Skip to content ↓

What Is the Attractional Church?

What Is the Attractional Church

No one has more consistently described, considered, and countered the attractional model of church than Jared Wilson. In his book The Gospel-Driven Church, one I’d recommend to every pastor, he answers this question: What is the attractional church, anyway?

I (and many others) use the term attractional to refer to a way of doing church ministry who’s primary purpose is to make Christianity appealing.

The reasoning behind the attractional church approach goes something like this: One reason seekers aren’t attracted to church or Christianity is because they don’t see the Bible as relevant to their everyday life. Seekers ask questions and feel needs that most Christian churches don’t address. In fact, the old ways of doing church erect unnecessary barriers between people and Jesus, barriers of religion, tradition, judgment, and intellect. Successful ways of doing church remove those barriers.

While the expressions are varied, by and large the attractional church serves the end of attracting people in two ways: music and creative elements that appeal to the desired audience and teaching that is designed to be both inspirational and practical. This is true regardless of the size or style of an attractional church.

I also want to be clear about what I don’t mean. When I use the word attractional, I am not referring to “contemporary” worship styles or megachurches. Some critics of the attractional church movement easily lapse into a megachurch critique, and while there may be valid criticism of megachurches, that is not my concern in this book. The size of the church isn’t the point.

There are traditional and nontraditional, denominational and nondenominational, small, medium and megasized attractional churches. Attractional is not a style. It’s a paradigm.

An attractional church conducts worship and ministry according to the desires and values of potential consumers.

An attractional church conducts worship and ministry according to the desires and values of potential consumers. This typically leads to the dominant ethos of pragmatism throughout the church. If a church determines its target audience prefers old-fashioned music, then that’s what they feature in order to attract those people.

So while the seeker-driven megachurch is the common picture of the attractional church, plenty of smaller churches use pragmatic and consumeristic methodology in the hope of growing bigger and fulfilling their dream of becoming mega. Plenty of churches with traditional styles (music, clothing, buildings), both big and small, employ the attraction model as well. Traditional is simply “what works best” in their context.

It bears mentioning that people being attracted to church is not in itself a bad thing! But when attraction becomes the primary mission, you tend to use whatever works to attract them. “We will do whatever it takes to get people in the door,” I often hear pastors say. “We just want them to be able to hear the message of Jesus.” The latter motivation is wonderful, but the problem is that “doing whatever it takes to get people in the door” can replace or undercut what we want them to be attracted to. What you win people with is what you win them to. The best motives in the world cannot sanctify unbiblical methods.


  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (May 21)

    A La Carte: A theology of immigration / Christian catholicity in an online age / Violent pornography’s assault on the marriage bed / Heresy that warrants no apology / Franchising church / With each passing moment / Kindle deals / and more.

  • Why Do I Feel Such Profound Loneliness?

    This week the blog is sponsored by Moody Publishers and is written by Steve DeWitt. The story of human loneliness has its roots in the character of God and God’s purpose in creating us.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created…

  • Stop Swiping Start Serving

    Stop Swiping, Start Serving

    I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that in the past few weeks, you have probably not gotten rip-roaring drunk nor participated in a debauched drinking party. You have probably not given yourself over to rampant sexual immorality or a life obsessed with sensuality. At least, I hope not

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (May 20)

    A La Carte: What media got wrong about supposed Christian self-immolation / We are walking on holy ground / “His Glory and My Good” / How pop Nietzscheanism masquerades as Christianity / Why a full calendar doesn’t necessarily produce mature church members / Thinking biblically about social justice / John Piper Kindle deals / and…

  • One Measure of Greatness

    One Measure of Greatness

    While all of us ought to see evidence of marked growth in our knowledge of God, our relationship with him, and our obedience to him, none of us ever evolves beyond our need for the ordinary means of grace. We never “level up” to such a degree that we gain access to some hidden extraordinary…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    Weekend A La Carte (May 18)

    A La Carte: What it takes to survive ministry / The power of prayer / The dog’s game / Why do Christians do bad things? / Does it matter whether seminary education is in-person or online? / Greet one another with a … what? / and more.