5 Reasons Charismatic Churches Are Growing (and Attractional Churches Are Past Peak)

5 Reasons Charismatic Churches Are Growing (and Attractional Churches Are Past Peak)

Notice this lately?

If you look at almost any growing church led by younger leaders, it definitely tends toward the charismatic—expressive worship, more emotional delivery in preaching, an openness to the work and activity of the Holy Spirit, and generally a warmer, more enthusiastic and expressive gathering.

And…a lot of the churches that lean toward a more charismatic expression of their faith are filled with young adults and Millennials.

Meanwhile, many leaders in attractional churches are finding it harder and harder to reach new people over the last few years. While not universally true, some have stopped growing, or at least seen a slower growth rate than say five or 10 years ago.

Please hear me. This is not “we’re right you’re wrong.” This is a learning together post. Actually, both the charismatic and attractional movements have contributed massively to reaching millions of people. There is much to learn from each other.

Critics have no place here, but learners do.

So what’s happening? Well, culture changes and what people respond to changes, too. The church should change with it. While you should never change the mission of a church (it’s eternal), you should definitely adapt the method.

Churches who love the method more than the mission will die. It happened in the 1950s, in the 1970s, in the 1990s, and it’s happening today. What was effective a decade ago isn’t always effective today. Leaders who live in the past end up dying to the future.

While you could argue that there’s a major difference in theology between charismatic and non-charismatic churches, I don’t think the differences are that big for the purposes of this blog post anyway.

The big shift is happening in how churches express themselves on the weekend and conduct their weekend experiences, moving from:

  • anonymity to a sense of belonging
  • engagement of the heart, not just the head.
  • more variety of services than three songs and a message
  • more passionate expressions of worship
  • additional space during the service for prayer
  • more thought in the service to the engagement of emotions beyond “hey we’re excited you’re here” (welcome and upbeat music) and “here’s something to think about” (the message)

As I outline here, churches that miss cultural change become irrelevant. After all, the gap between how quickly you change and how quickly culture changes is called irrelevance.

Personally, I’m behind any church that’s doing a great job leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

So, in the interests of learning and growing together, here are five reasons more charismatic churches are growing, and attractional churches are moving past peak in the current culture.

1. THE FOYER MOVED

One of the great (and helpful) assumptions behind creating attractional churches is that Sunday morning is the first experience with church.

Guess what? That’s no longer true.

Now, almost everyone who attends your church for the first time has already been to your church…online.

That’s the case whether you have a completely amazing online experience, a killer website and an on-point social media presence, or whether you have a website from 2008.

Trust me, people who are interested in Christianity or your church have already checked you out long before they visited you. And if you have an online service, they’ve been with you for at least a week, and sometimes months or beyond.

Not convinced they’re checking out your channels? Well, there is the Internet. Trust me: If they have spiritual questions, they’ve googled their way to spiritual answers (good or bad answers) long before they set foot in your door.

All of which means…the foyer moved.

Over dinner recently, I had a great discussion about this with the senior leadership team at CrossPoint Nashville. We talked about how attractional church isn’t as effective as it used to be (both CrossPoint and Connexus, where I serve, have been changing along the lines of this post for a few years now), when CrossPoint’s Creative Arts Director, Drew Powell, simply stated that the foyer had moved. That completely crystallized something I was trying to put my finger on for years now. Thanks, Drew, for the clarity.

So yep, that’s it: The foyer moved.

The implication? When someone shows up at your church now, they’re likely to want a little more than they did a decade or two ago when their first visit was truly their first exposure to your church or to Christianity. They’re ready to go a little further somewhat faster because they’ve already taken their first step.

Will you still end up with some people at the back with the arms crossed wanting to hide out in the dark? Of course.

But you likely have more who want to sample something real, who want to experience something different, who are ready to engaging faster.

That doesn’t mean you should bring them into a complete insider experience that’s impossible to understand or access. But it does mean they’re likely hungrier for more than they were a decade ago.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.

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