Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 17, 1950
NUMBER 15, PAGE 10,12b

Let The Church Be The Church

Fanning Yater Tant

"We sometimes hear so much emphasis placed on duty of the churches to preach the gospel that it seems to exclude all other activities in emphasizing the duty of the church to preach the gospel it should not be overlooked that the church is also a ministering agent. Ministering of the churches is much in evidence in the New Testament. An outstanding example is the Jerusalem church, of which it is said they "had all things common." It does not say what the all things consisted of. Some might conclude that this "all things" included food, clothing, shelter and nothing more. Others might assume that there were other things included, such as medical aid, education, sanitation, etc. Perhaps the objection will be raised that the people of that age did not enjoy these named facilities. Well, don't be too sure of that. To raise the question only beggars the question.

Suppose a modern church should decide to "have all things common." Would its members immediately reduce their physical existence to a mere vegetating in which they only eat, sleep, and work? Think of the necessities of modern living, many of which the early Christian could not so much as dream about in his imagination. Among these indispensables are schools, both secular and religious, including the arts and sciences. A few others that may be mentioned are automobiles, airplanes, boats, and trains; hospitals, physicians, health and sanitary services both private and public, and other professional skilled services; radios, television, and refrigeration; and last but not least, facilities for physical and social recreation.

The modern church should be just as much a ministering church as is expedient. The way and extent it does this is a matter of expediency in which it is directly responsible to God. It should not allow itself to be intimidated by outside and uninvited alarmists who cry "unscriptural." To be afraid to do God's will is a great sin. It is the "fear" doctrine of the one talent man; but it may be preached much more effectively by a five-talent man. May the Lord be praised that there are so many Christians that do not look upon their God as being a "hard" Master, "reaping where thou didst not sow, and gathering where thou didst not scatter." May no Christian at Grove Avenue be reduced to the plea, in the judgment, of the one talent man, whose only defense is, "Lord, I was afraid'."


The above article is reproduced in its entirety from the weekly bulletin of the Grove Avenue Church of Christ in San Antonio, Texas. It was written by an elder of that congregation. If we may say so kindly, we believe we have never seen an article from a member of the Lord's church (much less from an elder in that church) which more completely misses the point of what the church is for than does this one.

And yet, in a sense, we are glad the article appeared. For it is evident that this good elder has merely followed up to its inevitable conclusion a premise that is being adopted by many unthinking brethren and congregations throughout the land. The premise is that "the church is a ministering agent" (which was the title of the above article), and that it thus is the God enjoined duty of the church to provide for every physical, mental, moral, social, and emotional "need" of the individual, as well as for his spiritual welfare. To provide for those "needs" churches have begun to build social and recreational halls, establish nursery schools and kindergartens, finance medical clinics and demonstration farms. And, of course, there are quite a number who have contended that the churches have the right to establish and maintain schools and colleges in which the Bible is taught along with various trades, professions, and arts.

Once the premise is accepted in its fullest sense, there simply is no stopping place! And the good elder in San Antonio has merely been honest enough to recognize, and courageous enough to state, that very idea! So far as he is concerned the church not only has the right, but she has the obligation to minister to the "needs" of modern man—automobiles, refrigeration, facilities for physical and social recreation, hospitals, schools, etc. His view is that it is lawful and right for the church to provide all of these things for her members; and is only a matter of expedience as to how she does it. Furthermore, the church "should not allow itself to be intimidated by outside and uninvited alarmists who cry 'unscriptural'!"

Well, that last sentence may, or may not, fit us. But so long as God gives us breath to utter, and paper and ink for a paper, we are going to "cry unscriptural" with all the force at our command! It is NOT the mission of the church to provide schools for learning television and radar; it is NOT the work of the church to establish and maintain classes in automotive engineering, air conditioning, and radio repair; it is NOT the mission of the church to provide" facilities for physical and social recreation." We don't know whether anybody will be "intimidated" by our cry or not; and let those who will brand us "alarmists." But in view of the plain and simple teaching in God's word as to the mission of the church, we do not see how any man of conscience can remain silent before such a monstrous perversion of that mission as the San Antonio brother proposes.

Our plea is, and shall continue to be, let the church be the church. Christian men have every right to go into the television business, the operation of schools, hospitals, demonstration farms, and recreation camps. But none of these things fall within the scope of the mission of the church. The church's mission is spiritual; her task is to seek and save the lost. That is her first and greatest obligation, even taking precedence over the very humane and obviously Christian duty of relieving the distress of those who were hungering for bread. "Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, `It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables'." (Acts 6:2) There was a task that was greater and more important than relieving the hungry—however vital that latter might be.

But now comes our San Antonio brother not merely contending for the church to provide for charitable and benevolent "needs," but believing that she should minister to physical, recreational, educational, sanitational, and social needs as well. Not only must the church be the church, but let her also be the home, the state, the school, the workshop, the summer camp, the hospital, and the factory!

Is not our brother aware that this is exactly the path trod before us by the denominational organizations in their downward march into apostasy? Are the lessons of history of no practical benefit? And are the teachings of the New Testament to be so lightly cast aside? Can men never, never learn the principle that nothing is "expedient" which is not first right? An "expedient" is merely a way, or method of "expediting" or speeding up that which is right. And it is not the mission of the church to provide for every "need" which modern man has, or thinks he has. Those who would lead the church into such activities are confused and blinded.

God save the church from such muddled thinking.