I’ve always loved this quote.
You win them to what you win them with.
(Aiden Wilson Tozer)
It’s been repeated with slight deviations over and over again.
This quote sums up much of our current Christianity problems. Let’s go back in time.
The Attractional Church
Going back 40 years or so, we see the advent of the attractional church. Churches, like Willow Creek, launched a “seeker sensitive” movement, using church services to “attract” the unchurched to the body of Christ.
One fundamental weakness of this approach is summed up by the Tozer quote. When you reach people with attraction, you win people to consumption. Churches following the attractional church pathway reached massive numbers of people and built giant sanctuaries to fit their growing numbers.
A key phrase in the attractional church is cultural relevance.
People drawn by the attractional church were mostly consuming Jesus for their benefit. We shouldn’t blame them, though. They were won to consumption. Of course they behaved selfishly. That’s what consumers do.
Here’s a critical question that will help us understand the newer church’s direction: Why did church leaders embrace “attractional” in the first place?
How Did “Consumption” Become the Attractional Church Function?
Well, that goes back to how the surrounding culture behaved. By the 1970s, America was in full-blown consumerism. The mass production of products led companies to sell via mass marketing and advertising. Capitalism drove companies to create a consumerist culture. Consumption is self-indulging. And therefore selfish.
Seeing this move in the surrounding culture, churches decided to leverage consumeristic tendencies to attract the unchurched and de-churched to the church by attractional means. But, “You win them to what you win them with.” Hence, the struggle to inspire engagement, participation, and followership.
Plenty of people were “attracted” to these churches. Still, too many people experienced Jesus as their life coach, not their Lord. When you think about it, inviting people to “come and die” isn’t the most attractive message, especially in a culture of selfish consumption.
Today’s Attractional Church
In an effort to move away from “attractional,” many churches and church leaders launched a new movement. But is it really all that different?