To catch the blog post about Missional VS. Attractional CLICK HERE!
Each church planter is seemingly faced with a choice as to what path they will take, deeming one path as the way of the Jedi, and the other as the dark path that must never be ventured down, lest it forever dominate their destiny. However, those that watched the prequels know that only Sith deal in absolutes. The difficulty with glorifying one model at the expense of demonizing the other is that the Spirit may be working through both.
From the 1st Century onwards, Church history is packed with examples both missional and attractional. Those that have gone before us seemingly utilized both approaches as they followed their call to proclaim the gospel and expand the borders of the Kingdom of God.
Charles Spurgeon, a favorite among many missional community leaders was so attractional that he had to ask his congregation to limit their attendance to the Metropolitan tabernacle to 3 out of 4 Sundays so that the massive crowds in London could be accommodated. There was even a special ferry crossing the Thames on Sundays whose conductor would yell, “Over the water to hear Charlie!”.
If that’s not attractional, nothing is.
Whitefield and Wesley used a combined approach of the missional and attractional models. In the fields, they attracted crowds of thousands, broadening the Methodist movement. Wesley recognized the need to gather the converts into house groups where discipleship would be fostered and the “Experience Meeting” was born. These groups, known as “Societies” became future church plants after Wesley and Whitefield rode away on their horses and into the sunset.
Even Paul the apostle strategically used the attractional model when he visited the synagogues. He repeatedly spoke in the synagogues, knowing that it’d create a riot, bringing crowds that he could preach to. In Jerusalem, they rode the middle line between the two extremes by meeting publicly in the temple courts, and from house to house in smaller groups. What about Jesus? Crowds of plus 5000 followed him, and at Passover he did many miracles in Jerusalem so that his fame spread. Nonetheless, these things didn’t thrill him, and the gospels testify to his favoring the smaller, more intimate settings.
In fact, the first thing that the Holy Spirit did when He fell at Pentecost was attractional in nature. He stirred up tongues of fire over the heads of the apostles, gave them supernatural abilities to be walking talking Rosetta stones, and filled them with so much joy, they appeared drunk.
And this drew a crowd…
And a massive crowd was just what the Doctor ordered. Peter rocked the mic with the gospel and 3000 were saved that day like a primitive Billy Graham crusade. Although it’d be unpopular today to state that you kicked off at the tee line with a massive outreach, or crusade, that’s how it happened back in the 1st Century.
The attractional stroke of the Spirit falling at Pentecost was the master plan of Jesus getting down to business in Jerusalem. From that day on, the church went missional as evidenced by Acts 2:42, but here’s the kicker; they didn’t cease being attractional. Acts 2:46 encapsulates the bilateral attractional and missional movement of the early church “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes”. They continued to meet in the public spaces of the temple in massive crowds on a daily basis, and broke up to “do life together” in homes. You could say that the miracles that Peter did were attractional in that they drew massive crowds to the frustration of the Sanhedrin.
If balance to the force was good enough for Jesus, Paul, Whitefield, and Spurgeon, then the question is “Why choose?”.
Should the attractional and missional models be locked in a head to head battle to the finish like two immortals from the Highlander series. Who said “There can be only one” anyways?
Like a political battle, people are often mistakenly forced to choose between two bad options without realizing that there may be a third, and better alternative. When forced into a false antithesis, we often sacrifice the best properties of the model we don’t like, and close our eyes to the weaknesses of the one we favor.
I can imagine that once upon a time there were two types of people. There were those who ate jam sandwiches, and those who dug on peanut butter sandwiches. Then, somebody had a disgusting idea. Somebody came along who wanted it all; somebody who’d had enough of being forced to choose between the two false choices. Some genius solved the dilemma by combining two differently slathered pieces of bread and created a masterpiece.
In 2008 I had the opportunity of listening to Steve Timmis, Director of Acts29 Western Europe, Founding planter of Crowded House, Architect of Porterbrook Network Training materials, and Author of Total Church. He was speaking to a small gathering of planters from the Acts29 and New Breed networks. What he said stunned us all. After nearly 30 years pioneering the missional community movement in Sheffield, Steve confessed that Crowded House had missed. At that time Crowded House was a network of house churches spread throughout Sheffield at roughly 1000 people strong. They would start new missional communities whenever the last one started reached 20 people, and the resulting growth was exponential. Timmis confessed the realization that there were still swaths of people who’d never be reached simply because they’d never feel comfortable entering a stranger’s home. As a missionary to his own culture, Steve had recognized a cultural barrier to the gospel and sought to leap the hurdle.
You guessed it…
They started meeting in a larger gathering once a month. It was evangelistic in nature and intended to serve as a catchment for those untouched by the missional community model. For many the church had a great living room, but no front door. These larger gatherings served as the front porch to the church allowing many more to cross the threshold and step into the living room of the church. Like Paul, Timmis became all things to all men, in order to win some.
Whatever model the Spirit leads you in, it’s important to remain humble, and open to what God might be doing elsewhere.