Should The Church be Attractive or Attractional?

The gospel is good news of great joy for all peoples. This is a compelling message that builds the foundation of the Church. Unfortunately today, it’s become increasingly common to hear Christians lambasting the Church. 

Sadly, many Christians give the impression that speaking well of the Church is like putting lipstick on a pig. Jesus doesn’t need “hair and makeup” before going on stage. 

We must not be ashamed of clearly and confidently holding to what Scripture teaches, and inviting people to repent of their sin in order to follow Jesus Christ. Jesus is compelling. Jesus is good news. 

Consider a beautiful woman. She does not need to dress a certain way or work especially hard to be recognized as beautiful. Her beauty is obvious. Meanwhile, others dress and carry themselves in order to accentuate what they wish others to notice (while also concealing things they want to remain hidden). 

How often is this a parable of our churches? We do things a certain way in order to make God look however we think people will find attractive. We preach on grace but not judgment. We speed up the music but fear silence. And we work diligently to avoid causing offense or controversy. 

Consider Mike Leake’s article, “The Difference Between Attrational and Attractive Ministry,” which provided the above parable of beauty… it’s a great article.  Here is what I believe to be the most vital portion, 

“My point here is that whenever churches start asking those questions and focusing on whether or not we are “attracting,” we’ve moved off center. When we do this we become like the Pharisees, who were more concerned about how they were viewed than who they actually were. Maybe even more pathetically, we are like the teenage boy constantly checking out his budding muscles in the mirror in hopes that maybe this will help him finally get the girl to pay attention to him.

This isn’t to say that churches should be intentionally unattractive. In fact, if churches focus on doing gospel things they will actually be naturally attractive—at least to some. The Bible gives evidence of this. Jesus attracted crowds. The disciples, too, attracted a ton of folks who were filled with questions and wondering what in the world was going on with them. There was something about the way they were living that attracted folks and caused them to wonder why in the world these Christians had such hope. They were attractive.
Though it’s a subtle difference, there is a great chasm between being an attractive church and an attractional church. One intentionally tries to draw a crowd, while the other goes about doing their ministry and the crowds show up, maybe. Jesus didn’t have healing services in hopes that people would show up. He healed people because that is who He is and people showed up as a result. The attractional model, though, draws a crowd and hopes to slip the gospel in the backdoor. One has confidence in who they are and they other is like a junior high boy who doesn’t have enough confidence in his person to drop the frills and just be himself.

The Church is the People of God, Bride of Christ, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Christians are the children of God. Let us continue to walk as beloved children of God who have been adopted through Jesus Christ. May our identity as God’s people be the core of the Church rather than a desire to be attractive to the world. 

What is the difference between an attractive gospel and an attractional ministry? One preaches a gospel about Jesus who is truly beautiful, the other feels pressure to portray in him the best possible light. 

3 thoughts on “Should The Church be Attractive or Attractional?

  1. Another great article Mike. I pretty much agree with it. But I will say this, like it or not, attractive-ness attracts people (“attractive people attract people”). You put a theologically sharp person up front to teach or lead singing, and that person is just a slob (etc., I’m being nice here!), fewer people are going to attend or stay, and therefore fewer people are going to hear the message. Do the same with a sharp person (I didn’t say pretty or handsome or beautiful) just “attractive,” and that person will bring in more people. Right? But you still have to speak the truth and present Jesus and the Gospel.

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