Bulletins and Church
Editor's Note: Brother Roberts is presently preparing for a move to the Tampa, Florida area, to work with the Forest Hills congregation. As such, I have taken the liberty of reprinting an article Tom wrote for the West Side Weekly, a bulletin published by the West Side church in Fort Worth, TX in the time brother Roberts preached for that congregation.
The date of the article is November 20, 1977. At that time, brother Roberts was dealing with the error of "Neo-Calvinism" in the Dallas, Fort Worth area. Among other criticisms he and others received in their defense of truth was the charge that they were "meddling" in the affairs of other congregations.
While the illustration is dated, (typewriters instead of computers and the internet), the argument used to refute this quibble is the same. Truth does not violate autonomy! We commend his article to you. (Stan)
One hears a lot of objections these days to the use of bulletins by churches. They are used, it is said, to meddle in other churches' affairs and to ruin the reputation of preachers who deviate from orthodox positions. I believe we need to consider these charges.
A bulletin, properly used, is simply a teaching medium of a congregation. It is used in much the same way that a radio program is used: to expand the teaching area that can be reached by the local church. A bulletin can be as versatile as gospel preaching in that it can be used for local members or for those not Christians or for a combined audience of Christians and non-Christians. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with a church using a bulletin, nor a radio program, nor any other means to proclaim the truth.
Wherein, then, lies the objection to church bulletins? Must it not be an abuse of their use (real or imaginary)? If church bulletins are scriptural as a method of teaching (and I believe them to be so), we should not object to them but to their abuse. In this, I see a parallel to debating. Many object to debates themselves, while debates are eminently scriptural. But what many object to, with foundation, is the abuse of debates where such become an harangue and occasion of egotistical strife. We might as well object to gospel preaching itself simply because there are preachers who have abused their place and brought dishonor to their work. Let us learn to distinguish between that which is right and proper in itself and an abuse of that same thing. One is right and the other is wrong.
But there is another thing to consider. Some might object to bulletins simply because they are doing a good job of teaching the truth. I have seen people in the denominational world object to bulletins (and tracts and radio programs and debates, etc.) simply becuase their error has been exposed. They cry long and loud about "hard preaching," "evils of debating," "hate sheets," when their position is examined and exposed. Liberal churches frown on debates now that they occupy an indefensible position. They refuse to debate institutionalism but will still debate denominationalism. In other words, some people object to criticism only when their cause is weak.
Down through the years debates, radio programs, and yes, bulletins, have done an immeasurable amount of good. Each of these methods of proclamation of truth has been, and can continue to be, used to good advantage. A church would be foolish indeed not to be able to distinguish between a good method and an abuse of the method.
Is exposing error an abuse? One preacher recently ridiculed a preacher who "runs to the church typewriter" as soon as he can to "destroy" those who disagree with him. But he said little about other preachers who use bulletins as a constant medium of teaching and springboard for error. In other words, let a false teacher have his typewriter. ...let him write at will. ...let him spread any teaching he chooses, but those who disagree occupy the safe course only by ignoring him.
I want the scripture where this is approved as a safe course of action. Do you see Paul ignoring those who taught error? Do you see Peter standing meekly back while teachers of error stood unopposed? Does the New Testament really teach that we are to keep quiet in the face of false teachers?
I recognize the problem of local autonomy being respected while writing for a bulletin. But so also can the same problem exist where a radio program is used or where personal work is active. A bulletin, a radio program, personal work or any other medium of teaching should not be construed as a "brotherhood" work. This bulletin does not speak for area churches nor for brotherhood churches. But neither does a church stand as an island in the world. It must influence, even as it is influenced by others. Local members who receive bulletins from other churches will be influenced. Local members who visit gospel meetings in other churches will be influenced. Who can say this always bad or even wrong? Teaching cannot be limited to a geographical area but such does not negate local autonomy automatically.
My conclusion is that a church may use a bulletin and its influence may be widely felt without invading another church's independence. Let us not be critical of any method or medium which a church uses so long as care is used to respect local autonomy. And finally, let us extend the same courtesy to those who stand for the truth as for those who constantly agitate. Don't call for one to cease while allowing the other to continue. Common fairness and decency demands this much.
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