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?