Two issues ago we discussed the place that societies occupy in the church. Now we must discuss the benefits of society attendance.
What then are the benefits of societies, and how do they serve the preparation of the covenant youth for his place in God’s church?
Most societies are by their constitutions consecrated to a study of the Word of God. They do this in various ways. Usually a certain amount of time, most generally the biggest share of the time allotted to a society meeting, is devoted to an organized study of the Word of God, book by book. For this there is the help given in the “Beacon Lights” in the form of Bible Outlines. Then usually there is time devoted to a program which, again, but in a different way, serves the purpose of studying God’s Word. Sometimes our confessions are discussed. Sometimes the method is used of essays, speeches, music, question hours, and other types of individual contributions are used to grow in the knowledge of Holy Writ. It is important to note here, that a program which does not have as its goal, a clearer understanding of the Scriptures, is entirely out of place in a society. However, many means serve this end. In its own way music can do this; in their own way speeches and essays can do this. But if that is not the purpose, then the program is in vain.
There are therefore many benefits to be derived from society attendance. 1) The main benefit is, of course, the growth that the individual member experiences in the knowledge of Scripture. And this is blessing indeed. For the greater his knowledge of the word of God is, the stronger his faith becomes, and the richer is his experience in the blessings of the cross of Christ. It goes without argument, that it is blessed indeed to know the Scriptures. This function the society serves in a very special way. For in society, the member has opportunity to take an active part in the discovery of the wealth of the Word of God. In society he contributes in his own way to an unfolding for himself and for others the beauties of God’s revelation, and thus the beauties of God Himself. 2) Subservient to the foregoing is also this: that the members of the societies have opportunity to use their own talents in composing essays, in giving musical numbers and speeches, for the edification of himself and the other members. He has opportunity to develop these talents in the fellowship with those who are of the same faith. 3) He has fellowship and communion spiritually with the members of his own church as they grow together in the knowledge of God in Christ.
Then it becomes clearer why societies also serve as preparation for the covenant youth. 1) It is important that the believer grows in grace and in the knowledge of God. We have discussed this point before in connection with the article on Catechism, but nevertheless it is well to be reminded of the fact that even as the preaching of the Word on Sunday serves the purpose that the Scriptures may be studied in society, so also this study in society serves the purpose that the preaching may be more edifying in the church on Sunday. Also, there is no question of the fact that the more one grows in the knowledge of the Scriptures, the more active place a person may take in the church when he reaches that time of his life. To use but one illustration: He may be better fitted by a systematic study of God’s Word in the societies in his youth to lead his family and the church in prayer because prayer implies a knowledge of God through His revelation. 2) By developing his talents when he is young in the sphere of society life, he may be better able to use those talents in an active service of the church when he grows to years of discretion. For he is called upon, when older, to serve in consistory, to serve in other functions of the church, such as the work of the radio, the work of the school, etc. 3) When the covenant youth has experienced the joys of Christian fellowship, even when a youth, how much more will he not seek out that fellowship with the people of God when he becomes older? Thus, societies serve in their own way as a very important part of the preparation of the people of God.
But it is a sad situation in some of our churches that the young people do not attend society. I know that in the smaller congregations that is not very often the case, for there is usually one hundred per cent attendance. But in our larger churches, that cannot be said. Many and various are the objections that are raised. I can hear some of them yet: “We don’t get anything out of society.” “There is always a small group that runs the society and the others are left out.” “I can’t do anything in the program,” etc. etc. While sometimes these objections may be valid, and while sometimes the objectors may be very sincere in their complaints, this is very seldom the case. In connection with these complaints I would like to make a few remarks. 1) Oftentimes the objections reveal a lack of interest in anything that has to do with the Word of God, and this is certainly a serious matter. 2) Oftentimes the reason that many young people do not get anything out of societies is because they do not put anything into it. They do not put forth an ounce of preparation to study their lesson; when they are called to contribute to the program, they spend about five minutes on it. It stands to reason that we cannot get anything out of the society if we don’t contribute anything. 3) We must remember that the society belongs to the young people themselves. Therefore, if something is radically wrong in the life of the society, it can certainly not be rectified by staying away. Often the error can be rectified by pointing it out and urging improvements. There is never any excuse like the above, which is valid, and a good reason for staying away from society.
Therefore, the conclusion of the whole matter is that our covenant youth should certainly attend society. And they should not be passive, but do all in their power to contribute something positive to the life of the group to which they belong. The more effort that is put forth, the greater the blessing will be, and the more one will be prepared to take his own place in the church of God when he grows to an age when he can do this.
Now what about conventions? It is time for another convention in the Protestant Reformed Churches. I don’t wish to say much, for much has been said and will undoubtedly be said this year as the young people get ready to attend another convention in our churches.
Conventions are an extension of our societies, so that all that has been said about societies may also be said about conventions. It is true that conventions serve their purpose in their own peculiar way, but nevertheless it remains a fact that the study of God’s Word serving the purpose of the growth of the covenant youth in the fear of God is the only goal of a convention. Now this purpose is achieved on a much broader scale, including all the societies of the denomination, and is done primarily by way of programs with their speeches and essays and debates and musical numbers; but that does not mean that the purpose changes. And it is well to bear in mind that that is the purpose also of the banquet, the outing, and the social get-togethers. This must be constantly borne in mind. Only then will the convention achieve its purpose in 1955, and only then will the youth of the church of Christ be edified in such a way that the convention of ’55 prepares them for their place in the Church. All the benefits that one receives in his own society he now receives in spiritual fellowship with the youth of his denomination.
And even as all who possibly can must attend society, so all who possibly can, must attend the convention. No time-worn excuse is acceptable, for this can and should and undoubtedly will, under the blessing of God, be another time of spiritual wealth for you.
Hudsonville is the host; they have worked hard and will work hard; those who contribute in the way of speeches and other parts of the entire program will contribute their best. Go, then, under God’s blessing and in prayer, and you will be richly satisfied.