Seven Things We Can Learn from Attractional Churches


By Chuck Lawless

The debate between being an attractional or missional church continues. I’m not a fan of a church that is ONLY attractional, but I do think we can learn some things from the attractional approach:

  1. Have an intentional strategy to reach people. Too many churches are neither attractional nor missional because they have little commitment to reaching the unchurched anyway. An attractional approach is at least an intentional start.
  2. Think about the unchurched. You might argue that the attractional approach gives too much attention to them, but it does focus on non-believing people that the Lord loves. It pushes us to be outwardly focused.
  3. Promote excellence. The consumerism of the attractional approach may go too far, but it nevertheless requires us to strive for excellence. Far too many congregations act as if a shoddy, ill-prepared worship service is pleasing to the Lord.
  4. Keep moving people in the direction of evangelism. Few believers will ever share the gospel verbally, but perhaps inviting others to church is at least a move in that direction. An attractional model requires us to consider the spiritual state of others – a first step toward evangelism.
  5. Demand strong communication. Attractional approaches don’t work if the delivery of the message is poorly done (and, of course, I’m assuming here that the message is clearly the gospel).
  6. Apply the gospel. Hearers need to understand how to apply the gospel to their lives during the rest of the week, and strong preaching takes them there through application. Show people where the gospel intersects their lives.
  7. Maximize the opportunity. We may get only one opportunity to proclaim the gospel to the unchurched person who unexpectedly attends our church. Tell it clearly. Tell it well. Passionately call people to Jesus.

Now, I’m not suggesting that missional churches don’t exhibit these characteristics. Many, in fact, do. What I’m encouraging is an approach that is both attractional and missional: we move outside the church to live among the lost, take the light to them, share life with them, and also invite them to corporate worship that is biblically sound and culturally aware.

We can learn from each other.

Posted on September 4, 2019

Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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  • Chatim Daniel Diu says on

    I love that point

  • The mission of the church is to make disciples (of all nations, or people groups) and to teach them everything Jesus commands us to do. We focus on doing the former, but not nearly enough on the latter. And perhaps not at all on the latter. Plus, we lose sight of the fact that, per Jesus Himself, if we lift Him up, He will do the drawing of the people.

    We seem to think we’re doing that with our programs.

    • Chuck Lawless says on

      Thanks, Robert. Programs are themselves not bad, but our evangelizing and discipling must be more than that.

    • I find it interesting that Jesus first command was to repent. He expected that it was possible for a person to obey that command replacing hate with love, lust with purity, lies with truth, gossip with thankful encouragement; even though their understanding of Jesus was not yet complete.

      • Craig Giddens says on

        To be more precise Jesus’ first command to Israel was to repent.

      • Guy in the Pew says on

        Just to be theologically precise, as Craig said, Jesus’ command to “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” was specifically for Israel. It was a call for national repentance because their king had arrived. When Peter repeated that command he was still preaching to Israelites. I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where that command was repeated for gentiles. Jesus even initially told his disciples not to go to the gentiles with that message.

  • Burdette Hansen says on

    Churches are declining because they are more focus on their church than they are on Jesus!

  • We need to think about what our guests are experiencing when they attend a church for the first. For them to attend they must overcome some personal resistance (fear of the unknown, for example) and run some stop signs we erect. Some stop sign examples: (1) I often see a greeter looking anxiously out into their parking lot from inside the facility as I approach the entrance from the parking lot. They don’t open the door until I get there. Greeters should be out in the parking lot so guests are greeted as soon as they enter the church’s property so the guest doesn’t turn around and leave (stop their effort to attend). This communicates to everyone that guests are expected to attend the church. (2) Everyone in the church should have the mentality that they are a greeter. For a guest to be expected to introduce themselves and make themselves feel welcome says they weren’t expected and aren’t necessarily welcome. They can feel tolerated instead of appreciated for their efforts to attend a new church (a stop sign for returning). (3) The greeting time can only make these feelings worse since this is a specific time set apart to make the guest feel welcome. If the church hasn’t already made the guest feel welcome, this will feel phony. It would be wise for the church leadership and membership to visit their own church as a new visitor to gain some insights into what it feels like for new people to visit them.

    • Chuck Lawless says on

      Thanks for your thoughts, Jim. It’s hard to visit our own churches as visitors once we’re already entrenched, but I agree we need to think that way.

  • Charles Edward McCaul says on

    Can you describe what an Attractional Church and a Mission Church is? What’s the difference.

    • Chuck Lawless says on

      Fair question–and the response you get will probably vary as often as you ask it. The most simple way for me to differentiate is an attractional church focuses on bringing people to the church to hear the gospel, and a missional church emphasizes sending members out into the community to share the gospel. We can, I believe, learn from both, and, frankly, I don’t know many churches that are exclusively one or the other.

    • A missional church focuses on ways to interact with non-believers in venues outside the church building or worship setting. Usually by using ordinary types of activities, workplace, hobbies, normal interests or regular community activities. What the Christian normally does becomes a path for relationships, friendships, conversations, opportunities for prayer and God’s direct answers to that prayer in the lives of non-believers. This leads to opportunities to have conversations about the Gospel and the chance to disciple even non-believers into obedience to Christ. The aim is to help a non-believer begin to talk with and obey Christ even before they make a clear step of commitment and faith in Christ. Think of Abram following God’s call to the land of promise even before he fully believed the promise of God in Genesis 15.

      An attractional church focuses on bringing non-believers into the worship setting expecting that the influence of love, faith and the clear proclamation of the Gospel will lead a person to faith in Christ. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25