Having just come through an Easter season that challenged our traditional thinking to its very core, let me encourage you to keep shifting your thought process in one critical area by asking yourself, “Is my church attractional or attractive?”
The word attractional has developed a negative connotation in many Christian circles as it is associated with glitz, glamor, and over the top techniques to attract a crowd. An attractional strategy forces a church to continually create bigger and better ideas to keep people coming because what you use to attract people is what you have to use to keep them.
Let me use a common magnet as an analogy. There are two simple principles we know about magnets:
I would suggest we focus on becoming a more attractive church. I’m not talking about having your building and grounds committee create a more aesthetically pleasing physical facility. Rather, I suggest we prioritize time, energy, and resources to create more attractive people. Remember, God cares about what is in the heart, not what we look like on the outside.
The attractive vs attractional wordplay came to my mind as God put me in touch with two books. Gene Stockton recommended Frances Chan’s book Letters to the Church. In chapter four he uses the experience of a friend who was saved out of a gang lifestyle to challenge churches to model for the world supernatural unity and love. In my role as a DoM, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been invited to intervene in a “church family squabble.” At some point, I will tell them, as lovingly as I can, “We don’t need to teach the world how to fight. They’ve got that figured out pretty well. What we can show them that will be attractive is how to have genuine differences, but still be able to love one another.”
The second book was recommended by my daughter, Emily, and is entitled: Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger. The book points to PTSD research and uses the term “tribe” in a similar way that Chan uses “gang.” Polite church circles would prefer the words “community’ and “family.” A point in Junger’s book is that many soldiers experience “tribe” while deployed, but have no similar support network when they return home, causing mental and emotional stress.
In a post COVID-19 world, don’t return to an attractional model. Instead, place your energy and focus on becoming a loving, caring, unified body of believers. Be a family that welcomes other members into your community and loves them and disciples them so they become attractive and welcoming to others. Become a Christian gang, a Christian tribe.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Mark Elliott, DoM
Retiring in April 2022, Mark R. Elliott served as a Director of Missions (Associational Mission Strategist) in Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska for almost three decades. He is a strong advocate for obedience and Biblically based disciple making. As such, he knows that making healthy disciples requires Christian leaders to be constantly pursuing spiritual maturity—be lifelong learners. Because of the time constraints of ministry, most pastors focus their reading list on resources that assist them in teaching and preaching the Word of God. As such, books focusing on church health, leadership development, and church growth tend to find their way to the bottom of the stack. With that reality in mind, Mark has written discussion summaries on several books that have helped him to personally grow in Christ and that tend to find themselves on the bottom of most pastor’s stack. Many pastors have found them helpful as they are able to more quickly process great insights from other pastors and authors.