The Attractional Church III

I believe the attractional church has had its day. While it has some great successes (Saddleback, Willow Creek – thumbnail left, Hillsong and many more), these are a tiny percentage of the churches who are actively trying to pull this off. And let me tell you, it’s hard to pull off. By virtue of it’s description – attractional – it has to be done really well, or it’s pure and simply a farce! I’m sure every one of us who have visited different churches at various times (we like to visit other places when we go on holidays) have seen or experienced things done in church that have just made us cringe. There’s very little distance between being attractional and being cringeworthy and it can happen as quickly as the remote microphone batteries running out when the hot visiting singer is launching into the bridge/key change.

One of the biggest problems with the attractional church, is the money that’s involved. It does take lots of money. I’ve been there, and I’ve been involved in the budget process and I know how much it costs. For one thing, because it’s building centred, you must have a big building to hold the crowds, and big buildings cost buckets of money. It’s very hard to avoid having your own big building, because the other options (such as using a school hall) simply aren’t attractive. No, you need a building and you need it to be slick and state of the art. You’ll need a PA system which will cost probably around $1000 per head of congregation. You’ll have data projection, children’s rooms, a kitchen or cafe, a reception or lounge area, loads of glass, offices, hard wearing carpet, comfortable chairs – the works. Of course, none of these are bad or wrong, it’s what happens on the way to obtaining them or paying them off.

The money involved is absolutely huge. The building and land depending on where you live, will cost $5,000 per head of congregation and that’s on the cheap. So you love Willow, you’re excited about building your own Dream Centre, or Hillsong Church, now you need to find some money. You get a word from God. You cast the vision. You have a miracle offering. You may ask your board to re-mortgage their own homes (as Hybels did) if they really believe God is in it. You fund-raise, you take pledges, you keep it in front of the people every moment (because they will dwell carelessly unless they have vision). You develop business partners in the church who will give tens of thousands. You get visiting speakers who are gifted at talking about money to come and do their thing (and pay them thousands to do it). You get people to believe in the dream. You have architects draw it up and show pictures and video walk-through’s of the new building and talk about building the kingdom and how many souls will get saved as a result.

But little by little, the dream of the building inexorably and inevitably begins to erode and compete for headspace (or is that heart space?) that would otherwise be focused on building the people. Slowly but surely, the people become a means to an end. But Christ died because people were THE goal. We rationalize that it’s all about people, and the building and all its trimmings will serve the people, but I can tell you, once you take out a loan and start the building process, the pressure is enormous, and even the holiest saints’ motives and perspectives become clouded and compromised.

Kudos if you pull it off and become the next Willow Creek, but you might want to do your homework and see if there isn’t a better model for you than the attractional church.

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  1. […] The Attractional Church Part III […]

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