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.