Use of the Church Building

Written by Frank Jamerson.

The Authority For, And Use Of, A Church Building

Those who believe that the church can provide social and recreational activities use various arguments to justify their practice. We will notice first the authority for a church building (as some contend that there is no authority for them, therefore no regulations for their use), and then answer some of the arguments that are made for the church providing social halls and gymnasiums.

Buildings Are Authorized

Authority for a thing may be established by command or statement of fact, or by approved example or necessary inference. Everything we do in our service to God must be authorized in one of these ways (Col. 3:17; 2 Tim. 3:16,17).

The authority to assemble (Heb. 10:25) necessarily implies a place of assembly. Therefore, a place is authorized by the command. Furthermore, we have examples of the early church gathering in houses, or places. "The place was shaken wherein they were gathered together. . ." (Acts 4:31). "And there were lights in the upper chamber where they were gathered together" (Acts 20:7).

The generic authority to provide a place authorizes a church to buy, build, rent or receive gratis a place of assembly. Those who say "there is no authority for a church building, therefore we can do other things that are not authorized" are misrepresenting the truth.

The authority to assemble, teach and relieve authorizes the church to provide whatever is involved in accomplishing these things. Running water and bathrooms are incidental to the purpose for which we come together (especially if you stay very long!). Some try to use these incidentals that aid the doing of what we are authorized to do as arguments for the church providing social meals and recreation.

It reminds me of those who want to justify instrumental music 'in worship. They argue that song books' tuning forks, lights and water fountains are not mentioned; therefore, instrumental music is all right, too. The truth is that they do not understand authority. Instrumental music is an addition to worship, not just an aid.

If it is the work of the church to provide social meals and recreation, then it can provide whatever is necessary or incidental to accomplishing those works. The church kitchen and gymnasium are not "aids" to worship, but to eating and playing, which are not works of the church. They are additions to the work God authorized for the church, just as instrumental music is an addition to the act of singing.

Some say, "We have the building, and it is not sacred, so why not use it as we please?" These brethren use the same argument that I use to justify churches providing meeting places, then they proceed to use them for things that are not functions of the church. What if someone said, "We already have grape juice and bread, and they are not sacred, so why not use them for a party?" Would that be a misuse? Why? Do you believe that the church could buy a little extra grape juice for those who want to have a social after services? Why not?

We are not talking about an incidental to assembling, such as a baby being fed, or children running on the property or a member going to sleep on the benches. We are talking about the church providing social meals, recreation parties or "nap time" for sleepy saints! Could the church provide beds and a dark room for members who desire to come together in air-conditioning for rest? Why not? If babies eating during worship authorizes church kitchens, surely brethren going to sleep (or children going to sleep) would authorize a motel room! (We believe that the church could provide the place and the food for needy saints, but that is not what modem day church kitchens and "fellowship halls" are used for.)

Those who believe it is right for the church to provide kitchens and gymnasiums (social halls) need to produce the biblical authority for the church to provide social meals and recreation, then the opposition to kitchens and gyms will cease.

Efforts To Find Authority For Such Things

(1) Some contend that "the word 'fellowship' authorizes eating and playing together." One said, "While it was wrong to confuse common meals with the Lord's supper (1 Cor. 11:11ff), this did not mean that the eating of common mesh together was wrong. . . . What better way for God's people to demonstrate their love and fellowship than In the sharing of food and the eating of meals together as often as possible?" (Thomas H. Rook, via Bulletin, Enon church of Christ, Aug. 19, 1984).


1. No one objects to brethren "eating together." It is good for people to eat and play together. Paul said that "bodily exercise is profitable for a little" (1 Tim. 4:8). The early Christians ate together often. "Breaking bread at home, they took their bread with gladness and singleness of heart" (Acts 2:46). It is good to "bring up children," "use hospitality to strangers," and "wash the saints' feet" (1 Tim. 5:10), but the church is not authorized to provide the place or the materials necessary for these activities.

2. The word "fellowship" is never used to refer to social meals or recreation.

a. Koinonia is translated "fellowship" twelve times in the New Testament.

(1) Acts 2:42-"in the apostles' doctrine, and fellowship. . . "a spiritual, not a social activity.

(2) 1 Cor. 1:9-"called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord."

(3) 2 Cor. 8:4-"the fellowship in the ministering to the saints"-the benevolent relief that indicated a spiritual relationship.

(4) Gal. 2:9-"the right hands of fellowship"-the endorsement of the work of Paul and others.

(5) Eph. 3:9-"to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery"-the joint participation of Gentiles with Jews in Christ.

(6) Phil. 1:5-11-"for your fellowship in the gospel"-referring to their support of his preaching.

(7) Phil. 2:1-"if any fellowship of the Spirit," again, not social, but spiritual participation.

(8) Phil. 3:10-"the fellowship of his sufferings," referring to Paul's participation in them.

(9) 1 Jn. 1:3-"that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us." Was the gospel preached so they could eat a common meal with Paul??

(10) 1 Jn. 1:3b-"yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."

(11) 1 Jn. 1:6-"If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we He, and do not the truth."

(12) 1 Jn. 1:7-"but if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin."

b. Now, where is the passage that indicates that eating and playing together is "fellowship"?

c. The word koinonia is also translated "communication, communion, distribution" and to "communicate, " but none of them refer to social meals or recreation.

d. In 2 Cor. 6:14, Paul said: "What communion (koinonia) hath light with darkness"? Christians who "walk in the light" have no "fellowship" with "darkness" (sinners). This does not mean that Christians cannot eat a common meal with sinners, but it does mean that such a meal is not "fellowship"! (The "company" and "eating" of 1 Cor. 5, is any eating or company that would indicate to the disciplined brother that you approve of his spiritual state. They were to change their actions toward the disciplined brother.)

e. Some churches build bowling alleys and billiard parlors by the same reasoning that kitchens and social halls are built. One man argued that "bowling is the best form of fellowship. " I agree that it is a good sport for social interaction, but it is not the work of the church to provide recreation. It is wrong to build a bowling alley for the same reason it is wrong to build a kitchen.

f. To take the Bible word "fellowship" and apply it to social meals and recreation is a misuse of the word, just as it is to take the word "baptism" and apply it to sprinkling or pouring. We can have "social fellowship" with the world, but that is not what the Bible word means (2 Cor. 6:14).

(2) Some say: "It is edifying to eat and play together. Edification is a work of the church, therefore, whatever edifies may be done by the church."


1. Again, this opens the door to any activity that man's mind contrives as "good," and is a misuse of the Bible word.

2. Acts 20:32-"And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up (The edifying comes from the word, not from coffee and donuts.)

3. Jude 20-"But ye beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith. . ."

4. Col. 2:7-"Rooted and builded up in him, and established in your faith, even as ye were taught. . ."

5. Where does the Bible teach that spiritual edification comes from eating and playing together? If we include these things in "edification," why not working together? Wouldn't it be "edifying" to work with Christians? Does that justify churches providing jobs for members by operating businesses? (Don't say, "that could never happen." The denominations are doing it, and that is where brethren learned to draw crowds with church kitchens and ball teams!)



(3) Another argument made is that "the early church met in homes, and homes had kitchens in them, therefore it is right for the church to provide a kitchen."


1. It is hard to imagine a stopping place for this "logic." Churches may meet in school buildings (therefore they may provide school houses), motels (therefore they may provide sleeping quarters; and do not "houses" also have bedrooms?), car garages (therefore churches may provide places to repair cars), etc.

2. The church provides and arranges a place to do its work. The fact that other things may be done in the same building has nothing to do with the work of the church.

The editor of the Enon church of Christ Bulletin published an article (Aug. 5, 1994) that we will now review.

1. He quoted 1 Cor. 11:22: "What? have ye not houses to eat and drink In? or despise ye the church of God, and -shame them that, have not?..." Then he said, "It should be noticed that the verse also says something about drinking. Does it follow that if one wants to 'drink' that he Is to do it at 'home' and not at the place where Christians meet?" "There seems to be an eating of a common meal and the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 11.11 He concluded that "during worship they were not to eat a common meal, but outside worship they could."


a. If taking a drink of water is the "eating and drinking" of 1 Cor. 11, then the preacher who takes a swallow of water during his sermon is eating a common meal "during worship"! I wonder if anyone seriously believes that "water fountain" argument! Have you ever heard anyone announce: "Remain for an hour of fellowship around the water fountain"? No, and you won't, because that is not what it is for!

b. The fact that a baby nurses or eats a cracker during worship, or a preacher takes a drink of water during worship, has nothing to do with the context of 1 Cor. 11. If it were talking about such things, by their very argument, both the babies and the preachers would have to wait until "after worship" to "eat and drink"!

c. They were coming together for the purpose of eating a common meal and were told to quit it. When the church comes together to do congregational activity, common meals are not to be a part of it. Paul said, "have ye not houses to eat and drink in?" It still means that.

2. The editor said: "Paul even states in verse 33, 'When ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.' What Paul is saying is that the rich should not bring their provisions and eat them all before the poor arrived. The Lord's Supper was not intended to satisfy one's appetite."


a. The "tarrying" or "waiting" of v. 33 is not waiting for a common meal. He had just forbidden the eating of a common meal in verse 22. Verses 33, 34 make it clear that he is talking about "waiting" to observe the Lord's Supper together. "Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, wait one for another. If any man is hungry, let him eat at home; that your coming together be not unto judgment . . ."

b. The factious spirit was to be corrected by communing together, not by "tarrying" for a common meal.

3. The author then tries to parallel 1 Cor. 11:22 with women keeping silent in 1 Cor. 14:35. To get the whole argument, we quote a lengthy paragraph.

In 1 Corinthians 14:35 Paul wrote, "And If they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home; for it Is a shame for women  to speak in church.' Paul  uses the Greek word  olkeo here. But what is  designated by this term? Does Paul here condemn  women who ask questions  for the purpose of learning at the place where  Christians meet for worship? Can a woman ask  her husband a question on church property? If 1 Corinthians 11:22 condemns one eating and drinking on church property, why doesn't 1 Corinthians 14:35 condemn women for asking questions for the purpose of learning on church property? The same term is used. What do the terms oikeo and oiklas designate? In Acts 12:12 (cf. verse 5); Romans 16:5, 19, and Philemon 2, these terms show that the church met in homes or houses for the purpose of worship. Since homes or houses were used for worship, could these two terms designate "a place of worship"? If these two terms can designate a place of worship which we have shown they can do, why can't they also designate "outside of worship"? Is not this what Paul Is saying In 1 Corinthians 11:22 and 14:35? Since houses were used for the purpose of worship, eating and drinking could still take place at the same place where they met. But during worship, they were not to eat a common meal, but outside of worship they could. The same Is true with a woman. She could not ask questions during worship, but she could outside of worship" (Bobby Gayton, emphasis mine, F.J.).


a. This sounds pretty good on first impression, but upon careful study it is neither scriptural nor consistent.

b. Notice the bold, italicized expressions. They are not parallel. If "home" and "house" mean eta place of worship," then the opposite of that would be "not in the place of worship." He does not believe that, so he changed from "place of" to "worship" itself.

c. There is no scriptural reason to make "house" stand for "a place of worship" nor for "worship" itself.

d. The author would have a real problem if he tried this argument on brethren who do not believe that a woman can ask a or answer a question in a Bible class. Is the Bible class "worship"? If "house" and "home" mean "outside worship," then a woman cannot ask a question in a Bible class, is it is "worship"!

e. No one objects to eating and drinking "in the place of worship" as we have already shown. We are opposed to the church providing the place and materials necessary for socials and recreational activities.

f. The "speaking" of 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 is not talking about all talking on church property. Women sang (which was "speaking" Col. 3:16), and may participate in Bible classes, but they were not to address the assembly, nor to interrupt the assembly by asking questions. (See verses 18, 19, 28-30). Those who had husbands were to "ask their own husbands at home.". (This does not mean that a woman cannot ask anyone except her husband, nor that she cannot ask a question anywhere else. Other passages give more general authority in these areas, but the kind of speaking in 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 was to be "at home." There is no reason to make it anything else.)

g. The fact remains that Paul told the Corinthians to eat their common meals at home. It is not the work of the church to provide social meals. (If it is, it can provide the place, the food and the cooks to accomplish the work!)

This is not a new position. We are quoting some sources from the past to show that brethren have made the same scriptural contention for years. We hope that you will read with profit.

Now, may I ask, what is the purpose of the church of the Lord? . . . I say to you, with caution and thought, that it is not the work of the church to furnish entertainment for the members. And yet many churches have drifted into such effort. They enlarge their basements, put in all kinds of gymnastic apparatus, and make every sort- of an appeal to the young people of the congregation. I have never read anything in the Bible that indicated to me that such is a part of the work of the church. I am wholly ignorant of any scripture that even points in that direction (N.B. Hardeman, in Tabernacle Sermons, 1942).

In 1944, Floyd A. Decker, who.had left the Christian Church, wrote an article on why he had left. One reason was: "The Christian Church emphasizes society and thephysical man by appealing to the carnal nature, with church carnivals, bands, plays, choruses, dramatics, church kitchens, church camps, and elaborate fellowship hails; the church of Christ does not (1 Cor. 10:7; Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 11:22,34)."

Note: a deacon in a local congregation recently told me that he would not be opposed to setting up "a circus" if it got the crowd therel If you think that is unscriptural, what is the difference between that and a church kitchen, or church ball team? (They stand or fall together.)

"For the churck to turn aside from its divine work to furnish amusement and recreation is to pervert its mission . . . as the church turns its attention to amusement and recreaton, it will shorn of its power as Samson was when his hair was cut" (B.C. Goodpasture May 20, 1948, Gospel Advocate ; Editorial).

"It is also needful to give some consideration as to the proper use of the church building. Some people say the church building is sacred and that should determine its use. However, I doubt that many people are of that persuasion. We know the use of the building would be determined if the building.were sacreil. However, most people who object to the way many churches use their buildings do not do so on the basis of the church being sacred. The use of tife building must be determined by considering the purpose for which it was, built. It is a misapplication of truth and right to build it for one purpose and justify its existence on that ground and then use it as we please. There is no way to justify the use of a church building for political purposes or for community projects or fortntertainment purposes. When we object to such misuses, let it be understood clearly that we do not object to the ingathering, to the eating, or to the drinking that is incidental to and.necessary for the performance of the required service. But I know we can see a difference between these things and the practices of many who conduct secular education classes, who have non-religious services, and who cat and drink in an assembly for purely social and entertainment purposes. Making fun of a water fountain or a blackboard or a baby's bottle and comparing such things to many practices of the day may satisfy a number of people, but it will not satisfy people who want to go by the Bible. People can make fun of and ridicule conscientious Christians who object to such abuses all they choose, but such ridicule does not produce the authority for the church to provide a building for these misuses.

"Let us build good buildings in keeping with our needs. Let us equip them with the things which are incidental to and necessary for the performance of the required service. Then let us use them for the purposes by which we justify is buried.



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