Robert Griffith | 26 June 2024
Robert Griffith
26 June 2024


Over the past forty years, evangelical churches have been shaped and reshaped by the church growth movement. This movement held out a model of local church ministry that some have labelled “attractional” or “seeker-sensitive.” The idea was to make churches attractive to unbelievers so they would have compelling reasons to come to church where they could then hear the gospel message and come to Christ.

Churches most commonly made themselves attractive by emphasizing contemporary music, integrating creative elements like illustrated sermons, focusing on inspirational messages, and adding programs or ministries designed to meet the felt needs of unbelievers. This model was essentially pragmatic in that it began with a desired result (conversions) and then measured what was good and useful by whether it helped achieve that result.

This model was also consumeristic in that it approached unchurched people as customers whose needs the church could identify and meet. While this attractional model was widely accepted, it has since been found wanting in many ways. Ironically, it has failed most notably in its purpose of actually leading people to Christ. Studies have shown that attractional churches tend to attract disaffected Christians more than curious non-Christians. These churches shuffle sheep more than they save souls.

If the attractional model is ineffective and unbiblical, what is the better alternative?

The first thing we have to do, after pointing out the weaknesses of the attractional model, is find a better metric of church health than simple numbers. We are accustomed to thinking that growth is a necessary indicator of health, but it is actually far more complicated than that. There are at least five “metrics of grace” that mean much more: a growing esteem for Jesus Christ, a discernible spirit of repentance, a dogged devotion to the Word of God, an interest in theology and doctrine, and an evident love for God and neighbour.

These are much more reliable indicators that a church is honouring God and faithfully carrying out the mission of Christ. Numbers may be a sign of God’s blessing, but they cannot be seen as a necessary sign.

A gospel-driven church makes the gospel the unifying and motivating factor in everything they say and do.

We need to put the gospel in the driver’s seat of a church, effectively making the gospel central in all the congregation is and all that it does. This demands a trust in the supernatural reality of biblical Christianity – the firm belief that God’s ways are better than our ways and that we must do what God tells us to do. In other words, we must reject pragmatism and instead shape our churches according to God’s instructions in the Bible.

We need to accept that our church and its schedule of programs and ministries – no matter how successful they have been in attracting people – should be centred on the good news of the finished work of Jesus Christ. The attractional model cannot be the foundation for our methods or programs. It must give way to the gospel because the gospel is where the power of God is manifest.

What, then, is a gospel-centred church? Quite simply it is one that explicitly and intentionally connects its teaching, programs, ministry philosophy, and mission to the content of the gospel. A gospel-driven church knows that the gospel isn’t one feature of a church, one thing on a checklist, something useful in an evangelistic program. A gospel-driven church makes the gospel the unifying and motivating factor in everything they say and do.

Unfortunately, we remain a long way off from seeing the demise of the attractional church. There are still congregations in every town that are fully sold-out to the model despite its obvious shortcomings and despite its lack of biblical support. But I’m thrilled to see others looking for alternatives that are more effective at fostering true health and more faithful in their understanding and application of Scripture. Is your church on of them?

Recent Posts