I hope I am wrong. For the past few years, I have been observing, listening, and asking questions about the missional movement. I have a suspicion that the missional model has not yet proven itself beyond the level of theory. Again, I hope I am wrong.
We all agree with the theory of being a community of God that defines and organizes itself around the purpose of being an agent of God's mission in the world. But the missional conversation often goes a step further by dismissing the "attractional" model of church as ineffective. Some say that creating better programs, preaching, and worship services so people "come to us" isn't going to cut it anymore. But here's my dilemma - I see no evidence to verify this claim.
Not long ago I was on a panel with other church leaders in a large city. One missional advocate in the group stated that younger people in the city will not be drawn to larger, attractional churches dominated by preaching and music. What this leader failed to recognize, however, was that young people were coming to an architecturally cool megachurch in the city - in droves. Its worship services drew thousands with pop/rock music and solid preaching. The church estimates half the young people were not Christians before attending.
Conversely, some from our staff recently visited a self-described missional church. It was 35 people. That alone is not a problem. But the church had been missional for ten years, and it hadn't grown, multiplied, or planted any other churches in a city of several million people. That was a problem.
Another outspoken advocate of the house church model sees it as more missional and congruent with the early church. But his church has the same problem. After fifteen years it hasn't multiplied. It's a wonderful community that serves the homeless, but there's no evidence of non-Christians beginning to follow Jesus. In the same city several megachurches are seeing conversions and disciples matured.
I realize missional evangelism takes a long time, and these churches are often working in difficult soil. We can't expect growth overnight.
But given their unproven track records, these missional churches should be slow to criticize the attractional churches that are making a measurable impact. No, I am not a numbers person. I am not enamored by how many come forward at an altar call. In fact, I am a bit skeptical. But I am passionate about Jesus-centered disciples being made. And surprisingly, I find in many large, attractional churches, they are.
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