Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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A Disturbing Trend

Recently our church received in the mail an invitation to a beach party for area college students, hosted by the Altamesa Church of Christ, College Ministry. The brochure read:

Activities include: 3 Beach Volleyball courts (bring your own team of 6 people), Tug-of-War, Frisbee Throw, Bocce Ball, and more! Come for fellowship, Devotional, Burgers and Roast Pig! Excellent opportunity to meet new friends for the summer!

The brochure went on to mention that the singing group “The Light” from ACU would be performing, asked for an R.S.V.P. to the Church office, and informed that the church would be charging $8 per person for the event.

Most of us are familiar with such examples of the “social gospel” being propagated by such liberal churches. Even the terms used in the brochure show this mindset. The Altamesa church has a “College Minister”, whose job is to plan such events as a part of the church’s “ministry” to both college age Christians and the lost. Often the rationale is made that we need to minister to the “whole man”, and that these events serve to “edify” these kids.

When we use the term “social gospel”, we refer to a movement that has had a tremendous influence on the thinking of 20th century America. The movement had its genesis near the beginning of the 20th century, as various protestant denominations sought to destroy poverty and injustice through the instrumentality of religious institutions. As often is the case, such movements eventually find themselves influencing the thinking of Christians if they are not on guard. This happened, beginning in the late 1940’s and 1950’s as more and more congregations began borrowing from the denominations and emphasizing a social agenda. Such an emphasis has reached a crescendo in our time. As seen by the example of the Altamesa church, one aspect of this movement is the desire to protect our children from the world by putting our churches in the business of entertaining them.

Churches which participate in these activities do so without any scriptural authority. The Bible clearly reveals the work of the church to be limited to evangelism (cf. Acts 2); edification (Ephesians 4:11-ff); and some limited cases of benevolence (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). It is a specious argument to say that these activities fall under the auspices of church edification. (The word “specious” means ‘having a false look of truth or genuineness’). While such argumentation looks good on the surface, in reality the Bible clearly establishes edification as being accomplished through spiritual rather than social means. In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul wrote, “And he gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (vss. 11-12). Notice that the offices given by God to edify Christians are: apostle; prophet; evangelist; pastor; teacher. Not a “Social Director” in the lot! Christians, young and old, are edified by the proclamation of truth, not through recreation. It is inappropriate for churches to be involved in such frivolity.

That is not to say that such recreation is not needed for young people. Rather, it is the work of the home, not the church. Remember the apostle Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 11:22, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.”

A Final Thought

We have documented in this article a trend that is very disturbing. It is not overstating the case to say that we are in a battle for our children. Our criticism of such efforts as mentioned above should not be misunderstood. There are those who are extremely dedicated to the welfare of the youth in our churches, and have made it their work to encourage them. This attitude is laudable, and we do not want to discourage anyone from strengthening the faith of our youth. However, some who are wanting to help our youth are misguided in their attempts, and do a disservice rather than encouraging them in their faith. We do not want to send our young people to a college run by brethren if we can’t trust that they will be taught the truth while there. We don’t want to send our children to summer camps run by brethren if an appeal to emotionalism is the rule. We don’t want to have our children attend youth retreats and lectureships if they get the idea that fun and frolic is the work of the church. While we want our children to know how very precious their souls are, we do not want them to think that the work of the church is to cater to their whims. Brethren, this is what the institutional churches have done. While they have large numbers, they do not have convicted Christian youth, who know and practice the truth. Let us use the wisdom of God in teaching our young.