Concerning Church Bulletins

by Tom Wacaster

I receive a large number of church bulletins each week from neighboring and distant congregations.  Some of these are by email, some by ‘snail mail’ (the United States Post Office for those who may not know the lingo).  Occasionally I will pass along to my readers an item of interest, or a well written article that is worthy of sharing with others.  I realize that a church bulletin is only an expedient means of passing information and news along to its members.  There are no “rules” for what constitutes a scriptural, or even a “good” bulletin.  But at the same time, a church bulletin can be a reflection of where a congregation places its emphasis.  One can get a pretty good picture of where a congregation is going by what appears within the pages of its church bulletin. 

Over the past 25 years I have collected a sizable number of bulletins.  I often file these away because there is some interesting quote, well written article of encouragement, or reference to someone of notable or personal interest.  It seems to me that fewer and fewer bulletins are being used as a teaching tool.  Most of what appears in some of these bulletins has to do with person-to-person activities.  Let me share just a few of the “announcements” that have appeared in some of the bulletins through the years.  “Water balloon fight for Jr. and Sr. high will be held at the home of ____ this coming Friday.”   “Annual ski trip planned for _____.”  A few years ago I received a bulletin announcing a “Spaghetti Dinner and Auction to help our leadership training for Christ students attend the convention.”  The auction was to include “arts and crafts, antiques, and specialty desserts.” Some of our brethren are falling prey to the “bake sale” mentality for raising church funds, something which is without Biblical authority, but has come into use among churches of Christ in increasing number.  Another bulletin had an ad for an upcoming youth activity featuring a “juggling act” to teach spiritual truths to the audience.  Among other events featured in some of these bulletins were the following (I’m quoting from the bulletins):  “Divorce and remarriage seminar” (sort of like closing the gate after the cow has gotten out), “financial planning seminar,” “Cooking made easy,” “Exercise and health seminar,” “craft show,” “concert for Christ,” and “mission trip to Mexico to help repaint community houses.”  One bulletin we receive each week from a local congregation consists of eight pages of “activities,” and not once in my two years at Handley have I received one of their bulletins with some kind of instructional article included.   Then there are those bulletins that contain blatantly false doctrine, announcements of fellowship with some denomination and/or joint participation in a Thanksgiving or Christmas worship service; those, of course, are either rejected outright, tossed into the trash can, or sent a letter asking that my name be taken off their mailing list.  

Admittedly, much of what is advertised in the local bulletin falls into the realm of expediency; in fact the bulletin itself is an expedient.  Being an expedient tool for teaching and informing the congregation about church activities, the sick, shut-ins, prayer lists, et al (though I would be opposed to the “dinner and auction” to raise funds for church work), how a bulletin is used is a matter of opinion and not faith.  Such is essential to good communication from the leadership of the congregation to the members. I suppose the most puzzling thing about all of this is the amount of space that is taken up with such “trivial” and unimportant events, and the relatively little amount of space given to teaching, instruction and encouragement.   I have always sought to provide something to my readers that will inform, encourage, or instruct.  It only makes sense to me that if a congregation is going to spend the amount of money and energy it takes to put together, print and mail a weekly bulletin to folks in distant places, that they would want to have something more to offer their readers than a long list of “church activities,” none of which pertains to some of those who receive their bulletin.  A well written article, whether by the local preacher or fresh from the pen of another, makes any bulletin worth taking the time to read.  There are some bulletins that it takes me less than 10 seconds to look at.  Then there are those bulletins that I look forward to getting each week because I know that more than likely they will have some article that challenges my thinking, or uplifts my spirit in a time of discouragement.  Solomon wrote, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). Perhaps the same could be said of the written word.  If what appears in the local bulletin is any indication of where the emphasis of a  congregation lies then perhaps it is later than we think.  

Pat Boone's Dreadful Demise

by Tom Wacaster

For those of us who are old enough to remember Pat Boone in his younger years, we can recall the example he set in spite of his association with the entertainment industry.  Pat was once a faithful member of the Lord's church, and his life style showed it.    He was well known for his refusal to drink alcoholic beverages, and his denouncement and criticism of the same.  But near the end of the 1950's and on into the early 60's he began his drift away from God.  Some came to Pat's defense with their affirmation that a little doctrinal difference did not amount to a wholesale rejection of God.   Quite the contrary.  A refusal to abide by God's "doctrine" will eventually lead to a refusal to abide by God's moral standard as well.  Pat is a case in point.   In the early 60’s he succumbed to the Pentecostal leanings of his wife and some of their associates.  It would not be long before he fully embraced the belief that miracles still exist today.  That would eventually lead to fellowship with denominations and embracing a wide range of their false ideas and practices.   His trek away from God would not stop there, for the morally pure image he portrayed back in the 60’s would give way to the acceptance of many of those things he once opposed.

Let me side track for just a moment and introduce you to another "entertainer" (and I use that word with limitations).  Unless you keep up with the news in the entertainment world [something that I am not "wont" to do, as they say], you may not be aware that this particular "rap" star and self proclaimed "artist" has produced no little controversy among liberal and conservative thinkers alike.  Eminem (pronounced like the candy, M n' M) is known for his overall violent and immoral "rap" music.  He espouses, among other things, rape, incest and murder. He mocks authority and rails a dignitaries.  In one of his songs he even speaks of raping his own mother so that he can fulfill his sexual drive, father a child, and get a brother along the way.    When criticized, he claims he is sending a "message," and that he is simply expressing himself in what he and others have claimed is "the art of music."  Astonishingly, he gained quite a following and has managed to surpass some of the top stars in sells and popularity.  He has also received a number of the music industry's most coveted awards.  Everything about him from his actions, his life, his music, his lyrics, to his out and out rebellion, reek of someone who is anti-God, anti-family,  and anti-morals.  One would think that we would hear a national outcry. But little is said, and even less is heard.  Unfortunately men like Eminem have those who would come to their defense.  Pat Boone is one such defender. 

A recent item on the world wide web reflected on a ten year old article in the Dallas Morning News in which the editor observed that "rapper Eminem has his share of detractors, but musician Pat Boone is offering some support." This caught my attention.  Here are Pat's exact words: "I don't agree with his lyrics, their content or tone. I'm totally opposed to violence, racism and homophobia, but I vigorously feel that we must respect an individual's right to speak his mind, especially when it comes to all forms of art."  There are a number of things wrong with Mr. Boone's thinking. First, you cannot "totally oppose" violence and lend support to those who espouse it.  You cannot remain neutral when it comes to opposition of that which is wrong. You must actively fight it.  Second, Boone has sided with those who have bought into the lie that opposition to homosexuality is "homophobia."  There is a negative connotation that derives from the use of that word.  Among the gay and lesbian community, as well as the liberal left that is opposed to any criticism of homosexuality, the word "homophobia" has come to refer to anyone who expresses even the slightest degree of opposition to that immoral behavior.  Third, Boone seems to think that an individual's "right" (as he calls it) has no limits when it comes to self expression.  Common sense says there is no such thing as "absolute" freedom. Freedom entails responsibility, in both action and language.  Absolute freedom wherein everyone did exactly what they wanted to do without any limitations whatsoever would produce only chaos and tyranny.  Fourth, our one time colleague in the faith thinks that Eminem's "music" and tirade against all that is good and holy is "art."  Come on folks!  Webster defines art as "an esthetically pleasing and meaningful arrangements of elements, as words, sounds, colors, shapes, etc; any system of rules and principles that facilitates skilled human accomplishment."  Would someone please explain to me what is "esthetically pleasing" about someone who advocates raping one's own mother?  What "skill" is there is trashing things that are good and promoting error?  If Pat Boone thinks Eminem's music is "art" then our brother has sunk further than we had ever thought possible.  As I pointed out when I began this article.  Abandoning the "doctrine" of God is the pre-requisite to abandonment of God's moral code as well.   It is only a matter of time.

There are some important lessons we can learn from this entire incident,  not the least of which is the undeniable truth that any move away from God is not static.  One is either moving “toward” God, or he is moving “away” from God.   Sin, when embraced, leads to more sin, and the end of the journey into ungodliness often takes us where we do not want to go.  The prodigal son is a prime example of this truth.    The words of Alexander Pope serve as an appropriate warning:

Vice is a monster of such frightful mien
That to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.