The whipping boy of church models in many circles for the past couple of decades has been what is called “attractional” churches. That is a type of church which seeks to draw people into their worship and programming on their property to receive Christ and do ministry.
The solution, according to such thinkers, is to go “missional,” i.e. get the people out of the building into the community to join God’s work outside the confines of church ghettos. I led such a move in the church where I served for about a decade. While there is much to commend in missional theology and practice, I learned the distinction between attractional and missional is a false one. Let me explain why I say this.
Every expression of church should be attractive and seek to draw people into its fellowship. Even if you leave your building and go out in service most of the time, when you get there, you are seeking to attract people to what you are doing in the name of Jesus so you can attract them to Jesus. If you are successful, you will form a community of disciples in that neighborhood or who follow you back to your church gatherings.
Either way, you are seeking to attract people into a fellowship of disciples who gather to worship and support each other, and then scatter to live life and serve God in secular arenas. There is no church without the force of attraction.
Every expression of church should be sending its people out to love and serve others in the name of Jesus everywhere they go. Whether they do that service at their facility or in places around their city does not matter if they are engaging the world outside the church. A church that does not equip people for mission in their lives is seriously underdeveloped. This is true regardless of whether we are talking about a traditional big steeple church, ultra hip megachurch or new model house church.
Mission and attraction are two positive forces which are like the inhaling and exhaling of a body. It takes both to breathe. Do only one, either one, and you will die.
The true opposite of “missional” church is not “attractional” but “extractional.” Extractional churches kidnap people from the world and pull them into a closed system which is useless and irrelevant to the world. Rather than equipping people to live out their mission in their families, neighborhoods, jobs and gyms between gatherings, extractional churches care only about getting people into church events to “do church” right.