and director in seeing after benevolent contacts. BE SURE SUCH WORKERS ARE COMPASSIONATE, DEPENDABLE AND TACTFUL! A man who thinks he is working with “beggars” should never be allowed to take even one sack of groceries to anyone! LADIES-should have regular sewing group meetings each week, probably during the day, to repair, mend and sew, sort and fold, and iron donated clothing. Ladies are more able to determine clothing sizes and should accompany men in making contacts to the needy. Be a Dorcas, ladies! (Carl W. Wade, op. cit., p. 42).
The church, according to these brethren, is some sort of Salvation Army out to clothe and feed .the world. Of course, I am not opposed to helping indigents. However, I am opposed to involving the church in a social gospel type of ministry.
Though the financing of the bus ministry frequently does not violate the Scriptures, that is not always the case. Albert Hill suggested the following methods of financing the program:
Take up a special contribution to purchase busses and thus allow many to be involved financially.
A Sunday School class may want to buy a bus or busses as a project. Also, help maintain the vehicles purchased.
A little bank bus, painted like the church busses, may be placed in the vestibule and people urged to give generously to support the bus program. The bank can be easily constructed out of plywood.
Contributions may be taken up in classes to support the bus program (Albert Hill, op. cit., p. 81).
Hill apparently sees nothing wrong with contributions taken at other times than the Lord’s day or with treasuries for the Sunday school classes. Who oversees those treasuries? The elders? If so, why have a special treasury? Why not put it in the common fund? When brethren think up unscriptural ideas, they find it hard to use scriptural means of running them.
Additional Usages of the Buses
The buses are not only used for bringing people to services, they are also available for other programs as Albert Hill explains:
Use the busses to take young or old on picnics, skating parties, retreats, etc. It is good when groups can be together on the bus and learn to know and appreciate each other more (Albert Hill, op. cit., p. 86).
Many of us have seen “Church of Christ” painted on buses at a number of recreational spots. This involves the church in more church sponsored recreation.
Thus, my brethren, the bus ministry is much. more than merely providing transportation to the services for those who have no other way to attend the services. It was borrowed from denominationalism; it uses denominational tactics; it further leads the church into the social gospel; it has too great an interest on numbers for tfie sake of numbers; it attracts people through reward motivation rather than through the death, burial and resurrection of the sinless Son of God. The great results which those involved in the bus ministry are bragging about having are not nearly so permanent as they think. When the reward motivation ceases, the crowds will quit coming. They come because of the “loaves and the fishes.”
Truth Magazine XXII: 21, pp. 339-340
May 25, 1978