By Jared Huntley
This is the second instalment in a series of articles entitled “Pendulum Swing“. In almost every sphere of life, we have a natural tendency to notice a problem and swing the pendulum all the way to the other side, thus creating an equally problematic… problem. This is especially true in the evangelical world. I’m going to be writing a series of posts pointing out some of the common “over-corrections” I’m seeing.
I want to preface everything I’m about to say by emphasizing as strongly as I possibly can: This is not an endorsement of a particular type of church planting model. I happen to believe that there are many different models of church that fit within the bounds of Scripture. In fact, if there’s anything that drives me crazy, it’s when I hear people speak in a dogmatic fashion about their favourite particular model of church.
Much has been made recently about the inability of traditional churches to effectively make disciples, and for good reason! Most churches aren’t making many disciples. That needs to change! But much like the previous article, there is a tendency to swing the pendulum all the way to the other side, creating an equally damaging problem.
The first extreme is what I’ll call the “Attractional” extreme. In this extreme, all emphasis is placed upon the Sunday morning service. Hours upon hours each week are expended ensuring that the music is on point, the sermon will keep people entertained and engaged, and the lighting will be just right to set the mood. The idea behind this is that if we study the culture and give them what we believe they’re looking for, then they’ll come on Sunday morning and hear the Gospel (assuming its actually being preached).
There are several problems when we take this to an extreme. In the first place, it naturally is predisposed towards a consumeristic, competitive environment that is antithetical to the Kingdom of God.
If the goal is to get as many people as possible into my church, it’s going to be very hard to be for other churches. It’s going to be very hard to be for expanding the Kingdom through church planting, because to do that you have to release your best leaders. It’s going to be difficult to be faithful to proclaim the whole counsel of God, because saying things people don’t want to hear (truth) means people are going to leave. If it’s all about bringing in crowds, compromise is inevitable.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have what I’ll call the “Missional Movement”. I love the heart of so many of the people I know who are engaged in the missional movement. I’d consider myself apart of the missional movement! But if we aren’t careful, the Missional Movement can become a reaction against the Attractional extreme rather than a passion for obeying Jesus and reaching lost people.
What happens when the pendulum swings this way is that “Attractional” churches become the enemy. It can create a prideful sentiment that says, “I’m doing church the biblical way, and all these guys running these attractional churches are blind”.
This is equally problematic when we consider that you could ask two people what the definition of “Attractional Church” is and get two completely different answers!
It can be so easy to become dogmatic about things the Bible isn’t. But we have to remember that there’s no model of church that is more sanctified than another.
The Model Is Not The Problem
There is a real problem today in the church. Churches are doing a poor job of equipping lay people to be witnesses of Jesus. Adjusting your model or the way you do church may go a long way towards helping, depending upon where you are and who you are reaching! I’m not suggesting models don’t matter at all.
What I am suggesting is if the hearts of the people in your church don’t change, it doesn’t matter a lick what model you use. Models don’t make disciples. Disciples make disciples.
We can’t depend upon a certain type of model to solve our disciple-making woes. It does little good to pound the table insisting that this specific model is the silver bullet or that specific model is the problem. We need to spend less time throwing rocks at others and more time humbly learning what they may have to teach us.
Jesus told His disciples to “Go and make disciples” and He called sinners to “Come to Me”. We cannot emphasize one at the expense of the other. Every church is called to equip her people to “Go”. Every church is called to invite sinners to “Come” into Christian community. We need to be equipping our people to understand & act on this.
I truly believe that most of the leaders I know, and most people reading this post, whether you are more in the “Attractional” camp or the “Missional” camp, genuinely have a heart to see people come to Jesus. I pray you don’t hear a critical tone in this article.
This was not written as a critique, but rather as a plea. A plea to learn from each other, to not get dogmatic about a specific formula or model, and to be faithful to the call of God on our churches to both “Go” to the lost and “Invite” the lost into our midst.
I’d love to hear your feedback! How does your church try to equip people to go while simultaneously inviting the lost to come? I pray we can learn from one another!