Comments on incarnational and attractional ministry

The last few months, I have spent time sorting out the principles of my church’s evangelistic strategy.  The short of it is that we must move towards being heavily weighted towards incarnational evangelism in intent and action.  This will enable greater engagement with greater numbers of non-churched people in our community, and in turn this will drive our existing attractional structures. Hence, the relationship between incarnational ministry and attractional ministry can be seen as a virtuous circle:

Virtuous Circle of Attractional and Incarnational

Hence, although the church is always still going to run attractional services (like evangelistic rallies, youth group, children’s holiday clubs), this is not the bread and butter of evangelism.  For the real core must be in personal, one-on-one (or small group) situations where friendships are made, life is shared and gospel-speaking-in-relationship opportunities are taken.

In fact, as Chester helpful suggests, it is best to avoid the false polarisation between incarnational (Chester calls this missional) and attractional. He goes on to say “[t]he problem is in fact that both sides view church as a meeting you attend. Even those who reject attractional church implicitly view church as a meeting. But everything changes if you view church as a community or a network of relationships. Then attractional church is not about putting on a good show, but about a community life that attracts people to God.”[1]

This means that our evangelistic plan will be a four-fold strategy:

  1. Individual Incarnational: this is the primary movement of evangelism which we are focussed upon. We are sending our people into the community (into their workplaces, places of study, homes) to make relationships and disciples by being with people as Christ was.  Keller helpfully outlines the basic form of this ministry as:[2]
    1. Organic – it happens spontaneously outside of the church’s organised programs;
    2. Relational – done in the context of informal personal relationships;
    3. Word deploying – prayerfully bringing the Bible and gospel into connection with people’s lives;
    4. Active (not passive) – each person assumes personal responsibility of being a produce of ministry.
  2. Group engagement with community: this is an incarnational movement (either in a large group or in a series of smaller groups) which looks to bring the church into the community. In one sense, it is being a good citizen in the community with no other motive than to be a loving and dutiful servant of all.  This adds to and builds upon the “#1 Individual Incarnational” strategy, as well as flows into the third strategy.
  3. Group attractional to existing structures: this is an attractional movement of people from the community into our existing physical and/or ministry structures. This would only be possible if #1 and #2 are done well and that our existing structures adequately service the need that the community may have.  In this attractional engagement, it is envisaged that the gospel is preached and people are called to repentance.
  4. Staff lead and modelled for #1-#3. Moreover, ministry staff are tasked to raise, train leaders, and provide infrastructure to make this happen.

[1] Tim Chester, Online at “

[2] Timothy Keller, Center Church, 280.


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Loves Jesus and loves telling people about Him.

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