I always struggled with the sound guy who “was never being fed” in church. I always wanted to say (and probably actually did a couple times) “suck it up man and grow up… learn to feed yourself.” But now I’m beginning to wonder if we don’t owe sound guys everywhere at least a little bit of an apology.
It’s late, and I can’t sleep. My brain is spinning on the different strengths and weaknesses of particular approaches to church. I find myself thinking about this topic a lot since I sometimes wonder (if a decade from now) if I was a part of a church planting team, what approach or model would I follow? Not being in the trenches every day has allowed me to try to get a little perspective and to theorize on some things (I’ll be the first to admit this is both good and bad). So, here’s the topic that won’t let me sleep – Is one of the major weaknesses of the attractional church model that it has a tendency to run counter to the biblical description and prescription for corporate worship?
Specifically, the attractional model is really based on the idea that if church is done well enough and relevant enough then people will come. Furthermore, the evangelism emphasis can shift from personal to corporate in nature. Meaning that people tend to invite others to church rather than personally engaging unbelievers on a faith journey. The logic then follows that the church service primarily becomes an outreach mechanism for new believers. Members are often encouraged to not expect to be fed, but come ready to serve others.
The vast majority of my ministry experience has been with this model of ministry, so I know that it has tremendous strengths and the balanced approach that I have been a part of can and has been very effective. I’m really addressing some of the extreme edges of the attractional model. (For example, where deep theological discussions on a Sunday morning would be shunned or considered unwise if you want to reach people.)
One of my aims in this time where I am not on staff at a church is to read, reread, and keep on reading the new testament to try to see what is the most obvious roles of the pastor and the local church. And the more I read through the book of Acts and observe the Early Church the more I become aware of how this type of ministry can clash with scripture if we are not careful. Consider the following:
1. The role of preaching is multifaceted and should include doctrinal depth. Consider what Paul tells Timothy “2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
2. Part of the responsibility of the pastor is to feed people. The analogy of a shepherd leading and feeding sheep is used repeatedly throughout the entire bible. (1 Peter 5:1-4)
3. Jesus has given the church pastors to equip people, build people up, bring people along a path to maturity, and to guard the church against false doctrine (Ephesians 4:11-16 and Acts 20:20-31)
3. The gathering together of the early church included a major focus on edification of the believers and defense of theology.
4. We see Jesus model a blend of teaching to the core disciples, believers, and unbelievers. He really was much more focused on being with lost people versus getting them to come to a place of worship.
5. God never criticizes any of the seven churches in Revelation for not accumulating numbers. He does scold, however, for moral and theological compromise.
It really seems to me that the early church gathered together to be built up and to reach people, but the primary means of reaching people was how they interacted with people day to day (most of the times not necessarily at church.) Whereas the attractional model can be used to say that your week should be used to build yourself up so that the church service can be used to reach people. In a sense it somewhat flips the biblical model. Admittedly, most churches who primarily focus on outreach in their weekend services offer other avenues of discipleship like small groups. Again, I think this can be very effective, but I just don’t think it can be a 100% substitute for what we see modeled and instructed in the bible as the role of the pastor. I also agree that a small group leader and or ministry leader can be that pastor in people’s life, especially in a larger church, but that pastor needs to be trained on their biblical role and expectations.
Obviously, I’m still exploring the topic for myself and I tend to think the answer is not one way or the other but employing a radical blend of both extremes. My fear is for a model that downplays the role of theology and edification in church corporate services, and I fear a model that strangely through such an emphasis on corporate outreach it becomes extremely inward focused and is only driven by events, programs, and services.