A Challenge - Youth Forums - Ladies' Day
By Olen Holderby
(Editor’s Note: The following article by brother Holderby addresses a subject that needs to be addressed. Several older preachers have spoken to me about youth lectureships and women’s lectureships, both those sponsored by churches and those sponsored by a group of individuals outside the purview of the local church. My primary concern has been to the speakers and topics used in youth lectureships. Brother Holderby and some other older, respected preachers are expressing other concerns. Brother Holderby is an honorable man who has given fifty or more years to the preaching of the gospel. His article is written with a kindly tone and is deserving of one’s consideration. We hope that this article will provoke serious thought about these subjects without creating dissension and division.)
These two activities have become rather popular in recent years. I believe them both to be in violation of Scripture, thus in error. This is the reason, and the only reason, for my challenge.
I do not wish to be misunderstood, so I explain what I mean by “challenge.” I am not challenging anyone for a public debate whether oral or written, though such debate could be helpful. I am challenging any who practice one or both these activities to produce, in writing, why they believe the practice to be scriptural. I hope you will write for publication, but if you prefer to write something just for my eyes, I would be happy to receive it. And, I would reply in kind if desired.
It would seem necessary to explain exactly to what I refer. The advertising, which comes across my desk, offer this activity under different names: Youth Forums, Youth Camps, Youth Meetings, etc. Some limit the activity to a certain age of youth and others do not.
To avoid misunderstanding further explanation should be offered. I am not talking about what individuals may get together and do for the young people, not involving any one congregation. I am speaking of that which is planned by a local church and overseen by that local church (with or without elders). Nor am I talking about what a local church may choose to do for its own local youth, even though there are dangers here.
Of what, then, am I speaking? I am speaking of multi-church and multi-state youth gatherings. These youth, from various and many churches are under the oversight of the one local church for a period of time– usually one or two days and nights.
There are a few questions, which I offer to those who practice or participate in these youth gatherings: (1) How do you justify, from Scripture, the segregation of any particular group from the whole for such activities? (2) Where did Jesus or his apostles ever practice such? (3) Where is the Scripture for an eldership to oversee a portion of any congregation, other than where they are, for any length of time? (4) If such oversight is right for one day, why not for 30 days, or 90 days, or a year?
In addition, there is the question of provided recreation. Yes, I know that some say, “Individuals provide the recreation, not the church.” I offer to you the same advice which I heard brother Gailen Evans offer recently in preaching on another subject, “Now, brethren, let us just be honest about this!” Who obtained those individuals to provide recreation? How did they get involved in the matter in the first place? Was it not the elders that did so? How many young people do you think you would have if you did not provide this recreation? In spite of your insistence to the contrary, how many of these young people will go home thinking that the church provided that recreation? What kind of seeds does this sow? Does this provide the right or wrong impression?
Brethren, please do not appeal to the “good” which you think you are doing! That will not prove the practice to be right! Anything, which is right, can be proven right by the Scripture. Listen to it, “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). I have always been willing to offer scriptural proof for my teaching and practice, but my practice is not under question at this time. Your practice, brethren, is under question; and the obligation weighs heavily upon you. If you comply with this scriptural injunction, you will prove your practice by the Scripture or you will forsake it. To say that you have no obligation to me to prove anything begs the question. It seems that you feel an obligation to the youth of other congregations. Why not to me?
Some, no doubt, will say, “But, look at all the good teaching we are doing.” Could we not say the same for the Missionary Society? Would this make the Missionary Society right? Neither does it make your practice right! Can’t we see that?
In general, those to whom I talked try to argue such activity is parallel to a gospel meeting. Again, I plead for honesty! Where have we observed a gospel meeting which is planned for only one segment of the congregation? When have we had people register, ahead of time, for attendance at a gospel meeting? When have health permits been required for those attending a gospel meeting? When and where have we had individuals to plan recreation for those attending a gospel meeting? The very fact that these exist plainly shows that a parallel does not exist. Such a claim may sound good to some, but it simply is not true that a parallel exists between a gospel meeting and the youth gatherings.
Brethren, what kind of impression are we leaving with our young people? Once, some young people who had attended one of the youth forums visited where I was preaching. We talked about such gatherings, and I asked some of them, “If it was not for the fact that you might meet a young person of the opposite sex, whom you might date, would you have gone to this meeting?” The answer came quickly, “No!” Are we running a dating service without knowing it? A shrug of the shoulders is not a sufficient answer to such questions.
Brethren, if you already have the proof that the youth forum is scriptural, please share such proof with us. If you do not have such proof, please make an effort to do so. If you cannot prove by the Scripture that it is right, surely you can see that you must forsake it now. Now, brethren, whatever you might say about me will not prove your practice to be right. That can be done by, and only by, the proper application of God’s word! Will you do it?
This also comes to us under different names: Ladies’ Retreat, Ladies’ Day, Ladies’ Bible Study Day, etc. Whatever the name, there are things about the activity that do not agree with the Scripture, the Word of the Almighty. Much of what I have said in regards to the youth gatherings may be equally applied to the ladies’ gatherings. Again, I wish to stress that I am speaking, in this article, only of such gatherings which are under the oversight of a local church, not about what individuals may get together and do, separate and apart from any local church.
I would like to remind those involved in this practice that they are obligated to prove the practice to be right (1 Thess. 5:21). If it is right, you can prove it by God’s word. If you cannot prove it to be right by God’s word, you must forsake it in order to be right with God. God himself ordained the works for the church (Eph. 2:10), and the gospel furnishes us unto every one of those good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). Have we forgotten that, if it is not in the gospel, it is not good? Where in the gospel is this ladies’ activity given? Book, chapter, and verse, please! Did Jesus or his apostles practice such? Where is the command? The example? Or, a necessary inference? This is a multi-church ladies gathering; placing all under the one eldership for a short period of time. Where is the scriptural authority for this? How can this be right for a short period of time and be wrong for a long period of time?
Brethren, I am not trying to embarrass you or to push you into a corner. My desire is to help, not hinder. Keep in mind that you cannot justify your practice by the good which you think is being done. Only the Scripture can prove a thing to be right!
Should you think this activity is parallel to a gospel meeting, please consider this: (1) When did we start asking for a RSVP for those attending a gospel meeting? (2) When did we start registering people who attend a gospel meeting? (3) When did we begin having lady preachers, even for a day, or for an hour, for gospel meetings? The very fact that these differences exist clearly show there is no parallel between this activity and a gospel meeting. The teaching being done for the ladies is not under question in this article; the arrangement itself is what is being questioned. The Missionary Society does some good teaching, but that does not prove the Missionary Society to be right. Except for the entertainment in the youth forums, the ladies day and the youth forums are parallel, but neither are parallel to a gospel meeting. I know of no evidence which shows either of these activities to be authorized by Scripture. If you have such evidence, please share it with us.
Now, brethren, I wish to share with you a portion of a letter which I have on my desk before me. It was written by some elders to their congregation and this congregation is less than an hour’s drive from my front door. Here are the quotes:
Women make up a significant portion of our worship team. They now teach and co-teach co-ed adult classes. They serve as ministry leaders and coordinators. We have women who are both small group leaders and assistant leaders. Women have been in public presentations, dramatic programs, making announcements, recognition programs and the reading of scripture in our Sunday morning worship services. Their participation in small group discussions and chain-prayers has been strongly encouraged by our eldership.
In addition to these roles, it is our intention to, in the near future, to begin using women to serve the communion emblems, to preside at the communion table and lead public prayers during our regular worship services. We have no intention of expanding that role any further than this. Additionally, we have no intention of installing women as elders at ___________, or using a woman in the role of pulpit minister.
Read the above quote carefully. How did they get that way? Did it happen overnight? Let the same elders tell in a quote from the same letter, “We recognize that the congregation’s thinking on this subject has been evolving for the past several years.” Yes, it took years, but step by step it’s getting there! And, they express their intent to go further.
I cannot believe that those who are practicing the “Ladies’ Day” activities want to go that far! You assert, “We would never permit that to happen!” I do not doubt your intent at all, but the fact is that you are opening the door. Maybe not in your generation, but what about the one to come? I have been told by some concerned with both the youth forums and ladies’ day activities that the suggestion for such did not come from the elders. Rather, it came from some of the youth (for the youth forums) and some of the ladies (for their activities). Makes one wonder just who is running these congregations. I am not ready to charge, as some do, that the ladies suggesting such have been “bitten” by the feminist movement bug. However, I would insist that such activities do provide an avenue of entrance for the feminist leanings. Brethren, once that influence is begun you will not be able to peacefully stop it. It will be as the above quotes clearly show!
Simply said, brethren, I see both of these activities as steps toward apostasy. Sow to the wind and we reap the whirlwind. If any of you wish to offer written defense of either of these practices, I will personally request brother Mike Willis to carry it in Truth Magazine, then I or others may comment on what you have to say. Or, if you prefer to write something just for my eyes, I would be happy to receive it and would reply in kind if desired. Truth has nothing to fear! If you cannot prove your practice by God’s word, I plead with you to discontinue the same. In this article I have not identified any one congregation involved in either of these activities. Even though that can be done, I do not feel it necessary at this point. I ran this article by several gospel preachers, for their comment, before publishing it. I do not plan to say more on these activities until you have had ample opportunity to consider and respond to what I have said– perhaps two or three months after this publication. I have no way of knowing whether or not you read Truth Magazine, so I am ordering and sending copies to about two dozen places or people.
It is my prayer that you will honestly consider what I have said and sincerely evaluate these practices in the revealing light of Scripture.
May God help us all to hold to his truth as we work our way through the maze of error, in teaching and practice ,with which we are confronted in these “perilous times” (2 Tim. 3:1).
– Truth Magazine, Vol. XLVI, No. 17, September 5, 2002