Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 27, 1950

Church Entertainment Halls -- Are They Right?

Luther Blackmon. Rusk. Texas

(Editor's note: In an effort to be absolutely fair and accurate, the following article was sent to brother Burton Coffman, preacher for the Central Church in Houston, with the request that he check it for any mis-statement of fact. Responding to that request, brother Coffman did not specify any particular thing, but did seek to cast some doubt on the accuracy of brother Blackmon's indictment in these words: "You will notice that Luther's source does' not say he saw a ping-pong table; but one of "a type," etc!!!" We will have to leave it to the readers of the article to judge as to whether there actually were facilities for playing ping-pong or not. We believe the point is fairly clear.)

Several months ago, I had an article published in the Gospel Guardian in which I stated, among other things, that it is not the business of the Lord's church to provide entertainment and amusement for its members. As an example of what I had in mind, I called attention to a church in Houston which had a "fellowship hall" where could be found tables for ping-pong (table tennis) and dominoes. I did not name the church, but from the description given some knew that I referred to Central Church of Christ on Montrose, where brother Burton Coffman preaches.

Brother A. B. Banosky, one of the elders of that congregation, wrote me a very nice letter about my article, wanting to know why I had allowed myself to be used by the devil in publishing some of his lies, and said that my article contained "some glaring misstatements of fact." I replied to brother Banosky, asking for a specific example of what I had written that was not true. He answered as follows:

" when many people have been through our building, and it is evident to them that there is no provision for dominoes and ping-pong to which everyone is invited, emphasis mine, L. B.) they cannot help but connect this with other fantastic stories that they have found are not true, except that this has your name signed to it."

I wrote brother Banosky again and reminded him that the point in my articles was not "whether everyone is invited", but what I wanted to know is; where has the Lord authorized the church to provide amusement and entertainment? I have had no reply to that letter.

I supposed that had ended the matter, but I was mistaken. Out at the Abilene lectures recently, brother Burton Coffman and brother E. C. Coffman talked with the editor of the Gospel Guardian and pleaded with him not to let "any more lies" be printed in the paper concerning Central Church. My article was cited as a specific example. I don't know why brother Burton didn't speak to me about it. I was there at the lectures with brother Tant, and shook hands with Burton one night. Anyhow, they must have been pretty strong in the denials of my article to brother Tant, because he told me if I wrote anything else about that church to try to get pictures to go with the article.

Now, being called a liar by my brethren doesn't run my blood pressure up anything to speak of. Being called one doesn't make me one; only lying can do that. But when brother Tant told me of the meeting he had with these brethren at Abilene, and asked me to submit pictures to back up what I had said, I determined, in the absence of photographic proof, to submit to him and to the Gospel Guardian readers what proof I did have. I honestly believed the things I wrote concerning Central Church; otherwise I would not have written them. There are many fine Christian people there, and my only desire was to help them, and others, to awaken to the danger that is involved when the church enters into the field of amusement and entertainment.

But in the absence of a picture, I wrote to brother Frazer Estes in LaFayette, Louisiana, and asked him to please put in writing what he had told me in conversation that I might publish it and thus vindicate myself on this charge of lying. When you have seen what he says, you may judge for yourselves whether I was justified in writing what I did about Central Church. Here is what brother Estes wrote:

"The facts relative to the buildings owned by the Central Church in Houston are as follows herein: In company with a member of the Central Church, I attended services at Central one Sunday morning. After services I was introduced to a man whom I was told was an elder of that congregation, who took me and my companion on a tour of the church plant. During this tour we entered a very large room which had as furnishings tables of various sizes and a goodly number of chairs. Near the center of the room was a large table to which was affixed a mesh net of the type I have always associated with the game known as table tennis. The elder told me that this room was the recreation room for which they had been criticized. He explained that he felt that the room served a good purpose in the fight against juvenile delinquency. He told me that the young people of the church used the room as a reading room, and as a gathering place for young people. He said that at times they played games in that room, and sometimes even played dominoes there. I saw no dominoes; neither did I see anyone playing table tennis. I merely saw a large table with a net clamped to it, and I was merely told that the young people played games in this room and sometime played dominos here. We three were the only ones in the room. According to my recollection these are the things I mentioned to you in our conversation."

The denial that the Houston brethren have repeatedly made of this matter is revealing. It is evident that they either think such is wrong, or they think a sufficient number of other people regard it as wrong to place them in an unfavorable light. The New Testament teaches that it is the duty of the church to preach the word and to care for the needy. Entertaining the young people, in or out of the church, does not come within the scope of either of these. If so, let us have the proof. Name calling is not proof. It is merely the evidence of a weak and unworthy cause. It seems to me it would be far better for the Houston brethren to acknowledge frankly the presence of this ping-pong table and seek to offer a reasonable defense of such things than it is to try to evade the issue and charge those who mention it with lying. Such a course would certainly be more honorable. We can respect a man who has convictions and stands up and fights for what he thinks is right. If the Houston brethren think an entertainment hall in the church building is right, the thing for them to do is to defend, not deny its existence.