We’ve Come a Long Way, by John R. Gibson

About two years ago the Athens News Courier contained a quarter page advertisement inviting all to a “Free Community Cookout.” The ad went on to say, “Join us as we say, ‘Happy Birthday America’ on Saturday, June 30th. We will begin serving hamburgers, hotdogs, chips and drinks at 6:00 pm and will serve until we run out. There will also be sno-cones, cotton candy, face painting and games. You will have the best view in town of the City of Athens’ fireworks display.”  [The ad is quoted word for word, but capitalization and punctuation have been changed to a normal paragraph style. JRG]

Don’t get me wrong about this. I’m a patriotic American who likes hamburgers, chips, and fireworks, so if this had been sponsored by the Lions Club or some other civic organization I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. However, this Free Community Cookout was sponsored by a local church and that raises a lot of questions in my mind.

  • Is there anything in the New Testament that would suggest church sponsorship of such events is the will of God? Matt. 7:21
  • Are there any examples of New Testament churches, under the guidance of the apostles (1 Cor. 4:17), hosting community events with free leg of lamb, pita bread, chariot races, and such?
  • Can a church rightfully claim to abide in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9) and engage in practices never found in the New Testament?
  • When did the Lord tell us to change our approach from simply preaching the gospel as his power to save (Romans 1:16) to attempting to draw people with entertainment and food for their stomachs? See 1 Thes. 1:8 where it was said of the church in Thessalonica that “from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth.”
  • Should our conduct be any different than that of Paul when he refused to give either the Jews or the Gentiles what they wanted, but insisted on giving them what they needed, viz. the message of the cross? 1 Cor. 1:21-23

We’ve come a long way from the New Testament pattern when it was the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who were equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12, 13). Now, most churches feel they need a director of basketball operations, a grill master, a face painter, and a host of other things never even hinted at in the New Testament. Yes, many churches, including those calling themselves “of Christ,” have come a long way, but the question remains—who gave the instructions to move?

We’ve come a long way from the New Testament pattern when it was the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who were equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:1213). Now, most churches feel they need a director of basketball operations, a grill master, a face painter, and a host of other things never even hinted at in the New Testament. Yes, many churches, including those calling themselves “of Christ,” have come a long way, but the question remains—who gave the instructions to move?

“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 9

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Matt. 7:21

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’” Matt. 28:18

“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Rev. 22:1819

Unless noted, all quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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