Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Evangelism: Should It Be Attractional or Missional?

In my previous post I used two terms that some of my readers may not be familiar with, attractional evangelism and missional evangelism. Though the two types of evangelism overlap in some ways, in general, attractional evangelism is an eort to attract people to the church and its programs, events, and ministries. Once people show up, the church makes an eort to evangelize them. In contrast, missional evangelism is primarily an eort to go outside the four walls of the facility and be on a mission to do evangelism in the community. Missional churches focusing on that style of evangelism are often involved in service projects in the community or in civic organizations as a way to connect with and evangelize non-Christians. Attractional evangelism is often event or program driven, whereas missional evangelism is often lifestyle or relationship driven. 

Though some evangelism experts tend to promote one way as being better than the other, in reality, it should not be either/or; it should be both/and. Moving beyond the walls of the church through missional involvement in the community is very important. However, since the very nature of the church is to gather people together for worship, prayer, fellowship, and teaching, at some point the previously unchurched have to be gathered together for the church to be able to consider their evangelism efforts eective. Whether that gathering is held in a house, a Gothic cathedral, a small family chapel, or a mega-church campus, the principle of Hebrews 10:25 remains the same: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (NIV).

The Mass Evangelism Team at the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention compiled results on the eectiveness of both missional and attractional evangelism. Jerry Pipes, former leader of that team, has said: “A lot of churches have pursued a missional approach to evangelism and church growth to the neglect of attractional evangelistic events that will draw people in. That is like asking a pilot flying over the Pacific Ocean whether he wants his right wing or his left wing. The answer is you need both wings—both missional methodologies and an attractional model.”

Small churches should desire to use both missional and attractional evangelism to reach their communities for Christ. These two philosophical views on evangelism are not contradictory to each other. My next few posts will reveal practical ways that churches of any size can blend the two types of evangelism to eectively reach their changing communities.

Adapted from my book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, which can be purchased at thousands of online retailers or directly from the author.


  1. "Small churches should desire to use both missional and attractional evangelism to reach their communities for Christ. These two philosophical views on evangelism are not contradictory to each other."

    Thanks Terry. I totally agree. We need to use whatever methods we can to reach people. Sometimes in the early stages of planting all you can do is reach out to others missionally through your personal relationships because you're starting from scratch. Once you have a group of people together, there is no reason why you can't invite people to gather together for a special event or even a church service. We know that personal invitation is the most effective way of getting people to something. If we have a missional approach that is driven by lifestyle and relationships then we will have relationships with people that we can invite to our events. These things can work together.

  2. Ted,
    Thanks for your comment. God has given us lots of ways and lots of methods and lots of ideas, and we must use them all, in the right time and right place, for the expanding of His Kingdom.


  3. Our church has a ton of "attractional" activities in an attempt to reach the community (car shows, BMX bike exhibitions, etc). I haven't been a member of this church long enough to evaluate the long term effect of these events, but our church believes in them, so I support the effort.

    However, the long-term negative effects of using this sort of outreach too much is what I would consider apathy from within the church body. Our pastor preached on Nehemiah 10 last week, and spoke specifically about corporate worship and how in our town people put everything else before corporate worship on Sunday. If they need a long weekend away, they take it, and church attendance is low man on the totem pole (so to speak).

    My question is guess is, if you are using these attractional "events" to bring folks to church, and they stay, liking what they see, isn't there a danger of sensory expectation on a weekly basis, and not enough of a spiritual commitment to take Jesus seriously?

    I mean, my next door neighbor is a member of our church, and I didn't even know it until after I had joined the church. I've seen her in church once since the new year. I actually asked here where she goes on Sunday when not in church, and she told me she spent most of her weekends at her beach house.

    My point is that without the Gospel being preached, and reaching the hearts and minds of those coming to attractional events, you end up becoming just another choice in the secular person's mind, without ever transforming the heart. And without accountability from brothers and sisters in Christ, we'll end up being nothing but "attractive" 3 or 4 times a year at best, where the church gets the "leftovers" of our time and commitment.

  4. Amen Philip. The key point you made in your comment above is that the Gospel has to be preached or else attractional events are just one more thing on the "to do" list. So let us make sure that all our activities are Gospel focused.

  5. it needs to be both, liking the book Terry, thanks

  6. I agree that a blended approach using both is important. Where most churches get into difficult spots is defining their discipleship by using these evangelism methods.

  7. There is weakness I perceive in the definition here of missional: it is event focused, they just happen to be outside the walls of the church. The challenge here is it is still seen as a project or separate activity from normal life.

    I believe true missional evangelism is relational. It is getting involved in the everyday aspects of life that allow the opportunity to do what Jesus would do in that situation, demonstrating His character and nature. By doing so, we are able to reveal to them the transforming power of the Gospel.

  8. Martin,
    Thanks so much for your input. I think you are right from an individual perspective. If we are missional individuals then we build relationships with others and use our everyday interactions with them as living testimony of the faith in us.

    However, in this particular post I was seeking to address how churches, as a group, can do evangelism. Though events are not the only way, they are one way. Personal interaction is another way.

    Thanks again for sharing. I think your comment helps all of us think through this issue from another important angle.