The following is a response to Alex McManus’ “The Truth About the Attractional Model”
The thing about the attractional model is, it’s not attractive to TRY and appear attractive. If the people had thought Jesus was having elder meetings with the twelve discussing ways to attract bigger crowds, then they may have been less inclined to crowd around him.
I’m not saying attrational is bad. But as a model of discipleship? That’s just scary. The church is attractional by default, as the representative of Christ IN culture.
But Christ’s model was never to appear attractive, rather his life was attractive by default, while his life was a life of selfless worship for God and love for men.
I see two major problems with the attractional model.
1. Exposing people’s sin and calling them to repentance is not attractive. The Gospel is very attractive to the person needing redemption, but for the unregenerate, the gospel is potentially repulsive. You know this when you talk with that family member you’ve been witnessing to for years. You hear lines like this; “I’m a good person, are you telling me that God won’t accept me because of a couple of petty sins?” There is nothing attractive about the gospel to that person, and unfortunately there are many like that. Jesus, and his church as his representative, are light in the world. And the light exposes the sin. But people don’t want their sin exposed. So what are you going to do when the gospel doesn’t fit in to your attractional model? Change your model, or change the gospel?
2. The attractional model often encourages us to use the bait and switch strategy. First we give them some rad music, free food and a magnetic personality, then we lay the gospel on them. Bait and switch works overtime!!! If you’re trying to get people to say yes that is. But discipleship isn’t about making people say yes. It’s about a transformed heart. (Have you ever been coaxed into believing something which you later realized was not what you want at all? – Not attractive!) Thousands of people were saying yes to Jesus. But then he laid some truth on them in John 6, and they almost all disappeared. It would appear that Jesus is less interested in attracting a large crowd, and more interested in representing a truth.
Have you ever heard the saying, “what you win them with, is what you win them to”? If you win people’s hearts with bright lights and tantalizing sensory entertainment, you will have to continue feeding them such entertainment to keep them around. They don’t really want Jesus, they want the show that his people put on.
But like Alex McManus I’m not against attraction. When I preach the gospel, I’m not just opening my mouth and praying that people will fall in line because they know what’s right. I’m opening my mouth to tell a beautiful story of a beautiful creator, his rebellious people, and their perfect redeemer who gave his life to manifest God’s love for us despite our hostility towards him. The story may be BEST told with visual and audio effects (bright lights), but the effects can’t be used to make the story more attractive (How could I make the gospel more attractive?), rather, to bring full colour to the attractiveness of the story. Colour that my voice alone couldn’t afford.
God has designed every one of us to long deeply for him. He created us with the desire to look at him and worship with a life of obsessive adoration for him. In a way our existence is model on attraction, because we were created to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Every fibre in our bodies was planned so that it might wooed over to the one who made us. There is nothing more attractive than God himself.
But that’s just the problem with the attractional model. In many ways it says that we, God’s creation, have to make God more attractive. That God alone, is insufficient to woo hearts, and we must act like a sales person on his behalf. Is that what God wants us to do. Hahaha!
Jesus makes it clear what we have to do in Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 9:23 and John 20:21. We have to be transformed, everyday by the Spirit through the work of the gospel, so that we become like Jesus. Forgetting ourselves, submitting everything to God’s will as we trust in him to fulfill our every desire, as he commissions us to care for one anothers needs as he cares for ours.
Jesus was SENT to be God manifested IN culture. Leaving heaven he came to earth, dressed like a jew, talked like a jew, ate like a jew, celebrated like a jew. In every way he was a jew so that he might share the message of the Gospel with jews. He definitely attracted a crowd, but in the end, the same crowd crucified him, so the goal was not to win the crowd. Rather, he gave up all the comforts of heaven, all the riches he could have owned in this world, he died at 33 years old, he had no place to live, and he lived his life under constant public surveillance, so that he might share the Love of God with people. In word, in deed and eventually in his death. Some parts of his ministry were attractional, some were detestable. All we selfess acts of love, first for God, then for men.
Attractional does not work as a model. It’s the result of demonstrating the love of God. The model should be Jesus himself, not extracted “Jesusesque” methods.
That’s why the pushback on “Attractional” has been described as “Missional”, but the answer is not an alternative to attractional. The answer is to have a fuller understanding of where attraction fits into the mission of discipleship.