Attractional and Missional | TheResurgence

February 21, 2009 — 11 Comments

Below is quote from a post a The Resurgence on the Attractional vs. Missional “debate”.

People often set up attractional church and missional church as polar opposites. Attractional has a come-to-us mentality. It’s about drawing people to the church. Missional is a go-to-them mentality. We take the gospel to people, meeting them on their terms and their turf.

But biblical missiology contains both elements.

via Attractional and Missional | TheResurgence.

At The Austin Stone, we are very much involved in both sides of the equation, and believe that biblically based and effectively leveraged, the Attractional and Missional concepts of church can be effectively married.

The post concludes with this point:

The problem with a lot of attractional churches is not their missiology, but their ecclesiology. Church is seen as a meeting. Attracting means attracting people to an event or even a performance. But biblical mission is about a community life, ordinary life, lived under God’s Word that attracts people to God.

I would tend to disagree…the problem with many attractional (more specifically seeker-driven) churches is their missiology, and basing their core strategy on addressing felt needs.  This leads to the improper ecclesiology based on consumerism, which develops into an event driven church.

Thoughts?

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

11 responses to Attractional and Missional | TheResurgence

  1. You’re asking a great question that is the source of much debate today. To quote Alan Hirsch “In 20 years this won’t even be a topic discussion.”

    The debate is not just about the Attractional/Missoinal relationship, but also the paradigm you mentioned of the relationship between Missiology and Ecclesiology. Which one informs and feeds the other? Stetzer would say our Christology informs both, Hirsch would say our Christology informs our Missiology which informs our Ecclesiology (and that there is a return influence as well), this seems to be what you’re saying. Most Reformed theologians that I know believe the opposite, that Ecclesiology informs Missiology.

    One day we’ll all know.

    My hope is that we all realize our biblical responsibility to engage and pursue individual, collective, and cultural renewal in our contexts. Add that together with the churches calling towards exaltation as well as incarnation, I wonder if it’s possible to do all without both the gathering (attractional) and sending (missional) components of church.

    Thanks for your thoughts. – Brandon Hatmaker

    • Brandon,
      I’m not sure where that quote from Hirsch came from, but I would respectfully disagree that this “won’t even be a topic of discussion” in 20 years. There is much effective ministry happening in the mega church context, and God is very clearly using a number of these kinds of missional/attractional churches throughout the US right now, and you rightly point out at the end of your comment that mission and attraction are coexisting phenomena. I’m just not sure this discussion will end because of so many significant movements of God that are based out of a mega church context (Mars Hill/Acts 29 as case in point).

      There is something inherently attractive to the tangible manifestation of the Spirit of God amongst the community of believers (you don’t have to go any farther than Acts 2:42-47 to see this…), and we are commanded by Christ personally and communally to go and make disciples as missionaries. The church, when Spirit led and on mission, expresses both the attracting and sending nature.

      I think my predominant point in this post (and a result of my church background) has to do with primarily seeker driven, heavily attractional style churches who are not expressing the Gospel in their attractional services, but primarily catering to the felt needs of the surrounding people they are reaching. This largely results in internally focused, consumer driven church culture and destroys any sense of individual mission and disciple making. The whole Gospel is rarely seen.

      Lastly, I don’t think it is about the size of the church, as much as the vision and implementation of disciple-making (individual, collective, and cultural renewal is included in that process) in that church. For some reason, most people have a tendency to believe that large scale churches are only attractional in nature, and if you really want to be missional varsity, you’ll scrap large scale meeting altogether. I’m just not sure that I buy the idea of missional excluding attractional, as you rightly point out at the end of your comment.

      Thanks for helping me work through some of these thoughts and fleshing out my ideas a little more!

  2. great conversation todd and brandon.

    “the problem with many attractional (more specifically seeker-driven) churches is their missiology, and basing their core strategy on addressing felt needs.”

    interesting thought. perhaps you can spell out why basing a core strategy on addressing felt needs is biblically inappropriate. doesn’t it seem that meeting felt needs is in fact integral in new testament missiology?

  3. Here’s my thoughts, take it as you like….

    Isn’t this the same old argument between modality (church that is mobile, going out) and sodality (church that is stationary building community where it is), except different words?

    I have seen churches on both sides of the extreme, and I believe, as you assert, both are needed. Not a balance between the two (as in pulling back emphasis in one or the other to keep it in line with the other) but rather seek both with a God-driven passion.

    As to what is the main problem of churches that only follow the model of sodality?

    He said, “Church is seen as a meeting. Attracting means attracting people to an event or even a performance.”

    You said, “basing their core strategy on addressing felt needs.”

    I’m of the opinion, why not both? Or neither? I think that the main issues that they do these things, is that they focus on these things as a strategy to building something they want, whether church size, community, salvation’s, etc…

    My argument is something completely different and not only addresses the problems of sodality but also modality (there are also tons of problems with churches that follow this model alone), and even problems in churches that do follow both.

    The problem of the modern church is that we rely heavily on STRATEGY.

    Stated simply, STRATEGIZING is one of the biggest problems of the modern church.

    What is strategy? Strategy is basing ones decisions on previous observations and experiences (All observations are previous, as we cannot see into the future). The basis of strategy is that if it worked in this one case or many cases, let’s expand that, duplicate it, and put our focus around it.

    My argument is that the growth and powerful testimony of the early church was due to the fact that they had NO strategy. They were both following modality and sodality before it was a ‘strategy’. They did things not as planned out events, but rather as reactions to events and most importantly, god-given passion and direction of “go here, do that”.

    People think Paul’s ‘be all things to all people’ was a strategy, but in fact that is the clearest statement of “I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m winging this, I will just react to who they are, where they are at, leaning on God’s direction and we’ll see how this goes.” It is a lack of planning/strategy. In fact I think it is clear Paul had no strategy beyond going where God asked, or leaving when God asked.

    So how can this be applied?

    First, the ‘Church’ should not be looking to other churches to see what to do next, what worked, etc…

    I know this is the thing to do. We all love to go to conferences, and to look at ‘successful’ churches to see how they did it so we can duplicate it and apply. But that really isn’t Biblical, is it? We have really commercialized the church and the process of growing church. I’m not saying the motivation is bad, but good motivation can still be wrong.

    Rather, the church should do what the early church did and always should have done, go to the big Boss ‘God’ and ask Him what He wants us to do. A church that does not believe God will give a direct answer to their questions is a scary place indeed. For it is Only God who does not base His strategy on previous results, or statistical data, but rather God knows the future, and knows the souls of each individual, and His plans are foolproof.

    I am not saying don’t get educated on how to better do your job, but you should always get the main direction and definition of what your job is only from God. It is always nice to better understand your demographics whether local (sodality) or distant (modality), but first rely heavily on God’s wisdom and direction, and know often, He will disagree and ask you to do something counter intuitive to today’s modern strategies, even strategies that worked.

    So how can we know what God wants us to do.

    1) Prayer (Ask Him)

    2) Get in His word and see how the Holy Spirit in us speaks to us.

    3) Look at our own soul and find out how God has impassioned us, what gifts he has given us, and run after that ignoring all other side distractions. Never do anything, no matter how important, nor how Good, if God has not called you to that and given you the god-given passion to pursue it. So many believers have been burned out/demoralized doing something they were not made to do because someone told them it was good/godly, and they should do it. Just because something is good, and others are called to it by God, does not mean you are.

    This is my passion, finding out people’s passions that God gave them, and help[ing them follow that.

    Thanks

    • Shaw,

      Here’s my answer…the biblical prescription for ministering to felt needs is definitely a ministry of demonstration. The primary purpose of declaration (pulpit ministry, evangelism, word, etc.) is a clear presentation of the truth of the gospel. Seeker driven churches have replaced the primacy of deed ministry in addressing felt needs with word ministry catering to them. This presents an insufficient gospel in many ways that leads often to moralistic, self-help, feel-good, event-driven, consumer-based churches.

      Felt needs strategy is fantastic in community development and ministries of mercy, but a terrible strategy for word ministry (you need look no further than Acts…). Word ministry is to be contextualized, not compromised…

      • Mark,
        Thank you for your comments. First, just to clarify, modality is the stationary, local expression of church, and sodality is the mobile, apostolic band expression.

        Secondly, I think the attractional/missional expression is certainly expressed differently in the two structures, but ultimately one is not “farmed-out” to the other. Both expressions are simultaneously attractional and missional, with one being more mobile and one being more sedentary.

        I could not disagree more with your assertion that “STRATEGIZING is one of the biggest problems in the modern church”. I think strategizing apart from the Holy Spirit is certainly a problem, but the far larger problem is a lack of identity as God’s sent people in the western church.

        I think your concluding statement is sound, but that does not negate long term vision and strategy. Let’s use an analogy. My son could very well obey the Holy Spirit to the fullest extent he is capable throughout the rest of his life, without any intervention from me. I would be a completely irresponsible parent, however, if I simply allowed him to make every decision as he saw fit. I have a long term vision for my son’s maturation, and development in the Lord, as I am biblically commanded to. I also have a strategy to reach the end of raising my son to know and fear the Lord. The strategy adapts and changes based on the maturity of my son, but there certainly is a long term view toward what I am trying to accomplish, and I am not outside the will of God in doing so.

        Similarly with churches and church planting. I believe there is a high value on vision and strategy that are submitted to the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 13 makes it fairly clear that leadership is a Godly and healthy part of obedience to Christ, and leadership must discern God as He is leading into the future. Your assertion that Paul had no strategy but the Holy Spirit is correct, but I think it is slightly reductionistic in how you verbalize it. Paul had directives that he followed from the Spirit, but also continued toward directives on faith that what God had spoken in the past was true. This is especially clear as he is progressing toward Rome in the latter portion of Acts. He wasn’t simply reactive, but steady and confident in His calling, and leading others along the way.

        Thanks for your thoughts, and I pray that we can continue to have good dialogue here!

  4. Todd.

    I think you missed my point. I agree with you. What Alan was saying about not being a discussion in 20 years is not that attractional is wrong and no one will care in 20 years. What he’s saying is that this argument (we hear every day) debating which is best or more important, Attractional or Missional, will no longer exist. What he’s arguing is that Missional will be an accepted part of church, whether they are mega, organic, attraction, etc…

    His statement is affirming that with the current trends, it will be the NORM for churches to be missional. Some will be huge, some small, but missional none the less. He’s encouraged by the diversity, but feels no one will be debating whether missional is biblical.

    I believe heavily in both the gathering (attractional) and sending (missional/incarnational) elements of the church. Both have every biblical precedent you could imagine. Size of church has nothing to do with that. As long as Exaltation is biblically mandated, we must gather… as long as Incarnation is biblically mandated, we must be sending. I don’t see that changing… I only see it becoming an increasingly balanced reality in the church.

    In fact, i’m seriously wondering about the sustainability of the western missional church with out the attractional component.

    As I said in my prior post, “Add… the churches calling towards exaltation as well as incarnation, I wonder if it’s possible to do all without both the gathering (attractional) and sending (missional) components of church.”

    My point is, I don’t think it is possible to do all we’re called to do with only one side. You have to have both. So we agree, my friend. Sorry if I was vague.

    Brandon

    What we did

  5. No problem Todd. As you know, context is everything. Sorry I didn’t explain more. BTW, it wasn’t a quote from a book, it was something Alan said in a conversation discussing the intentional partnering of organic, hybrid, and mega churches in the missional church world to create movement.

    It was good stuff.

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