So you may recall that I have written in the past here on the Missional Model vs. the Attractional model for Church. I’ve also written here that the commonly used metrics of Butts in Seats & “Decisions” for Christ are poor measures of an individual church’s success in its primary mission of making disciples (Matt. 28:19). I’ve even gone so far as to take a stab at how we might better measure genuine transformation of persons in opposition to the traditional focus on the three “B”s (Buildings, Budgets & Butts in Seats).
As I have reflected on these topics I have often wondered longingly for some real statistical data (if indeed it even exists) to finally answer the question of who does a better job of actually making (and deploying) disciples of Jesus – large churches or small churches, organic or institutional, missional or attractional (church growth)? Then I recently came across this post – Missional vs. Attractional: Debating the Data. With a heart filled with hope, I clicked on the link, thinking I had found what I’ve been looking for.
It’s a good article! It talks about how missional thinkers like Alan Hirsch and David Fitch have charged that in the post-Christendom environment of the church in the west, that the attractional model no longer works. But Scot McKnight (one of my favorite scholars) counters ‘show me the data!’ OK, fair enough Scot. I agree (for reasons stated above).
[OBTW see Scot’s The King Jesus Gospel for insights into how/why evangelicalism is obsessed with what he calls “Decision-ism” anyway (or to use is words ‘we have a salvation culture, not a Gospel centric culture). In McKnight’s view we have confused the plan of salvation with the gospel.]
Now back to our story…
But where this article falls short is that the metrics they use in their attempt to settle the missional vs. attractional debate are, you guessed it, data on conversions (in Mega Churches) not data which measures a church’s success in achieving the Great Commission, i.e. building mature followers (disciples) of Jesus and their ability to send them out on mission to make more disciples (see also J.D. Greear on Seating Capacity vs. Sending Capacity).
I’m not a statistical data analyst, but I am still hopeful that data gathered from, for example, something like LifeWay’s Transformational Church Assessment Tool (TCAT), will be able to help us compare different church models to determine if there are trends which might reveal whether some models actually do a better job of what Jesus commanded us to do: make disciples. I realize that there are plenty of folks out there who will argue that it doesn’t matter which model you choose, any model can be successful. But my question is, of course, based on what do you mean by “success”: success of the organization (i.e. growth, survival & preservation of the organization at all costs) or success in building people who live life on mission as followers of Jesus in their context?
I’ll close with these two thoughts: I for one believe, that until we begin to make disciples who make more more disciples, we will never accomplish the great commission. As long as we continue to make disciples who make coffee at church on Sunday morning (that’s my part in the Great Commission – I volunteer at my church!) – we will not be able to fulfill the final marching orders of our Lord (Matt. 28:19) through addition (the attractional approach). The Great Commission can only be accomplished through multiplication: making disciples, who make disciples, who make more disciples.