In our previous post we addressed the question: Is it contrary to God’s revealed will if a group of Christians eats a meal together under the same roof where they ordinarily assemble for worship? Darrell Hamilton believes it is potentially wrong, affirming: “The issue is over having large social gatherings in a church owned building where the facilities (e.g., a fellowship hall) and expendable goods (e.g., paper products, coffee, cups, cleaning material) are funded by the Lord’s treasury.”1
Darrell not only appeals to 1 Cor. 11:17-22 (which we analyzed in our previous post), he also observes that (a) the earliest Christians met in the temple courts but broke bread in their homes (Acts 2:46); (b) food and spirituality should be kept separate (Rom. 14:17 ff.); (c) providing a meal can distract from seeking spiritual nourishment (John 6:26-27); and (d) a few anecdotal observations. None of this, however, establishes a solid biblical case against the question at hand (read the above passages in context!). The main issue, as Darrell has noted, is having social gatherings (shared meals) in a facility purchased by the collective funds of the church.
Darrell states, “Our goal should always be to do everything because we are convinced that we are authorized to do that,” a statement with which I do not disagree. He then claims generic authorization for a church building, seeing that Christians are expected to regularly assemble together (1 Cor. 5:4; 11:20), requiring a place but no specific site is biblically enjoined. Since the treasury of funds collected by the church “actually belongs to the Lord,” Darrell reasons, “then it needs to be spent on things the Lord authorizes.”
What About Love Feasts?
So-called “love feasts”2 were evidently an important part of the Christian experience in the NT (Jude 12). If 1st-century followers of Christ were expected to build loving relationships with one another (John 13:34-35; 1 Thess. 4:9-10; et al.), and eating meals together is one of the ways they did this, we obviously have a divinely sanctioned activity. The place is incidental, whether food is consumed in a separate location than the worship assembly (Acts 2:46) or in the same place (Acts 20:11), albeit at a different time.
Darrell suggests, “we take authority to build a building based primarily on the example that synagogues existed and were tacitly approved…” I disagree with his adverbial “primarily,” but if the existence and utilization of synagogues were tacitly approved by Jesus and early disciples, the same can be said of communal meals. If the treasury of funds collected by the church must “be spent on things the Lord authorizes,” facilitating a community of love and providing opportunities for edification and fellowship fall into this category. Whether it is called a “fellowship meal” or a “love feast,” when it fulfills its intended purpose, it cannot be disregarded or condemned by citing abuses.3
The well-known biblical text fostering Christian assemblies (Heb. 10:23-25) is certainly inclusive of corporate worship but cannot be restricted to it. Should we not firmly hold fast the confession of our hope at other times? Is it just during a worship assembly that we are to stimulate one another to love and good works? Do we encourage each other only as we worship together? If Christians meet outside the designated worship times for mutual encouragement and to build up love and engender service, is the exhortation of Heb. 10:23-25 being fulfilled or not? If so, can a church-owned facility purchased from “the Lord’s treasury” be used for this biblically authorized gathering? What if the setting of this gathering is a “love feast,” which is also divinely sanctioned?
Why is this even an issue?
--Kevin L. Moore
1 Darrell Hamilton, “Q&A: Eating in the Building,” La Vista Church of Christ (n.d.), <Link>. The article does not address water fountains, restrooms, or cleaning and maintaining church facilities.
2 In Jude 12 the expression taîs agápais humōn is used in conjunction with the word suneuōcheomai (to “feast with”), thus “your love feasts.” See also 2 Pet. 2:13 (ASV, CSB, ESV, ISV, NIV, N/KJV).
3 Darrell appeals to abuses of the ancient Jewish temple and synagogues by the carnally-minded (Matt. 6:2, 5; 21:12-13; 23:5-7; John 2:13-16), then attempts to draw an analogy with what he perceives as modern-day abuses of church buildings (citing, e.g., Rom. 14:15-17; 1 Cor. 11:21-22), particularly “church financed fellowship halls.”
Image credit: https://prayingthelectionary.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/acts-242-47-they-devoted-themselves/