Here is how I have explained in one of my books the difference between an attractional strategy and an incarnational one.
INCARNATIONAL vs. ATTRACTIONAL & What Is the Difference?
7Systems.church explains the “systems” behind each practices.
5 Practices for Fruitful Congregations in a Post-Attractional Era
by Robert Schnase in Leading Ideas, the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, October 17, 2018.
(Attraction is Not Enough)
… Most congregations, consciously or unconsciously, operate with attractional assumptions. They imagine that a person, couple, or family becomes aware of their church, perhaps through:
- the invitation of a friend,
- an advertisement on a billboard,
- or by driving past the sanctuary.
- Churches then hope that what the new persons hear or see will draw them toward the congregation.
…Attractional models worked in the past
- when the culture expected people to attend worship
- and people wanted to be members of churches.
- What happens when people no longer trust institutions in general or the church in particular?
(Incarnational [Whitesel] Outreach is Needed)
…Today, fruitful congregations have discovered that while attractional models are helpful and necessary to fulfill the mission of Christ, they simply are not enough… (it requires) a different posture toward our neighbors, a more deliberate outward focus, and a willingness to carry Christ’s love to where people already live and work and play, rather than hoping for people to come to us.
1. Radical hospitality
Radical hospitality is not merely focused on getting people to come to church. Rather, it focuses with greater intentionality about how we carry hospitality with us into our neighborhoods, work life, and affinity networks. What good is Christian hospitality if it’s something we only practice for an hour on Sunday morning while failing to form relationships with people who live next door?
2. Passionate worship
Passionate worship extends beyond improving what happens on Sunday morning in the sanctuary. Worship becomes mobile, portable, on the move, going where people live, and work, and play.
3. Intentional faith development
Intentional faith development includes more focus on experiential learning, mentoring, spiritual formation, and forming relationships in addition to traditional content-based education in Bible studies and Sunday school classes.
4. Risk-taking mission and service
Risk-taking mission and service explores relationships more deeply and offers examples of shifting from doing ministry for to less patronizing, more relational models of doing ministry with those who suffer hardship or injustice.
5. Extravagant generosity
Extravagant generosity involves helping people learn to love generosity as a way of life not just a way of supporting the church.
This shift of energy, focus, and imagination is life-giving. When the church leaves the building to offer ministries that matter, we view ourselves as part of Christ’s mission in a whole new way, as sent into a mission field uniquely prepared by God that uses the talents, gifts, and relationships God has given us.