Both/And? – 5 Things I Love About the Attractional Church

This is part two of a series around the question, “Can a church be both missional and attractional?”  Check out part one here.

Attractional Church = a church whose system defines evangelism as “come and see.”

It is important to note that I said the church’s “system” creates the definition of evangelism.  In church world we talk a lot of crap.  Stuff comes out of our mouths that we never follow-up on or live out; and this is sad. 

To quote Andy Stanley, “It’s not what’s written on the wall; it’s what happening done the hall that matters.” 

We can say all day long that we want our people to share Jesus with their lost friends, that they should be hanging out and building relationships with unchurched people, or that they are missionaries in their neighborhoods. We can preach the great commission and great commandments until we are blue in face; but if our programs, processes, and resources are focused on building environments designed to be attractive to people outside the church in hopes that they will come in, then we are “attractional.”

Or, more simple put, if we do stuff (whether it be a worship services or  some other program) intended to draw the unchurched into our system of church then we are attractional.

Let me be crystal clear here.  Attractional church didn’t form in a vacuum.  No one sat down and said, “Let’s design a church system that takes the responsiblity of evangelism away from individuals and instead puts it into programs because people are lazy jerks.  They are loser consumers anyway; so let’s capitalize on that.”  That is not what happened. 

Incredibly gifted leaders, who love God, who are passionate about Jesus and seeing people come to know Him, whose primary measurement was Sunday morning worship attendance and professions of faith built amazing systems that encouraged those stats to grow – and the attractional church movement was born.

Wendy and I found our faith in attractional churches.  We were called to ministry through them; and we worked in them for our first nine years of professional ministry.  There are several incredible by-products of the attractional church movement.  Here are a few that we loved and now kind of miss. 

1. The Worship – The attractional church movement, in an attempt to worship through music relevant to contemporary culture, has produced some incredible worship.  It’s passionate.  It’s diverse.  It’s creative; and it’s incredibly high quality.  That last one was incredibly important for Wendy because (although she would never admit it) she is a kick butt worship leader.  The great attractional worship leaders we have worked with have the astounding ability to create high quality experiences and still maintain an openness to the Spirit.  Inexplicable.

2. The Preaching – The attractional church movement’s intense focus on the Sunday morning experience has taken preach to a new level.  Seriously, there are some amazing speakers working right now that would have never had the chance to hone their chops outside the attractional church model. 

3.  The Stuff for Kids – churches in the attractional church movement discovered fairly quickly that the way to keep families coming was to provide amazing kid experiences.  We miss the massive amount of resources directed at our children.

4. Huge Numbers of People – There is something exciting about sitting in a room with a massive amount of people.  Often I think back to my college years at Highland Baptist church.  There was a worship service called Sunday Night Life that was freak’in awesome.  The energy in that room week after week was unexplainable. 

5. Disciplined Self-Evaluation that Leads to Improvement –  The idea of bringing our best and making everything look, feel, sound, and operate perfectly was wonderful; especially for an anal, disciplined, semi-OCD leader like myself.  I loved sitting in staff meetings and asking the question with a passionate team, “How can we do that better next week?”  In the end this was our blessing and our curse; because we had metrics and we focused on them.

There are things about attractional churches that I loved and now miss.

Now, as we move from “Come and See” to explore this “Go and Be” theology – this missional thinking – systems that encourage this in the church are beginning to and will continue to emerge. 

Will we be able to keep what we love and still become who we want to be?  Can we be both/and?

to be continued…

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Both/And? – 5 Things I Love About the Attractional Church

10 thoughts on “Both/And? – 5 Things I Love About the Attractional Church

  1. Hey Jeff – I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this series.

    My headstrong, “avant garde” bits get a bit impatient with stuff that is focused on “church” (as in the institution). In fact I have come to see the institutional church as pretty much irrelevant. But your thoughts are (uncomfortably) making me think!

    Reminds me of a conversation I had only recently with my sis-in-law, Carolyn. She has just returned from some spiritual R&R at the Hillsong Colour conference. Now Hillsong is MEGA church – we are (I suppose) missional. In my charitable, non-judging way (not!), I was ready to hear her reports of rampant consumerism and ra-ra performance oriented BLING!!!

    Instead, she recounted, with tears, stories about women kidnapped for the sex trade and her new resolve to be part of a groundswell to do something about it – AND how the focus had been on just allowing God to connect us (without agenda!!) with the people in our communities. I’m still picking up my dribbly, judgmental jaw!!

    Also, I can’t help thinking of another dear friend – who is WAY outside Christian culture & would not be accepted in a lot of churches. But guess what – she watches Hillsong TV in the mornings – because she loves the music!!!

    & ok – I admit it – I’m with Wendy – I miss the music too!

    Can’t wait to read the rest of your series!

  2. Cory says:

    …and again, the answer to the question is “No”.

    I understand why the questions are out there, but the fact that someone asks “can we be this, or that, or both?” isn’t the point.

    I’ve got it [hear the sarcasm in my voice]. Just go buy a book and read it, and do what it tells you to, and you are guaranteed success.

    It’s like people are looking for the perfect cake recipe, which everyone will love. As long as people are different, what they find “attractional” will be different. There isn’t one perfect recipe.

    For missional church: add one part of this, two parts of that, and BANG…successful church. For attractional church: add a little less of this and more of that…

    You get my point. Now, what if we take the two recipes for church and mix them together?

    If a missional church isn’t attractive, then you can forget it. Nobody will be there. Oh, and by the way, if an attractional church isn’t missional, then they are misguided and not doing what Jesus said to do. He never said make the gospel look “cool” and people will come. In fact, he said the opposite. He said “this will be tough, and people aren’t going to like you…but do it anyhow”.

    Too much time and energy and MONEY is being spent, trying to figure out the recipe. Oh…the money. How much could the church do with the $ spent on figuring out the best way to love someone?

    Just do it. Less crap, more Jesus.

    1. jeffandwendy says:

      So I get what you are saying and I echo your exhaustion with the constant conversation (honestly I do)…but I don’t think it is as simple as you make it sound; and I believe this is a conversation we need to be having.

      True there is far too much money and marketing spent on this; but the lack of intentionality is not an answer either. What kind of offering is that?

      “Hey Jesus. Yeah, you died creating this Kingdom life…this church thing; but we’re not going to focus on what we’re doing. We’re just going to throw some crap together we like and not think about what we are cooking.”

      And while I agree that yes, churches are going to have elements of both because they can’t help it (this is jumping ahead but you opened the door) the point is where we focus your energy, resources, and thought. No one will ever be purely one or the other…but if you aim for nothing you get it.

      Whether we acknowledge it or not, we have a recipe. I believe an undefined, unplanned, unintentional thrown together recipe is more dangerous than a misguided one. At least a misguided one is examined and evaluated. “Just do it” quickly desolves into “Yeah…that feels good.”

  3. Are “Kingdom” and “Church” the same thing? I don’t think so – & I think what we should be intentionally building is Kingdom. Jesus said HE would build His Church.

    There’s definitely a need to examine our intentions and the contextual ways in which we can (individually and as a community) live them out – ways to “build churches” apart from that – maybe not so much!

    1. jeffandwendy says:

      Good word Kerry. I’m busted. And I agree with you. I don’t think the Kingdom and the church are the same thing.

      Defining “church” is honestly something I’ve really struggled with. Could it be that “church” should simply be defined as a group of Jesus followers living together.

      If we can land on that understanding of “church” then when we talk about different types of church theory (missional vs. attractional vs. what ever) what I believe we are really discussing is the Kingdom life. What does it look like when we live it together? (I’m kinda making this up as I go…so hang with me.)

      So…if the “church” is us living the Kingdom life together and “discipleship” is us encouraging and equiping one another to live the Kingdom life, isn’t spreading the Kingdom life the same as building the church?

      That why these debates over what the church should look like is so important to me. We aren’t just talking about strategies and techniques. We are talking about by products of following Jesus. What does a group of Jesus followers look like?

  4. Well, Jesus only gave one criteria for identifying His followers (as far as I know) & that was… love! (thank you, Cory!)

    As for building kingdom being the same as building the Church… I’m not sure it is. (like you, I’m talking out of the top of my head, now) but I think God’s Kingdom (is that His influence? things happening according to His will??) is way larger than the Church will ever be. If we are building it, then people are likely to be drawn (dare I say, attracted?) to us as a group (Church) – but maybe not! The goal isn’t to make our “in-group” bigger – it’s to bring God’s Kingdom influence to earth…

    I think I’m raising more questions than I’m answering, here… but that’s what discussions are for!!

    1. jeffandwendy says:

      I love the questions. This is one of the reasons I write, to help me define what I believe.

      I understand the Kingdom to be the abundant life that Jesus’ followers live. It is that love defined by radical love that He lived and we follow. (Does that make sense.)

      The church then is a group of people living the Kingdom life together.

      We don’t grow the Kingdom…we live in it. We are part of growing the church as we share Jesus’ love.

      And I long for that to be simple. I wish that loving like Jesus loved came naturally to me; but it doesn’t. Imitating Jesus’ love takes every ounce of focus I have. So while I want to toss out the complexity of the institution I have to be careful not to toss out the complexity of discipleship as well (the dying to my self daily and taking up my cross).

      For me, conversation about church (attractional vs. missional) is conversation about how we do that. How do we encourage and equip one another to love like Jesus loved?

      And maybe, if we could start over from scratch and earse the institution from our lives then maybe it would be easier to love like Jesus…but our group has been meeting for a year now and we are still struggling to escape the trappings of institution (attractional church); which makes simply loving all the more difficult.

      Does that make any sense at all?

      1. I think it is not so much the “attractional church” you are struggling to free yourself from – it’s “building systems” in general – whatever you label them!!

        Sounds to me like you are still trying to “do stuff”. Rest. Let HIM do it!!

        Thank you for wrestling honestly through all my wordy crap earlier. God bless ya!

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