Anti-Attractional Being Attractional?

In Tim Keller‘s new book, The Reason for God, he writes:

Some years ago a man from a southern U.S. state visited Redeemer. He had heard that though we held to orthodox Christian doctrine, we had grown large in the midst of a skeptical, secular city. He expected to find that we were attracting people with avant-garde music, video monitors and clips, dramatic sketches, exceptionally hip settings, and other kings of eye-catching spectacle. To his surprise he found a simple and traditional service that, on the surface, seemed identical to those in his more conservative part of the world. Yet he could also see that the audiences contained many people who wouldn’t have ever attended the churches he knew. After the service he met me and said, ‘This is a complete mystery to me. Where are the dancing bears? Where are the gimmicks? Why are these people here?’

I directed him to some ‘downtown art-types’ who had been coming to Redeemer for some time. They suggested that he look beneath the surface. One person said that the difference between Redeemer and other churches was profound, and lay in ‘irony, charity, and humility.’ They said Redeemer lacked the pompous and highly sentimental language they found emotionally manipulative in other churches. Instead, Redeemer people addressed others with gentle, self-deprecating irony. Not only that, but beliefs were held here in charity and with humility, making Manhattanites feel included and welcomed, even if they disagreed with some of Redeemer’s beliefs. Most of all, they said, teaching and communication at Redeemer was intelligent and nuanced, showing sensitivity where they were sensitive (43-44).



~ by Dave Smith on July 22, 2008.

8 Responses to “Anti-Attractional Being Attractional?”

  1. At risk of sounding like I am a disciple of Keller, I have to say that I have been extremely impressed with his approach. Worship style is important – we all express ourselves in different ways. That said, I think it is sad how consuming that topic seems to have become at my home church. So I think it is great that Redeemer has a traditional worship style because a traditional worship style in Manhattan blows away any arguments that this topic should be given such high priority.

    All of the above is just scratching the surface. Keller has discovered that, ironically, there is nothing more attractive than the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we pursue a deeper, richer, fuller understanding of the gospel we become more like Christ and therefore, more and more attractive to those who are outsiders.

    There is no room for religion in the church today. Frankly, there is no room for anything but the gospel because it is the only hope for this world… and for my heart.

  2. Hmmm…while there’s nothing wrong with avante-garde music and dancing bears per se…absent genuine relationships and permission for people to walk their own spiritual journey, it can become the crime we sometimes know it.

    That’s one of the things that attracted me to my current situation. The teaching was great…complete with power point, etc. But it was the permission given to me by the leader to walk along my spiritual journey w/o then “sentimental” and “manipulative” language described above during a time when I needed it most.

    The is one reason I believe (based largely on my own experience and current observatoins), that in general, pastoral duties are entirely too focused on administration and programming.

    The result is that pastors focus too much time and creative energy into bulding the next dancing bear, rather doing what they do best, and what they love – spending time shepherding God’s people.

  3. I think Keller’s insight is brilliant. He just may be the Martin Luther of today!

  4. I think a lot of Evanglical churches who are obsessed with worship styles could learn a thing or two from Redeemer. There’s much more to church than what instruments are playing, what lights are illumining (or not) the space, and how relevant the music is. The church is about the Gospel, from first to last, and where the Gospel manifests itself in the life of the congregation, everything else is put in its proper perspective.

  5. Keller definitely makes us all think for sure.

    I think this goes to show that though there is great, great freedom in our methodology, there has to be some VERY principles at work.

    Yea, of coarse the cross and the gospel…as I sometimes think we assume that those churches that do the bells and whistles aren’t communicating such a message.

    But I think the real issue here is the attitude and culture in which they have created…it is one of humility…as a servant sensitive to the backgrounds of its people. That is huge in my opinion.

  6. “Not only that, but beliefs were held here in charity and with humility, making Manhattanites feel included and welcomed, even if they disagreed with some of Redeemer’s beliefs.”

    I wonder about this statement though. Can those with beliefs, even core beliefs, opposed to Christianity feel included and welcomed indefinitely at Redeemer? Is THAT the secret to growing such a large church?

  7. I agree w/ Mr. Anonymous above…just b/c bells & whistles are present, it doesn’t automatically mean that the gospel is absent (or even diluted).

    I agree again w/ Mr. Anonymous…what makes Redeemer unique? It’s culture to creat meaningful relationships…and these relationships transcend worship styles.

    I’ve never been to Redeemer…never even heard of it of it’s pastor. But a couple of thoughts (right or wrong) pass through my mind…

    – Even Redeemer’s approach could be called a “trend”. The same language used of Keller was used of Hybels, Cymbala, Stanley, etc. (“he’s the next Luther”) back in the day.

    – Let’s not make the same mistake we did with those guys – i.e. give them too much credit b/c their church was big, or give them too little b/c they did it differently than we know and do today.

    – Why…in an age of information…where we have every resource on church growth and management available to us (past and present)…where we have exceptional seminaries and bible schools…where we have numerous positive/negative examples before us of church growth – do we have a hard time figuring out “how to do church”? It seems we make it more complicated than it ought to be.

  8. Well said Anthony…and yea, I didn’t log in when I posted, so Anonymous was me. I was hiding.

    It is definitely not rocket science to some extent…bible, prayer, care, mission, etc…

    and yet at the same time you definitely want to have a continual evaluative eye in always making sure your approach is contextual to an ever changing culture…yea, for sure a balance here though in taking it too far…always analyzing, changing, etc. and not just allowing the organic process to take root and grow.

    Creat caution.

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