Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Missional and Attractional

Lately, the terms "missional" and "attractional" seem to be coming across my "church planting strategy radar" quite a bit. As best as I can make out, the people talking about being "missional" vs. "attractional" are talking about more or less the same thing as others several years back who were talking about a "go" model of church vs. a "come" model of church. Some of the more interesting articles I came across when I typed in "missional" and "attractional" into Google can be found here, here, and here

From my somewhat limited perspective as a missionary in Spain for the past 16 years, I think the general concept of being "missional" as opposed to "attractional", especially when it comes to reaching the "unchurched", is very valid. As "missional" people, we need to learn about the culture of those we are trying to reach, and "make ourselves all things to all men" in order to reach as many as possible. And the truth is there are tons of people out there who are never going to come to our "come" model churches, who might be open to becoming true, authentic disciples of Jesus, if approached the right way.

At the same time, though, I have picked up on the part of some a possibility of doing an "overkill" on the "missional" thing. I believe that New Testament ministry and evangelism is best done out of the context of a committed community of believers. A few years back, I believe the Lord taught me an important lesson from 1 John chapter 1. There we see 3 levels of community

First, the foundational level of community we have as believers with God the Father and God the Son. Verse 3b: "And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."

Next, the community we enjoy with one another as fellow believers. Verse 7a: "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another."

And finally, on the basis of these first two levels of community, we invite others to enter into this community with us. Verse 3a: "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us."

I believe that whenever we attempt to skip over level 2, and go directly from level 1 to level 3, we are missing out on a key element of God’s plan of reconciling the world to Himself. Jesus said "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13.35).

Yes, indeed, we must go out into the "highways" and "hedges" and look for lost souls. No doubt about it. But, if, in the meantime, we lose contact with the church, the community of the redeemed, I believe we have in the long run short-circuited our evangelistic and "missional" efforts.


tim rogers said...

Brother David,

Great post. I am especially interested in the 1 John passage and the three times "fellowship" is used. I do not want to place your thoughts some place you never intended, but, would you say by going from step 1 to step 3 we further open the back door and miss discipleship altogether?

Also, the first article you referenced Incarnational vs. Attractionable has some great thoughts.

Thanks for the insight.

Serving Him Supporting you,

Anonymous said...

So where exactly is the church in your definitions of community?

David Rogers said...


I would imagine many of those who are advocating a pure "missional" as over against an "attractional" model would have some plan or another for discipleship, and even for keeping a "tighter back door". However, I would tend to agree with you that this is best accomplished in the context of a church community that regularly gathers, and invites others to join them in their already existing fellowship.

David Rogers said...


I am not sure exactly what you are asking, but I will take a stab anyway...

If you are asking what do I consider to be a church, I am fine with the IMB Church Definition and Guidelines I reference in the Historical Documents, part 14, post. Of course, there are other more technical definitions out there.

If you are really asking "where" is the church, I would say "wherever two or three are gathered in (Jesus's) name, there is (He) in the midst of (them)", and there you have an authentic expression of Christian community as well. This is "fleshed out" in the practice of the "one another" passages of the New Testament, though.

David Rogers said...

Anonymous (and anyone else who happens to care),

IMB Western Europe Member Care Consultant Jeff Whitfield gives has an excellent post that gives a more detailed answer to your question called "The Essence of the Church" at

Sure wish I knew how to get hyperlinks in the comments section...

Ken Sorrell said...


It is interesting to me that when asked to define the church, most will default to a "form" definition rather than to an "essence" definition.

The attractional model of church, from my limited perspective still seems to be the model of choice and the model of public recognition and accolades. All types of activities continue to keep Christians inside the church building rather than encouraging, equipping, and enabling them to go into all the world.

The normal Christian life is not how many hours a week we are at church, but how often are we are salt and light in a lost world.

Theophilus said...

David, thanks for blagging my blog. I've linked to your post on my blog as well.