There have been a handful of interesting articles popping up regarding the distinction between “missional” and “attractional” models of doing Church. Dan Kimball has a recent post up at Out of Ur. Bob Hyatt responded to Dan here. There are some other posts at Out of Ur here and here that speak to the issue.
While I understand what these two adjectives imply, I don’t think they are very helpful. In essence, all churches are both attractional and missional. Churches attract folks to their mission, whatever that mission looks like. In my opinion, there are better questions to ask: How does a church define their mission? How do they go about attracting folks to that mission? And what is their criteria for success in communicating or inviting others to become apart of said mission? I think that says a lot more about what kind of church you are than professing a “missional” or “attractional” model.
In my experience, mega churches seem to be adopting the concept of creating a concert atmosphere or a “going to the movies” vibe. The lights are usually pretty low. The music is loud, there is some kind of elaborate set on the stage, there are colored lights, lighting the musicians. The question I have is what do people normally do when they go to a concert, or a movie, after the event ends? They go home, usually to never see or talk to the other attendees ever again. Not that strong relational bonds can’t be formed, but the environment doesn’t emphasize relationships. It emphasizes entertainment and comfort in order to keep new faces coming in.
Also from my experience, smaller communities are by nature more exclusive, more transparent and emphasize relationships while not being so concerned with growth. There seems to be less emphasis on “right belief” and more openness to differing views, unless those views are saying, “We need to sing more Chris Tomlin songs.” 😉
Both models have upsides and downsides. Much of what works for the individual depends on how they perceive the nature of the Gospel to be. If the Gospel is a clearly defined set of religious beliefs, then it makes a lot of sense to pull out all the stops to bring folks in so they can be exposed to those beliefs. If the Gospel is understood to be more mysterious, harder to put into a statement of faith and is more evident in relational connections to other like-minded believers, then a smaller community, church, house church may be more attractive.
Again, both models are attractional and missional. It just depends on how you attract folks to your mission and what your mission is in the first place.