Attractional Church: All Bait, No Switch

by Jared C. Wilson October 26, 2015

Once I tweeted the following: "At our church we want our music to be as good as it can be without having people come to our church because of it." Some of the responses were rather telling, some folks reading what I didn't write, asking me why I want to promote bad music and why I'm against people finding music attractive. For the record, I'm not a fan of bad music (in lyric or tune or style), and I'm not against people being attracted to music (and the arts in general).

Taking a step back, though, I find a lot of the leaping to hearing what I didn't say indicative of the fundamental problem. It happens whenever one decries pragmatism and is asked why they want to be impractical. But pragmatism and practicality aren't the same thing. And neither is the attractional paradigm of "doing church" identical to wanting an attractive church.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the attractional church paradigm—biblically and therefore theologically—but these days I think there is a very real practical dysfunction in the "fog and lasers" and silly movie tie-ins and all the rest that people discipled within the system don't even notice (any more). At its beginning, the attractional church (or "seeker church" or whatever you want to call it) was about getting people in the doors to then hear the gospel of Christ's finished work. It was what we might call "the ol' bait and switch." Only, increasingly, the gospel of Christ's finished work became relegated to the end of a sermon, then the end of a series, then saved just for special occasions, ultimately replaced by the shiny legalism of moralistic therapeutic deism and lost altogether.

Eventually the attractional church became all bait, no switch. The approach of today's attractional church is like the Trojan Rabbit of Monty Python's Arthurian nincompoops—smuggled inside the castle walls with nobody inside.

And it's because of this, that so many inside the system, shepherded under this system and joined to it, can't distinguish between attractive and attractional, practical and pragmatic. When we lose the centrality of the gospel, we lose the ability to think straight.