Further Dangers of Attractionalism

This is a continuation from yesterday’s post: The Danger of Attractionalism
Attractionalism is the belief that creating an appealing church service and programs will attract unbelievers to come to church.
A second danger of attractionalism is that it misdirects the focus of church gatherings. When the church comes together, the purpose is not primarily to evangelize lost people. Rather, believers gather together to worship Jesus corporately and to be equipped for mission and ministry. It is not about “what the church service does for unbelievers as much as how well the service equips believers to ‘be’ in the world.” (Tim Willard, “Brilliant Irrelevance”)

A third danger is that people are attracted and won to the church instead of to Jesus
It’s possible for us to witness to our friends and get them all fired up and started to church without ever mentioning Jesus. The result is that they’re won to the church rather than to the Lord. They come into the body with all kinds of false assumptions and unrealistic expectations. They begin their faith experience with their hopes and dreams pinned on a group of imperfect people rather than the Lord of the universe. How can they help but be disappointed? (see Atteberry’s The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do, p25)

A fourth danger is that this strategy often grows a local church without enlarging the kingdom. Ed Stetzer points out: “Advertising claims of ‘programs for the whole family,’ ‘quality Bible teaching,’ and ‘full-featured choirs’ seem designed to attract members from other churches. But Jesus claimed that he had come to call outcasts rather than the righteous.” (Planting Missional Churches, p 43)

To truly be missionaries in their neighborhoods, Christians must not focus on attracting people to church. Instead, efforts must focus on incarnationally displaying the gospel to everyone everywhere. “It can never be sufficient to constantly construct programmes designed to pull people into sacred space, we have to also consider how we might invade secular space.” (Invading Secular Space, p 29)

A fifth danger in the attractional-invitational strategy is that when believers try to “invite, entice, coerce, or otherwise lure the unchurched to become involved in church life,” it requires an unbeliever to “take the first step and cross a cultural boundary in order to connect with God.” (Ortlip, “The 7 Languages of Culture”)

Jesus did not seek the lost in this way; Jesus always took the initiative to cross cultural barriers in order to reach people. He entered their world. He did not require them to enter His world.

Churches should not focus all the energies on marketing and making church attractive to lost people. Frost and Hirsch believe that “the attractional mode is so pervasive and so entrenched in the Western church that those who have grown up in it sometimes have a kind of default program in their imaginations.” (p 67)

However, imagine if the energies focused on getting lost people to come to church were invested in training and equipping every believer to be a missionary in their neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. Imagine if church services were intentionally focused every weekend on equipping believers as missionary disciplemakers. What would happen if churches stopped trying to attract “unchurched” people to come and hear the gospel in church and started equipping believers to go and proclaim the gospel and make disciples?

Disciplemaking has the potential to reach many more people for Christ. As Len Sweet observes, “The time for getting people to come to church is over. It is time now to get people to come to Christ.”
(Faithquakes, p 28)

Attractionalism (the belief that creating an appealing church service and programs will attract unbelievers to come to church) needs to be abandoned!

Author

Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
10 replies
  1. CL
    CL says:

    Dave,

    Long time reader, first time commenter and as a guy who is navigating to lead his church to fulfill its missional purpose in the world – your blog has been awesome. Thanks for continually placing these things before the “blog world” you have been a blessing to me.

  2. DaveDV
    DaveDV says:

    Thanks for your encouragement. Sometimes when no one comments, it makes me wonder if anyone is reading. Glad to know you are!

    “Lord, bless cl as he seeks to embody the mission and message of Jesus.”

  3. Sinapup
    Sinapup says:

    How do you think 1 Corinthians 9:22 plays into this? I personally think that depending on man at best is risky and that the only one who knows what he is doing is God. Perhaps the question isn’t what is or is not the church doing and a given place, but what am I doing where He has me?

  4. DaveDV
    DaveDV says:

    I think your individual alignment with the mission is critical. We should all ask ourselves: How am I embodying the mission and message of Jesus everywhere I am?

    See side bar: What is the Missional Challenge?
    ►to incarnate the gospel wherever you are!
    ►to be Jesus to everyone around you!
    ►to exegete the culture in order to communicate the gospel effectively!
    ►to embody the mission and message of Jesus in your life!
    ►to plant the gospel in the culture!
    ►to demonstrate and declare your hope in Jesus everywhere!

  5. Paul M Dean
    Paul M Dean says:

    Dave, Thanks for the challenges and the insights! I was with you at the CoachNet certification training in Hollywood last fall. (Remember the only high “C” in the group?) Your blog has been helping me stay focused on our true purpose and I am appreciating that. Keep up the good work! How has the “blog appeal” been helping?

    In His Service by His Grace,
    Paul M Dean

  6. Kristen
    Kristen says:

    Did you see the article Outside the Walls in the latest Outreach magazine? I seem to be getting “attractional vs missional” from all sides these days! Also quotes “The Externally Focused Church”.

  7. Sinapup
    Sinapup says:

    How do you think 1 Corinthians 9:22 plays into this? I personally think that depending on man at best is risky and that the only one who knows what he is doing is God. Perhaps the question isn’t what is or is not the church doing and a given place, but what am I doing where He has me?

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