"Let The Church Be The Church"
The quotations in this article are taken from an article appearing in the Firm Foundation on May 3, 1960 and also appeared in the Gospel Guardian June 16, 1960.
I'm sure Brother Lemmons is charitable enough to allow me to make a comment or two and to draw some conclusions from the article.
Although we disagree with Brother Lemmons when he says that all the issues facing the church would disappear if this one involving individual action versus church action could be resolved, we do believe a strict adherence to this principle would eliminate the "institutional" problem among us. Though we disagree as to the scope of his statement in this, we are happy to agree with the general tenor of this fine article and hope to see more of this kind of reasoning from the pen of the able editor of the Firm Foundation.
The expression, "anything the individual can do the church can do," and a statement companion to it, "what ever the individual does the church does." have been used quite freely. I have always gotten the impression that the party making the staement didn't really believe it when the expression was made. I know of no one who has seriously tried to uphold this contention in public discussion. I'm persuaded the statements were used to draw attention away from the sound arguments made against churches engaging in support of private enterprise. This bit of sophistry serves to keep the eyes of a none discerning brotherhood closed to a condition that is much more serious than a misunderstanding of individual or church action.
Brother Lemmons has done a fine job of pointing out the difference in church action and individual action, to which we have nothing to add; but would like to make this observation: All who will agree with the principle set forth will not be willing to abide by it in practice. We borrow again from the pen of Brother Lemmons In the following statement, "Too many churches are trying to stretch the scriptures to cover some practice not authorized in God's word " We believe the problem to be not so much a lack of understanding of what is taught but a failure to abide by what is believed. Which is not a new condition among professed children of God, Jesus said, "They draw nigh to me with their lips but their heart is far from me."
The last paragraph of brother Lemmons' article contains a statement with which we heartily agree, "However, we do believe a clear cut line of distinction should be maintained between church action and private enterprise. Why can't we let the church be simply the church, so adorned as to glorify the head?" and also, "Let schools, hospitals and such be kept separate from the church." I assume that "separate" from the church means without support from church treasuries. Schools and hospitals are correctly classified as , "private enterprise," in which the church cannot engage, to which most of the brotherhood will agree. But many of the "enterprises" which will qualify under "and such," that is, like hospitals and schools, are so well entrenched in the affairs of the church that they are identified as a part of the work of the church by many. These are the things that are causing division in the church, which the brethren are not willing to give up.
Brother Gale Oler has said in Boles Home News that the Home is on a par with banks, hospitals, and schools, and as such does not have to be justified by scripture. We believe him to be right in this, but the use of church funds to support the home does have to be justified. This he cannot do, since the home is admittedly a private enterprise. If the Orphan Homes are to be permitted access to church funds because of the nature of their work (benevolence) would not the schools and hospitals have to be admitted also because of the nature of their work? They are all private enterprises designed for the physical well being of man.
Among the things that qualify under "and such" are the comparatively new, "Youth Camps." Brethren in many places have gone all out for this fad in recent years. These endeavors are promoted for the purpose of providing recreation for the young people. The church then takes advantage of the occasion to teach the Bible to them. I have some literature on one camp that offers ten days of fun and frolic for the price of twenty dollars ($20.00). The church will provide food and lodging, teach the Bible and direct the recreational activities of the camps. We ask this question: What part of the program justifies the church engaging in the business of selling food, lodging, and recreational facilities? If the teaching of the Bible there will justify the camp and all with the churches becoming involved to operate it, what enterprise would be wrong for the church to engage in just so long as the Bible was taught in the process? If these things can be justified, could not any legal enterprise be justified if it afforded an opportunity to teach the Bible? If not, then, why not?
If the church can sell these accomodations for twenty dollars, on which they will not make a dime, what would prevent the church from selling the same things for forty dollars and making a profit for the Lord? Not only are my brethren unscriptural in this they are very foolish.
"Why can't we let the church be simply the church, so adorned as to glorify the head?" This expression contains the sincere desire of many and the professed desire of the entire brotherhood. As we have said, it is endorsed in principle but denied in practice. While surrounded with violations of this principle I have not found a single brother who would admit he desired anything other than the church as God made her. Yet if schools, hospitals, youth camps and such are not a part of the church as God designed her, from whence did they come? They came either from the wisdom of God or the wisdom of man. If from God, then they can be found in the book of God. If they can be found there, then the church has no choice in the matter. We must have them. If from the wisdom of man, then we dare not attach them to the church.
It may come as a shock to some of the promoting brethren to find that the institutions that they have draped the church will add nothing to her adornment that will be pleasing in the eyes of her husband. From Eph. 5:21, 27 we learn that Christ washed, cleansed and dressed his bride so that she would stand before Him in splendor, not having spot nor wrinkle or any such thing. How do you think she would be received if she appeared in the final hour adorned with the "such things" of which we have been speaking?
I am afraid the whims, notions, promotions and innovations of mans wisdom would only serve as a testimony of her infidelity to her husband.
No matter who writes the history of the church in this generation it will contain two outstanding facts, a period of unparalleled wealth and a controversy over institutions and organizations not found in God's word. What a shame that so much time and wealth are being wasted in the promotions of that which is not a part of God's Plan.