What? No Gym?
A lot of people would be surprised if they visited a large church and found out that the church did not have a gymnasium or something called a “fellowship hall.” People expect churches to be involved in social functions. What does the Bible say about recreation as a function of the church? Is there any scriptural authority for churches to provide recreation and social affairs?
Many churches today have become more like YMCA’s than churches. They provide everything from meals, to dances, to bingo parties, to basketball games. Some churches have better recreational facilities than the YMCA in the town where they are located. Did God ever intend for the church to provide recreation and social affairs? Can this type of thing be proven by the Word of God?
What purpose does God give the church? What is to be its function or work? This is an important question, and we can learn the answer to it in the Bible. If a purpose is not revealed in God’s Word, then the church has no duty toward a purpose and can engage in anything it wants. However, if the purpose is revealed, man has a duty to keep the church functioning within its God given purpose.
The Bible teaches that the church has a threefold responsibility. First, it is to preach the gospel to the lost. I Timothy 3:15 refers to the church as the pillar and ground of the truth (note also Eph. 3:9-10, I Thess. 1:8, II Cor. 11:8). Next, the church is to teach or instruct its own members, i.e., those who are Christians (I Tim. 3:15, Eph. 4:11-12, Acts 20:28), and finally, the church can provide for needy saints (Acts 11:29-30).
It is clear that God has given the church a threefold mission or purpose. Does this constitute a pattern? Surely it does. We must act with Bible authority. We are not to “add to” or “take away from” God’s Word (Rev. 22:18-19); we must abide in the doctrine of Christ (II Jn. 9). It would be sinful to add a work for the church that was never given by God. Nowhere does the Bible teach that recreation and social affairs are the work of the church. To add this function, would be to add to the Word of God.
The church can spend its money and provide facilities to carry out that which is its work. It cannot spend its money or provide facilities for that which is not its work. Clean recreation and entertainment are fine. However, they are not to be provided by the church. I do not know of a single passage which would authorize such practices. Why can’t people just be content to let the church be the church?