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Kitchens and Fellowship Halls

Kitchens and Fellowship Halls

By Jeff May


            There was a time when kitchens and fellowship halls were unheard of among churches of Christ.  Then they were relatively unheard of.  But toward the end of the 1960's and into the 70's many churches of Christ made these part of their building projects.  Now, it would be a high priority for many.

            On the other hand, there are some churches like the one at Oakland that have never in their entire existence had a kitchen or a fellowship hall.  And nowadays, that's a major difference.

            Why does this church do that?  What's the thinking?  What's the issue?

            What's not the issue?  The issue is not whether you can eat or drink something in a building owned by the church.  As a preacher, I have often drank water while preaching and moms give babies a bottle during worship.  It is also not the issue that the building is sacred.  The building is to be used for spiritual purposes but the materials that go into it are not sacred.

            What is the issue?  The issue is whether there is spiritual authority in the New Testament for a local church to plan and provide materially for social activities in its program of work.  If God sees it as a good work and wants us doing it, we are going to find it in scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  We must take seriously passages which teach us to stay within the authority of Christ and stay within the scriptures (Col. 3:17; 2nd John 9).

            In scripture, we find 8 things the local church is given to do.

1) An assembly of the saints for worship (Heb. 10:24-25).

2) Observe the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7; 1st Cor. 11:33).

3) Sing spiritual songs to the Lord (1st Cor. 14:33; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

4) Pray together (Ephesians 6:18).

5) Preach and give attention to God's word (Acts 20:7; 1st Cor. 14:26).

6) Give on the first day of the week (1st Cor. 16:2).

7) Support the preaching of the gospel (Phil. 4:15-16).

8) Provide for the needs of destitute saints (Acts 4:34-35; 2 Cor. 8 & 9).

            When we see that God has authorized the church to do something, that gives us the authority to provide whatever is necessary for carrying out what He has told us to do.  Now, if we find in scripture where the church is to provide for social activities, then we are ready to build whatever we need to do it.  But if it is not in scripture, then we cannot build the kitchen or the fellowship hall.  We have never found the scripture, so we have not built the facilities.

            Some objections often come.

Someone says, "You have water fountains."  Again, this misses the point.  The point is not whether you can drink some water in the church building.  It's about whether the church from its treasury can plan for and provide materially for social activities as part of the church's work.  Someone may point to "love feasts" in 2nd Peter 2:13; Jude 12).  But no one knows for sure what these were.  Some say it is the Lord's Supper.  Others say it is meals provided by Christians in their homes, but no one knows for sure.  One thing is sure.  There is nothing in the text to suggest these meals were planned by the church.

The most common objections is, "Doesn't the Bible teach that we are to have fellowship?  Yes it does.  But the word "fellowship" (greek word "koinonia) means "sharing, communion, participation is, joining together."  In the Bible it is never used in reference to social activities, not even one time.  It is used of a business partnership (Lk. 5:10) and it used of a spiritual partnership as we will show below, but never is it used for social fellowship.  Yet, today when the word fellowship is mentioned, people often smell coffee.

Every time it used in reference to the church's activity, it is about spiritual things.  It is about "fellowship of His Son" (1 Cor. 1:9), "fellowship in the Gospel" (Phil. 1:5), "fellowship in the Spirit" (Phil. 2:1), "fellowship of the sufferings of Christ" (Phil. 3:10).  See the pattern?  None of these passages are about social activities but about a relationship (partnership) with God and one another.  Please notice the depth of the word "fellowship" in 1st John 1:1-4.  The real meaning of the word is deeper than a social meal and it is not used of social meals in the New Testament.

Now, here's an interesting point.  The church at Oakland has a fellowship hall.  It is the building we sit in to worship God and study God's word.  We are learning the things that bring us into fellowship with God, the apostles and one another.  The church at Oakland also has a fellowship meal.  It is the Lord's Supper.  The word for
"fellowship" is found in reference to the Lord's Supper when it says we have "communion" (koinonia) or share in the blood of Christ, the body of Christ and in union with all of God's people (1st Cor. 10:16,17).  This is Bible fellowship.

But someone might say, "Didn't people in the Bible eat together and enjoy one another?"  Yes, but notice where they did it (Acts 2:46; 1st Cor. 11:22).  They consistently used their homes for sharing in social meals.  But nowhere have we found that the church is to plan for and provide materially for social activities.  That's where the issue is.  May God help us all to hold fast to His word and His plan for His church.