attractional or incarnational – part nne

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.



Filed under incarnation, mission

9 responses to “attractional or incarnational – part nne

  1. Right on bro! And just for the record, you have a wicked beard. Jealous, to say the least!

    I am working on a second book about how consumerism has crept in stolen the intentional message of Jesus, which was by nature incarnational. It is about being fully present, fully aware and BEING Christ. Attractional seems to have developed out of the typical marketing schemes we see so prevalent in ad campaigns and companies. Sometimes the danger is that these styles or models of following Jesus become subconscious manipulation and is all about the ‘sale’ rather than the relationship. And Jesus proved He wasn’t about the sale by letting a lot of those who were either interested or who were seeking a quick fix to walk away from the whole thing. I think this is why attractional can’t be the best option. Because over time and maybe even unintentionally, the person becomes the product and stops being a person. Really liked the post. And thanks for the comment on mine. Very cool! Stay in touch, will blogroll you as well….

  2. Ike

    The idea that these new ‘man-centered’ methods will restore the power of God in our midst is a red herring.

    A generation ago A.W. Tozer wisely said, “One of the most popular current errors, and the one out of which springs most of the noisy, blustering religious activity in evangelical circles, is the notion that as times change the church must change with them.” Since faithfulness to God’s word, as opposed to what evangelicalism calls success, will be the standard of reward at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor 2:4-5), obedience to the command to preach and teach, without trimming our sail to the wind of the world, is the most pressing need of the hour.

  3. A.W. Tozer preached at a megachurch.

    Just sayin’…. 😉

  4. john, that’s hilarious. thanks for posting. i laughed out loud.

    you know, a.w. never owned a car…?

  5. Ike

    JB……I’d like to join in on the laughter… but don’t understand the humor???

  6. John and I have been discussing lately the possibilities of mega churches being incarnational or “missional?” You should have a look at his blog — good stuff…

  7. Ike

    There isn’t anything wrong with a “mega” church per sa…….it’s how many pastors buy into the church growth movement. There are so many churches entertaining the goats and not feeding the sheep. Add to that….a lack of confronting sin and church discipline and “we” have a mess on our hands. Did I forget to mention all the pastors who bid men to walk forward because it will only take a few minutes…….are you kidding me… will take your life! And let us not forget the superstious prayer that if you ask Jesus into your heart…..these pastors declare them saved?? Show me that in Scripture. In Revelation…..that door Christ was knocking on…..was the door to the church. If the Lord wants to knock down someone’s heart door…..He will do it! How did Paul get saved??? I don’t think he was in a “seeker-friendly” position.

    “Paul ran from Christ; Christ pursued and overtook him. Paul resisted Christ; Christ disarmed him. Paul persecuted Christ; Christ converted him. Paul was an alien; Christ made him a member of the family. Paul was an enemy; Christ made him a friend. Paul was ‘in the flesh’; Christ set him ‘in the Spirit.’ Paul was under the law; Christ set him in grace. Paul was dead; Christ made him alive to God. How does one give reasons for this? He does not give reasons; he sings, ‘Blessed be God who blessed us . . . even as he chose us in him.’”

    Lewis B. Smedes, Union With Christ, pages 86-87

  8. Hi Ike!

    I like the conversation.

    Just wanted to jump in an add a few thoughts.

    you said: There are so many churches entertaining the goats and not feeding the sheep. Add to that….a lack of confronting sin and church discipline and “we” have a mess on our hands.

    Whats’ even more interesting about the goat and sheep metaphor is that when properly placed back into its narrative framework amongst all the Jewish language and metaphor. The sheep and goats are separated by how they react or treat the “other” (the one in need; the outsider). I think it is important to keep in mind also in that verse when Jesus uses the idea of ‘judgement’ it doesn’t mean fire and brimstone, it alludes to the OT view of judgement which also isn’t about fire and brimstone. The word when rendered from the Aramaic alludes to this idea of God setting things right, but not in some childish angry manner like throwing a tantrum but coming and simply announcing a new way to see and view the world that he is at the helm of. Sure, it much more beyond that, I am barely scratching the surface here. But judgement isn’t the same as Judgement as it is used in the Church. I might add a question: Are we broken or are we fixed? (in reference to sin); I have a blog on this. If you think of us like vases, then if we break and then are put back together than we still have the crack, but are fixed. And most people don’t really spend time focusing on the crack, but rather aweing at what’s inside the vase.

    To the general conversation: I would add that I would think as a mega-church conglomerate it might be hard to be incarnational because most outsiders might think of such a structure as more of a Wal-Mart or Disneyland. Having said that, what if they are being missionally incarnational? Just some thoughts, but not sure where I stand on the subject….

  9. You guys ought to look at John Alan’s blog (, because he’s posted some good readings over there (and some videos I haven’t seen) on this missional mega church idea.

    My basic stance goes something like this:
    Until we are living transformed and obedient lives in our communities, there will be no successful “strategy” for mission. And that which appears to be successful mission under those circumstances, I would argue, is merely religion without discipleship, Christianity without obedience, or entertainment, community, and service without much Christ. And I’m just not sure that’s better than none at all.

    But how a community of faith chooses themselves to assemble doesn’t matter to me a great deal. I see that time as an opportunity for Christians to bring their worship before God and encourage / hold one another accountable in worship and in mission. So mega church or tiny church… I’m looking for Christians who are living blatantly spiritual lives into their communities, and being Christ OUTSIDE the walls and programs of their church building.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s