This is the fourth (and last) post in a series on attractional versus incarnational forms of ministry. You can see the other posts here:
I thought I would end with two common questions that arise when dealing with this subject.
Jesus seems to have been very attractional in his ministry on earth. He was always surrounded by crowds and attempting to draw people to himself through miracles, signs, and wonders. How do you reconcile that with your claims that God intends for mission to be incarnational in its form?
I think we have to be careful NOT TO define attractional ministry as “any type of ministry which might attract people to God or his community.” Every form of mission is required to do that in order to be mission. Jesus performed miracles, signs, and wonders IN THE COMMUNITY as he lived a blatantly spiritual life, demonstrating what it meant to be a citizen in the kingdom of God. And people were drawn (attracted) to that kind of life, and wanted to know about the God who was responsible for it. But that’s not attractional ministry; it’s incarnational ministry at its best — sharing the gospel by living Christ into a community.
That’s a far cry from designing programs and activities to which people might want to come, kingdom life involved or not. Attractional ministry is when we offer some kind of program to get people on our own soil, so that we can THEN share the gospel with them. I don’t know of Jesus ever having done this. I wonder if he didn’t even go out of his way to prevent it… telling those he healed not to tell others what he’d done.
I agree that our churches need to commit to ministering in more incarnational ways in our communities. But I don’t see any reason to stop the attractional programs — I mean two forms are better than one, right? I see mission as more of a both / and situation, in which we should seek to reach others in as many ways as possible.
Let’s look at Jesus as our example: everything about him was incarnational. He left heaven for earth, and even took a human body in the process — God in the flesh is nothing but incarnational. And he didn’t stop there… in his mission to/in/for earth, Jesus didn’t focus his efforts within the religious buildings and community. Instead, he lived a Spirit-filled life in the larger community, alongside the tax collectors and prostitutes, and on their soil. I can’t find anything attractional in Christ or his strategy for mission.
I’m not saying attractional ministry can’t work, but it doesn’t seem to be demonstrated in the Bible, and I think it carries with it a lot of difficulties which have to be overcome. [See “attractional or incarnational – part mbili.“] The alternative is an incarnational approach to mission, which was clearly modeled, and successfully so, by Jesus himself . When I look at the two methods side-by-side, I can’t think of any good reason to try and solve or overcome all the problems inherent with attractional ministry. It seems that we’d be going out of our way in order to adopt a more man-centered and less proven approach. The only reasons I can think of for sticking with an attractional model of mission are:
- It’s easier.
- It’s more comfortable.
- It ensures that our own congregation will grow and not just the kingdom as a whole.
- It’s the way we’ve always done it.
- It’s the only model possible if our members are not actually living transformed lives.
It seems most of our churches have an incredibly tight grip on what is a non-Biblical approach to mission, and show no signs of loosening that grip any time in the near future. I think it would be wise for us to examine our reasons for doing so, because there’s not a reason listed above that is pleasing to God, or in keeping with his desires and purposes in the world.