You may have noticed that there has been a bit of conversation around the web about “attractional” churches. The question is often posed as to whether your church is attractional or missional in regard to its approach to reaching the lost.
Rather than discuss that polarization, I’d like to take a moment to look at the four places churches land with respect to attractionalism. Most articles ask, “Are you attractional, or not?” I’d like to ask, “Since every church is attracting someone, do you know who you’re attracting and why?” I suspect that most churches (in the US at least), fall into one of the following four categories.
Four churches on the attractional spectrum
1. At one end of the spectrum, you have anti-attractional churches. They are explicitly against anything that would smack of production. These churches avoid excellence on principle, arguing that worship is more authentic when there is a homespun feel to it. The irony is that this attracts other anti-attractionally minded people (also known as “grumpy legalists”) to their church.
2. There are two kinds of churches toward the middle. One is the non-attractional church. This could feel like the anti-attractional church if you visited on a Sunday, just without the vitriol behind the scenes. They are not non-attractional on principle, like the first group. It’s unintentional for them.
Small churches that lack resources – budget, musicians, current technology – can fall into this category. But big churches that have lots of resources, but get stuck in a certain decade stylistically, can end up in this category, too.
3. The other church in the middle is the attractive church. This church brings an intentional thought process to its service – sermon, music, production, print materials – with an effort the service itself to be appealing to believer and unbeliever alike. The production of the service is not the main draw for an unbeliever, but thought goes into making sure the service doesn’t unnecessarily repel an unbeliever.
4. At the other end of the spectrum are attractional churches. In this case, the service itself is the draw, so a lot of energy, time, money, and talent go into making Sunday morning as exciting as possible.
The temptations that each of these churches face
It’s probably clear enough that I recommend the third option above. But each of these churches, even those that seek to be attractive while preaching a foolish, stumbling block of a gospel, face temptations.
Anti-attractional churches need to repent of pride and Phariseeism. Indeed, it is legalism that lands them in the anti-attractional camp in the first place.
Non-attractional churches need to beware of contentment with mediocrity. The status quo is working for them for now. But if they are stuck in a certain decade stylistically, the pool of people they are likely to reach is ever shrinking, since most of the world is moving on. Also, perhaps they wish they could be more attractive, but they just don’t have the resources. In this case they need to watch out for envy.
Attractive churches, because of their appreciation for aesthetics and ability to pursue them, can be drawn toward becoming attractional. They have to watch out that they don’t slip down the attractional slope. They also need to watch out for pride (“We’re the balanced ones!”).
Attractional churches — and this not a new insight — are tempted to marginalize the gospel and define success with standards that are according to the flesh.
Are you self-aware enough to know which category you are in? Have you chosen to be in that category, or have you drifted into it? Are you succumbing to the temptations of unique to where you land on the spectrum, or are you fighting against them in order to be as thoroughly biblical a minister of the gospel as you can, for God’s glory?