In the last year or so in ministry, I’ve heard a significant amount of discussion in regards to the age-old “missional vs. attractional” argument. Most of the time it has to do with a person / pastor so entirely engaged in his perspective that he finds difficulty understanding or appreciating the other view.
My good friend, Chad Brooks blogs often in regards to missional ministry and has actually participated in a synchroblog on this subject. He and I often come to similar conclusions from completely separate directions, so I look forward to his response to this post… and yours as well. And so I now throw my hat into the discussion.
Missional is a difficult (if not impossible) term to define. As I understand it – and this is an opportunity for you to help me – to be missional primarily means to go out into the world living as missionaries in whatever life-context you find yourself in. It’s living “on mission.” As one church planter explained it to me, it’s communicating the Gospel in your day-to-day interactions with people, inviting them into a Christ-centered community as opposed to inviting them to a church context where the goal is an information transaction. Or, as best I can understand, it’s a “go and tell” evangelism.
Of course, then there’s the attractional model. Many evils have been ascribed to this model as it – according to some – lacks discipleship, authenticity, and true community. Clearly, the goal of the attractional model would be to invite non-Christians (unChristians according to Kinnaman) to attend an event – Sunday – in order to hear the Gospel presented to them from the pastor/preacher. Or, as best I can understand, it’s a “come and see” evangelism.
I realize that by attempting a short definition I am leaving out specifics that may be helpful to understand the reasoning behind these models of evangelism, so by all means, help my understanding.
Ultimately, here’s the thing I’d like for both sides of the discussion to keep in mind. Are you ready? Scripture calls us to both. Yup. Both.
You can’t be a completely “attractional” church. You have to encourage your people to join the movement of Christ in community and live “on mission” in their life context. Otherwise, why would anyone “come and see?” Even an attractional church needs a balance. Even Saddleback Church and the whole purpose-driven model of ministry understand and teach as one of their primary “purposes” that each of us is “made for mission.”
You can’t be a completely “missional” church. You will have something “attractional.” You will have something to invite people to. You can’t build a local church without people. And it would be completely irresponsible to “go and tell” people of the Gospel and not give them a Christian community (read “church”) to join in order to grow in Christ. Even the Acts 29 Network writes this under their explanation of being missional. We believe that our mission is to bring people into church so that they can be trained to go out into their culture as effective missionaries. That sounds as attractional as it does missional.
Pastors, we have to be both. Our churches have to be both. Jesus calls different people to different responses. The woman at the well in Samaria was a “come and see” Christian in John 4. When you encounter her in eternity, will you explain to her that she did it wrong? The man healed of blindness was a “go and tell” Christian in John 9. When you encounter him in eternity, will you explain to him that he did it wrong?
The tragedy is that we in church-leadership have found something else to divide us and argue about. Remember, however we may disagree on emphasis, we all follow the same Christ. We all serve the same LORD. Please don’t allow the missional / attractional argument distract us from the mission that we are called to be. Salt and light. I’ve never seen salt argue with salt, or light argue with light. Have you?