Church becomes an alternative to the world, not a servant of God in the world. Going to church becomes an end instead of a means to an end. Doing church right is the path to salvation. Getting people “plugged in” or “involved” becomes the primary goal.
Extractional churches are like a bad cruise ship that offers people an escape from the world rather than a good navy ship preparing people to carry out a mission in the world. Extractional churches easily turn into holy huddles where the faithful hunker down and do church in a “safe” way until Jesus comes to destroy the big, bad world they fear so much and to rescue only them.
They have lost their mission and they are not attractive except to a subculture that is wanting to avoid the world they fear and loath. They will gladly rescue someone who wanders in, but they will not go out and engage the world in meaningful ways. They are not driven by mission, but by tradition and fear.
So let’s be careful with our language and not beat up churches which are busily engaged in mission, but still have a fairly traditional expression. There are many ways to live on mission, and fairly traditional big steeple churches can be missional if they are properly focused on engaging the hurting world and making disciples.
Being big doesn’t mean you aren’t missional, and being small doesn’t mean you are. You can be an extractional church in a coffee shop and a missional church with pews. The question is whether the members live on mission or retreat from it. Do you draw people toward serving the mission of God in all their lives, or only gather them to play church so you can get good luck from God?
The varieties of healthy church models are almost endless. But all churches must gather and scatter and do both in the service of God. Sick churches only gather in the name of God, and when they leave they are off duty. That is not attractive to God, and I hope it’s not attractive to you.