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
I’ve heard a few people suggest that we should remove March from our calendars since the last two have not been very fun here in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa—2019 floods and 2020 COVID19. And after being involved in a series of tough decisions to cancel a host of events, I have concluded that American’s are being asked to either cancel or postpone 2020. My oldest grandchild will hopefully graduate from high school this year; however, the May 23rd graduation ceremony that is on my calendar will not happen as scheduled. I heard on the radio that 2020 UNL graduates will be invited to “walk” with the 2021 graduates next year. We were going to do an “all-family” vacation in Florida the week before the SBC Convention, but both of those events have been canceled.
As I have reflected on the host of cancellations, I found it interesting that the first events to be canceled were major sporting events: March Madness and the 2020 College World Series. I’m wondering what God might be trying to tell us? We have become a nation where we have pursued sports, personal pleasure, and the accumulation of possessions at an ever-increasing almost frantic pace. If we were honest with ourselves we would admit that these things have become our gods. MAYBE God is trying to redirect our focus and energy. Maybe God telling a nation that believes we can continue to living at an ever-increasing frantic pace that it is time to slow down; to be still and to know that He is God.
As we are forced to change our daily life patterns, let me suggest that we don’t swap one hectic and harried lifestyle for another one where we just hop from one on-line meeting to the next. My prayer is that we will be able to reprioritize our time, energy, and resources to put more emphasis upon God, upon our marriages, upon our relationships with family and friends, and upon identifying and engaging in what God has uniquely called and equipped us to do.
Mark Elliott, DoM
I know we are all in agreement that God was not taken by surprise by the events of the past month. Therefore, we need to look to Him to see how we can turn a negative into a positive. How can we get on top of a tidal wave, ride it out, and use its energy for good—just like a surfer would ride a wave?
One major way that we can create positive energy is to shift our teaching themes during our on-line Sunday morning worship time to put special emphasis upon foundational issues. Take a page from Vince Lombardi’s playbook. He would on occasion stand before his team (one of the best professional football teams in his day) and declare, “Men, this is a football.” Then he would proceed to talk about the fundamentals of running, blocking, and tackling. Let me encourage you to help individuals and their families to enhance or for many of them begin a daily personal devotional and/or family chapel time. In times of crisis and chaos, it's always important to focus on the things that are truly important.
Many people have more at-home and discretionary time that could be used for spiritual development. This is a great time to talk about spiritual disciplines— linked here is a discussion summary of John Ortberg’s excellent book “Soul Keeping.” I have also attached a PowerPoint and a worksheet I have used to teach on selected spiritual disciplines. You are welcome to edit them to fit your needs.
As always, I am praying for you.
Mark Elliott, DoM
Mark is in his twenty-seventh year of serving as an Associational Missions Strategist. He served in western Iowa for almost eight years, and is in his nineteenth year with HCN. He has a passion to see pastors and church leaders grow in their abilities to lead their churches. He continues to have a heart and desire to see new churches planted and God continues to use his strategic thinking skills in this area. Mark also has a wealth of experience in helping churches clarify who God has created them to be, and what they can do best to reach their community. He has had ample opportunities to help churches in times of conflict, and has seen God do exciting things to restore a spirit of harmony, returning churches to a time of fruitfulness. He also helps churches in transition by working with search committees. Mark and Phyllis who were married in November of 2018 have four children and three grandchildren. They will enjoy their combined 87th anniversary in just a few days.