By Pastor Marty Price
What makes a church attractive? Our current sermon series, “A Compelling Congregation,” has prompted several questions that we need to explore and understand. Should a church be attractive to its community? Should we approach our planning as an “attractional” church – meaning should we, as we increasingly get to know the residents of the West End, both newcomers and long-time residents, ask them for their preferences in music, topics to study, classes to offer, and needs to meet? These are good questions. Fortunately, there are good biblical answers.
As believers, given new life by God, following Jesus’ teaching and example, and filled with the Holy Spirit who is our strength, our lives should be attractive. As we demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, we are attractive. Beyond a superficial level, our attractiveness is not to be found in our buildings, our music, or our programs. It is the presence of Jesus in our lives, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in our character, the “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit” that is both “precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4 NASB) and attractive to those who don’t know Him.
There is a clear record that Jesus (who is our life) attracted crowds. So, too, did the Apostles, as they preached and did good deeds before the people. The message they proclaimed, the way they lived, the ministries and good works they performed, attracted people and caused them to wonder what was different about these followers of Jesus.
There is a difference between being attractive and seeking to be attractional. A church that shapes its life, however well intentioned, around the desires of people (attractional), is destined to reflect the character of its mission field rather than its Savior. A church that shapes its life around Jesus, as revealed in His perfect Word, reflects His glory to its mission field.
There is a warning we must heed, though. Jesus attracted both followers and enemies, and so will we. A quick look at the early church in Jerusalem should tell us what to anticipate. “12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women… (Acts 5:12-13).”
We must always remember that “together we exist to glorify God by making mature disciples of all nations, starting in the West End.” We build our beliefs, plan our ministries, fill our calendar, and expend God’s resources in accordance with His Word. We exalt Jesus, believing what He said is true. “32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die (John 12:32-33).”
It is exciting to be heading back to the West End. We come with the Good News of Jesus Christ and new life in Him. We come with love for our community. God is good!