How Does a Church Become “Jesus-Style Attractional?"
by John Richardson | January 31, 2013
Whether we want to admit it or not, the church needs to be attractional. Being something of a purist, I spent years running from the idea that the church should market itself to the world. After all – I rationalized – Jesus did not market to anyone. He simply did the will of His Father.
Jesus can be Anti-Attractional
Jesus fearlessly spoke the words of God, even when it made the outside world mad. He got in the face of prideful religion and condemned its practices. He rarely sought the crowds. In fact, there were times that He crossed lakes and fled towns in order to escape the crowds. He told at least a few potential followers that, with their current attitudes, they were not fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62). To others, He noted that if they wanted to be His followers, they had to drink His blood and eat His flesh.
No one with a stable mind would call those actions attractive.
Fast-forward 2000 years.
The Church Desires to be Attractive
Churches across the world tolerate – and sometimes embrace – religious pride. Groups flourish as they espouse the material benefits of following Christ. Churches enfold the gospel in the excitement of a rock concert. Some church leaders focus more on proper contextualization than they do on proper Biblical interpretation. Many are in search of the bigger crowd.
I – along with countless other believers and leaders – have a hard time reconciling the ways of Jesus with the ways of the attractional church. Even Bill Hybels has come out in recent years noting that if he had it to do all over again, he would focus more on discipleship and less on attracting crowds.
But, here’s the obvious delima. We want the gospel to spread. We want the kingdom to advance. We genuinely want more people to know, follow and enjoy the abundant ways of Jesus. So, how does a church attract people to the gospel without skirting around our Model…our Savior?
Well, the good news is that we don’t have to bypass the ways of Jesus if we want to be attractive to the world. Think about it. Even though Jesus was brutally honest with people…even though He overturned tables in the (socially acclaimed) Temple…even though “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3), He attracted entire villages and towns to hear the good news of the kingdom of God.
He was both despised and attractive at the same time.
I believe that one primary characteristic made this happen. Jesus was radically generous.
He was Generous with the Father
He gave His time, His ears, His mouth and His hands entirely to the Father’s work. He gave Himself completely to the Father, not worrying about the opinions of the world. He only did what the Father said – no exceptions.
He Generously Loved and Cared for His Neighbors
He spent an extraordinary amount of time meeting the needs of the people and introducing them to the love of God. Even as He was on His way to heal a child, He paused to talk to a widow who touched the hem of His robe. He was patient and generous with love.
Through His birth, He walked into the suffering of the world and not away from it. Through His death and resurrection, He handed us His glory and took on our shame.
The generosity of Jesus is the glue that binds His frankness with His allure. It is the one characteristic that allowed Him to love God completely and also love His neighbor as Himself.
Notably, historians tell us that it was generosity that made the church attractive to the world. Like Jesus, Peter and John generously gave themselves to the Father. In spite of threats by the Sanhedrin, they generously gave themselves to God’s work. They openly defied orders to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. In that way, they were generous with God.
On the other hand, the early church was radically generous in their love for their neighbors. At times, people sold fields and other possessions to care for anyone who had physical needs. They demonstrated their love for their neighbors with generous offerings from their own possessions.
Later, as the Roman world persecuted the church, believers continued to follow the ways of God. They gave themselves to His work and His will at the risk of their lives. During those first centuries of the church, believers also became known for their generosity among the hurting. During the plagues, families would disown their ill relatives and abandon them to die. It was the Christians who came to their aid – loving the sick and giving respectful burials to the dead.
During each of those times, the world took notice of the radical generosity among those who followed Jesus.
For the church to be attractional today – Jesus-style attractional – maybe we should practice Jesus-style generosity. Maybe we should generously give our lives to God and generously offer our care to the world around us.
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