Sunday, April 27, 2008

"...That's So Old Testament."

This is a quote from my message today. I was getting a little carried away discussing the idea of "Come and See" vs. "Go and Tell." Some of the terminology commonly used with this is "Missional/Incarnational vs Attractional." I know Perry Noble thinks this discussion is a waste of time, but he truly has one of the best "attractional" churches that I know of.

Looking at this in an extremely simplistic manner, in the Old Testament God used more of a Come and See approach and in the New Testament we are directed to Go and Tell. Come and See was an opportunity for God to draw people to Himself by blessing the nation of Israel. The nations would "Come and See" what God was doing and they would hopefully want to know more about Him.

But in the New Testament commission passages, we are sent out on mission with God. We are to Go and Tell of the great things that we have seen and heard. We are to model Jesus' incarnation with our own incarnational ministries.

How this plays out in the local church is interesting. Is your church's strategy to invite people to come to the weekly gathering that they may hear the gospel and be saved? Or is the main focus of your church's weekly gathering on developing the "saved" so that they will be prepared to step out into the community to live and speak the gospel to those in their world?

Is your local church extremely concerned with drawing people in with good programs, and excellent music and dynamic preaching? That would be the idea of "attractional." Or is your local church more concerned with diving into your community and rubbing elbows with people where they live and serving them so that they may be reached and loved? That would be more the idea of "missional."

When I was commenting today on "attractional," I stated, "that's SO old Testament." But I also noted that even though I feel it is more of our local church's vision to go and tell, we still want people to feel welcomed when the come to our weekly gathering. As Hirsch states, being missional doesn't mean that you have to be "unattractive."

I respect the effort of churches that work so hard to build God's kingdom through "Come and See" methodology. They are pouring out their souls to reach lost people. But I am concerned that sometimes we may confuse a really cool or hip service with the power of the gospel. I hope we are working just as hard to go and tell as we are at making people feel welcomed in our church house.

I also understand this is not an either/or proposition. Two of my buddies who are church planting have strong attractional weekly gatherings, but during the week their churches are busy doing kindness projects striving to bring God's love to the community rather than just waiting for the community to come to them.

I think the problem with being "missional" or taking the go and tell approach is that often times it is more tedious and less glamorous and sometimes even a little harder to identify. Going and telling just doesn't work well with the American mindset, so we'll go to plan B. If our people won't go and tell, maybe they will invite their friends to come and see. I think this is the reason why a lot of people have turned to a more attractional style ministry.

Please don't take this post to be stating that our local church has "missional/incarnational" ministry all figured out. We are just starting to take this plunge. But I feel it fits with the core of the gospel. And I believe we must get this right if we are going to reach people who will never darken the doors of a church no matter how good the music is.

(If you really would like to follow this discussion follow some of the comments to Alan Hirsch's blog post on this topic.)

2 comments:

brad brisco said...

Looks like you are having a profitable struggle with the "attractional/incarnational" tension. I like what you said that in reality there really shouldn't be a tension. However, I beleive if we put all our resources in a "come and see" philosophy of ministry rather than a "go and be" we will slowly become less and less effective at reaching those outside the church. Not to mention that a missional/missionary perspective is more consistent with the missionary nature of God.

Blessings brother!

Crystal said...

I think our church is attractional but trying to be missional. We are trying to move more that direction but it is hard because we have so many "fringe" people that won't participate in anything missional that we feel like we have to keep attracting them to the services so they'll come at all. We are struggling to move them deeper into a committment to Christ and the church but it is a battle when we only have them for 1 hour and 15 minutes once a week. 60% of them don't even attend Sunday School.

I was thinking about this lately because we met with some old friends that were telling us about something their church tried. They closed their doors for an entire weekend and just went out in to the community to serve others. They all wore t-shirts identifying them as part of the church and then they raked lawns, carried groceries, washed cars, etc. And it wasn't a fundraiser!! It was just service...pure and simple. They got lots of comments from the community like, "Wow, your people are everywhere!" Did it pay off by actually attracting anyone to the church? I don't know.

Could our church do this? Sure, but how many would participate? 50%? I doubt it. Plus we financially cannot give up teh offerings from our 3 services each week. Is that a good excuse? Nope, but is a logisitical matter we would have to solve before we could "Leave the Building".

I think having Christians out and about...especially on Sunday...and especially NOT trying to raise money is a very valuable tool. It lets the skeptical see that we aren't all holed up in our churches doing some kind of mystical meditation, but rather we are out there in the community caring for people...serving people.

Angela Hunt wrote a good novel that deals with the subject called "The Debt". It compares the mega-church and its programming to a single individual out amoungst the sinners trying to shine his light. It is a fictional novel but it really made me think about this issue.