Attractional or Missional? ….or something else?

Disclaimer: this post is about a popular “debate” in church world today that you may have zero interest in.

There is a debate in church world over different models, or ways of doing church. I blogged a while back about this here (sorry the video isn’t there). Basically, people who don’t like churches that encourage inviting people to church label those churches as “attractional”, saying all they do is yell “come to us” and aren’t concerned with living among people and representing Jesus Christ. They claim the “Biblical” model is “missional”, which could be defined as living among people, in culture, and leading them to follow Jesus through a personal relationship only. Some, but not all, generally don’t like the idea of a church gathering or service, and would rather see the church be a network of small groups only.

Tim Stevens started another conversation on this topic with this post. Today he referenced Alan Hirsch’s claims that the “attractional” model will only reach 40% of Americans. I still have no idea how he got that number when 63-67% indicate they would be somewhat open to attending church if someone invited them.

Here’s my main problem. This debate seems to assume that all American churches are either “attractional” or “missional”. I would argue there is at least one other model, and I’ll call it “fellowship”. Fellowship is a church word used to describe the relationships and community among people, typically Christians in a church. I believe at least 80% of American churches are the “fellowship” model, meaning they are designed with Christians in mind. I would say “attractional” and “missional” are designed with non-Christian people in mind, and therefore both are largely different from the “fellowship” model.

The problem is, some people assume the “fellowship” model is the “attractional” model, and because the “fellowship” model isn’t working, neither is the “attractional” model. I can probably only think of 5 or so “attractional” churches in my area, but I could easily name 50 “fellowship” churches.

All of this assumes that a church is just one or the other, when in fact all churches are a measure of all of those models, and probably more.

Sorry for the overuse of quotes, but that’s my way of letting you know I think all the labels aren’t worth much. Knowing which model you are is worth a lot, mislabeling churches and then judging them solely on your idea of what they are isn’t worth anything.

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