A Businesslike Church
Recently at a widely advertised camp meeting in the mountains which I attended, a definite, sure, and evident stream of liberalism could be noted in the lessons of one or two speakers, and in the comments of several listeners. One speaker in particular persisted in making statements to this effect: "Anything a Christian man can buy the church can buy." The implication was that there is no difference between the individual Christian's money and the church's money. That is not all — the question was asked: "Can the church then operate a business?" The reply was: "If it is non-profitable."
The church has a work to do — evangelism, spiritual edification, and benevolence. The pattern as set forth by the New Testament church is clear and simple, second in simplicity only to the plan of salvation. The brethren agree of course on what a person must do to be saved. They are in harmony on this matter because it is indeed plain. Why is it that the liberalists among us can not see that the local congregation is the only medium through which the work of the church can be accomplished? We read the example of a conversion — the eunuch — and we preach and act accordingly. But when it comes to the work of the church some loose thinking brethren go absolutely wild in zeal, ignoring the New Testament example, and they attempt to make the church into a religious circus, or a general merchandise enterprise, or a foundation of secular education, or a "Father Flanagan Boys Home." If there is no difference between the individual Christian's money and the church's money, and if the church can operate a non-profitable business, then the congregation here at Hickory could set up a free horse riding academy in the back yard of the church, and a free year-round carnival for the kiddies in the front yard. These together with a football team and a concession stand (all non-profitable) would certainly facilitate a phenomenal growth in the attendance to our services. Then too, we have room in the basement to set up a free public school in order to teach children how to work arithmetic, dissect frogs, and play ring around the roses. All this of course, is to be supported by the contribution to the Lord's treasury as received each Lord's day. Why with this efficient set-up we ought to get a write-up in Life magazine! I know better than to advocate such a program for the brethren here at Hickory know something about the New Testament.
Is there any difference between the individual Christian's money and the money in the Lord's treasury? Suppose a person owes money to a bank. Payments come due every month. The bank has certain functions, a certain sphere in which it operates. The date of payment arrives. The person goes to the bank and transfers his money from his pocket to the teller. The teller accepts it and it is no longer the debtor's money. The bank cannot legally do with that money everything that the debtor could have rightfully done with it while it was his. Brethren, we have payments coming due to the Lord each week. It is our money to spend as we see fit (within the realm of Christian liberty) when it is in our billfold — but when it is transferred to the Lord's treasury it is his. We could have bought a toy for a youngster with it while it was ours, but now it belongs to the church and it is not the work of the church to buy children's toys.
The New Testament teaches us to sing in the worship and until someone produces authority for instrumental music in the worship of the church we shall sing only. Baptism is immersion and until someone produces scripture proving it to be something else we shall continue to immerse. The work of the church is evangelism, spiritual edification, and benevolence and until someone produces scripture supporting church financed recreation and such like, we shall not include it in the work of the church. The New Testament church did its work through the local congregation only — no institutions were set up to carry on the work of the church and until scriptural authority is produced for such church activity it is imperative that such activity be excluded from the work of the church.
If the church can do anything the Christian can do, it could not only operate a non-profitable business (bring in the missionary society) but it could operate a profitable business as well. We would then have a capitalistic church. When will these brethren start applying the principle of speaking where the Bible is silent, to the work of the church?