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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.

So what?

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?

Eric McKiddie is a husband, father of three, and one of the pastors at College Church in Wheaton, IL. You can follow Eric on Twitter (@ericmckiddie).

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Tim Owen

commented on Apr 13, 2016

I would suggest revising the statement atop your article that you want to avoid the polarizing topic. You make what could be construed as charged statements "avoiding excellence on principle," "contentment with mediocrity," and "the rest of the world is moving on." Do I as an individual believer have to be more polished to improve my witness to the lost and dying world around me? Perhaps more pointedly it would be valuable to show the biblical principles expounded in the various positions, perhaps relating to the seven churches or flaws called out by Paul and Peter and John in their epistles. Is it possible some called "non-attractional" are looking rather for God's presence to "inhabit the praises of His people" and not that their "hearts would be far from" Him. Play instruments with skill, but make a joyful noise. The excellency belongs to Him, and we might stand afar off beating our chest with head bowed giving Him ourselves as unworthy as we might be, rather than polished and up front yet not genuine. There are churches who would avoid anything that looks like production, primarily on the auspice that they desire not to "have the form of godliness but denying the power thereof." I'm always impressed when someone of skill and talent performs for the Lord and for us. I'm rarely moved by polish like I am by the little old lady making a sacrifice of praise with her two mites of talent, giving Him His full due. Perhaps what each of these labels lacks most is not a skillful, educated approach but a corporate pursuit of humility, "the true beauty of holiness."

Celita Louback Welsch

commented on Apr 14, 2016

Dear Pastor Eric, These four kinds of churches are so real . They are more dedicated how to perform each service than the zeal to keep the service perfect in worship in adoration,seeking the power from above than from themselves. We need a revival or a "correct,elegant preacher!. Some pastors seems to be more like peacock, actors, or impassive judges, legalistic and I ask the Holy Spirit: "Why these things happen and we have to watch churches full of people but not Spirit filled." The Holy Spirit has no freedom and is not in charge when pride is present.The revival comes when the church hears the message of the Spirit, anointed, powerful and brings brokenness and total surrender.

Gerald Graham

commented on Apr 14, 2016

I've been in large churches and I have been in small churches. I have found that the desire to glorify God and to be faithful to Him is the necessity of the church body. No matter how well you do things or not doesn't make the church grow in those two things. It only attracts people. Look again at the Revelations churches. Our Lord chastised them for their faithfulness not for how well they performed their services. Small churches does not equal lack of commitment, and large churches does not equal faithfulness. When will we ever get this through our heads?

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