BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A megachurch in Alabama recently held an open house to celebrate the opening of its $26 million dollar, six-dome entertainment center, which some are stating is far from biblical Christianity and the example of the early Church.
Faith Chapel Christian Center in Wylam, near Birmingham, completed the project on it 137-acre campus last year, all of which was funded by the tithes and offerings of its more than 6,400 members. The facility is located in a depressed area where a number of residents are low-income.
“We believe we can really meet the needs of the community,” leader Michael Moore, author of the book Rich is Not a Bad Word, told AL.com. “It will bridge people from the world to the Kingdom.”
According to reports, the facility features—among other amenities—a 12-lane bowling alley, a basketball court, a fitness center, a banquet hall and cafe, a teen dance club, and an adult alcohol and smoke-free night club.
“People may not want to come to a church, but they’ll come to a bowling alley,” Moore explained. “People have needs other than spiritual needs. There’s a need for safe, clean, uplifting, family-oriented entertainment.”
He said that the open house held in July served in part to announce the six-dome structure, called “The Bridge,” to the community, and to “inspire” other churches nationwide to build similar facilities.
“Now we want the world to know,” Moore explained. “Our church wants to be an inspiration.”
“We want kids to walk in and have a wow moment and think, ‘A church can do that?'” added spokeswoman Antoinette Mays. “We want this to be an inspiration for little kids, for other pastors to say ‘Hey, we can do his too! ‘ It’s a place where people will come and be ministered to.”
But not everyone is supportive of the endeavor in the context of being presented as the purpose or function of the Church. David Whitney, pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Pasadena, Maryland, told Christian News Network that using entertainment to draw the lost is an unbiblical means of evangelism.
“I think it would be a misuse [of funds],” he commented. “Mainstream Christianity in America is already oriented at entertainment being its primary focus. … To take evangelism and to say, ‘Well, evangelism also has to be entertaining’—which it sounds like what they’re doing—that we’re not going to be able to evangelize unless we entertain them, [is a gross error].”
He said that the Church is not supposed to attempt to attract the world to come into its doors, but to go out into the world and preach the gospel—a message that is not very entertaining.
“That’s a mistake that’s been made for maybe a century now,” Whitney stated, noting that even Jesus and the Apostle Paul regularly took the gospel into the public square through preaching. “We are to go and tell, not to tell them to come in here and hear the message in the church [building]. The church is for the worship of God, for building up of the saints, for making disciples and training them so they can go into all the world and preach the gospel.”
“The gospel is an offense. The cross is called in Scripture an offense,” he said. “It’s not a message that’s going to entertain people, or a message that will be pleasant for them to hear. It’s going to convict them of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”
Whitney outlined that if the endeavor were of a local Christian businessman, rather than turning the church into an entertainment venue, he would be more supportive of the project.
“I think they’ve distorted the function of the Church and the ministry of the Church that Christ has given to us,” he opined. “[The] Church is not teaching its people in a biblical worldview what the ministry of the Church is versus the ministry of the disciples that the churches are sending out into the world.”
“Bricks, bodies and bucks seem to be the measure most churches use of their success,” Whitney explained. “In the Scriptures, I don’t find that at all. … Contrast that with the first Church, who owned no building and often met in the catacombs. … Jesus died without any trappings of glory, power or wealth at all, and most of his followers died in a similar manner, but they were the ones who turned the world upside down.”