‘Attractional’ or ‘Missional’?

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.
(Confesssions, p.27)

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.)

‘Attractional’ or ‘Missional’?

3 thoughts on “‘Attractional’ or ‘Missional’?

  1. Donnahttp://heirofgrace.com says:


    We’ve been looking for a home church forever (over a year). We live in a large population center with many churches and have visted many whose website doctrinal statements passed our scrutiny. We have found that 9 out of 10 churches we have visited have been “attractional”. It’s been quite disheartening really. Haven’t run into any of the missional ones as of yet, thank goodness. I love doctrine too much to give it up. ;o)

  2. Stephen says:

    Hi Donna,
    I love doctrine too much to give it up.
    Good for you! Hang on to that principle. I hope you and your family find a church soon. Discipleship on your own is harder.

  3. Dan B. says:

    I suppose here in the States, we have the opportunity to find churches that have a proper balance of biblical community outreach that is not attractional in that the Gospel and the resulting doctrine is not sacrificed.

    If the Gospel is preached and the people (of a church) truly embrace the whole counsel of God, it’s been my recent experience that this overflows into their work and recreation, in that others around them are brought in by normal interactions with them. The Emergent-type and postmodern emphasis of being “relational” or relative to the culture can in some sense be forced to the point that you cannot tell where the culture in all its worldliness begins and where the church ends. The Gospel should call to the culture, not accede to it.

    I shall have to check out Driscoll’s book. It certainly intrigues me.

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