September 2, 2016

Attractional v. Missional

Note: Before reading this post, you may want to start here.

When I hear a Christian leader use the term "attractional" to describe their church, it typically implies to me that they are:

  • Growth oriented: They are intending to attract more attendees to their programs. They want to have greater participation in what they provide
  • Experience specific: Therefore, they are attempting to provide an experience that is winsome to the visitor and provides an encounter with God.

The movement in the attractional church is towards the sanctuary, towards the Sunday experience.

When I hear a Christian leader use the term "missional" to describe their church, it typically implies to me that they are:

  • Neighbor oriented: They are spending significant time listening to and watching their neighbors, their community attempting to discern what God is doing there.
  • Context specific: Therefore, they are doing their best to understand the community, embracing its hopes and needs and aligning with an agenda around these.

The movement in a missional church is towards the community, towards the neighbor.

These are frequently placed in opposition to each other.

Here's my question: why can't you do both?

In fact, I think you have to do both.

When you don't do both you're neither attractional or missional.

(We're going to get sick of these two terms fast aren't we?)

I've been around a lot of churches of all types and sizes and I know that there are plenty of churches that:

... would think of themselves as "attractional" yet are the furthest thing from attractive or winsome. They do not understand their context, their community and therefore are unable to attract those people. This is the case of a supposed "attractional" church failing to do the necessary "missional" work of knowing the community, their market and responding accordingly.

... would think of themselves as "missional" yet are no more than disenchanted or bored church folks sitting in a coffee shop, bar or dining room. No one wants to join their group. They know nothing of the community around them. They're too busy talking about how to be a different kind of church. This the case of a supposed "missional" community failing to do the necessary work of attracting others with a winsome invitation into the gospel message embedded in the language and form of the context they find themselves in.

Attractional versus missional models of church is a false dichotomy. In order to be a healthy church, you ought to embrace both traits.

The rest is a matter of scale.