CAN THE CHURCH PROVIDE FELLOWSHIP MEALS?

Is it Scriptual for churches to provide fellowship meals for its members? Definitely the church can provide food for its own members (Acts 6: 1-6; 1 Tim. 5:16). However, we are asking, "Can the church, from its treasury, provide food (a fellowship meal) for its members?" similarly, we ask, "are church kitchens and fellowship halls authorized in the Scriptures?"

One passage that is used in effort to establish that the church can provide fellowship meals is 1 Cor. 11:20-34. However, in these verses Paul is not correcting a misuse of a meal (one separate and apart from the Lord's Supper), but the misuse of the Lord's Supper. From verses 22 and 23, it is evident that some were making a common meal out of the Lord's supper. Furthermore, it is very significant on how the Holy Spirit corrected this problem. He did not say, "Eat your meals separate from the Lord's Supper, or begin properly sharing your food," etc, but said, "Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?" and, "But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home." (Vs. 22, 34). thus, from 1 Cor. 11:20-34, it cannot be established that the Corinthians had a separate meal along with the Lord's Supper. It was only a misuse of the Lord's Supper. Definitely, it was not a meal provided by the church.

It is true that in their misuse of the Lord's Supper they were not sharing with others. (Vs. 21-22). But again, how does Paul correct it? He plainly instructs them to eat at home. What can Paul's statements, "Do you not have houses to eat in?" and "If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home" mean other than if anyone was hungry, he was to eat at home? It is the only way the phrases make any sense. Certainly, Paul's statements do not mean that if anyone was hungry, he was to eat at home so that he could then come to the assembly and properly share a meal with others! And again, it says absolutely nothing about the church providing the meal!

Another passage that is sometimes used is Acts 2:42-47. some argue that this is the collective activity of the church and, thus, authority for church meals. However, the writer is simply explaining the activites of the early church. Some were done collectively, and some individually. For example, prayers are mentioned. Also, verse 46 mentions, "breaking bread from house to house." Three thousand people (2:41) were not moving from house to house to take their meals. The NASV says, "And day by day continuing with mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart." In other words, these early Christians were sharing their daily meals together. Where does it say that these were collective meals of the church or that the church was providing the meals?

Acts 6:1-4 is also used to prove that the church can provide fellowship meals. However, the provisions were for those in need. The church is authorized to help its own needy. (1 Tim. 5:16).

The church cannot provide fellowship meals for it's members because such is not authorized. If we practice something which is not in the scriptures, we don't have God. (2 John 9-11). We are not to "think of men above that which is written." ( 1 Cor. 4:6). When we preach "another gospel," the curse of God rests on us. (Gal. 1:8-9). Our worship becomes vain when we add the traditions and doctrines of men. (Matt. 15:9).

Providing fellowship meals for its members is not part of the work of the church. The promary mission of the Lord was to "seek and to save that which was lost" and this is the primary mission of the church. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth. ( 1 Tim. 3:15). It is to help its own needy (1 Tim. 5:16), but that's not it's main function. The church is a spiritual, soul saving institution. Its work is not to provide food, recreation, or entertainment for its members.

Things of the home should be kept separate from the worship services. For example, some want to make "foot washing" part of the church services. Foot washing was an activity of the home and was never a church function. Likewise, providing fellowship meals is not a church function.

Everyone would readily admit that Christians should have meals together. There are many types of social functions that draw christians closer together and these are good. However, the social activities are not a substitute for spirituality. Many social clubs have meals and various activities for their members. Although meals bring closer ties and friendships among their members, They do not make them stronger spiritually. It is the spiritual bonds and spiritual activities which make Christians stronger in the faith.

Many denominational churches are beginning to realize that providing meals does not make people stronger spiritually. Their fellowship meals have caused a dwindling membership rather than growth. Here's a quote from a Baptist paper: "Not in sixteen years has the number of baptisms in Texas sunk to such a low...Maybe it would not be out of order for Texas Baptist--along with all Southern Baptist--to stop cooking in our church kitchens, stop playing in our athletic buildings; and call for an old-fashioned prayer meeting...get back to God; back to the Bible...on fire with real love in our hearts for lost souls. Maybe this the answer." See John 6:26-27

Years ago, there was a great problem of men wanting to join church and state. Mankind in general suffered many bitter consequences as a result. Today, men are wanting to join church and home. Like wise, many bitter consequences are being reaped: lack of spirituality, emphasis on the carnal, etc. In the end, the results are the same: souls are lost eternally. Let us seek the old paths and do only those things which are clearly and plainly revealed in the Word of God.

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