Instead of listing all the horrible aspects of the attractional strategy stereotype (plenty of people have done that so there is no need to do it here…it just gets me all angry and frustrated at a stereotype…nonsense), I’m instead going to explain a little of my story and how I came to missional thinking; then I’ll conclude and give my opinion.
As I said earlier, for us missional thinking wasn’t created in a vacuum…it wasn’t spawned in a lab or classroom somewhere. It was something Wendy and I came to while we were in the trenches of ministry.
We were working hard in ministries absorbed in the attractional church strategy, creating fantastic and fun worship experiences, building systems of programs to support them, constantly examining what we were doing with intense discipline, and seeing people’s lives changed. Most of the time we were loving it.
But there was this nagging voice in the back of our heads cynically questioning our programs and practices that defined “church” for us. It questioned how we were spending resources, why we spent so much focus on creating environments, why we preached “go and tell” but lived “come and see, and why we weren’t seeing Acts chapter 2 and 4 craziness.
We longed for Acts 2 and 4 craziness. The viral spread of the Gospel, people getting saved left and right, out of control love for one another and those in need…we hungered for it.
Frustrated with what we were doing, longing for more, we erased the white board. We separated our current practice from our thinking and asked the question, “Who are we (Jesus followers – a.k.a. the church) supposed to be?”
When we did that our eyes opened to all new possibilities and we fell in love with missional thinking. We fell in love with pure, unhindered-by-tradition-and-our-practices obsession with Jesus as Lord. We fell in love with the picture of every believer being a gifted and Spirit empowered missionary. We fell in love with the church being team of people on mission with God together. Our hope for viral spread of Jesus’ crazy love deepened and we began to dream of new possibilities the impact of God’s love if freed to run wild could have in our city.
Only then did we begin to see the need for organic systems and “apostolic leadership” (as Hirsch calls it). Only then were we able to see how our attractional practices actually hindered our missional vision.
We had to put our current stuff down first. We had to accept that all our practices, all our structures, all our programs, all our traditions, all the work we had done for almost a decade, everything that defined “church” for us was on the chopping block. We had to be willing to toss it all out (including my career as a pastor). We had to burn the ships.
So now to the “both/and?” in my opinion.
Here is my problem. If you are asking the question, “Can our church be both attractional and missional?” you haven’t let go of your current stuff yet. You haven’t burned the ships. You haven’t erased the white board. You’ve still got some things up there you want to keep.
And listen…that’s cool.
I mean it.
It’s okay. I get it. A lot of it is good. You have reached a ton of people with it. The Spirit has used it. People have been saved through it. And you love it. There is stuff about it that you think is incredible.
Just do those of us struggling to figure out what it means to be the missional church a favor – don’t call yourself a missional church.
You can say you love missional thinking. You can say you consider yourself to be a missional believer. You can say you are adopting practices of the missional movement. You can come up with your own word – “missio-attract-ional” or something.
But don’t say you are missional and attractional because you make it hard for those of us who have erased the white board by muddying the waters.
If you’re all in, then make the sacrifices, burn the ships, and be all in.
If your half in…maybe your not ready to go to organic simple structures, maybe you are uncertain about flat “chaortic leadership” (to quote Hirsch again), maybe you love the programs and want to keep some of them even though they don’t necessarily encourage a missional life…then own that you want to hang onto some stuff and say you are half in.
It can’t be both/and because chasing this missional rabbit demands you put down your current pursuits.
Again, you can be half and half. You can adopt some and leave some. You can pick and choose. But you are not “both”…you are some weird apple juice and coffee hybrid.
But listen bro…if it tastes good to you, drink it proudly.
I understand how impossible what I’m describing might sound. I was talking with Cory (my best friend who keeps me on my toes) earlier today and he said, “Don’t think your cool. The only reason you were able to walk away from everything is that you were too stupid to know better.”
He was teasing…but its true. When you are in attractional world, I know how ridiculous walking away from it all sounds. I get it.
It’s not for everyone. If its not for you…cool.
But for those of you out there that are stupid like me. Don’t wait. Erase the board, lean into the Spirit, and get out of the boat. Come and play on the fringe.