I have one big beef with all of the major, high church liturgical traditions. That is, they tend to make “church” about going to church on Sunday morning in order to let the “magic” (as one of my Roman Catholic friends calls it) happen. That is, because they are sacramental (and I’m not), they tend to see the major thing the church does is provide mass, communion, whatever you want to call it. This is a mistake — and my sacramental friends will disagree with me. I see the functional model at work in such churches to be “attractional.” People come to church, not solely, but primarily for the communion service.
I believe “church” is about gathering in fellowship and worship and instruction but the focus of church is about being empowered to a missional life in the community — in evangelism and service. This has been the emphasis of the evangelical movement for a long, long time and that is where my heart is.The test for a church, in my judgment, is its zeal for what the followers of Jesus are supposed to be doing: evangelizing, worshiping, praying, learning theology, serving, being compassionate, etc.. In other words, are its ministries holistic? Do they believe in the whole gospel? Do they practice the whole gospel?
Wow. Here’s one of Scot's sacramental friends not necessarily disagreeing with him. To be perfectly honest, I’d never thought this issue through clearly before, but practically and generally speaking, I can’t say he's wrong. I don’t think “sacramental” and “missional” are opposed in principle, and I can think of plenty of examples of Christian communities that are both - from missional movements within Roman Catholicism to “emerging” churches rooted in sacramental traditions (like Seattle’s Church of the Apostles and my own Common Table) to churches with thoroughly low-church evangelical roots that have placed a renewed emphasis on the sacraments (like Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis). But in practice, I think you’re right about the attractional emphasis of established sacramental traditions. Is it really harder for (say) ECUSA folks to grasp the missional mindset than for (say) PCUSA folks, due to this issue? And even in the "both/and" communities I know, can the sacramental focus in some way be a hindrance to missional transformation?
I still feel pretty certain that it's possible for a community to be both joyously sacramental and passionately missional - but I suspect that such a community needs to be constantly vigilant that they don't slip into a wholly attractional "if we keep dispensin' the magic, they will come" mode. Could this happen within a generation, in a community that walked a tough path of missional transformation just a few years before? It seems plausible to me.
Much to think about. Thanks, Scot!