Next up in the village stocks is the attractional model. Okay, we agree that grabbing eyeballs on the screen, getting eardrums throbbing to the beat and delivering more rumps in the pews is way short of an adequate mission for the church. But Putman would be off course to suggest that reaching numbers means nothing and has no biblical basis. I think he overlooks the fact that the active work of the Spirit in worship has attracted crowds of seekers since the church’s birthday. The early church expected to draw crowds. The question for them was what do we do to bring in the harvest. The early disciples’ numbers were insufficient to maintain the small group study ratios Putman decrees. They asked for the power of the Spirit and welcomed all seekers to follow and learn. We need to be as wise as serpents in using attractional means that appeal to the seekers’ needs as fallen humanity. But we also must be training good mentoring disciples and finding better ways to engage seekers and gain the promised harvest.
Next to attract the rotten tomatoes is the missional model. Putman’s term may be confusing to those of us who spent time learning “missional church” with John Gruel. If anything that latter term might come closest to Putman’s fourth model. So let’s call Putman’s third model “mission-focused”. After describing this model noted for producing committed and life-changed believers, Putman’s critique is that all of that useful service leaves no time for renewal, and refreshment. But I suggest an effective mission-focused church does celebrate its work and does raise up new leaders to sustain its mission. We could learn more from those who have mastered this challenging style. We could do worse than have a missions committee who sees success in how many of our disciples have made commitments to engage in mission that goes beyond sending their money for others to do the work.
The lone remaining strawman is now the home church approach. With little understanding of this style I am poorly equipped to defend it. I’m sure the best of these examples build such strong faith bonds that they are able to bravely venture out to attract the next cadre of disciples in a cycle of inward and outward focus that could in time grow an especially strong witness. Putman points out the danger that the intimate home church is never really open to newcomers, who for sure don’t fit in at first. In a phrase from the business world, this model doesn’t scale very well. But the same dangers of intimacy in the home church can also lead to contented discipleship groups which retard the growth that I believe the Spirit calls us to.
So before we discard the four “traditional” models we’d better learn their virtues and their weaknesses and make sure to incorporate what we have learned into our new strategy.