March 8, 2010 Tony Morgan

“And” Instead of “Or”

Why does it have to be attractional or missional? I’ve seen lives impacted by both approaches. Why can’t it be attractional and missional?

Why does it have to be evangelism or discipleship? Christ-followers need to be engaged in both. Why can’t it be evangelism and discipleship?

Why does it have to be teaching from the platform or teaching in the living room? I’ve been stretched by God’s Word in both settings. Why can’t it be teaching from the platform and the living room?

Why does it have to be worship with an amazing production or simple, stripped-down worship? I’ve experienced powerful worship in both environments. Why can’t we do both?

Why does it have to be corporate gatherings or one-on-one relationships? I need both to be encouraged and stretched in my faith and my leadership. Why can’t we embrace both ways of connecting with others.

One of the things that most frustrates me about church blogs is the “or” approach to writing. I don’t get it. Honestly, it’s probably one of the reasons why in most cases I’d prefer to read marketplace blogs. In marketplace writing, if someone thinks they have the “right way” of doing something, they just go do it. Then they write about how it worked or didn’t work. In church writing, if someone thinks they have the “right way” of doing something, they write about how the other church is wrong.

What if we took the “and” approach? What if we were open to the possibility that more people might be reached if we stopped doing either/or and started embracing both/and? What if God really designed some churches to be one way for one community or culture and other churches to be another way for another community or culture? My guess, as an example, is it’s going to take a completely different type of church to reach the inner-city than it’s going to take to reach the neighborhoods of Paulding County, Georgia.

We spend a lot of time and energy fighting for the “or.” Wonder what would happen if we just embraced the “and” needed to reach our communities?

The problem, of course, is that we like to worship our methods. Our preferences are the priority. In fact, we shape religion around our preferences even if it means sacrificing the broader impact of our ministry. Why help other people when it might make us uncomfortable?

I just wanted you to know I’m more of an “and”-type of guy. I know that frustrates you. It would be a lot easier to dislike me if I didn’t agree with you. The problem is that in many circumstances, I think you’re right. The only difference is that I don’t think you’re always right.

And neither am I.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

Comments (26)

  1. Thank you for point this out! Especially that first example. I’ve been pushing back against the “missional” idea any chance I get, not because I don’t believe in it, but because most supporters assume the “attractional” model isn’t missional at all.

    That’s simply not true. Unchurched people that make their way to “attractional” churches largely get there because somebody was missional in their lives and invited them.

    And…I don’t care how missional you are, if you’re life is unattractive as a follwer of Christ, nobody is following.

    Now, how we define attractive is key in that case.

  2. Thank you for this insight. I am a young pastor and this post helps me not to get arrogant or look stupid by throwing out my way of doing things. Brings humility. It also good to have this approach on some theological views. Predestination/free will – both exist. Don’t just fight and present half of the nature of God. Thanks Tony.

  3. This is a great thought. It has been taught to me recently that its not this way “or” that way, it’s just a way. They are just different, and contrary to popular belief differences can co-exsist as long as they aren’t un-biblical. Thanks for the post!

  4. George

    Amen Tony. 10 years ago the Baptist traditional church I went to preached about what was wrong with the new “feel good church” now the contemporary church I go to spends all their time preaching what’s wrong with the old dead traditional church. It’s the same Jesus folks just a different way of preaching it. The constant ,my way or no way is getting old.

  5. adam

    Dead on, Tony. Great insight. An “or” mentality in “church world” really draws away from the unity Christ prayed for believers at the end of the Gospel of John. If we could appreciate each other in our own given context and trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding the leadership of churches that seem to be reaching people in a way that may be different than our method, I think the body of Christ would reap the benefits. Thanks for the post.

  6. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve argued this with leaders all over the country. A church should be both attractional and missional. It’s “both-and”, not “either-or”. Thanks.

  7. John

    How about we stop the discussion through blogging, conferences, books, twittering,and facebooking and see if the church can survive?

  8. God is a God of variety, whether we acknowledge it or not! My way is not the only one He is using. Those who see the bigger picture understand that. Thanks for the post Tony!

  9. Dead on Tony! I have served at senior pastor of a church for 20 years. We are very rural but have grown modestly and consistently. When my wife and I arrived, there were 69 people attending. Last Sunday we had 1470 in four services. One of the primary reasons we grew is that we became relevant to the community around us. A board member recently wrote a letter to all the other board members saying that our church was only interested in numbers and money and that we needed to get back to the Bible. His implication was that we are compromising. He didn’t send me the letter, just the board. It was heart-breaking because I really thought those battles were over. His mentality is exactly what you have described in your latest blog. His message was, “It can only be one way – never both ways.” Thank you for this insightful “bull’s eye” blog post. Oh yeah, the other board members didn’t agree with him.

  10. Very well said. So true.

    Perhaps much of the reason for the “or” tendency is that it’s just easier to do “and.” (And even easier to write it.)

  11. John

    I agree with you Tony on the “and”. I used to thnk we had to be one or th other, but recently, it seems like God has been saying to me,”Don’t put me into your box, John.”
    ’nuff said.

  12. Doug

    I really don’t mean to be the only dissenting voice here, but I wonder if we are missing the crux of the questions being asked. It seems to be: Are most attractional churches actually missional?

    It’s not “either/or” or rather “and” it’s, “What’s the point of being attractional if you aren’t missional?”

    When you see the statistic that 96% of attractional church growth is people transferring from one church to another…you really have to ask if we are missing the point. We can probably all agree that this isn’t what Jesus was going after.

    Are there attractional churches that are missional? DEFINITELY. But if we’re honest…I mean REALLY honest, we’d have to say that by-in-large, that isn’t the case.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think there are many “missional” churches that are successfully missional in the way Jesus would label it either! Ed Stetzer did a great blog post on this.

    At least from where I sit, it doesn’t seem as if either the “inherited/attractional” model or the “missional” model are doing too terribly well in how Jesus would define mission.

    Just a thought.

  13. Tony!
    I couldn’t agree more with your ‘AND’ thinking. It’s become a running joke with our team that most things get approached with an ‘and’ rather than an ‘either/or’

    The challenge is not to get trapped into one box or the other isn’t it? Yet, most people want to narrow their definitions down into simple categories that don’t include the ‘AND’.

    Living in the tension of ‘AND’ takes a lot of energy as the leader of an ‘AND’ enterprise doesn’t it?

    Jeff Fuson

  14. Patrick Cochenour

    Very good. It is the same approach instudying the Bible. Instead of me thinking I am right and the other person is wrong, I have learned in many areas it is not “This or that,” but “this and That.” This principle is not my idea but something I learned from a teacher of mine.

  15. Thanks for addressing this false dichotomy between “missional” and “attractional”. When I read Introduction to the Missional Church, I thought the authors’ “or” between these two was unnecessary and unhelpful. There are all kinds of ways for a church to be missional, including attracting people to worship services.

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