Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Attractional and Missional

This could really backfire on me.

I created a chart recently to include in our handout for Element's Vision Night that was meant to aid me as I unpacked what it meant for our community to be missional. One intrinsic problems with creating a contrast like this is that it can communicate an "us vs. them" sentiment, which is not really what I had in mind (honestly). It can also communicate Element's ministry philosophy and practice as merely a reaction to another form, and while we do find ourselves in rebellion to some aspects of "cultural Christianity," Element doesn't exist to be what other churches are not.

This is a revised version of the chart. The original was less "nice," and after running it by some pastor friends of mine, and having them confirm my already existing unease with the one-sidedness, I was encouraged to make it more evenhanded.

There are a few more disclaimers I could add, but I'll only offer one more. I've done the attractional worship paradigm for fifteen years, as a staff member, as a church member, and as an apologist/proponent. I get it. And while I no longer think the attractional paradigm as typically implemented is sufficiently biblical (or even successful), I know those who work it have the best of motives (and even some verses). I don't offer this contrast as a "bad vs. good."

Also, the missional paradigm I'm presenting here represents a specific stream of worship models within the missional movement. This is essentially what missional means for Element; it isn't meant to illustrate the broad spectrum of missional ecclesiology.

So here it is . . .

If anyone would like, I would be happy to elucidate what is meant by any of these contrasts (or illustrate them as pertains to Element) in the comments.

16 comments:

Marc Backes said...

The term that struck me the most was "Worship as reflection"....

A good way to coin that sentiment...I'm assuming by reflection that you mean a reflection of who we are rather than something you come to?...

Another way to say that might be also "Worship as expression"...

Great list...

Jared said...

Thanks, Marc.

I actually kind of meant "reflection" as in "reflecting back to God his goodness." I originally had "adoration" there in place of "reflection," but I was trying to avoid needlessly implying that the attractional model isn't meaning to worship God.

That particular comparison refers to how the "worship time" in an attractional service is somewhat concerned with appealing to the congregants (with bells and whistles and versions of the latest pop songs, etc) while the worship time in our missional service (even if it occasionally involves bells and whistles and a pop song) is primarily preoccupied with theo-centricity, not what will best "rock the house."

As I rethink it now, I probably could/should have put "music" there instead of "worship," in both columns.
I was using "worship" in its narrow, programmatic sense, as it refers to the music in a worship service.

You and I both know everything in the service (and everything outside) is worship of somebody. :-)

Bill Kinnon said...

I like this alot, Jared.

nhe said...

Jared - I know this isn't supposed to be a "bad vs. good" but do you think anyone would look at this and say "I prefer attractional"?

I go to a pretty standard Willow Creek Assoc seeker church, with a well-meaning church staff that would look at this chart and say - yeah, we're too much (unintentionally) on the left side, we need to be about the right-side. I think it's ok for you to admit this is kind of "bad vs. good"

Some of the items on the attractional side WERE seeker church values 15 years ago - but I don't think any of them are now.......for example "program driven" has become a 4-letter word in just about every church I'm familiar with these days - there's been a big push to NOT be that.

I sound like I'm slamming the chart, but I actually really like it - I think it would be VERY helpful as a "check-up" for any church.

I guess I'm really wondering if "attractional" is a valid paradigm anywhere any more.

I LOVE the last one regarding the gospel - implicit vs explicit - I think that a regular/explicit gospel drives ALL the others on the attractional side toward the right side.....example - our church is pushing hard toward an Acts 2/gospel centered small group ministry, but that is flat out NOT GONING TO WORK if our messaging from up front is not regular/explicit gospel - that has been our problem - I'd argue that is the biggest reason why well-meaning churches stay attractional without even knowing it.

Jared said...

Thanks, Bill. Your word means a lot to me.

Jared said...

nhe, thanks for your comment. Excellent questions/insights.

You wrote:
do you think anyone would look at this and say "I prefer attractional"

Actually, I do. I mean, I'm sure some would quibble with my labels. But I know some missional folk who would quibble with the right side labels as well. For instance, "preaching as proclamation" is not much en vogue in many churches self-identifying as missional. They prefer conversations or something like that. Preaching itself is getting hammered.

You wrote:
I guess I'm really wondering if "attractional" is a valid paradigm anywhere any more.

I do know the attractional model is still going strong, mainly among a wide layer of churches and ministries that don't even know about the missional conversation. In that vein, I'd say your church is somewhat unique.

I also am picking up some positive signs from the ground level of a couple of attractional big dogs you've likely heard of, but any transitions happening there aren't for me to share and will likely take time to effectively implement anyway.

But I think the attractional machine is still up and running. Read some of the comments over at Monday Morning Insight sometime or in the threads at some of the megachurch pastor blogs.

"program driven" has become a 4-letter word in just about every church I'm familiar with these days

I hope you're right, honestly.
But I don't know that I share your certainty.
I know of churches in my area who are still convinced the right leader or the right program will transform the _______ in their church. Conferences, kits, consultants, etc. I know personally several places still looking for the elusive magic bullet.

our church is pushing hard toward an Acts 2/gospel centered small group ministry, but that is flat out NOT GONING TO WORK if our messaging from up front is not regular/explicit gospel

Holy cow, yes. Enormous insight. I hope you are in a place to be able to express this to the people who need to hear it.

And it's weird that you wrote this. I have planned and am going to write this week a piece about this very idea. It's going to be called "Small Groups Start on Sunday Morning."

You can't insert a small group program that automatically makes a congregation full of people interested in small groups who weren't interested before. You have to cultivate the need/desire for it over time from the pulpit. We can't expect week in and week out appeals to the self-centered, consumeristic drives of modern evangelicals with "Six Steps to a Greater You" and "How to Be Awesome At Work" to create a desire in people to be less self-centered and more hungry for "having all things in common" in a small group during the week.

But I'll stop, b/c I wanna save it for the post. :-)

Anyways, thanks for weighing in. Your input is great.

nhe said...

Thanks Jared, I think your point may be illustrated here - my wife and I led a small group of new believers this past year, several of whom came to the group with the notion that "if we can just get our neighbors to the Sunday Service, they'll be saved"....when we challenged them on that, they quickly realized "yeah, they need to see Jesus in us, not in how great our guitar player is".......but the question becomes, "how did they come to think that way to begin with?" The church trumpets what it values - impeccable musicianship and semi-challenging but overall "innocuous for the masses" preaching.

That's what I think about our services anyway. I can tell the people leading love Jesus, but I "remember" the great guitar solo.

Also to your point, several months ago, our pastor gave a nice "what are your Ninevahs?" sermon from Jonah - but without ever mentioning Jesus -- what the heck?!.......Our pastor was challenged on this particular sermon and quickly admitted that it was "unintended" to leave Jesus out.....to his credit, he's been more intentional since......

He's a guy though, that would look at this chart and completely value the right side. I just think that your average misguided/well-meaning pastor would look at this and say "we're here, but we need to be here" - I just don't know anyone that would steadfastly hold to the left-side.

I can't wait for your "small group values must come from the pulpit" post!

david w said...

could you elaborate on the last one - gradual, implicit gospel vs regular, explicit gospel?

gospel itself is so widely interpreted so I'm not sure I know what you mean in this comparison..

thanks for sharing this chart. and i would agree that there is still much doctrinal positioning out there that would gravitate toward attractional rather than missional, although that is becoming harder and harder for me to wrap my head around.

Jared said...

could you elaborate on the last one - gradual, implicit gospel vs regular, explicit gospel?

In my experience in the attractional paradigm, the sharp edge of the gospel (sin/grace) is typically reserved for special circumstances or rarely taught explicitly from the stage. The worship enterprise is designed to make seekers or lost folks comfortable and connected, and then the gospel is shared in other venues.

In the earlier version of this chart, the labels I had were "Trojan horse gospel" and "In your face gospel," but I think I appropriately discarded those descriptors. :-)

A good example is the typical attractional student ministry. It leads with loud music, pizza, video games, movies, and sorts of other things, uses Bible lessons applied to family or school life to fertilize the ground (so to speak), and then at some other point presents the "plan of salvation" in hopes of getting decisions.

In some churches, though, the gospel never shows up. The Trojan horse is empty.

In our approach, the gospel is everywhere. We talk about the real problem (sin) and the real solution (Christ's atoning work) every chance we get, and while we don't do it in a revivalist invitational kind of way, we still know that it turns some people off (Christians and non-). But we believe faithfulness to that which Paul said was of "first importance" is more important than being impressive or appearing "relevant."

(What's really interesting, given this contrasting approach, is how it appears to conflict with the "evangelism inside/outside" contrast.
I could elaborate on that as well, but will have to do so later. Time to take the girls to the pool.

must_decrease said...

It's interesting you speak about the difference in the Gospel here. We just had the third service in our new plant on Sunday and the message was "The Gospel is the Good News of the Glory of Christ". I could elaborate, but suffice it to say it is nice that there are others who view an explicit Gospel as central to all we do as ministries.

Brian said...

This chart looks like the outline for a new book... :)

I want to jump off of something that nhe said :

"He's a guy though, that would look at this chart and completely value the right side. I just think that your average misguided/well-meaning pastor would look at this and say "we're here, but we need to be here" - I just don't know anyone that would steadfastly hold to the left-side."

I think that's an interesting observation. In my experience, what happens is that people think they are already on the right side when really they are still camped out on the left. Which is why it's really hard to have a conversation with someone about this kind of thing without really driving down and unpacking what these terms mean.

You can say that your preaching needs to be more Gospel driven and they think it already is because the sermon was out of Mark and had an invitation at the end. People would agree that the church is people that just happen to assemble together on Sunday morning. Yet 80% of their energy is for an event in a building for 2 hours a week.

I could go on, but I think you get what I'm trying to say. How do you (delicately)go about convincing people they are not where they think they are?

Jared said...

How do you (delicately)go about convincing people they are not where they think they are?

Probably depends on the leadership and your degree of connection to them.
I would say that if one thinks it should be communicated personally to them, it should be done privately and respectfully. And delicately, as you said.

And prayerfully. The Spirit's the one who often has to change hearts and minds on stuff like this.

Brian said...

Thanks for the feedback, Jared.

Sherry said...

I read this post before I went out this morning to take someone somewhere (I'm always going out to take someone somewhere--I live in major suburbia with eight kids), and on the way I had lots of seemingly profound thoughts. I'd post my thoughts on my blog and link, but my blog is broken. So you're the sounding board whether you like it or not.

My first thought was: why is this an either/or proposition? I haven't read all the new "missional" books and articles, just what I've picked up on blogs, yours and others. Heck, I didn't even read any of the seeker-friendly church books when that was the newest thing. I come from a traditional medium sized town Southern Baptist background, and I'm OLD (50). SO I'm sure my perspective is colored by my background and my lack of education in the nuances of church paradigms.

Nevertheless, I've always been taught that the church is people, that the building is just a place to meet. And yet I talk about "going to church" because it's important to have a place to meet whether that's a coffee shop or a traditional church building. And evangelism takes place inside and outside the building, inside and outside the fellowship. We all need to hear the evangel, the good news about Jesus (Tell Me the Story of Jesus). And people outside the church fellowship need to hear that gospel in their own environment as much as possible or they will never hear it at all. This going out to preach the gospel and/or to live it is nothing new however imperfectly we may have done it in the past.

Growth is numbers and health. Thank God for Billy Graham's numbers. Thank God for the Navigators who had a calling to disciple those "numbers". Organization is not God, but it's not necessarily expendable either. Organization is created to serve the mission. You have an organization (a budget and overseers) to expedite your mission of giving more sacrificially to missions and to service, your "Bold as Love" initiative. The organization is not expendable, but essential as long as the mission is still yours.

Worship (music) can reflect the glory of God AND attract people to the gospel if it's God-centered. The assembling of ourselves together is an event in time even if it's not the whole banana of Church. ANd all churches need to be preaching a regular, explicit gospel. That we can agree on.

nhe said he didn't know of anyone that would even admit to being "attractional" (my paraphrase), but I think most older, smaller evangelical churches would not only admit but would defend most of that paradigm as you've laid it out.

I could write a book, maybe not a very good book, but a book nevertheless. Maybe I'm missing the point. I just think that while some of your contrasts are oppositional with one side being better than the other (the last one on the list particularly), most are matters of preference and calling within this complex organism that we call Church. And some can be done, should be done, together.

Jared said...

Sherry, thanks for your comment.

I just think that while some of your contrasts are oppositional with one side being better than the other (the last one on the list particularly), most are matters of preference and calling within this complex organism that we call Church.

I agree, which is why I tried to make it as little "bad vs. good" as I could.
I also agree that the local church can be both missional and attractional, although I think one stress should take precedent. Obviously I'm not totally against attractional or I wouldn't advertise our community or blog about it glowingly, etc.

The "church is a place" thing has been misunderstood by a few, and that's my fault for having to phrase the idea in 3 words or so.
I plan on expounding on each of these contrasts very soon, and I hope that my clarifications therein could help alleviate some of the unfortunate miscommunications in the chart.

Sherry said...

I'll look forward to your elucidations. And maybe then I can be more clear in response.