We hear a lot about attractional models of worship, evangelism, and all the rest “doing church.” I wonder at what point attractional becomes distractional.
Moving Away from Worship as Penance:
I don’t want you to mishear me here. I am not trying to say the duller and more irrelevant our worship services are the more pleasing they are to God. In my childhood I attended one church that almost made worship seem like a penance. If you could endure all the things that went on any given Sunday and still come back week after week then you paid your penance and God must be pleased with such a selfless endurance. That is clearly not what God wants! God wants spirit and truth AND wants us to be joyful, enthusiastic and energetic. Those two are not mutually exclusive! At the same time we can get so caught up in the form that what we intended to use to attract people becomes a distraction.
I see this happening in several ways although I am sure there are more…
1 – Worship Forms – already mentioned above and elaborated on below
2 – The Misguided “If we only…” way of thinking:
There is a strong tendency to start thinking in “If only’s” and let our dissatisfaction become a distraction from the real goal of our lives and worship – to give God honor and glory right here and now. Often our desire to make things better and improve our worship and worship experience (which is a worthy goal) can rob us of the joy of encountering God through worship in the present. In other words, longing for something new and improved can make our worship in the old way of doing things unsatisfying rather than realizing that God is just as pleased even if it is not our particular way of doing things, song selection, tempo, etc. Imagine if Moses had said, Sinai is cool and all and I know I can meet God there but first let’s put together some real rocking praise down here in order to make the experience something really special. Again, I am not knocking trying to improve what we do but I do fear that the process of improving our worship can become a real distraction if we miss the point and audience of our worship. Does God find this attractive? is more relevant than does average non-Christian Joe on the street find this attractive?.
3 – Winning Converts to Something Other Than Christ
One question we must continually ask ourselves is, “What are we winning people to?” Are we winning them to hype and energy with no substance? Are we winning them with money giveaways? Are we winning people to an attractive and easy gospel, health and wealth, forgiveness without true repentance Gospel? Or are we winning them to the message of Christ that includes tough lessons like self-sacrifice, repentance, and dying to self as well as joyful messages like forgiveness and grace (more on that in a minute).
4 – Emotion as a Coverup for Poor Content:
One of the surest ways to see something is shallow is if it is characterized by a constant barrage of emotion. The quickest way to make up for poor content is one of two extremes. You can either shout a poor sermon to make it sound good or you can cry your way through a poor sermon and hope the heart is pulled by fake tears rather than Gospel. Let’s face it, emotion is appealing to some degree. We want people to be genuine, transparent, real…It attracts. But as with any of these things, in extreme or out of the wrong motives it distracts and detracts from our real purpose. That is the whole point here. Many things are good in and of themselves but when taken to extremes or done out of the wrong motives become a distraction.
More in a bit on what God uses to attract non-believers.
5 – What would you put here?
One of my bigger concerns with “attractional” church is that we’re pulling people in from their own culture and community. They’re having to leave that group in many ways, and might not be accepted as a witness when they return. We’re forcing them to live in a “spiritual” culture and in their former world.
We ought to be living Christ into the community, so that when non-Christians become disciples, they are doing so on their own soil, and in ways that are culturally appropriate. That way their culture as a whole can be redeemed and changed.
But I would suggest that most of our churches are using this “attractional” model — but that the churches you are talking about are just doing a better job of it…