One postcard, in particular, stuck with me from the virtual mountain of freebies we received from the National Pastors Convention awhile back. The headline boldly declares:

STANDING ROOM ONLY:
Outreach events that draw a crowd

The postcard then goes on to detail a list of motivational speakers, musicians, comedians and other specialty acts a church could bring on board in order to attract a crowd — standing room only, in fact. Reminds me a bit of this old rasslin’ introduction — just plug in “speakers” or “comedians” for “tag team champions of the world.”

Sigh.

Many thoughtful youth pastors have struggled with attractional ministry (if you build it, they will come in the words of Marko); think, “Kids — dudes — come to our church because we have super smash lazer tag rock climbing 2nite!” Here’s one of my personal favorites from another youth pastor, quoted in another post by Marko on missional youth ministry:

Or maybe we need to get some games in there to make it more exciting. Maybe we need a catchy name with words like XTREME or FIRE or XTREME FIRE!

But it’s not just student ministries that are based on the attractional model. The latest and the greatest! is the rallying cry (or at least direct mailing technique) of many churches. At times, it can feel a bit like selling a used car. Here’s a great quote from David Park over at Next Gener.Asian Church:

i’m tired of Christians trying to “sell” something. my friend peter says that listening to some preachers is like having flashbacks at a used car dealership: “so i’ve given you every reason to buy this car, let’s do the paperwork.”

Certainly, there is something about the invitation for those who do not know Jesus to experience the life of God. As the psalmist says, Taste and see that the Lord is good. However, the invitation is not to come and hear great speakers and contemporary music — the invitation is to meet Jesus. While it is possible for people to meet Christ through preaching and music, all too often those outward activities become the primary thing itself. And it leaves ministry in the hands of the “professionals” hawking their wares from the stage.

All of this highlights the difference between going to a church building for some religious activities and being the Church, wherever we find ourselves (including as a gathered community inside of a church building).

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