Life’s been pretty hectic since getting back from the States and the Total Church conference. The following weekend I was leading a marriage retreat and a week after that I was leading our Northern Training Institute residential study week. So I’ve rather lurched from one thing to the next. But I do want to blog some of the things I shared at the Total Church conference.
Attractional church verses missional church
My first talk looked at attractional church verses missional church. Advocates, like myself, of missional church tend to be highly critical of attractional church. Attractional church is a come-to-us mentality in which church revolves around the Sunday meeting. You often find that even people who talk of being more missional want to start by doing something with the Sunday meeting. A truly missional approach emphasises a missional lifestyle and mission in the context of ordinary life in locations where unbelievers feel at home.
But in my talk I suggested it attractional church verses missional church is a false polarization. The problem is in fact that both sides view church as a meeting you attend. Even those who reject attractional church implicitly view church as a meeting. But everything changes if you view church as a community or a network of relationships. Then attractional church is not about putting on a good show, but about a community life that attracts people to God.
Attractional mission in the Bible
This is the missiology of the Old Testament. Israel was to so live under God’s reign expressed through his law that the nations would come to find out about Israel’s God (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Humanity rejects God’s reign, believing Satan’s lie that God’s reign is tyrannical. So God’s people are to demonstrate that God’s reign is a reign of justice, peace, freedom, joy, love and blessing. This is what happened beautifully in the story of Ruth. It reaches it pinnacle in the reign of Solomon when the nations come to marvel of his wisdom and glory. But as Israel rejects her God so, instead of being a light to the nations, she follows the ways of the nation. Isaiah, however, looks forward to a day when Israel will again attract the nations (Isaiah 2:1-5). He promises that God’s Servant will be faithful where Israel was unfaithful, becoming God’s light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). Jesus, of course, is this light: the light of the world, perfectly demonstrating the goodness of God reign.
Attractional mission through church planting
When we come to the church in the NT people often assume a switch of direction from ‘drawing in’ to ‘going out’. But the attractional of the OT in fact continues. God’s new covenant people are to be a light to the world, attracting people to God’s reign (Matthew 5:14-16; 1 Peter 2:9-12). What has changed is the centre! The centre is no longer Jerusalem, but hundreds of small communities of light, littered across the world. We simultaneously draw in (through our community life) and move out (through church planting).
I guess what this leaves us with is an exhortation not to throw the attractional baby (a shared life throughout the week that displays the goodness of God’s reign) with the attractional bathwater (a fixation with the Sunday meeting).
And finally a horror story. I was told while in the States of a church that has an annual budget for its Sunday morning meeting – which the staff refer to as ‘the show’ – of $1.5 million (£750,000). I don’t even want to do the maths on how may church planters in the India that would fund – it would be too depressing.