These have become jargon words, I suppose. However, they encapsulate two emphases in ministry today. The church with an ‘attractional’ emphasis seeks to put on programmes to meet felt needs (childrens work, seminars of various kinds, evangelistic programmes etc.), while a church with a ‘missional’ emphasis dispenses with programmes in favour of community and relationship. The danger with the former is to encourage a consumer mentality, with all its associated idols, and with the latter, the avoidance, even denial, of difficult doctrines with the disastrous consequences of its idols.
Driscoll believes ministry should have elements of both. He draws attention to John 6 and how Jesus attracted a crowd who wanted to hear him preach and see miracles. But then he observes how,
… Jesus then preached that he was the bread of life, which drove many people away from him in confusion and disagreement. We see that Jesus not only gathered a crowd but also intentionally drove many people away because they were not among the elect chosen for salvation (John 6:37). Some disciples, however, remained with Jesus and continued to be trained as missionaries by Jesus. They were later sent out to follow his pattern of incarnating in a culture, attracting crowds, preaching hard words that harden some hearts and soften others, and then training those who believe to be missionaries who follow Jesus’ principles of attractional and missional ministry.
Apart from the strange participle ‘incarnating’, which sounds a bit Star Trek for me, this is good. What do you think?
(One reason I dislike words like ‘incarnating’ or ‘incarnational’ is because of a discussion I had with a C of E vicar at St. John’s College, Nottingham while on a visit to the library. He was doing some kind of post-grad thesis on something. We got talking about church planting and he started speaking what seemed like a completely different language, involving phrases like ‘blah-di-blah living incarnationally blah-di-blah post-modern blah-di-blah urban blah-di-blah-di-blah’. I eventually asked him, perhaps naively, about ‘preaching the gospel‘ to people, at which point he spotted someone else he just had to speak to, and walked off.)