I’ve been largely absent from the blogosphere lately busy with work (you may be able to tell with my infrequent posting this month so far).  So I missed a discussion that happened earlier this month regarding the missional model vs. attractional model in the Church.  Dan Kimball’s post at the Out of Ur set off some fireworks.

We all agree with the theory of being a community of God that defines and organizes itself around the purpose of being an agent of God’s mission in the world. But the missional conversation often goes a step further by dismissing the “attractional” model of church as ineffective. Some say that creating better programs, preaching, and worship services so people “come to us” isn’t going to cut it anymore. But here’s my dilemma—I see no evidence to verify this claim.

Out of Ur Post HT: Stephen Murray

Here’s the thing – both models can miss the boat.  Both have strengths and weaknesses.  Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church made a great point regarding this debate while commenting at Reclaiming the Mission post responding to Kimball (HT: Bill Kinnon)

My conclusion is that –in the final analysis–neither approach to church is better at growing spiritual fruit, reaching non-believers, caring for people, and producing Christ-shaped lives. I said ‘in the final analysis’ because each approach to church–the smaller, organic, simple, incarnational church, and the larger, organizational, complex, attractional church–has vastly different strengths and weaknesses, limitations and capabilities. The two constants to effectiveness are: a) getting the gospel right (not moralistic or antinomian, not individualistic or collectivistic) and b) contextualizing the whole church to the culture around (not over-adapted or under-adapted.) To think that the key is in the methodology (organic/incarnational vs organizational/attractional) is a mistake that comes, I think, from a lack of experience. There are great and terrible examples of all these methods and models. All kinds are thriving and all kinds are failing.

Attractional misses the boat when it becomes all about performance and getting people in the door.  We don’t want churches that are a mile wide, but an inch deep.  There is also the tendency to only minister to those who will naturally be attracted to your church, and missed opportunities to make an impact in the community at large.

Missional churches can talk missional, but if they don’t evangelize they are not producing disciples either.  Serving the community without pointing to Jesus a long the way misses the boat, and I would say not being truly missional.

Healthy churches reproduce whether by growing larger or planting other churches.  What do you think?

11 comments
  1. Hey, Shane

    I think ‘missional’ vs. ‘attractional’ is a legitimate distinction, but not necessarily a dichotomy. “Coming to church” has been part of Western culture for centuries, and even though it’s waning, capitalizing on people visiting and seeing what God is doing can’t be a bad thing. And ‘attractional’ churches ARE missional if they’re on mission. The problem, as you mentioned, is when it merely becomes a show that creates spectators rather than disciples.

    I agree with you – the important thing is to do it right – to build disciples and to intentionally reach the lost. Or better, to build disciples by reaching the lost. And do it in the building and outside the building and organically through relationships and corporately through planned church activities and events.

    Use every tool in the toolbox and use them well!

    Steves last blog post..A Good Quote on Parenting

  2. Hey, Shane

    I think ‘missional’ vs. ‘attractional’ is a legitimate distinction, but not necessarily a dichotomy. “Coming to church” has been part of Western culture for centuries, and even though it’s waning, capitalizing on people visiting and seeing what God is doing can’t be a bad thing. And ‘attractional’ churches ARE missional if they’re on mission. The problem, as you mentioned, is when it merely becomes a show that creates spectators rather than disciples.

    I agree with you – the important thing is to do it right – to build disciples and to intentionally reach the lost. Or better, to build disciples by reaching the lost. And do it in the building and outside the building and organically through relationships and corporately through planned church activities and events.

    Use every tool in the toolbox and use them well!

    Steves last blog post..A Good Quote on Parenting

  3. Shane:

    Good to see you posting!

    As the song says “It all comes down to Christ…”

    Anything that is dependent on us has holes in it, regardless of model, denomination and when you think the rapture will occur.

    AndyCs last blog post..Ockham’s Razor

  4. Shane:

    Good to see you posting!

    As the song says “It all comes down to Christ…”

    Anything that is dependent on us has holes in it, regardless of model, denomination and when you think the rapture will occur.

    AndyCs last blog post..Ockham’s Razor

  5. Steve – I respectfully disagree. I don’t think typical churches need to go away but attractional and missional churches are very different and do not coexist by definition.

    Attractional churches are, by definition, irrelevant to the many unchurch people who have no desire and will never enter a church building or meeting.

    Missional churches go to them.

    There is nothing but dichotomy here. The trick is to realize that they can be on the same team and traditional/old skool churches can help missional ones by supporting them financially without strings attached, pray for them, and not get territorial when their people want to leave to start one.

    Eric Goransons last blog post..Great Video On Puhblik Edukashon

  6. Steve – I respectfully disagree. I don’t think typical churches need to go away but attractional and missional churches are very different and do not coexist by definition.

    Attractional churches are, by definition, irrelevant to the many unchurch people who have no desire and will never enter a church building or meeting.

    Missional churches go to them.

    There is nothing but dichotomy here. The trick is to realize that they can be on the same team and traditional/old skool churches can help missional ones by supporting them financially without strings attached, pray for them, and not get territorial when their people want to leave to start one.

    Eric Goransons last blog post..Great Video On Puhblik Edukashon

  7. Hi Shane,

    Thanks for “following” me on Twitter. I just signed up a few days ago but am not sure how much time I will be able to devote to Twitter. (Several months ago I quit blogging on my college alumni website in order to streamline to just Facebook.) I forsee that it could be addictive!

    I like your blogroll — Reformed Women looks interesting. I consider myself “Reformed Brethren,” a self-styled hybrid of Calvinism with Plymouth Brethrenism. Are you reformed?

    By the way, my alma mater, Emmaus Bible College, is in Dubuque. Are you on that side of Iowa? EBC is Plymouth Brethren.

    Blessings!

    Mrs. Faith Haynes

  8. Hi Shane,

    Thanks for “following” me on Twitter. I just signed up a few days ago but am not sure how much time I will be able to devote to Twitter. (Several months ago I quit blogging on my college alumni website in order to streamline to just Facebook.) I forsee that it could be addictive!

    I like your blogroll — Reformed Women looks interesting. I consider myself “Reformed Brethren,” a self-styled hybrid of Calvinism with Plymouth Brethrenism. Are you reformed?

    By the way, my alma mater, Emmaus Bible College, is in Dubuque. Are you on that side of Iowa? EBC is Plymouth Brethren.

    Blessings!

    Mrs. Faith Haynes

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