The Real Issue Regarding Kitchens and Fellowship Halls

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Colossians 3:12-18


I.         Over the years Christians have experienced disagreements that have led to divisions

            A.        In the late 1800's it was disagreements over missionary societies and instrumental music in worship. It lead to the formation of the Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ.

            B.        In the 1940's and 1950's divisions occurred again. This time it involved authority for what the church did with its funds and a split occurred over churches supporting orphan’s homes, colleges, and collectively pooling money at one church to take on major evangelism projects.

            C.        In 1947, M. Norvel Young, during a lectureship in Abilene, Texas and in later articles, advocated the building of new meeting places in good locations to attract more people. With the new buildings he encouraged the building of large fellowship rooms and kitchen facilities.

                        1.         It wasn’t well received.

                        2.         Bill Hall recalled “I remember when I was in high school, one of the churches in the city where we lived built an addition on their building, and indeed, they put in it a place for eating. But they felt a little pressure about this and defensively said, "We're also going to have a Bible class in this room." That's the way they excused themselves.”

                        3.         I grew up a bit later, but I remember in the 1960's and 1970's that it became more prevalent for churches to add what they called fellowship halls, but often it was called a multi-purpose room.

                        4.         I remember talking to Don Underwood, who was the preacher at the time at Sunnyslope. He was showing me their new building and I asked him why a kitchen was included. He quickly told me that it was all donated items and the church’s funds weren’t used to build that part and wouldn’t be used in the future. That, of course, did not remain the case after he left.

                        5.         My point is that prior to 1960 it was almost unheard of and afterward it became so common that young people today assume that is the way it has always been.

II.        Defining the issue

            A.        Many times when issues arise, one side doesn’t really listen to what the other side is saying.

            B.        What wasn’t the issue about kitchens and fellowship halls

                        1.         It wasn’t about whether you can eat in a building owned by the church

                                    a.         “Why, if these people are right, a mother couldn’t even give her baby a bottle of milk in the building!”

                                    b.         Of course, no one ever said such a thing. It was a strawman argument.

                                    c.         I’ve munched on things down in the office many times while I’m working on lessons.

                        2.         It wasn’t about whether the building was sacred.

                                    a.         Now, if a building is built with the Lord’s money, it ought to be used for purposes the Lord approves.

                                    b.         But this is just a physical building.

                                    c.         The issue is not that we think the building is holy or sacred.

            C.        What was the issue about kitchens and fellowship halls?

                        1.         Is there authority for the local church to plan and provide materially for social activities as a part of its work?

                                    a.         God told us what was authorized - II Timothy 3:16-17

                                    b.         Authority is required - Colossians 3:17

                                    c.         Going beyond authority is rejected - II John 9

III.       What ought the church do?

            A.        Churches are to have assemblies - Hebrews 10:24-25; I Corinthians 11:18

                        1.         So why do we have a building? Because we need a place to meet.

                        2.         Other ways to meet can be done, but the point at this time is to note that what we are doing does fall under these commands.

            B.        Churches are to observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week - Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 11:33

                        1.         The unleavened bread, the fruit of the vine, the trays, etc. are provided because of the command to partake.

            C.        Churches are to sing songs - I Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16

                        1.         The providing of song books and having someone lead the singing falls under these commands

            D.        Churches are to pray together - Colossians 4:2

            E.        Churches are to teach God’s word - Ephesians 4:11-14; Hebrews 5:12

                        1.         Thus, there is a pulpit to hold Bibles and materials, some places have a sound system so everyone can hear

                        2.         There are classrooms to teach different topics at age appropriate levels.

            F.        Churches are to have a collection - I Corinthians 16:2

                        1.         The things churches are involved in do involve expenses and the funds do need to be collected.

            G.        Churches support the preaching of the gospel - Philippians 4:15-16

            H.        Churches provided for destitute saints - Acts 4:34-35; II Corinthians 9:1-2

            I.         But where is the authority for planning and providing social activities?

                        1.         Without authority, we cannot act.

IV.      Arguments to justify kitchens and fellowship halls

            A.        Well, there is no justification for a water cooler

                        1.         The idea is that if we can act without justification in one area, then we can act without justification always

                        2.         First, the issue is can the church plan and provide for social activities as a church’s work. It is not whether we can drink water while in the building.

                        3.         Lynn Headrick once said, “When we find the church planning social activities around the water cooler, then we’ll take the water cooler out.”

                        4.         Actually, I’ve been pointing out for years that government laws require that a public meeting facility has to have bathrooms and water. This is just a part of meeting man’s laws while providing a place to meet.

            B.        Love feasts - Jude 11-13; II Peter 2:12-17

                        1.         The argument is that the early church had love feasts and that is what is being done in the fellowship halls.

                        2.         First, we have the term “love feast” but they are providing a definition without evidence.

                                    a.         There is definitely no evidence that the meals provided in fellowship halls are love feasts.

                        3.         What is being emphasized is that there are evil people closely associating with the righteous while leading a life of sin and leading others into sin.

                                    a.         Actually, the best evidence is that “love feast” is just another term for the Lord’s Supper or communion - I Corinthians 5:6-8

                                    b.         Paul is discussing the need to try and keep the purity of the church and its worship as best we can by removing those involved in sin from the church, just as Jude and Peter are saying that false teachers are staining the feast.

                                    c.         For a Christian, the idea of call the memorial supper of Christ's death a "love feast" is obvious - John 15:13

                        4.         If a person wishes to claim that a "love feast" is the gathering of Christians for common meals, they need to show

                                    a.         Such usage in the New Testament

                                    b.         How such meals illustrate the problem of sin within the church which is the core point in Jude, Peter, and Paul's teachings.

            C.        Fellowship

                        1.         Well, the church is to have fellowship!

                        2.         A study of the word fellowship will demonstrate that it is used in the Scriptures to discuss a spiritual relationship and not a social gathering

                                    a.         It means a partnership - Luke 10:5

                                    b.         Fellowship with the Son - I Corinthians 1:9

                                    c.         Fellowship in the gospel - Philippians 1:5

                                    d.         Fellowship in the Spirit - Philippians 2:1

                                    e.         Fellowship in the sufferings of Christ - Philippians 3:10

                        3.         Here is what biblical fellowship is all about - I John 1:1-4

                        4.         Actually, we do have a fellowship hall. You are sitting in it right now.

                        5.         We do have a fellowship meal. It’s called the Lord’s Supper - I Corinthians 10:16-17

V.        There is a distinction

            A.        Corinth was not observing the Lord’s supper properly, they weren’t partaking together - I Corinthians 11:20-21

                        1.         This was like a common meal, one to be taken at home, distinct from the church - I Corinthians 11:22

                        2.         Some might respond, “Paul is correcting the abuses of the worship.” And that is exactly right!

                        3.         In worship, the Lord’s Supper is to be taken together. For common meals, you have homes for such activities.

            B.        There is a place for social activities. It is a work of the home - Acts 2:46

            C.        I’ve used this illustration before. The last time I was at Sunnyslope was when they were having a gospel meeting. At the end of the service, Gary Hutchinson, the preacher, asked James Johnson, the preacher at North Omaha, to lead the final prayer and if he would to ask blessing on the food prepared in the next room so that no one needed to wait to dig in.

                        1.         The very distinction Paul said needed to be done was ignored.

            D.        The reason we don’t post the meetings fliers of the liberal congregations in town is because every one of them features as a draw the fact that they will be serving food - John 6:26-27

Based on an article by Bill Hall

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