A Question or Two

Here’s a good question that came in at the end of the comments of this post.

Is it possible for a local church to be both attractional and missional and still make an impact on the culture ? For example : Can we still invite people, have gospel meetings, seminars,vbs, etc. and also reach out to the community with kind expressions of love , compassion ,personal evangelism ( or whatever term you may use) . Outreach that goes way beyond what occurs at a building . An honest question.

It seems we do tend to talk about attractional and missional in terms of either/or rather than both/and. Do they have to be held in opposition to each other or can they actually complement one another? Would you say that Jesus’ ministry was both attractional and missional?

Some might say that the term missional means more that just doing things away from the building. When we say missional are we actually meaning incarnational or are those terms synonymous or do they mean two different things?

I recently heard a leader explain the reasoning for making changes in a worship assembly as being done in order to be more missional? Is that the right term to use to defend such a move?

No answers here yet. Just questions.

Whaddyathink? Are we making too much out of the meaning of words or does the way we use these words actually end up shaping our approach to ministry or at least betraying our underlying assumptions about how it should be done?

Are we really changing the way we do church or are we continuing to do what we’ve always done while making ourselves feel better by calling it something new?

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  1. Thanks for sharing this question, it’s been on my mind lately.

    I’m seeing larger churches becoming more missional in their ministries and with their money. Even looking at Saddleback- they aren’t what they were 10 years ago. They’re much different, but they still have much of what they did.

    I worship with a church that is more organic in nature, definitely missional in it’s ministry (we’re quite selective), finances (i think like 40% goes to the community) and our building (we meet in a shopping center). I feel opposed to larger churches trying to be more missional, because I think it takes more than just ADDING more ministries. It takes evaluation, thought and life adjustments for the entire congregation.

    I think we better ACT first and become missional in our living, with our money as a church and as believers, with our time as a church and as believers and second importance be our words, thoughts, banners, and advertisements.

  2. who said we can’t be missional in everything?

  3. I think you have to be very purposeful in what you’re doing. It would be great to be missional and attractional, but the two seem to be at odds with eachother in some ways that could be difficult to bring them together. Of course, my understanding of the terms could be off, but it seems that the emphasis of an attractional church is on plugging people into the programs the church has to offer. In such a church, the only spiritual gift needed or represented is that of inviter. The church authorities do all of the work and the whole thing turns into a bit of a show in which we try to convince people to follow Jesus either through their brain or through their emotions. My church has an AWANA program, which I’m not compeltely against, but as a public school teacher, I can tell you that the moment any kid who is growing up in an unchurched family goes home, he or she is again surrounded by all the junk the AWANA program is trying to deprogram out of them! I think that this sort of thing, AWANA, is great for what it does and when it does it, but the piece that is missing are the other 166 hours in the week where Christ is not alive in that child’s life.
    I think that the goal of the missional church is to invite people to “taste and see” Jesus and that requires us to actually be missionaries – to live amongst those we are reaching out to; to be incarnational – the hands, arms, feet, legs, ears, mouths, and chest of Christ.
    Like I said, I think that the two – missional and attractional – can co-exist (as I understand them), but we must make sure that we are not being attractional for the purpose of shifting the responsibility of being Jesus to those we pay – ie, you!

  4. My sense is that missional and attractional are more values than strategies….Values that tend to have different theological trajectories….and manifestations. We all know that missional is deeper than what goes on at the building vs. what goes on away from the building. However, what a great indicator! For communities that have quite an investment in getting everyone together….to justify facilities, contributions, or whatever…..the whole missional strategy could be a veneer that attractional communities use to become more attractional….which I guess is ok……just a little different type thing of what I see going on in communities that are planted with the intent to participate in the misseo dei

    Short answer: yep- both probably do exist since we learn new things slow..but nope they probably don’t compliment each other too well.

  5. As I understand the terms, I’m not sure it’s possible to be truly Christ-like without being both “missional” and “attractional”. Although, in this context, the terms are verbs that describe the action of a body (church), Christ worked on both missional and attractional levels. While seeking others, word of his mission spread and others began to seek him. At the core of Christianity is revolutionary change. Some churches are attractional simply for the sake of attracting (numbers). If, however, a church is attractional as a means to empower and inspire people to reach out again (a circular cycle) and live out Christ’s mission, then maybe it is another method for living out the word.
    I completely respect our need for such terminology, but while labels seem to satisfy our need for structure and organization, we can easily dilute their meaning with misuse, overuse, or give them too much emphasis and miss the point completely.

  6. I would like nothing more than to see churches that are basically attractional making greater efforts to make a difference in their community in tangible ways. I personally would love to see that.

  7. It seems like both can be incorporated to reach people. You can invite someone to attend the assemblies of the church. They can observe the church in worship and as the church is edified and equipped . Then we leave the assemblies to go out to the world around us to proclaim the good news, to be involved in good works, to be an example ,to be Christ-like in all we say and with our words, and to participate in numerous ministries of compassion. Jesus reminds us that the world will know we are His disciples by the love we show to each other in the church. We can make a difference by inreach and outreach. Whatever is involved in atrractional minsistry or missional ministry can all add up to efforts at reaching people who are lost, hopeless, empty,and hurting.

  8. As a layman, I probably don’t have a very good grip on what the terms are _supposed_ to mean in theological circles. However, at face value, weren’t Christ’s ‘missional’ activities (healing the sick, forgiving sins, helping the poor, etc) also attractional from a results perspective? The more he worked and taught, the more people came to see what was up. At least until he got into the ‘hard teaching’.

    So it would seem to me that the one becomes the other at some point. Which is not to say that they are the same, but only that they should certainly be able to coexist. It seems to me that the challenge is not to ignore the missional and just focus on the attractional. ‘You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.’

  9. Either taken to extremes will necessarily make the other incredibly difficult, if not impossible. However, like most things, a balance of the two, while likely requiring vigilant maintenance, can be complementary.
    If we are defining Missional as community outreach and programs that benefit members of the community not necessarily members of the congregation, and Attractional as congregational inreach, and programs focused on members and their interests.
    I personally abhor women’s retreats and fellowship groups, they always seem to me like those annoying cliques from High School, but more boring. I always feel compelled to go because I work at a very attractional church, and it is expected of me. I would much rather get the whole group trained to volunteer at the local crisis pregnancy center (our town has the highest teen pregnancy rate in TX).

  10. I am not sure that either approach is really as distinct from each other as it may seem at first blush. It is possible that the “mega-church” paradigm may have been somewhat missional in a culture that used to value an institutional approach to life. It seemed to work well at the time, and yes there were many devoted and faithful disciples that were nursed in that environment. Whether it is missional or attractional, the question is whether ministry is incarnational and contextual. What does that look like in our emerging culture? I think we are already seeing what it looks like. Those of us that are younger welcome the change because it speaks to us, and those of us that are older find it more difficult, just as we find the cultural changes that are not reglious difficult. It seems to me that attractional and missional go hand in hand. It also seems to me that we can spend so much time talking about it academically that we miss the whole point and there winds up being more talk that action. The missional mindset is about engaging incarnationally with the world with the message of the Reign of God. “Reign of God,” what a loaded term! I believe that getting a handle on what that means will help to clarify what it means to engage missionally with our world.

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