Friday, July 24, 2009

Coming or Going?

Graham Cray, in the latest e-xpressions newsletter (emphasis mine)

'Come to us' church often tries to make its worship attractive to
outsiders - perhaps more contemporary, or more reflective. Sometimes a new
congregation is planted in a more neutral venue, to help make the contemporary
worship easily accessible. But this is still attractional church. The team are
using an approach they have decided and now invite unchurched people to

'We go to you' church makes no decisions about the style of worship until
it has begun to form community with the people it is seeking to reach. That
comes at the end of a process which might take a long time. That process begins
with listening, develops into practical forms of service (no, not church
service!), forms community as it shares its faith and only sorts out worship at
the end.

Hopefully the worship will be attractive but what matters most is that it
is transformative within that culture. There is room in the mixed economy church
for both approaches, but fresh expressions of church will normally be

The problem with attractional church is that it is appropriate for only a
minority of the population. If, as we believe,
at least 60% of the
population cannot be reached by our existing patterns of church, however
, then even churches which follow an attractional model very
successfully need to ask the question, who can't we reach this way and what else
could we do? To reach the majority of our culture we will need an incarnational

We will have to stop designing church for ourselves and start designing
it with and for them!

The Fresh Expressions website has just added an example of this approach in the gypsy community.


  1. G Eagle Esq24/7/09 11:10 am

    ".... an incarnational approach .... designing [church] with and for them [the majority of our culture]"

    Bonjour Monsiuer David

    An interesting Post - it rather over-estimates those not reached by today's "Church" (whatever that means - perhaps 97% would be a more accurate figure

    As Trinity so charmingly expressed it to Neo :

    "It's the question that drives us"

    Why does the color blue mean raspberry-flavored

    The Philosopher Hume might shorten the question

    does the coloUr blue mean raspberry-flavoUred

    If looking for someone to blame, likely culprits might be Rubus Leucodermis [whitebark raspberry] and advertizers maximizing profits by an artificial differentiation between strawberry (coloured red) and raspberry (using the colour blue)

    AND I wonder if the Pharisees and the Romans (a majority or at least a significant part of Jesus's culture) would have agreed that Jesus had designed his Gospel "with and for them" using "an incarnational approach"

    BUT supplying blue raspberry flavoured ice-crem as well as chocolate biscuits might enhance the appeal of most Church services

    I remain your obedient servant etc

    G Eagle

  2. Thankyou G Eagle - for the confused, the bit about raspberry flavoured refers to some weird bit of my blogger profile.

    Jesus was certainly incarnational, and he also tailored his approach and message to each person he met. Nicodemus is given a different challenge to the woman at the well, whilst Peter is merely told 'follow me'. At the core is still Jesus, but every new disciple had to come to him from where they were, personally, culturally, spiritually etc. And that meant that the message had to be expressed in a form they could understand and respond to.

    In turn the early church found that it couldn't simply export a Jewish form of Christian community (the earliest form) into Gentile cities, so the Jerusalem council explores how the church can maintain authentically Christian whilst taking on different forms in different cultures. Likewise gospel preaching in Acts varies enormously, from the Jewish audience in Acts 2 to the pagan philosophers in Athens: in both cases the gospel message is tailored to the audience.

    On who gets reached or otherwise, 5-10% of the population are churchgoers of some degree of regularity, and there's a further 20-30% who have some kind of Christian background and (research suggests) are open to the Christian faith in some form. These are the folks who do Alpha courses, bring their children for baptism (and sometimes stick around), or who used to be church members but have drifted away as they moved house, started working on Sunday, etc.

    And yes we do have chocolate biscuits at our church services, but not the ice cream.