The “Attractional Church,” according to Jared C. Wilson (from The Gospel-Driven Church), can be defined as “a way of doing church ministry whose primary purpose is to make Christianity appealing.” Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with people being attracted to a church, but if attraction is the exclusive mission of a church, they are missing their purpose. Attractional churches would argue that they want to use whatever means necessary to attract the most people in order to see the most people saved. I get that. We could all use more motivation in our efforts to build the Kingdom. But, that’s not all that is going on here.
The other day I saw an ad on Facebook that read, “Click here to find out how we went from 2 families to over 100 people in just 7 weeks.” This church was selling its method for profit. This is an attractional method for an attractional church. There’s nothing wrong with a church growing in an explosive way, but, according to Jared C. Wilson, “the way a church wins its people shapes its people.” Often times the attractional model does not go deep enough to create true heart change. Wilson added, “If you win people to biblical principles but fail to win them to the biblical Christ, you will simply create religious people who lack the power to change. We create tidy unbelievers.”
I’m not saying that someone cannot become born again in an attractional church, but is that where it stops? Are they discipled? Are they shown how to live a life of mission? Or, is their job simply to be a greeter at the 11 am service? By the way, I’m a believer that this is typically the best-case scenario for attractional churches. They may appear to reach hundreds to thousands, but how many understand the cost of being a disciple?
According to Wilson, there are five reasons that the attractional church model needs to be reevaluated:
1. It is not generationally sustainable
2. The sermons are not deep enough
3. Its members are hitting a discipleship ceiling
4. It is often culturally naïve
5. It is evangelistically ineffective
This “come and see model” needs to be rebranded to “go and tell.” There is nothing wrong with “seeking and saving,” which the attractional church gets right. But many (if not, most) unbelievers are seeking to find Christ through His church rather than in His church. It seems as if the only way we believe someone will come to Christ is if we bring them and the pastor happens to whip out his best evangelistic sermon that day. It certainly happens like that, but the entire body of Christ must “go and tell.”
To piggyback on Wilson’s fifth point, evangelism from top to bottom is severely lacking in attractional churches. For one, pastors themselves do not preach evangelistic sermons. Why would church members evangelize if they do not even see it happening in their church? Second, and perhaps most importantly, the Office of the Evangelist is nearly dead. When Mega churches started eliminating their support of full-time evangelists, other churches followed suit.
While all Christians are called to evangelize their circle of influence (2 Timothy 4:5), there are men and women who have the gift of the evangelist (Ephesians 4:11). Because I believe in the authority and inspiration of scripture coupled with the impact I have seen growing up in the home of an evangelist, I believe the church will continue to decline if we do not allow the Office of the Evangelist to make a return.
Unfortunately, the goal of attractional churches is not to evangelize but to have a respectable answer to the question, “How many you runnin’?” Our postmodern culture is watching us and cringing at our methods. They see right through our approaches to reach them. So, what do we replace the attractional church with?
The early church (originally known as “The Way”) held church in their homes. Perhaps, we need to go back to this model. We will write on this subject more in the future.
This piece originally appeared on the Website for Wayhouse Media on May 4, 2020. Matt Allbritton, the owner of Wayhouse, has joined the contributing authors at Faith on View. Essays previously published by Wayhouse Media are being republished on Faith on View.