We learned many lessons from Rosa's story. The whole experience demonstrated very clearly the importance of church being missional, (Luke 10:3) rather than attractional. Here are some of the reasons:
- Jesus said, "As the Father sent me, so send I you." If I had failed to obey the impression I had to walk along a certain street, we would have never seen a church born in the low-income housing projects. This very nearly happened. It took me two months to finally get out and walk Oltorf–and it was only the approaching heat of a Texas summer that galvanized me into action.
- In both the Great Commission, and wherever Jesus commissions his disciples to reach out, he tells his disciples, "Go," or more accurately in the Greek, "As you are going…" The implication is that in our daily life, we always have a "sent' mentality. We are constantly on mission with God, seeking to find specific people he will identify to us, and to interact with them in such a way as to introduce the Kingdom of God into their lives.
- When we go, we are the ones who cross cultural barriers. If we ask people to come to our churches, even our simple/organic expressions of church, we expect them to change cultures and do things they wouldn't do in any other context. When we go, we are the ones to get out of our comfort zones and to enter their culture. Although the low income housing projects are a very familiar culture to Tony and me (we had lived and worked for many years in a similar area in London), it was still out of our comfort zone. In many ways Rosa's family already exemplified Biblical standards in their sense of family and community. For example, there were frequent occasions when they would bring someone to live in their small apartments because they had no space to stay, and if one of them had a need, they willingly shared their resources, often to their own detriment. But in general, the environment of the projects was one of crime and violence, drugs and alcohol, prostitution and family brokenness. Marriages were scarce; children of single mothers the norm.
- If we bring a person to church, we extract them from their own environment and community and potentially lose the opportunity to reach their circle of influence. If we had invited Rosa to the church that met in our home, we might have won Rosa, but we would have never touched her family and friends. In the book of Acts, there are few examples of individuals finding Christ (Paul and Ethiopian eunuch), but many examples of households or groups becoming disciples together. This can happen when church is started in their context rather than ours.
- When we go, we can bring the Kingdom into their context in relevant ways. For example, we didn't immediately introduce sung worship. Worship songs did eventually play an important role because they are a means of teaching good theology in a primarily oral culture, but they would have been totally irrelevant in the beginning. Of far greater importance was the fact that Jesus cared about them which he demonstrated by answering their prayers. Another example: we used a very simple version of the Bible–one easily understood by those with little formal education. Everything was very practically oriented, geared to life in their environment. They weren't interested in theological questions, but found the basic message of the Gospel and the lifestyle Jesus talked about both compelling and relevant to their world. One day we took Norman Barnes, a friend from England, to meet them. He suggested to them that they write down the things they had done wrong, the things they wanted Jesus to deal with, on a piece of paper, which they put them into a pan. He then covered it with a red cloth, symbolizing the blood of Jesus. We took the pan outside and burned the papers. Norman asked them to find their sins–of course, they couldn't because they were ashes. The blood of Jesus dealing with their sin was a lesson they referred back to constantly after this.
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5 replies on “5 reasons for us to be missional versus attractional”
Hello! Have followed your blog for a while now, and really enjoy it – thank you.
Re: this post, I heard someone say that the problem isn’t ‘attractional’ – Jesus was attractive to some, as hopefully our churches are as well. The problem is ‘extractional’, as you mention in the article, “we extract them from their own environment and community and potentially lose the opportunity to reach their circle of influence”.
Isn’t it possible for ‘attractional’ to be part of ‘missional’ as long as we guard against ‘extractional’? Just a thought.
Felicity – Even though we met on Labor Day weekend in Jax, FL at the Hyatt on the St. Johns River by the providence of God, I am just now finding your blog you invited me to read. I am loving it!! As you may (or more likely may not) recall, I mentioned at the round table in the back of the ballroom by the book table… that my husband Stan and I had been “mega church trained” and were programed to “create a canopy of excitement” aka an attraction to invite others to come and experience… We have planted many churches through gathering amazing musicians who could play worship music with excellence so this would be the “attraction”…. When we planted the church we have now in a hotel ball room… It was the talk of the town for about 2 years… Then we relocated to a free facility and lost people (tough lesson to learn)… Because of the exhaustion of lugging expensive music equipment back and forth to set up and break down… we started meeting in our home. So it’s been almost 12 years and we are “stuck” here in our house with a few people – No duplicating and not growing in numbers ( although we stream on-line where many join us) … They all come week after week to an “intimate worship setting” and “in-depth Bible study”… These people are rooted deeply but the joy of outward growth is not there… We are having to rethink all of this now and pray about how God desires to use us in the most fruitful way…. Today I am pondering what you wrote in this “GO” article and I thank you for posting it.
Another great post, Felicity, Thank you!
At this point-in-time, we feel we have been “sent” here to Cedar Row Apartments, a low-income housing community, in a missional sort of way. While it’s not exactly the same as your Rosa story–where you lived outside the area and helped Rosa “plant” a simple church in her sphere of influence–we’re been taken out of our “comfort zone” (wonderful Lynchburg, VA) and placed among folks we would not normally have had much contact with.
Interestingly, just this morning (prior to reading this post), David and I “strategized” a bit concerning our first “gathering” of sorts with four of our residents. (They’re coming here to our apt. tomorrow at 3pm to view Tidal Wave and talk about this new thing we’re about to start called “simple church.” And, by the way, the apt remodeling was completed yesterday. Now all we have to do is furnish it!)
And we agreed that, at least until we get a feel for where they are in their spiritual journey, we won’t be doing any worship other than playing some worship music in the background maybe when they arrive. My, how far we’ve come since our previous “launch” two years ago. 🙂
Friends, Sorry to take so long to respond to your posts. We were away for a month to the UK and Russia, and it always takes me a while to catch up on correspondence.
Andrew, interesting thought. The only time I can think of where Jesus said “Come,” is in the passage “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden…” Whenever he instructed his disciples on reaching out to others, it was always “go.”
I thank God that many, many people find God in an attractional situation. My experience though is that mostly individuals rather than communities are won this way. I also think that in general, people are imprinted with the type of church they are born into, so if they are born into an attractional church, they will tend to invite their non-believing friends to come to church with them. It may be effective for a few, but won’t lead to multiplying groups.
However, I certainly believe it’s possible for an attractional church to train their people to go and to start groups out in the community. If the two are run in parallel with those who are sent being regarded as local missionaries, that would be powerful.
Cindye, I pray the Lord shows you a way for your group to become outward. Maybe the best way would be for you to demonstrate to them how it is done by starting another group with unbelievers. They could rejoice in the birth of a daughter church to the one they are in, and it might give them vision for what they could do themselves too.
Sharon, I’d be fascinated to hear how your group is going. Btw, I totally agree with no worship as the group starts. I’ve seen not-yet-believers turned off by introducing worship too early. Much better to wait.
Thank you, Felicity !! I think you are on to something… I will keep you posted!! The Lord has given me a new excitement about this. Thank you for praying… Please continue to pray…I sooo want to see God crown our efforts with success!! 🙂