Either, or Both, or Neither?

By Mark A. Taylor

This week we have offered readers a picture of four dynamic Christian churches. Maybe you, like me, will decide you’d be pleased to be a member of any of them.

Each is committed to Scripture and preaching the gospel.

Each is seeking to develop new believers into mature disciples.

Each is looking beyond the walls of its building and to the needs and hurts and opportunities to serve all around them.

And each of the four has a different take on the current debate about whether a church should be attractional or missional.

Paul Williams commented on attractional vs. missional in his column a month ago. (See “Missional or Attractional—Who Cares?” in our March 18 issue or at www.standardpub.com.) He came to the conclusion indicated by his title. “I would suggest the healthy church is both missional and attractional,” he wrote.

Maybe the preachers speaking to us in these articles would agree. We certainly hear elements of both “go” and “come” in each of their comments. Even the most outright advocate of the missional approach has not given up hosting a dynamic weekend worship service. And the fellow defending attractional speaks of hundreds of thousands of dollars and multiplied man-hours his church has given in community service.

So I agree with Paul Williams. I have a hunch that savvy leaders passionate about either option will eventually see that healthy churches must implement a mix of both.

What concerns me more than which a church will choose is whether a church will go after either strategy. What about all the local congregations not working at attractional or missional?

I remember a story told me by a new children’s minister at one of the largest churches in her small town. When VBS time came around her first year there, she put up a big sign in front of the church building to advertise the dates.

“Why are you doing that?” one of the church leaders asked her.

Her answer expressed the obvious: “To invite the community to our VBS!”

“But we don’t want all those outsiders coming to our VBS,” the man told her.

Here is a church far removed from the current attractional vs. missional discussions. And I fear it’s not alone.

Thank God for congregations like those represented in this week’s issue, local churches wrestling with how best to influence a diverse and complicated culture with the good news of Jesus. Despite what else they may say, all these churches are going into their communities to invite troubled people to come and see what the Lord has done. Can any of us really be happy with a church that isn’t doing both?

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  1. Avatar
    April 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks for a very balanced approach. Too many, I fear, are like the man whom you quoted as saying, “We don’t want all those outsiders coming to our VBS.”

  2. Avatar
    Victor Knowles
    June 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    It seems fairly clear to me from reading Acts 2-8 that the New Testament church, beginning in Jerusalem, was both attractional and missional. They might be a bit puzzled by the either/or discussion because they were both/and.

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