Recently I was thinking about some of the things I learned while living in India. Living outside your own culture has a way of testing your assumptions. For example, side by side with my Indian friends, I discovered that I am far more task-oriented and a lot less relational than I want to be.
In a similar way, some of my assumptions about how to pastor and do church have also been tested by living and serving in an Indian context. When I first came to India my approach to church planting relied heavily on gathering believers together who were attracted to a Vineyard kind of church. It was an “attractional” model. My strategy was to build an attractive community that loved Jesus and loved people. We worked on (1) being a loving community, (2) have quality worship and quality ministry times, (3) inviting people, and (4) welcoming the people who visited.
I still believe these are very important activities for any church. However, in an Indian context, I now realized that STARTING with an “attractional” approach has some significant limitations:
- In almost every city in India there are only a small percentage of believers, and many of them are totally unaware of what a Vineyard church is like.
- Furthermore, once people get settled into a church, it is difficult to get them motivated to spend time with unbelievers outside the church.
What if instead of trying to BECOME missional, we started off BEING MISSIONAL?
I think there may be some real advantages to spending a signficant amount of time before we start our Sunday services learning how to lead people to Christ and then discipling them to lead thier friends to Christ. Imagine starting a Sunday gathering with 40 or 50 zealous new believers who are connecting in small missional groups that have a history of reaching thier friends and neighbors.
The truth is it is valuable to be BOTH “missional” AND “attractional”. Whichever way you started out, both approaches are very helpful in reaching people for Christ and growing a healthy church.
SOME KEY QUESTIONS:
- What are some things you could do to make your church more attractive to people? What would make it more friendly to outsiders? What would increase the number of people who visited?
- What are some things you could do to equip your people to move out into the community, sharing about Jesus and making new disciples?