|Vol. 13 No. 9 September 2011||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
I am looking for information about an organization called “ANGELFOOD MINISTRIES.” There is a congregation of the Lord’s body about 30 miles from us that are involved with this. As a result we have a member who has ask us elders to start it in our congregation. From our research we believe it is something that the church should not be involved with. This member is convinced it is something that would open doors for study as well as be a great benevolent work. He has researched to find out that we can remove their literature and replace it with ours. That being done, we feel it is still working with an organization in addition to the church to accomplish a work of the church. We need as much information as possible to support our decision. …can you offer any opinion on the subject? ~ Thanking you in advance, Dwight Kibby
As of September 7, 2011 at 10:00 a.m., Angelfood Ministries is at least temporarily nonfunctional, according to the following statement on the ministry’s site.
We regret to inform you that Angel Food Ministries (AFM) will not be holding a food distribution for the month of September. Full refunds are now being processed to those who have already placed orders for the September distribution. Like the thousands of businesses in America that have endured one of the worst recessions in the past 100 years, we too have faced operational and financial challenges. We have every intention to continue offering great food at great prices in the coming months and are considering ways to reorganize or restructure our Ministry. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause to the hundreds of thousands of customers who have come to rely on us every month, to our Host Sites and to the thousands of volunteers who join us in serving God by helping those in need. Please check this website often for the latest information. Thank you for your understanding and May God Bless. (https://www.angelfoodministries. com/)
Therefore, at least for the interim until such time or if the ministry resumes, participation in Angelfood ministries is a moot question – participation is not possible at this time.
However, we will attempt to answer the original question anyway. First, for the church to assist others benevolently is biblically substantiated (Acts 11:27-30; Romans 15:25-27), and this benevolence from the church ought to extend toward non-Christians as well, with a special emphasis and priority first toward members of the church (2 Corinthians 9:13; Galatians 6:10).
Second, it is not a new thing among contemporary churches of Christ to operate food pantries and for the boxes or bags of food that are distributed to include religious pamphlets. While benevolence is not the thrust of what Jesus Christ has entrusted the Lord’s church to do, benevolence can work well with the Christ-given mission of the church – to evangelize the world with the Gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).
Third, though Angelfood Ministries claims to be “non-denominational,” in reality, it is an “inter-denominational” religious organization. It was begun by husband and wife denominational “pastors” and it primarily functions through denominational church distribution points. From its name with the words “Angel” and “Ministries” to its public face in the denominational church buildings, there is plenty of reason to harbor doubts about the propriety of associating with such an organization. However, in another sense, Angelfood Ministries is essentially a retailer of food which is purchased for distribution; as such, on that level, there would be little difference than purchasing food from a warehouse club or the local grocery – other than the real and implied denominational associations. In my opinion, neither should the churches of Christ participate in Angelfood Ministries, nor is it necessary to do so in order to obtain food – even at discounted prices – for a local benevolence program.
Therefore, in the fourth place, Sam’s Club, etc., Wal-Mart, etc. and local markets may be some of the resources to which a local congregation can turn to stock a church pantry for a community benevolent program. In addition, in many parts of the country, there are community food banks from which a congregation can purchase food at discounted prices, and these pantries are not associated with religious groups; they are funded by businesses. One of these networks can be examined at https://feedingamerica.org/; there are others, too.
Fifth, Angelfood Ministries sells boxes of food to recipients at discounted prices. The local church becomes the marketer to the community, collecting the advance money for the food and providing the facilities from which the purchasers take possession of the boxes of food monthly. The local church collects the money from participants with which it purchases the food; this essentially turns the local church into the newest neighborhood grocery store. Historically, the churches of Christ have paid for their own benevolence through items or money donated by its members for free distribution to the needy.
In summary, it may not be good judgment for a local congregation of the Lord’s church to align itself with Angelfood Ministries, but it is not sinful to do so as long as (1) it is used solely as a retailer from which to acquire food and (2) denominational literature and references are not distributed. There are better resources, because they are not inter-denominational, from which food can be acquired for benevolent distribution. Finally, the churches of Christ provide benevolent services without fees attached, which is not the same as the Angelfood Ministries where the recipients purchase the monthly boxes of food at discounted prices.
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Whats the scriptural response when a brother defends miracles today with following argument: “Let me say this about miracles. … Those of us who hold firmly to the Bible as the complete word of God need to also understand that THE BIBLE IS NOT THE COMPLETE MIND OF GOD. It is his message. The same God that enabled his chosen vessels to perform miracles IS STILL GOD. He can aslo perform more miracles. He has not limited himself to our finite capacity to understand what he will and can do. Please see Isaiah 55:8-9 –‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higer than your thoughts.’ If miracles have ceased, why do we pray? We pray to God to do what only God can do. When a brother or sister is ill, and we pray for God’s power to heal that person when the doctors have given up, are we just pretending? Or do we expect the all powerful God that we serve to hear our prayers and answer with healing grace? James 5:15 says, ‘the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.’ Verse 16 tells us ‘The prayer of a righteous man is pwerful and effective.’ What power is James speaking of? The power of God to do what man cannot. That is a miracle. … God performed the miracles of the Bible for ‘God’s purposes.’ … Must we seek proof about the ‘works of men’ and avoid being duped by imposters? Yes. Must we rely on the Word of God to guide our reasoning? Yes. But we must not reduce God to our limitied ability to understand him and his ways. Read also Job Chapters 38, 39, 40, and 41. … I am suggesting that we must be careful about how we place limitations on the power of God to affect his will.”
The above, lengthy excerpt is filled with points that need biblical adjustment. First, the Bible is the complete will of God for mortals. (1) No new or different revelation is coming (Galatians 1:6-9). (2) The Christian faith or doctrine has been completely delivered already (Jude 3). (3) We already have everything provided to us by God that we need (2 Peter 1:3). (4) We are forbidden to add to or take away from divine revelation already provided to us by God (Revelation 22:18-19).
Second, references in the citation above to the Old Testament are used in such a way as to indicate the lack of understanding between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and that everyone now living is bound exclusively in religion by the New Testament – not at all by the Old Testament. (1) Yes, the Old Testament often is foundational to understanding New Testament references and it contains principles that are instructive (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). (2) However, the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament (Romans 7:1-7; 2 Corinthians 3:11-13; Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 8:6-13) as a religious law by which people living today must conduct themselves and by which they will be judged (Revelation 20:12).
Third, the brother who penned the above does not understand that God has limited Himself respecting miracles. Further, he neither understands the purpose of miracles nor the distinction between miracles and the providence of God. Consequently, he does understand how prayer works, or for that matter, the reasons for which God’s children pray. (1) The purpose of miracles was provisional – to confirm new revelation from God, the New Testament or Gospel (Mark 16:20); when miracles had accomplished the purpose for which in the New Testament era they were performed, miracles were no longer needed. The purpose of miracles was never to walk on water, multiply bread and fishes contrary to natural law or even heal people; these were byproducts of the biblically stated purpose of miracles. (2) Miracles were always temporary and scheduled by God to end once the completed revelation of the New Testament was provided to mankind (1 Corinthians 13:8-13; Ephesians 4:11-14). (3) God’s answer of prayers does not depend on continued miraculous intervention by God – and it never depended only on miracles. The same divine power of God was behind miracles and remains behind the providence of God. During miraculous periods of history, God could have answered a prayer by the use of miracles, but I cannot think of an occasion that was miraculous and not providential, or He could have answered the prayer through His providence (James 5:17-18).
Further, there are two types of providence: General, where any human may be the recipient (Matthew 5:45), and Special, reserved exclusively for the faithful children of God (Genesis 45:4-8). Miracles are supposed to be obvious to prove something, whereas providence is not obvious and is not designed, therefore, to prove anything. (4) The reasons for which the children of God pray are not limited to asking for something, but include praise and thanksgiving. (5) God’s answers to prayers may not be “Yes,” but could be “No,” “conditionally” or “later”; an answer other than “Yes” as asked and when asked is as much of an answer from God as “Yes.”
Fourth, contrary to what the inspired apostle Paul penned, the brother writing above supposes that only through miracles can one avoid being duped by religious imposters. The apostle declared that it was the completed Word of God in the absence of miracles that was more likely to distinguish between imposters and the truth than relying on miracles (Ephesians 4:11-14; 1 John 4:1).
In summary, miracles fulfilled their purposes and concluded once the New Testament was penned; pragmatically, miracles ended at least by the time the last apostle died and the last Christian died upon whom an apostle had laid his hands to impart miraculous ability. The New Testament alone is the guide for everyone living today. Though miracles have ceased long ago, prayers are answered effectively “Yes” through the providence of God. Finally, resorting to the written, providentially preserved Word of God is the way God intends for men now living to distinguish between truth and error.