Attractional vs. Incarnational

First of all, I'm posting two articles in one night, so check to see if you've read the one below, too...

Anyway, I just wanted to mull over some ideas about the way evangelism is done. I mentioned in a previous post that we're moving our "postmodern" ministry from a top-down approach to a bottom-up approach. What I mean by that is this: instead of starting a church service ("top") and having people come to that service and then hopefully start other ways to provide spiritual growth through, say, small groups, we start with smaller groups that are church ("bottom") and then, as the need arises, provide a larger worship gathering for those groups.

In some of the literature I've been reading, the words used to describe these two different strategies of ministry are attractional and incarnational. Attractional churches say, "Here we are. Here's what we offer. Come to our church." They work very hard to attract people to their church. Incarnational churches say, "We're going to go to where you are. We want to know what's going on in your life and we want to become a part of what's going on in your life."

Some argue (and I think I tend to agree) that the incarnational is the more biblical. After all, God didn't try to attract us to himself--he was incarnated in Jesus. He came into our world and met us where we were (John 1:14 - "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.").

Even then, however, there was some attraction involved. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." But Jesus didn't try to attract people until after he had gone into their world. Only then did he say, "Come."

I think the attractional worked for a long time--especially in a culture that was to a large extent ecclesiocentric (How's that for a big word? Can you believe I just made it up--it means "church-centered."). When most people went to church, all a church had to do was provide what people wanted.

But now that most people are not interested in church, we have to be willing to go into their world. They sure as heck don't want to come into the world of the church!

Here's a short but really helpful article that goes a little more in depth on incarnational and attractional ministry. And here's one that discusses the strengths and weaknesses of not two, but three, different approaches to evangelism.

Phase One - Start!

So, our Third Service Team (though that may be a misnomer at this point) got together again a couple days ago to continue dreaming and visioning this new direction for the Third Service ministry. Here's some of what we came up with.

Some of the groups will most likely be focused on some type of activity. Dan and Troy, for instance, were talking about starting a group based on music. They'd get together to learn new songs (mostly Christian music, I suspect) and out of the learning of those songs would spring times for discussion about meanings of songs, what they Bible says about those songs, how worship can be a part of our every day lives, etc. (These are just off the top of my head.) The main thing is that it would flow naturally.

Robin and I are thinking of starting a group with some young couples who have young kids. We'd start with some couples in the church--get them together to see if they want to be a part of this group/outreach. Then in another week or so we'd invite some other couples we know who don't attend any church. The key here, again, is to be natural. I think it's important to be straightforward with them--tell them exactly what we're doing. I don't think we should ever pretend this group is something other than what it is, namely church.

I think we still need to work out some of the strategy of how to really run these groups and keep them outreach-oriented, but it seems we'll figure a lot of that out by trial and error. That's why Phase One of this new ministry is simply to "Start!"

There are, however, some questions that we need to keep in mind as we start these groups:

1) How do we keep them focused on being church, instead of just a get-together?

2) How do we keep them focused on outreach, as opposed to simply being a small group and run the risk of becoming in-grown?

3) How do we grow? Do we split groups when they grow? Do we prepare certain people to break off and become leaders of other groups?

4) How do we help people in these groups know and feel comfortable with the idea that these groups are Union Presbyterian Church?

5) How do we help people in these groups become involved in the larger ministry of Union Presbyterian Church? (By this, I don't mean, "How do we get them to come on Sunday morning?" I mean, "How can they get involved in other ministries of UPC--like youth ministry, children's ministry, missions, tithing, etc.?")

6) And also, how might technology play a part in these groups? Can we use blogs like this one to discuss issues and questions online? Can we provide short podcasts (audio and/or video) for groups to watch to help initiate a topic and pose questions for discussion? What other possibilities are there for the use of technology?

So, we've clearly got a lot to think about. But I'm pretty excited about where God seems to be leading us!


Breaking through the Great Firewall of China

I mentioned Google's compromise with the Chinese state a few weeks ago. Here's a hopeful little bit of info regarding that very subject at ThinkChristian.net.


Restructuring our Postmodern Ministry

It feels like there is so much happening for me right now.... I already told you about the friction this Belize trip is causing, but I really think that this trip will allow the high school group to turn a corner in terms of the spiritual growth of the kids. Sure, those who don't go on this trip might be upset, but I think that this trip will be transformational for those who do go.

Big changes are also happening with what our church calls the Third Service, our highly modern/postmodern worship service. We got together as a team a week and a half ago and decided that God may be calling us to try something new--to restrategize and restructure the ministry that had been the Third Service.

What's also really exciting is that others in the church are also buying in to the idea (which I'll explain in more detail in a minute). Chuck, our Sr. Pastor, is behind the idea, and the Worship Committee got behind the idea when I presented it to them last Saturday.

When I met with our Third Service Team back on Jan. 28, all of us had the sense, as we discussed, that we need to start taking a bottom-up approach to evangelism rather than a top-down approach.

Here's what I mean. Starting a contemporary/postmodern service, while a lot of fun and really creative, is basically a top-down approach to ministry. In other words, we start a service and try to attract people to attend that service.

In switching to a bottom-up approach, we are inviting people to join us in small communities that could meet anywhere (homes, coffee shops, restaurants, parks, sports facilities, etc.) to talk about spiritual issues. These communities become church. In fact, they are church. If people feel like they want to come to church on Sunday morning, too, great! But we would never tell them that they need to go church on Sunday morning. The small community is just as much church as Sunday morning is.

We've still got some strategizing and dreaming to do as a team. And I really need to thank D.G. Hollums who is a church planter in Florence, Kentucky, with Florence United Methodist Church for sharing the idea for this kind of church first with me and then with our team. D.G. is starting something very similar through his church called The Waters and I'm looking forward to continuing to engage with D.G. as he and I both participate in similar minstries. And maybe our ministries can even work together!!

Now, wouldn't that be stretchy! Presbyterians and Methodists working together!!


It Hurts So Good!

Conflict sucks!

But I've found that unless you've got conflict (at least every now and then) you're not stretching your ministry.

So, here's what's going on. Our high school group has the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Belize this summer. Sounds great, doesn't it! And it is. But this "new thing" is causing all kinds of friction in our group. Some of the kids are fired up about it and can't wait! Some of the kids are ticked off about it and can't believe we're not doing our typical mission trip with Youthworks!

It's kinda funny actually. Last week, I had Howard Storm (who runs the organization Mission to Belize and also wrote the book, My Descent into Death) speak to our group about the trip. The feedback I got was that he actually turned some of the kids off to the trip! Ironic. On the other hand, some of the other kids got really excited about the trip.

Two nights ago, we had a follow-up meeting. And that's when it happened. The kids who were mad were either crying or scowling (depending on their gender). And the kids who were excited about the trip were frustrated with the kids who didn't want to go. (I heard later that the church choir practice--which meets was right after our high school group--was all tense because of this!)

So, here's what I'm thinking. I'm actually glad that I'm doing something that's causing conflict. If nothing I implemented ever caused discomfort and conflict, I wouldn't be stretching our ministry.

Stretchychurches will always have conflict. Growth involves conflict. Conflict is good because it means something is happening! The challenge, of course, is managing the conflict in a healthy way.

But we'll save that topic for another time.