Attractional Evangelism Isn’t Working

Has your church changed over the past few years?  It seems to me that even a tangentially involved church-goer will notice that this is not the church of a decade or less ago.  Some of these changes,  hopefully many, are for the good…more emphasis on Christ’s mission in the world, vibrant worship, increased diversity, greater involvement in our neighborhoods.

But some of the changes we see worry us, with the top among these I think being decreased involvement and attendance.  Or certainly it gets the most conversation and questions that I hear.  And these bring added worries such as financial viability, building usage and upkeep, staff changes.

Many things in the church of years ago no longer work.  And one of the biggest is what is called “attractional evangelism”.  This is when we open our doors and expect people to come to us.  This is when we work hard to offer better and bigger programs, and diverse forms of worship and expect people to find us just because of those.

People who study congregations, religion, and evangelism are talking and writing more about the church (which is you and me not the buildings) needing to go out into our neighborhoods instead of waiting for the neighborhood to find us.

This is an interesting article which I urge you to read.  What the author is saying is that our attractional models of evangelism are no longer enough.  They have to be balanced with “go to them” models.  Make sure you read the whole article because you need to read about the shifts in this thinking and the 5 practices the author recommends.

I’ll highlight two of them:

  • The first is a Radical Hospitality that we individually extend to our neighbors and neighborhoods and which is more than Sunday morning hospitality to the visitor.
  • The third is Intentional Faith Development.  If we don’t involve people in their spiritual development how can we expect them to become active disciples of Christ? Our places of employment offer skill and knowledge development.  Why shouldn’t the church?  How can the church learn to listen to people about their spiritual questions and the constraints that hold back their church involvement?  Go over to my Facebook page and listen to the video about Big Buts!

What would this look like for you and your church?  What are the practical ways a “go to: model of evangelism works?

Carolyn M. Chilton


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