Attractional Church doesn’t work anymore. It hasn’t for a long time now.
The attractional church model is most likely the church you are currently attending or have attended in the past. It’s the model that relies on great worship, a big teaching personality, or special events to draw people into the building. In all fairness, the attractional model may still work in some places. Over the last decade, however, most attractional churches are struggling to connect with people in their communities.
One reason for the disinterest is the fact that people have access to great teachings, top-notch music, and amazing videos on the cell phone that resides in their hand or pocket at all times. No one has to leave home to be wowed anymore. Add to that the fact that people know we go to church and frankly, they don’t care. They don’t see the need. They work five to six days a week. Why would they give up their only day off to sit with people they don’t know and listen to some “perfect” man on stage talk about something that happened thousands of years ago, only to leave feeling condemned? People hear the hard stances that “Christians” take on issues. They read the venom sprayed all over social media, drawing an even harder line in the sand. In short, there is an ever-widening gap between the lost world and those whom God has commissioned to reach it.
Don’t get me wrong; I am a product of the church. I came to Christ at youth camp as a teenager, was discipled through the church’s ministries, and have given my professional life to serving her and her people. In doing so, I receive my livelihood from the generous people who attend our church. How can I talk out of both sides of my mouth like this? Do I really love the church or am I just another hypocrite? (Yes, but that’s an altogether different blog post.) I love the bride of Christ and would gladly give my life for her today. Like David Platt said in his book Radical, I believe that the “local church is God’s plan A; there is no plan B.”
The saddest truth for most Christians today is that we’ve forgotten what it was like to be lost. We forget that Scripture tells us in 2nd Corinthians 4:4 that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Simply put, lost people can’t help being lost any more than a blind person can’t help being blind. It’s in their nature and if you are in Christ, it was once in yours. Christians must be for the world, not against it.
The Problem: Most churches employ the attractional model to reach people, but when we look at the life of Jesus and the early church we see a very different picture. The most damning aspect of Jesus’ life for the religious leaders of His day to digest was how He loved being around lost people. He enjoyed their company. He was ridiculed hard for it in Mark 2:15-17. They couldn’t believe how comfortable He was with “tax collectors (Biblical-day traitors) and sinners.”
Here are some questions to consider: How is our church engaging lost people? How about our Sunday School classes/small groups? Having the mindset that lost people know where our church is and if they want what we have, then they can come on Sunday at 11 a.m. isn’t cutting it anymore. Hugh Halter and Matt Smay ask similar questions in their book, The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community: “Do people take us Christians seriously? Do they respect us and our way of life? Do the spiritually hungry look to the average evangelical church for help, or would they rather go buy a self-help book at Barnes & Noble?” (p. 11)
The problem with the attractional church model is: people aren’t attracted anymore. Most of us just aren’t enough like Jesus. In my next blog post, I will propose one prescription for our problem and a plan to implement it.