Attractional versus Incarnational: A Down-Under Perspective

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : August 6, 2005

Continuing in the flavor of my last post, I direct your attention to "Hamo’s" blog, Backyard Missionary, where a discussion is taking place about the incarnational versus the attractional church.

Here’s a snippet:

If Jesus were alive today and his mission was still to ?seek out and save the lost? what might he do?…Would
he hire a building, set up a sound system, develop a music team, drama
team, and then do local letterbox drops advising people that they could
come and be part of his church on Sunday? Frankly I don?t believe this
approach to mission would rate a blip on his strategic radar. The so
called ?attractional? mode of mission centres its focus on the church
service and is dedicated to producing an event that pagans will want to
come to. The theory goes that the more professional the service is, the
funkier the music, the better the coffee, and so on… the more likely
the punters will come, hence the term ?attractional?. As such the
success of mission in this mode is almost always measured by the number
who attend on Sunday…I would argue
that this ?attractional mission?, while effective for a few, is
actually a case of putting the cart before the horse. Deciding on a
form of church and then trying to make it so that people want to come
is mission in reverse. There is a growing awareness that pagan Aussies
do not want to come to church and simply making the Sunday event more
attractive is not the answer to this problem. Perhaps the question we
ought to ask ourselves is ?why do we think they would want to come to
church?? Was it ever Jesus? intention that non-Christians should seek
us and desire to attend our worship events? Or didn?t he say quite
clearly that it was his calling, and now ours to ?seek out and save the
lost? to ?go? to their world and enculturate the gospel there. Little
Bo Peep evangelism (leave em alone and they?ll come home) is fast
running out of steam as the Christian story ceases to be the dominant
framework for Australian people to interpret their spirituality.

contrast the incarnational approach to mission is refreshingly simple.
It requires us to live amongst the people in our communities, love
them, share the good news of the kingdom both in action and in speech
and then as people become followers of Christ to form up indigenous
communities of faith that reflect the specific context. This requires
no great resources or buildings, no slick marketing plans and no highly
talented people. In incarnational mission the gatherings exist to
support the believers as they move out in mission rather than being
seen as the place to bring people to. While attractional churches will
continue to dominate the landscape of the Christian world, I strongly
believe that hope for the future lies increasingly with an
incarnational approach to mission that takes both gospel and context
seriously and sends Christians out as missionaries rather than calling
pagans to come and attend church.

Over the next week or so, the focus of my blogging will be about incarnational approaches to church.  I’ll try to profile an incarnational practice each day.

for further reading . . .

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2 Responses to “Attractional versus Incarnational: A Down-Under Perspective”

  1. Subversive Influence on August 8th, 2005 12:03 am

    Ecclesiology Roundup

    Hamo has a good post on Incarnational v Attractional Mission, which is linked by Van S and linked and discussed by Justin Baeder, following up has post, From Congregation to Aggregation Ecclesiology. His post is also duplicated at Emerging Evangelism…

  2. Mathias on August 15th, 2005 5:05 am

    Hmm, seems like an interesting post, haven’t got time to fully read it now, so I’ll check back later.

    God bless!

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