5 Reasons Charismatic Churches Are Growing (And Attractional Churches Are Past Peak)

Neo-charismatics

Notice this lately?

If you look at almost any growing church led by younger leaders, it definitely tends toward the charismatic—expressive worship, more emotional delivery in preaching, an openness to the work and activity of the Holy Spirit, and generally a warmer, more enthusiastic and expressive gathering.

And…a lot of the churches that lean toward a more charismatic expression of their faith are filled with young adults and Millennials.

Meanwhile,  many leaders in attractional churches are finding it harder and harder to reach new people over the last few years. While not universally true, some have stopped growing, or at least seen a slower growth rate than say 5 or 10 years ago.

Please hear me. This is not “we’re right you’re wrong”. This is a learning together post. Actually, both the charismatic and attractional movements have contributed massively to reaching millions of people. There is much to learn from each other.

Critics have no place here, but learners do.

So what’s happening? Well, culture changes and what people respond to changes, too. The church should change with it.  While you should never change the mission of a church (it’s eternal), you should definitely adapt the method.

Churches who love the method more than the mission will die. It happened in the 1950s, in the 1970s, in the 1990s and it’s happening today. What was effective a decade ago isn’t always effective today. Leaders who live in the past end up dying to the future.

Churches who love the method more than the mission will die. Click To Tweet

While you could argue that there’s a major difference in theology between charismatic and non-charismatic churches, I don’t think the differences are that big for the purposes of this blog post anyway.

The big shift is happening in how churches express themselves on the weekend and conduct their weekend experiences, moving from:

  • anonymity to a sense of belonging
  • engagement of the heart, not just the head.
  • more variety of services than three songs and a message
  • more passionate expressions of worship
  • additional space during the service for prayer
  • more thought in the service to the engagement of emotions beyond “hey we’re excited you’re here” (welcome and upbeat music) and “here’s something to think about” (the message).

As I outline here, churches that miss cultural change become irrelevant. After all, the gap between how quickly you change and how quickly culture changes is called irrelevance.

Personally, I’m behind any church that’s doing a great job leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

So, in the interests of learning and growing together, here are 5 reasons more charismatic churches are growing, and attractional churches are moving past peak in the current culture.

Leaders who live in the past end up dying to the future. Click To Tweet

1. The Foyer Moved

One of the great (and helpful) assumptions behind creating attractional churches is that Sunday morning is the first experience with church.

Guess what? That’s no longer true.

Now, almost everyone who attends your church for the first time has already been to your church…online.

That’s the case whether you have a completely amazing online experience, a killer website and an on-point social media presence, or whether you have a website from 2008.

Trust me, people who are interested in Christianity or your church have already checked you out long before they visited you. And if you have an online service, they’ve been with you for at least a week, and sometimes months or beyond.

Not convinced they’re checking out your channels? Well, there is the internet. Trust me: if they have spiritual questions, they’ve googled their way to spiritual answers (good or bad answers) long before they set foot in your door.

All of which means…the foyer moved.

Almost everyone who attends your church for the first time has already been to your church…online. All of which means, the foyer moved. Click To Tweet

Over dinner recently, I had a great discussion about this with the senior leadership team at CrossPoint Nashville. We talked about how attractional church isn’t as effective as it used to be (both CrossPoint and Connexus, where I serve, have been changing along the lines of this post for a few years now), when CrossPoint’s Creative Arts Director,  Drew Powell,  simply stated that the foyer had moved. That completely crystallized something I was trying to put my finger on for years now. Thanks, Drew, for the clarity.

So yep, that’s it: the foyer moved.

The implication? When someone shows up at your church now, they’re likely to want a little more than they did a decade or two ago when their first visit was truly their first exposure to your church or to Christianity. They’re ready to go a little further somewhat faster because they’ve already taken their first step.

Will you still end up with some people at the back with the arms crossed wanting to hide out in the dark? Of course.

But you likely have more who want to sample something real, who want to experience something different, who are ready to engaging faster.

That doesn’t mean you should bring them into a complete insider experience that’s impossible to understand or access. But it does mean they’re likely hungrier for more than they were a decade ago.

When an unchurched person visits your church for the first time these days, they're more likely to sample something real, want to experience something different, and are likely ready to engaging faster. Click To Tweet

2. People Want Transformation, Not Information

Attractional church has seen thousands, probably millions, of people move into an authentic relationship with Jesus. Please hear that.

But sometimes what we’ve done (I say “we” because I’ve done this) is we tend to share information about Jesus or Christianity when we preach or host services. There was a day when that was really helpful, and that’s still not an entirely bad instinct. Who, after all, wants to lose people completely?

But remember, we now have the full-on internet that swallows daily life whole. We are drowning in a sea of information.

Fast forward to church, and guess what? People aren’t looking for information. They’re looking for transformation.

When people come to your church these days, fewer are looking for information about God; they’re looking for an experience with God.

When people come to your church these days, fewer are looking for information about God; they're looking for an experience with God. Click To Tweet

Today, information is everywhere. Transformation is scarce.

Too many people who have been to church know about God. Not enough know God.

Too many people who have been to church know about God. Not enough know God. Click To Tweet

3. Transcendent is Connecting More Than Immanent Right Now

Both the digital explosion and the cynicism of our age have left people hungering for a transcendent touch. Think about the explosive rise of porn. People are looking for intimacy, but of course, in porn, get just the opposite. They’re looking for more.

People are hungry for true community, deeper experiences, and authentic transcendence.

Which is why churches that are growing are focusing more and more on creating experiences that engage more than just the head on a Sunday…but also engage the heart and relationship.

In short, people don’t just want to know what’s true, they want to know what’s real. And what’s real is deeper than just an idea—it’s an experience.

They come looking for something bigger than themselves, and something frankly, bigger than us. They come looking for God.

It’s a shame when people come to church looking for God and only find us.

It's a shame when people come to church looking for God and only find us. Click To Tweet

God, in his nature, is both immanent and transcendent. A few decades ago as the culture slipped away from church, focusing on the imminence of God brought many back.

But the cultural shifts of the last decade have left people (especially younger people) longing for the transcendent.

This should be no surprise because of course the heart naturally longs for God. Sometimes we just long for God a bit differently than our parents.

I think the best future churches will have content that leans toward the immanent—practical, helpful and digestible. Again, being completely obtuse and incomprehensible or insider-focused helps no one. And future churches will also offer experiences that feel transcendent…a sense that you had to be there to experience what happened.

The best churches will offer both because that reflects the character and nature of God and the character of the Christian church at its best. 

The human heart naturally longs for God. Sometimes we just long for God a bit differently than our parents. Click To Tweet

4. Downloadable Experiences Have Become Resistible Experiences

Church online is new, so we’re all trying to figure it out. Understood.

Some growing churches fuel inclusivity by not offering their services online (Hillsong is famous for this), and while I respect that, I think online provides a HUGE front door to everyone you’re trying to reach. Everyone you’re trying to reach with the love of Christ is online.

So how do you navigate that tension of having everything you do available online and in person? Why would people bother to come at all, is the question,

Fundamentally, the consumption of content is also leaving people hungering for greater community, greater experience and greater transcendence.

So here’s what many growing churches are doing: offering experiences that, when watched online, leave you longing for the real, in person thing.

How? Running through that list we started with, growing churches design their in-person experience to:

  • move people quickly from anonymity to a sense of belonging
  • focus on the engagement of the heart, not just the head, both in the message and the music and overall experience.
  • offer more variety of services than three songs and a message
  • facilitate more passionate expressions of worship
  • create moments and additional space during the service for prayer
  • put more thought in the service to the engaging a variety of emotions.

If everything your church does in the future feels downloadable, probably all you’ll get is a lot of downloads, not a lot of gathered people.

If what your church does touches the soul, people will continue to gather.

People are coming to church expecting to meet God. Don’t let them settle for meeting you or something they could have half-listened to while working out.

To put it simply, if people feel like they missed nothing when they missed church, they’ll keep missing church.

If everything your church does in the future feels downloadable, probably all you'll get is a lot of downloads, not a lot of gathered people. People are coming to church expecting to meet God. Don't let them settle for meeting you. Click To Tweet

5. Passion’s beating polish

If you’ve been around church world for the last few decades, it’s easy to think that you need polish to pull off effective ministry. Another $50,000 for lights or sound and you’ll be good.

To be sure, charismatic churches have some amazing production.

But if you’re sitting there thinking that you need a better soundboard, some new LEDs and a much better band to reach people, think again.

Passion is free. And passion beats polish.

The effective churches I’ve visited and seen recently by no means had the best lights, stage or production. Some had almost no stage and no lights, while others had a pretty decent package, but not nearly the level you see at some churches.

What did they all have in common? Passion.

When it comes to reaching the next generation, passion beats polish.

When it comes to reaching the next generation, passion beats polish. And passion is free. Click To Tweet

It’s not that polish is bad (I’m all for great environments and seeing people fully use their gifts to create amazing experiences) but I think polish falls flat unless accompanied by a raw passion that exudes from leaders who love connecting people with God.

In some of the growing churches I’ve personally visited, smaller facilities and stage sets were more than compensated for by preachers, worship leaders and team members who exuded passion for the mission.

One caveat: don’t fake passion—people can smell fake from a mile away. And don’t exaggerate it. Different people have different levels of passion.

But if yours has faded, rekindle it. Pray about. Evoke what’s in there, and bring it to church.

In an age where nothing seems real anymore, people are looking for authentic. Church, we have it.

In an age where nothing seems real anymore, people are looking for authentic. Church, we have it. Click To Tweet

A Few Reminders

A few notes before we finish up.

Weird Is Still Weird

The attractional movement has done a great job reminding all of us that we have guests in the room. And while the foyer may have moved, someone’s first Sunday is still a huge deal.

So that’s no excuse to be self-indulgently weird. Authentic doesn’t mean weird.

Emotionalism Won’t Win the Day

Another trend I’ve seen is that the next generation of preachers (under 40s) seem to preach more than they teach.

It’s always hard to define the exact difference between the two but simply put, preaching speaks more to the heart, teaching speaks more to the head.

Preachers facilitate an experience. Teachers convey information.

I think the best pastors do both well.

Preaching without solid teaching can become emotionalism. Teaching without preaching can become intellectualism.

Preaching leads people to say ‘That’s right. I need to change.” Teaching can lead people to say “He’s right. That’s a good point.”

I default toward teaching so this is a challenge for me.

Preaching without solid teaching can become emotionalism. Teaching without preaching can become intellectualism. Click To Tweet

Remember The People You’re Trying to Reach

The church is still one of the few organizations that exists for the sake of its non-members.

Doubt that? Well, aren’t you glad someone didn’t decide the church was done before you were introduced to the love of Jesus.

For sure you need to care for the people you have, but never to the exclusion of the people you’re called to reach.

Churches that over-focus on the needs of insiders will eventually only have insiders. And when that happens, you missed the mission.

Churches that over-focus on the needs of insiders will eventually only have insiders. And when that happens, you missed the mission. Click To Tweet

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Thoughts?

What are you seeing in terms of churches that are reaching people and those that aren’t?

Play nice in the comments. I want this blog to be a place for thoughtful people to interact.

This is a place for learning, and if you’re a student, not a critic, I’d love to hear from you.

Scroll down and leave a comment.

45 Comments

  1. gary hay on November 12, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    Very insightful and full of the kinds of things our guests have been telling us caused them to “stick” for years! Words to the wise!

  2. Rick White on November 12, 2018 at 10:06 am

    As a pastor of a Charismatic non-denominational church I tell people on a regular basis, “We want the fullness of the Spirit without the foolishness of the flesh.” I think I heard that from Jack Hayford.

  3. A.M. on November 10, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Just a great article all around. We are all creatures of comfort whether that’s in teaching/preaching style, worship, programming, etc….

    Who wants change? We all raise our hands
    Who wants To change? …….(insert cricket chirp)

    The bottom line is how do we reach those who are far from Christ and connect them into a body of believers?

    Are we willing to sacrifice our personal preferences for Gods mission? Many of us of say, “Of course,” but when the church actually moves towards the change that affects our personal preference suddenly we don’t like it and argue the church is changing too fast. Our world is also changing fast and we will lose all relevance in our community of those who are hurt, broken, and far from God if we don’t have a healthy church to connect them in to.

    Thank you Carey for putting this out there. We all need a little soul searching after reading this article.

  4. Maxine Heckbert on November 9, 2018 at 9:26 am

    Lots of great thoughts and wisdom here. I’d disagree, however, with the comment that churches will become irrelevant if they don’t keep up with cultural changes (paraphrasing). In a time when cultural changes leave no choice but compromise the Word of God on key issues (ie sexual immorality with no repentance; adultery and divorce), it’s a huge mistake to behave as if those sins are no longer sins for which repentance is required in order to work out our salvation in Christ. Rather, those who are willing to pay the price spiritually and emotionally and financially to stand with the truth of God’s Word become like blazing beacons of His holiness in an increasingly dark world. This is needed more now than ever, regardless of cultural changes. I’m seeing that culturally relevant churches are great to introduce believers to Christ but unless the whole Word of God is being preached, especially the part about taking up the cross to follow Christ and sharing in His suffering in order to truly share in His glory (Romans 8:15), then we will inadvertently lead believers astray from the truth that would otherwise sanctify them. The result is sometimes that we end up ‘commanding the glory’ to manifest, naming and claiming what we think is best instead of truly seeking the will of Almighty God, and risking coming under powerful delusions sent to those who refuse to love the truth (2 Thess. 2:9-12). Great article with many great points, thanks for taking the time to write it.

    • Pam Washburn on November 11, 2018 at 8:07 am

      I don’t think cultural relevancy here is saying we compromise truth. I think it means we embrace how people are learning and engaging in real relationships over time. Every generation has been impacted by something (ie: information overload and empty “connectivity”) and consequently this changes how people engage and acquire information. Before the written word became accessible to everyone, we were an oral culture, passing truths along through stories and memorization. That was no longer the main vehicle once people could access the bible for themselves at any time. This changed the way the brain actually took information in. This changed how people learned and connected. We are now a full on digital culture where anyone can become an ‘expert’ in anything online. This has fundamentally changed how kids learn and connect with others. I’ve learned to help my own kids navigate some of the info overload so they are wiser about discerning information and sources of that information because I know it is not going away. The bible is still the plumb line. Our propensity as fallen humans is to move away from God. I think the post is saying, as a church that is grounded on biblical truth, we will always be what people need but how we share it and engage with them is key because it determines whether or not those people will see it as a need. The most dangerous place to live on earth is in a state of “peace” apart from God. People search and search for that “peace” in all kinds of ways and in all kinds of things. Unless the church pays attention to the way people learn and connect from one generation to the next we never really will get the opportunity to share the great news, that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Being culturally relevant just means we pay attention to what is impacting the hearts and minds of people today, how they learn and connect, and letting this inform us as to the best way to get the truth across.

      • Dee on November 11, 2018 at 8:44 am

        Pam

        “The May Synods had just held their sessions and had been discussing the decrease [in growth] which for another year had disappointed us all. Naturally, this subject came up and Dr Pope observed that all the ministers had been lamenting their failures which in his judgement were due to their adherence to obsolete methods. He did not pursue the matter………Shortly before his death (he said) that repeated decreases are the result of our persistent use of worn out evangelistic methods……..

        Someone has said that the Churches have an excellent article to offer but they are perfect fools at getting it on the market!…”

        Dr Pope, senior English Methodist minister, died around 1906

        So in 2018 how have matters improved? As far as I can see we have lots of ‘ologies and Grrek-root words that confirm the theofluency of the inner circle but not much that really works reliably to connect with a naive modern enquirer in terms of presenting the Bible message in away that makes “sense”.

        Coca Cola had a successful “reasons to believe” campaign. https://www.coca-cola.co.uk/stories/reasons-to-believe
        Has the church got something similar (on YouTube)?

  5. Kurt Bubna on November 8, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    Carey, without a doubt, this is the best thing I’ve ever read from you! Seriously. SO good. I’ve read it three times (and I’ll read it again). Thank you!

  6. Gone, but not Done on November 6, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    These days, I keep trying to imagine what those early Roman Christians were thinking/doing when they met in the Catacombs. Somehow, I don’t think they’d recognize ‘church’ today. No one was passing out flyers– For a really great Experience, join our next meeting three streets down, just past the Baths, and take a left into the dark tunnel. Torches will be passed out to each attendee as they enter…

    Question to ponder: So what REALLY went on in those early churches…..? They grew, but they sure weren’t (could NOT be) very public about their meetings….Say what??? There must have been another ‘secret sauce’. It may even have been an experience, but it wasn’t choreographed during the week previous…

    • Elizabeth Jones on November 7, 2018 at 10:30 am

      Excellent points. What did the early churches have going for them? (Really. Sincerely.)

      I would like someone to take this seriously and engage with this question. I am a student of history and can tell you lots of information about the early church, but how did the early church replicate? Is there any lesson to be found for us today?

      • Gone, but not Done on November 7, 2018 at 3:07 pm

        Elizabeth,

        The early church:
        was not a business
        nor a Not-for-Profit entity
        had no tradition to follow
        had a dynamic passion to love one another as the Master had loved them
        (they focused on loving, not 3 songs and a talk )
        kept Jesus as the Head, not the pastor nor the board
        Sought to live and walk by the Spirit in obedience to the Master

        The early church:
        Suffered
        Died
        Fled
        Served others
        Rejoiced
        and most of all,
        Loved each other and those in the world around them no matter what
        since their faith and singleminded focus was the Master, not simply going through the motions for an hour and a half each week (or less than each week)

        The early church:
        Made the rest of their lives subservient to the sole goal of knowing Jesus rather than ‘trying’ to fit their faith into the rest of their lives

        The good news is that there are many who still live this way today.
        The sad part is that there are many who have forgotten and have focused on distractions such as structures, music, power, yes, and money too. These all have their place but Jesus said,

        Seek First, the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these (other) things will be added unto you. The danger is in reversing the order…

        • Harry Court on November 12, 2018 at 3:52 pm

          I understand your comments – seeking purity and simplicity of the Church of the Book of Acts.

          But one main aspect of the early church was the acceptance of the Gentiles into something that was Jewish in nature. Different culture – different times – message and relationship important – different methods unless you do envangelism in sandals as commanded by Christ. But I do understand you sentiment. But I would also say the Day of Pentecost – and evrything that entails – should be the focus if you are going to look backwards

          • Gone, but not Done on November 14, 2018 at 3:39 pm

            Let me state the crux of my comment more clearly perhaps…

            We seem to do ‘church’ today with the hope that once folks get in the door, meet some people, hear some good preaching/teaching, then maybe they’ll have a better chance of meeting Jesus.

            My point was that if the ‘Church’ (you, me, fellow believers, not an organization) had the understanding that the best way to show Jesus to folks was by the way we live, love act and speak and conducted our own relationships with one another, then the Attract and Hope (oh, yes, pray too) methodology would be almost irrelevant. It’s a second-rate, fall-back way to do evangelism that breeds it’s own pathologies, not the least amongst the Body who misunderstand that it is they, not the organization who make the difference. Problem is, too many actually believe that our own lives are an ‘inefficient’ way to do it. Worse yet, too many are not, by their own admission, even coming close to living in such a way whereby we can say as did Paul and Jesus, “…what you have seen in me….”

            My frustration and disappointment is the vast energy and resources we put into the secondary and less efficient approach (though not without some seeming success–mostly because God makes all things work together for good–even the imperfect. Which should NOT be a justification.) My reference to the early church is this, they grew far more because they practiced what they preached, so to speak, with their lives instead of trying to ‘convince’ the world thru logic, teaching, etc.

            The reality of the state of ‘church’ in N. America leads me to believe that we’re fighting a rear-guard action ineffectively instead of focusing on the main thing– that is that we each ‘know Him more’. Everything truly flows from this.



      • Dee on November 7, 2018 at 5:24 pm

        They were a persecuted minority with a revolutionary agenda…….sound familiar? They got lucky with Emperor Constantine and then again with Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II in 380AD.

    • Maxine Heckbert on November 9, 2018 at 9:33 am

      The early Church was just as you described, but it was ‘the beginning’ so-to-speak of the fullness of the Kingdom of God manifesting on earth as He is in heaven. From then until now, we’ve witnessed the gospel message taken through-out the whole earth and great nations raised up on the foundation of Judeo-Christian precepts. The governing authorities have changed so that some governments actually base their constitution on Biblical principles. That’s why they have the Bible as the set standard of truth in their courts of law and scriptures engraved on government buildings. The fullness of the Kingdom is not about the early Church starting all over again but about reaping great harvests of souls ready to meet the end of this world as we know it. Kingdom sons are born for such a time as this, for whom all of creation is waiting to see because then creation itself will be delivered from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:17-21). Christ isn’t leaving after being crucified and resurrected so His Holy Spirit could be poured out on all flesh; He’s coming back to celebrate the results with all who belong to Him. Believers are going to rise up from their graves to join those of us who are still alive and are left waiting, and we’re all going to meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4). Trying to recreate the early Church in the midst of all that is going backward, not forward.

  7. Mark McDonald on November 6, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    What a great post!
    In Melbourne, Australia, the traditional evangelical churches are in decline as they seem to be about the head rather than the head and heart. Liturgical churches are not that popular because they seem outdated and impersonal. Churches like Hillsong, and those like them, have become the growing churches because of the issues you mention in the post. People in Australia want to come to church for an experience of God rather than knowledge about God.
    I’m in an Anglican setting so I’ve been studying the efforts of Holy Trinity Brompton in the UK which is planting resourcing churches all across the UK. They discovered people want prayer time in the service but also things like Alpha courses to invite people to. Alpha is about knowing Jesus and experiencing the Holy Spirit. HTB have also discovered is that you can’t do “dated” 1990’s style charismatic church anymore either, no more happy clapping church. Holy Trinity Brompton seem to have picked up from Hillsong how to be contemporary yet be charismatic Anglicans rather than Pentecostal (theologically speaking). Look at a HTB off shoot, such as St Johns Hackney, which is very contemporary and charismatic.
    The challenge for my church here in Melbourne is how to engage people with the truth of the Gospel with love and grace so that people will experience God, not just learn about the bible text of the sermon topic. Also we have smaller resources which is a challenge but we can offer a good non-downloadable experience. So we are hopeful about growing in the next few years.

    • Harry Court on November 12, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      Very good. I have been to Lyon, France walked into Cathedrals built 300 years ago – dirty, cold dark – served its generation and empty that Sunday except for a 8 elderly (1000 seats inside) – then walked around the corner down the alley to the Comedy Club hired by Hillsong filled with young people! Filled to capacity with 120 people.

  8. Mel Bladek on November 6, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Hey Carey, great post! It was interesting to hear your thoughts on this.

    So, theoretical question more than anything, but you said, “Authentic doesn’t mean weird.” Now I know what you’re going for, but what about when authentic does mean weird? The Bible is full of super weird experiences when God does things, and meets people, and speaks…

    How do you balance giving the Holy Spirit freedom to do what he wants to do, but only if it’s not weird? I feel like there’s a tension between moving in a more spirit led, charismatic direction, and still maintaining very tight control over production/appearances.

    Thoughts?

    • Maxine Heckbert on November 9, 2018 at 9:38 am

      Mel Bladek: Some need to have the spiritual gifts of discernment, of distinguishing between spirits, words of knowledge, and so on. Then when things get weird and it’s truly the result of the Holy Spirit working, those people will be able to say why and what to do about it to remain in the will of God, and for the edification of the whole Church. I believe there’s a point where it becomes counter-productive to try to attract so many people into the building that the weirdness increases to the point where what’s NOT from God over-rules what IS from God. There should also be small group fellowships to facilitate individual growth in a relationship with Christ to offset that. When it becomes a big show to the point where holiness is an inconvenience, it should be a sign that everything’s about to go off the rails.

  9. Michael on November 6, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    Carey,

    Thanks for sharing this great post. Our church seems to be walking through this dynamic now. We are an older church that is moving quickly to reaching younger families. I can’t deny that our greatest response has come from intentionally allowing the Holy Spirit to bring fresh life, which, in our services means more energy, operation of spiritual gifts, and passionate worship that doesn’t follow a 15 minute time barrier. I wouldn’t call myself a dynamic preaching, but a passionate teacher. And this passionate direction from our team is drawing more people and their spiritual hunger is absolutely refreshing! I guess the biggest challenge seems to be that our older generation struggles to understand how the new method applies to their experiences from days gone by. Any thoughts on how to bridge that growing divide? We want to move forward with connecting unbelievers to the gospel by whatever means necessary (short of sin), but we know that God wants to reignite spiritual passion in the generation that has given so much to see it continue for so many generations. My pastor’s heart doesn’t want to leave anyone behind, but I see the Lord moving us quickly towards something new.

  10. Anthony Costa on November 6, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Thanks for the reply Carey and all the great things you do for the body of Christ! Yeah, I heard Peyton Jones say recently that we often forget that the majority of the book of Acts occurs outside in public spaces. May the Lord help us all be creative and bold in bring the Gospel to where people are at

  11. KP on November 6, 2018 at 10:24 am

    One of the best articles I’ve read in a while! I wish MORE church leaders understood this!!!

  12. Ryan on November 6, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Thank you for this post! I have observed these trends here in my ministry context, in South Florida. A very inspiring and challenging word!

    Where do you think the younger generation’s value of media excellence fits in the picture of passion beating polish? I fully agree with the idea that heartfelt, authentic worship is more important to the younger generation than its outward dressing (What a relief!). But there are some who would argue that the language of Millennials is so conditioned by highly-produced audio/visual media that we must keep up with that level of production/technology if we hope to communicate the gospel effectively to them. I don’t think any in that camp, of those I know, would argue that it’s absolutely NECESSARY. But I do think they would say it’s prudent, and that our younger people will find what they’re looking for down the street, at a church whose leadership has put their money where their mouth is (“If worship is as important as you say it is, then why does your stage look like a nursing home and the images on the screen are equivalent to 1990’s clip art on an overhead projector? Have you heard of UHD?”).

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom!

  13. Stephen Canfield on November 6, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Excellent post Carey, we are seeing this play out almost to a “T” at our church. Can you explain this statement a bit more:

    “The attractional movement has done a great job reminding all of us that we have guests in the room. And while the foyer may have moved, someone’s first Sunday is still a huge deal. So that’s no excuse to be self-indulgently weird. Authentic doesn’t mean weird.”

    Can you think of any examples of where weird is just, well, weird? What is authentic (or maybe even quirky) and what is off-putting (awkward?)?

  14. Jake on November 5, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    It’s amazing the new ways people come up with that continually make money off the church. if your passion is really seeing people come to know Christ then I think that you should offer your advice free of charge. to make money off of getting people passed their attendance barrier to me is making the church more of a business.

  15. Donald Andrews on November 5, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Great post and answers some questions I have had on the subject. But I would like to know what you mean by “more passionate expressions of worship”? Can you give some examples?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 5, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      Sure. Just watch Elevation Worship, Central Online (Las Vegas), Hillsong or LifeChurch. Hope this helps!

  16. Blake on November 5, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Would you say this is true for unchurched lost people? Seems like the lost I work with are weirded out by emotionalism. It’s the “Christians” (that background) that want the emotional experiences more. Just wondering.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 5, 2018 at 5:21 pm

      We minister in a highly unchurches area, and as we’ve worked through this, I’m surprised to say yes. You have to be careful not to overwhelm people…keep things accessible. But yeah, they’re looking for more earlier than they did a few years ago. Surprising.

  17. Craig on November 5, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Carey,

    Great stuff here. One of your best posts! I’ve never been a fan of the “attractional” label or Seeker model for a variety of substantive reasons, and we are not charismatic in theology. But your examples of what you intend by these labels (i.e pursuit of authentic engagement, etc.) is the center of what we want to be about. And it is what has been missing in many churches that kind of “do church” for you. YES, people want to need to be there and matter. We are recently finding our front center 6 rows filled with collegiate! Wow, what a difference that makes for our worship vibrancy. And they represent everything you are writing about.

    Hey, I do have one critique. It is of your distinction between “teaching” and “preaching”. It’s a common view, but I think it’s demonstrably flawed. In the New Testament, there are three consistent distinctions between the words used for teaching and preaching. And none have anything to do with energy, passion, dynamism, etc. in one’s speaking. The issues are: Content, Audience, and Purpose.

    It’s really this simple:
    “Preaching” is Gospel Content (proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom) to as yet non/pre-believers, for the purpose of conversion.
    “Teaching” is Edification Content (explaining, exhorting, clarifying, persuading, motivating, etc.) to already believers, for the purpose of spiritual growth and godly living.

    In both arenas, there are places for careful explanation and reasoning. And there are appropriate moments for urgent, passionate calls to action and change. “Repent!” “Obey!”

    So, we’re on much better (biblical) ground urging speakers to both PREACH (to non-believers in the room and especially in the public square) and TEACH (to believers in the room and elsewhere) with clarity and with passion, and whatever dynamism is most effective as an authentic communicator.

    (I just don’t think it’s helpful to preaching or teaching to misuse both terms by redefining preaching/teaching as you do; even as commonly as this mistake is perpetuated. This audience is for leaders. They too should know better.)

    Thanks for the opportunity to speak in.
    Thank you for your consistent awareness of trends that affect ministry effectiveness.

  18. Brian on November 5, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    Any clarification on the term “attractional”? I’ve only ever heard the term “missional” held in contrast to attractional, in that attractional is about “getting people here” (i.e. attraction) whereas missional is about “sending people there.” In this way, I’ve always seen charismatic as something that can be an attribute of any church, whether attractional or missional. In fact, some of the most charismatic churches I see are keenly attractional.

    I’m assuming you’re using the term a little different, perhaps as a third category? A little clarity would help me as I’m processing this… Thanks Carey!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 5, 2018 at 2:25 pm

      Great question Brian. Attractional to my mind is a more recent version of the seeker movement of the 90s where churches designed their weekend experiences with the unchurched guest in mind.

      Often (but not always) that takes the form of less worship, hosting that explicitly welcomes unchurched people into the room, running everything through a filter with the guest in mind and often (but not always) topical preaching.

      Hope this helps!

      • Brian on November 5, 2018 at 2:34 pm

        VERY helpful. Thanks for responding!

  19. scotthaus on November 5, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Great post! having grown up a charismatic, moved into an expositional environment, then in the attractional last couple of years, I love some charismatic coming back it! And just FYI … Hillsong does put their services on their YouTube channel. I watch them almost every week!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 5, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks. I think some of their local churches don’t though, right. But good point!

  20. Josephine-Africa on November 5, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Great message,am.pastoring a small church of 30-40 congregant fr a year now,am blessed by this message…..I desire to see the church beat 100 soon.However,QN what role can the congrents play to bring more people…Josephine from Africa

  21. Fred Middel on November 5, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Charismatic in expression, not charismatic in theology? The headline is a little misleading…

  22. Brian Cunnington on November 5, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Another great post Carey. Biblically-informed preaching and life-relevant teaching are both necessary for individual and corporate transformation.

  23. Jason Lieberg on November 5, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Excellent! And very challenging! What are people doing that break up the 3 songs and a message – what kinds of additions are made to the weekend experience?

  24. Elizabeth Jones on November 5, 2018 at 10:15 am

    I am pastor of a small UCC church in the northwest Chicago suburb of Morton Grove. With the booming Willow Creek North Shore in the suburb to the north (Glenview) and the evangelical powerhouse Harvest Bible Chapel in the suburb to the south (Niles), it seems sometimes that they suck all the oxygen out of the neighborhood. I often take my laptop and have informal office hours at a nearby coffee shop, and I hear about these two mega-churches often from people I encounter there. I get discouraged, and think “How can little St. Luke’s Church possibly compete?”
    Feeling discouraged,
    @chaplaineliza
    Elizabeth Jones

    • Chaplain Mike on November 5, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      Chaplain Elizabeth,

      I was once a member of a small church in the San Diego area where megachurches are more of the norm than the exception. The pastor was quite depressed about the fact that the church never really grew past 25 members and usually 15 in attendance on a Sunday morning. No worship band, no screens, just a home feel to the sanctuary.

      The church was warm and accepting of everyone who walked in the door. The pastor thought about calling it quits. However, the Lord showed my wife and I that they had a “niche” ministry that was providing a valuable service to hurting Christians who had been burned by other churches and Christians. The pastor agreed that was a strength that they had and he is keeping the course. The church may never “grow” as healed people leave as new hurting people come through.

      Maybe you could pray to find your niche in the midst of megachurch city as well. As you know, its just not numbers, it is the quality of the church and its members that really make it capable to minister. I will keep you in prayer.

      Chaplain Mike

      • Elizabeth Jones on November 5, 2018 at 1:38 pm

        Thanks so much, Chaplain Mike. Yes, I was a happy hospital chaplain for almost ten years until God called me (suddenly) to minister to this dear group of believers who had a traumatic leadership situation happen, four and a half years ago. They needed a chaplain then. I guess the Lord has seen fit to keep me in this small church, since the congregation extended an official call about a year later. 🙂
        I love being a small-church pastor, too. I find my pastoral care gifting so much needed in both my congregation and the local neighborhood, which is quite diverse in terms of ethnicity, faith tradition, and every other way. I am now a known community figure in our suburb, on the local Farmers’ Market board, and participating in the interfaith network in our area. I love what I’m doing for my dear congregation and for the neighborhood, and thank God for it regularly. Except…it does get discouraging, sometimes.
        Thanks so much for your prayers. I really appreciate them. Sending prayers for you and your ministry.
        Pastor Elizabeth/@chaplaineliza

        • Cam Dunson on November 5, 2018 at 5:51 pm

          I’ll be praying for you as well, Pastor Elizabeth

          • Elizabeth Jones on November 5, 2018 at 11:41 pm

            Thanks so much, Cam. I do appreciate prayers. Sending some to God for you, too.



  25. Anthony Costa on November 5, 2018 at 10:12 am

    Great post Carey! I am glad to see things shifting to help reach the unchurched and lost. However, I would say that this is still an attractional model since we are still adjusting the service and programs in hope that people will be more like to come to the church building. This is not bad but I believe that it certainly has the natural trend toward insiders. The reality that we are all seeing is that there is a huge segment of the population that will not attend a service no matter what we change. Many families are second generation unchurched so attending any type of religious service is extremely foreign to them. My hope is that more ministers and churches will seek ways to be truly missional in that they look for ways take the church and gospel to the people, meeting them right where they are already at: homes, neighborhoods, parks, coffee shops and businesses. If we don’t get serious about thinking like this the next decade is sure to mark a dismissal of likely half of our communities.

    • KP on November 6, 2018 at 10:43 am

      Great point! I think as Christians, we should go to where the people are, maybe go to ballgames on Sundays between games and offer services, or have a praise team go out and do some music on Saturday in a park. We don’t have to be at church to share the gospel. We definitely have to get out of those four walls. Jesus didn’t hang out at the synagogues all the time and expect everyone to come there seeking Him, and as Christians, I don’t think we should expect people to do that now, either. Thanks for reminding us of that!

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