A tragically ironic problem in America’s megachurches is the lack of community. These church buildings contain thousands of attendees, but flashy services and entertaining songs leave little room for centripetal witness.
Although “the church isn’t perfect” is the usual counter argument, let us not forget that, like the first century believers, God calls His church to unity.
A Balance Between Evangelism and Oneness in Christ
I believe today’s megachurches are abandoning God-centered gatherings, because they rather engage in self-seeking entertainment. In studying Acts, I see a church marked by two characteristics: centrifugal and centripetal witness.
Centrifugal means moving out of a gathering of believers to reach others with the gospel. The apostles used this witness by proclamation, reasoning, doing miracles, and other good deeds – Let me remind you that these were all works of the Holy Spirit.
Sadly, it seems megachurches are overly focused on evangelism. This is obvious when you hear about concerts, conferences and other events which are intended as an outreach for non-Christians. These can be described as centrifugal witness, because the church is moving away from their central fellowship to preach the gospel.
Today’s methods and programs can be contrasted biblically, but I’ll save that for another post. Now, I wanted to zoom in on centripetal witness. This type of witness means the reaching of the gospel to non-Christians within the community.
Disunity on Sunday can ruin centripetal witness
Sunday’s are generally seen as a centripetal. The service usually began with a nice teaching for the choir, then the megachurch pastor will ruffle up the larger congregation with evangelism. For the most part, megachurch services are set this way to reach non-Christians. If you ever walked in or seen a big church on TV, you know just what I mean.
Attendance is great, parking lots are full, and people are dressed ready to receive the weekly sermon. It’s quite an amazing scene, especially when huge sanctuaries with massive screens and glossy backdrops are the norm rather than the exception. Sometimes it even feels like your attending a sport’s game. There’s so much energy around that you can get caught up in the emotion and end up shouting.
However, after the lights comeback on, the biblical teaching is the unexciting part of the service for many attendees. As you may know, all this external experience doesn’t amount to anything centripetal or anything unifying.
The problem is that megachurches are making evangelism mixed with entertainment the top priority. Many megachurches will justify their “worship-tainment” by saying they are trying to reach a different crowd. This, unfortunately, neglects the idea of being a witness for the gospel. The book of Acts points to a balanced witness of both centrifugal and centripetal.
Devoted Themselves Daily
There were four things the early church devoted themselves to: basics, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. A church marked by these characteristics would generally produce a centripetal witness to the outside world without using entertainment. The first characteristic happens by understanding the fundamentals. The early church did not have the New Testament, so they devoted themselves to the fundamentals through the Apostles’ teaching (Acts 6:2-4). This included:
- Eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension
- The assertion that Jesus was coming again
- The need for repentance and faith in Christ
- A Christ‐centered approach to Old Testament
- Basic principles of Christian living
- Putting off the old life, putting on the new
- Maintaining a balance between “tradition” and the “work of the Holy Spirit”
Secondly, the church was devoted to fellowship (v. 46):
- Strangers were suddenly brothers and sisters in Christ
- They met together “daily” in the temple courts and in their homes
- They encouraged and exhorted each other and helped each other
- They grew together as a community
Next, the believers broke bread together, which produced a community life focused on what Christ had done for them. Lastly, they were devoted to prayer, which was a connecting theme to the work of the Spirit in their ministry.
Ultimately, their unity in Christ and love for one another provided a centripetal witness to non-believers during this first century. This is quite a contrast to what you see in America’s megachurches, where instead of lifting up the Lord, we see a lifting up of pastors. Instead of seeing oneness, we see segregated groups. Instead of seeing unity, we see confusion.
Don’t you think?