My friend Pastor Jay Pathak was talking to the mayor of Arvada and wanted to know his vision for the city. After sharing a number of things, the mayor confessed, “I guess I want people to be good neighbors.” Jay assured the mayor that he could help with that one! Since then, Jay has mobilized and worked with more than fifty other churches in Colorado to encourage people to “rediscover the art of neighboring.” They are now taking the love commandment seriously by pursuing relationships with their neighbors.
Jay’s church, the Mile High Vineyard, is one of many churches following Jesus into the marketplace and into the neighborhoods of their city. They illustrate one of the most profound and important things God is doing in the world today: calling his church to be incarnational (also described as “missional”). So what is an incarnational church?
The easiest way to understand what I mean by "incarnational church" is to compare two approaches: the incarnational approach and the attractional approach. In the attractional method, the goal is to attract attendees. Churches want to get people to attend service on Sunday. By contrast, the incarnational church focuses on incarnating the gospel at work and with neighbors from Monday through Saturday. The attractional church’s primary emphasis is “come,” whereas the incarnational church’s primary emphasis is “go!” The attractional church focuses on buildings and professional clergy, while the incarnational church focuses on laity serving in the marketplace.
A wise reader will discern two things about what I just wrote. First, in order to make my point, I exaggerated. I made my comparison of the two approaches too black and white. Second, both approaches are good, and we need both. The reality is that every church is both attractional and incarnational at some level. But I see an imbalance in the church. We are really good at the attractional approach, but not so good at the incarnational. In this blog I want to address the importance of being incarnational.
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