In this post I want to outline some thoughts I have about attractional churches, and how/why they succeed. However, at the start I want to put up the idea that attractional church is, generally speaking, a very problematic method. I will turn my attention to “Go and Do” in a later post.
The basic thesis of an attractional model is this: create a spectacle, and spectators will come. Whether it’s a church service, youth group, big event, it’s a spectacle, and it derives its attractional pull primarily by its ‘marvellousness’ - spectators come to marvel.
My hypothesis is this: an attractional church begins to succeed if it generates a critical mass of hype. Let’s call that the Critical Hype Point (CHP). Sounds all technical, doesn’t it?
A church, or similar, reaches a CHP when it is generating enough hype that people are sufficiently intrigued that they will come to ‘check it out’. That hype might be because the church has a large number of people already, or it might be because of a reputation for excellent music, authentic community, a gifted speaker, etc.. The result is this – a proportion of attenders become spectators, and this proportion have come along primarily to observe the spectacle. Some of them may stay. Others will take one experience and depart. Some may become addicts to the spectacle itself. Some may convert. Of those, some may stay and become genuine members, and others may depart for another church that better suits them.
‘Hype’ sounds like a loaded word, and to some extent it is. On the one hand, any church that is ‘getting it right’, in terms of being light and salt to the world, should be generating some amount of ‘hype’. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible to generate hype independent of reality. That’s, sad to say, the major business of the advertising world. A church that shifts from missional proclamation of the gospel to the art of being a spectacle will ultimately only produce converts to spectacle-addiction, not converts to Jesus.