Back in high school, I loved physics, and I thought that I would eventually end up in a science-related career. (Looking back and seeing what some of my engineer friends had to endure through college makes me forever grateful that God has called me elsewhere). And while I am now on a very different career path, discussions of a scientific nature still excite me and peak my interest. So imagine something that ties laws of physics with the church–you can’t beat it, right?
The church I currently attend has spent the past few weeks discussing the nature of the church–is it evangelism-focused or is it edification-focused? (To which I would answer, ‘yes.’) Yet this discussion on the church reminded me of an excerpt from Christianity Rediscovered by Vincent Donovan that I read a number of years ago concerning different church models (I flipped through the book, but couldn’t find a page number, apologies).
The church of God is meant to be a centrifugal force.
In the Old Testament, God placed Israel at the crossroads of several international highways (the land of Canaan forms a land-bridge between the powerful empires of Egypt, Rome/Greece, and Babylon/Persia/Assyria/etc.). God led his people to the Promised Land, where they were to reflect his glory to the nations. These nations were to be called to Israel, where they would join the people of God in worship on Zion (the entire book of Isaiah, especially ch. 1-2 emphasize this): this is a centripetal model of ministry.
A centripetal force is a force that draws objects towards the center of a circle, for example, the moon around the earth or the earth around the sun (don’t worry, the moon isn’t going to come crashing into us anytime soon). Israel, at the center of the ancient world, was positioned in a place that would draw all people to them; in this way, God was going to reach the world.
Yet that was never God’s ultimate goal–after the Resurrection, we see Jesus command his disciples to go make disciples.
After the cross event, God sends us out into the world–whether across the street or across the globe. The model of ministry has changed–now the people of God are a sending agent, a centrifugal force. Much like a roller coaster that goes through a loop, so we also are being forced out of our church buildings by the Spirit of God to reach the lost.
Look at your church. Too often our churches seem to follow the Old Testament model of the people of God: we set up shop on a corner, make sure that our programs are relevant, our music is hip, and our preaching is contextualized (all of which are good things); then we wait for people to come. How often do we build relationships with the lost, bringing them into our lives and into our churches?
Is your church a centrifugal church or a centripetal one? Are you following the model of the New Testament? Are you going?
Instead of thinking of new programs and putting flyers up, hoping that people will come into your church, how about trying to build a relationship with someone and invite them? That’s how God’s church will grow most effectively: through centrifugal ministry.
Now, go be a roller coaster.