Thinkin’ Out Loud: Playhouse Religion

By Lewis Willis

Perhaps I should explain why I write on some of the subjects covered in these articles. (1) We need to know what is going on in the religious world around us lest we make the same mistakes they are making. (2) We need to see clearly the end of the “Social Gospel” concept which so many of our brethren have borrowed from denominationalism. (3) Those brethren who clamor that we establish a fellowship with the “heirs of the Restoration Movement” need to know the kinds of things we will have to fellowship now or in the future if we follow their counsel. (4) Possibly those who professed in the past to see no difference between a water fountain in the church building and having a basket dinner in the building can be led to see a difference between that water fountain and a bowling alley. I have seen in my lifetime the concept of basket dinners turned into basketball courts in the facilities provided by the church but I have not seen the concept of a water fountain turned into such things. Hopefully these articles can help.

A reader in Glen Cove, N.Y. recently sent me a Newsweek article (10/24/83) regarding a friendly competition between two Houston, TX “Super churches” and their recreational activities. The 8,000-member Second Baptist Church has decided to build them a new building. There is nothing so extraordinary about that except they plan to spend $34 million on theirs. One of the members, a bank official, thought this extravagant. After all, the church was going to spend $2 million more than was spent to build the Astrodome! He said, “I had a long list of questions.” For instance, “Why eight bowling lanes?” However, when it came time to vote on the proposed structure, he voted “Yes.” His reason, “It’s really the best fellowship sport you can have …. And you can do it whether you’re two or 92, and go out at night in a safe environment and in fellowship with other members. So it makes sense to me. ” Yes, but how much sense does it make to the Lord? And, what in the world is “fellowship sport”? I guess that is what Acts 2:42 is all about!

The reason this “super church” is going all out on a new building is to compete with First Baptist. The article notes that “Second Baptist plays a scrappy Avis to First Baptist’s Hertz.” The Second Baptist receptionist even answers the telephone with a cheerful “Exciting Second!”

Well, what has First Baptist done to so challenge Second Baptist? They went out on 1-10 and built a facility that must be something to behold. In their Christian Life Center (our liberal brethren carefully guard themselves by calling their facilities Family Life Centers; anyone can see the scriptural difference in the two) they have “two full-size basketball courts, a roller rink, six bowling lanes, four glassed-in racquetball courts, a suspended jogging track, saunas, whirlpool baths and a restaurant called The Garden of Eatin’. ” There you have it folks! Second Baptist must be able to compete with this if they are to become “Exciting First.” I have read where some of our brethren have built basketball courts in their buildings. I am wondering why they don’t have roller rinks and suspended jogging tracks. Do you suppose they consider these to be unscriptural?

You know me, that Garden of Eatin’ restaurant just fascinates me. It has such massive potential. You could build little shop in one corner of this super church facility for delicatessen and call it The Devil’s Deli! See what I mean? In another corner you could have a candy shop and call it Satan’s Sweets. A bar in another part of the building could be given the name of Lucifer’s Lounge. Do you see the potential?

The preacher from the South Main Baptist Church in Houston is critical of these two super churches. Their staffs have 100 or more people to handle all of this playhouse activity. The critic said, “. . . its pastor can become like the chief executive of a corporation.” He is exactly right. Such operations are corporations – Entertainment Corporations – functioning in the guise of a church with all the tax exempt status such affords.

The super church answers its critics by explaining, “Everything we’re doing has a hook in it.” Obviously, they intend to develop some numbers by using the appeal of recreation instead of using the Gospel power to convert them (Rom. 1: 16). I was just thinkin’, if they would call that “hook” by the name the New Testament gives it, perhaps many would not be deceived by it. The Scriptures call this “hook” a “snare!” “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim. 6:9). The Devil is a deceitful ole character who uses many wiles (Eph. 6:11). If he can get us to turn the church into a Playhouse, he will!

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 15, p. 463
August 2, 1984