FOCUS, EMPHASIS AND BALANCE
T PIERCE BROWN
There is little doubt that most brethren who may read this article will agree with the principles suggested herein. There is also little doubt that many will disagree with some of the applications I would make of those principles. It is unfortunate that there are brethren among us who would characterize all such as “liberal” and, in some cases, advocate withdrawal of fellowship from them. The fact that I do not so characterize and advocate may also cause me to be likewise castigated.
However, as Paul put it in Acts 20:24, “None of these things move me.” My concern is to present Bible principles as clearly as possible, show what I think to be the best application of those principles and hope that brethren may be caused to think and come to conclusions that will please God, edify the church and promote the general welfare.
It is my studied conviction that the three primary responsibilities of the church are evangelism, edification and benevolence. We are to have fellowship in doing those things that are authorized. Any sort of “fellowship” in doing things as individuals that we have the freedom to do is only incidental and peripheral. It is not the work of the church or function of the elders to oversee such activities. It should be our desire to focus on and emphasize those things that God considered most significant, and try to do so in a balanced way. Let us try to clarify this important principle.
Many growing, progressive and sound churches have a “youth minister” to assist with various programs for our young people. Those who conduct such programs usually provide busses or transportation of some sort to take the young people to retreats, workshops, lecture programs and other activities that are deemed appropriate, for this is a part of the work of the church, and under the oversight of the elders. Among those who have “youth ministers,” there is little disagreement about the propriety of so doing. My objections come when the emphasis of church sponsored activities begins to shift from teaching the young people their responsibilities in the areas of evangelism, edification and benevolence to primarily “having fun.” To clarify further: Young people (and old) should have “fun” or enjoy doing things together. But let us suppose that in the name of “fellowship” and “youth activities” we should decide that it was the responsibility of the church to take the young people (or the senior citizens) toDisneyLand. I oppose it on the grounds that it is a perversion of the biblical use of the term, “fellowship,” a misuse of the money which has been contributed to the church to carry out the primary duties of the church, and a misplaced emphasis that will cause an eventual deterioration of the spiritual welfare of the whole church. It is not wrong for young or old to have “fun and games” as an incidental part of their lives. It is wrong to so pervert God’s plan that “fun and games” becomes the center or focus of any activity of the church.
I admit that I do not know in every specific case when and if a thing becomes a sin any more than I know in the case of Eve whether she sinned when she began to walk toward the fruit (having lusted after it in her heart and being determined to do what she wanted to do rather than what God wanted), or whether she just happened to pick up the fruit, and ate it as an afterthought, at which time it was a sin. I do know that her focus and direction were wrong. I do not want ours to be.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.