As I’ve been reading about how we as Christians can be more effective as good workers who do the good works God has called us to do (Ephesians 2:10), I’ve noticed that many seem to feel the need to consider two common themes as being at odds with each other: being Missional and being Attractional.
These two words represent more than just the adding of the suffix “–al” to some old and static nouns in order to make them into fresh and exciting adjectives! They take something like a mission trip, an event that has a beginning and an end to it, and make it a descriptive word about how we’re meant to live all the time -- missionally! The word missional is an extremely positive word that describes a person who makes mission a part of who they are and how they live, not just something they do.
But the word attractional has typically been viewed in a negative light. Many use it to describe Christians who make a lifestyle of trying to attract people to their church buildings while doing little to go out to them and become a part of their lives. It's a "Let them come to us" mentality. An attitude that expects people to find the church relevant to their lives apart from any meaningful relationship with anyone in the church.
Such positive and negative applications of these two words have caused people to use them in a way that polarizes them to two opposite extremes. People describe a church as either missional or attractional, only one being considered acceptable. But I disagree. I believe that both are extremely important aspects of Christian outreach.
Jesus called us to live in such a way that reaches out in love to our neighbours and that attracts those same neighbours to the love we have for one another in the Body of Christ. One goes out and the other invites people in. If we’re only missional and never attractional, people will never be added to the Church, which God was doing continually throughout the book of Acts. And if we’re only attractional and never missional, the Church will never reach the many people who would never come near a church unless they first met a Christian who showed them what Jesus is like.
I believe we’re meant to be both missional in how we go out, faithfully demonstrating what we believe, and attractional in how we invite people in, lovingly offering them a place to belong. Being missional is the “Love your neighbour” command of evangelism and being attractional is the “Love one another” command of community. They go together. We reach out and we invite in. And though these two activities will often try to compete for our time and energy, we must make them partners in our desire to see people saved and added to the corporate expression of the Body of Christ.
© 2009 by Ken Peters