The debate between being an attractional or missional church continues. I'm not a fan of a church that is only attractional, but I do think we can learn some things from the attractional approach:
- Have an intentional strategy to reach people. Too many churches are neither attractional nor missional because they have little commitment to reaching the unchurched anyway. An attractional approach is at least an intentional start.
- Think about the unchurched. You might argue that the attractional approach gives too much attention to them, but it does focus on non-believing people that the Lord loves. It pushes us to be outwardly focused.
- Promote excellence. The consumerism of the attractional approach may go too far, but it nevertheless requires us to strive for excellence. Far too many congregations act as if a shoddy, ill-prepared worship service is pleasing to the Lord.
- Keep moving people in the direction of evangelism. Few believers will ever share the gospel verbally, but perhaps inviting others to church is at least a move in that direction. An attractional model requires us to consider the spiritual state of others—a first step toward evangelism.
- Demand strong communication. Attractional approaches don't work if the delivery of the message is poorly done (and, of course, I'm assuming here that the message is clearly the gospel).
- Apply the gospel. Hearers need to understand how to apply the gospel to their lives during the rest of the week, and strong preaching takes them there through application. Show people where the gospel intersects their lives.
- Maximize the opportunity. We may get only one opportunity to proclaim the gospel to the unchurched person who unexpectedly attends our church. Tell it clearly. Tell it well. Passionately call people to Jesus.
Now, I'm not suggesting that missional churches don't exhibit these characteristics. Many, in fact, do. What I'm encouraging is an approach that is both attractional and missional: We move outside the church to live among the lost, take the light to them, share life with them and also invite them to corporate worship that is biblically sound and culturally aware.
We can learn from each other.
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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