Attractional and Missional

March 9th, 2009

One of the books I have to read this semester for my studies is Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch’s, “The shaping of things to come: innovation and mission for the 21st century church”.  I have to do a book review based on how this book effects my thoughts on Christian ministry.

One of the main themes of the book is the need for the church to be less attractional and more missional. They define attractional as the church putting on special events and inviting people to come to it/us. This is something that most churches I have been involved with have done in the past. The approach they favour is going out into the community and becoming a part of it and impacting people for Christ that way. They call this the missional or incarnational approach.

One example they talk about is a church that meets next to a remote control car club each Sunday morning. They say the attractional approach would try to reach its members by putting flyers on the windscreens of their cars inviting them to a church event.  At the event a remote control car enthusiast who is a Christian would talk about their cars and would give their testimony about coming to Christ. They compare this to a missional approach where several members of the church interested in remote control cars would join the club and build relationships with the members.

As I have reflected on this example and others in the book I can see that this type of missional approach makes sense. Whenever I have helped people come to know Christ in the past it has mostly happened in the context of relationship and being involved with them in a joint venture (ie work, sport, or community service). I can see how approach would be both fun in terms of joining the local remote control car club (or the like) and would be effective in building relationship and bringing people to Christ in a natural way over time.

However, in saying this I also see the attractional approach as equally useful and don’t think it is time to leave it behind. The attractional approach got me to come to church nearly 20 years ago and as a result I came to know Christ. Once in the church I was able to be taught, build relationships and become part of a community. So the attractional approach worked for me and many others I know.

For me, I think a combination of both the attractional and missional approaches would work best. We need to invite people to our churches for the Sunday service or special event and we also need to be prepared to go out into our communities and be a part of what is going on in them.