Tuesday, June 24, 2008

[THO] Attractional and Incarnational

I just finished up my first chapter with a brief, very brief, discussion of attractional church as a contrast to incarnational church. It is really evident how bad of a caricature this false dichotomy presents. I reflected back to Jerry Cook's discussion in Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness, where he contrasts the inward looking church-as-a-field to the missional, but horribly named, church-as-a-force. I think that the dichotomy does serve a purpose, it brings the paradigm you want to endorse (Incarnational, church-as-a-force, missional, etc.) into clear relief against a starkly contrasted position.

My concern over such word-play is that we miss the reality that these models function together. Of course there are various ways we can weight the influences - and I do think that a more incarnational focus is good. But the attractional church is not bad, it is not even undesirable - it is also good. I think that needs to be clear.

At our last pastors gathering, Gary Best took on this whole issue. His concern is that there are strongly attractional churches rejecting strongly incarnational churches, and vice versa. That to me is very sad. The last thing we need is another division in the Body of Christ.

What I propose is that we open up to and learn from each other. Fact is attractional churches do pretty sweet church. Incarnational churches do too, but the emphasis is a bit different and worth rejoicing in. The other fact that us emerging types need consider is that incarnational is often more of a talk than a walk, so what is the real difference between us and the attractional church? We all have a long way to go. Perhaps instead of stark contrasts we need to just enjoy the journey and embrace as many partners along the way as possible.

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