Missional vs. Attractional: Which is Right?

Since Riverbend started in 2009, I have heard many who support a missional over attractional philosophy of ministry as well as vice-versa. As a planter, leader, and follower of Jesus, it has left me wondering: “Is this issue so black and white?” and “Do I have to be adamant about one over the other?”

As I consider these questions, I look at what the early church was known for as we read this familiar description in Acts 2:42-46.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,”

In this passage, we see a number of characteristics they enacted:
• They devoted themselves to teaching (Acts 2:42)
• They were filled with awe and wonder at the activity of God (Acts 2:43)
• They had a love for one another (Acts 2:44)
• They where generous (Acts 2:45)
• They met in larger gathering spaces: the temple and smaller gathering spaces: each other’s homes and shared meals. (Acts 2:46)

Effective Kingdom impacters

This would lead to them being very effective for the Kingdom as we read in Acts 2:47.

“Praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

We find that something powerful was taking place in the early church and the activity was rooted in what was happening in the lives of the people.

God was doing such a mighty work in their lives and the lives of others that they praised God and enjoyed the favor of all the people.

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved! This sounds like what we want our churches to do today, doesn’t it?

What was driving this work? Was it a missional or attractional philosophy of ministry? As I have looked at this passage numerous times I have come to the conclusion it was both.

Missional and attractional

The Church found in Acts 2 had an attractional lifestyle that allowed them to show Jesus to others by the way they interacted with one another and served those around them. They strived to live for Jesus in the everyday and in every way allowing Him to set the course for how they approach the missional task in front of them. Nothing was off limits to His leadership as they also loved the people in front of them well. They would serve like Jesus and share what He did for all people.

What does this mean for us? First of all, we, as new churches, need to start adopting a missional AND attractional model of ministry.

We need to stop seeing these as competing forces but rather as complementary facets to the work God has called us to do.

At Riverbend we call it an attractional lifestyle approach. This is meant to help see ANY work that we do as part of the mission God is doing though us. That at the inner depths of who we are the Holy Spirit is filling our lives to the point that we bear the fruit of the Spirit. That is attractive and draws attention to the one true God.

This affects the way we go to work and how we do the job God has given us, the way we serve those around us, and the way we participate in the local church. When we adopt an attractional lifestyle it will impact everything we do.

Don’t limit the way God could allow you to make much of Jesus. Think about what would happen in your community if you started asking, “how is the lived out mission of our church attracting those around us?” I have found this to be so freeing and allowed us to join God in where and however He choices to work.

Joseph Velarde is the Lead Planter and Pastor of Riverbend Community Church in Allentown, PA. Riverbend is a Multiplying Church Center who has the desire to see God start a movement of church planting in Lehigh Valley and around the world. He has been blessed to have Amy as his wife for 10 years.

Published May 11, 2015