By Chris DiVietro
On Monday we recalled the God of Jacob is our fortress not so we can retreat from the battle, but so we can be equipped for the battle. To fully see how that bears true for us as the New Testament church today, we need to back up a little bit.
In the Old Testament, when Israel worshipped the Lord faithfully other nations took notice. God intended for foreign nations to see Israel’s devotion to the Lord and His greatness, and subsequently be drawn to Him. That is the main thrust of Deuteronomy 4:5-8:
See, I have taught you statutes and rules as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statues and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today.
In the context of Deuteronomy 4, Israel is told the ethical quality of their lives – obedience to the law—would attract the nations to the living God. If Israel would live as God intended them to, the nations would notice—the content and quality of the Israelites’ lives would attract the nations to Israel because of its nearness to the living God. Lives lived in worship of and devotion to God—by their very nature—attract others to observe, learn, and even understand. An attractive community is one that obeys faithfully, lives faithfully, worship unceasingly, and relies on “missional magnetism” to attract others to the Gospel.
The church is in some sense an attractive community, it seeks to attract nonbelievers to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christopher Wright says, “God’s people are to live in such a way that they become attractors—not attractors to themselves, but to the God they worship.” Elmer Towns and Ed Stetzer define attractional churches today as those that have established buildings and staffs, gather at prescheduled times, promote programs, and function as institutionalized organizations. The attractional church—a redemptive community that exists as an established institution to which others are attracted—has its origins in the Old Testament and in God’s purposes for Israel, seen in Isaiah 49:6, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach the end of the earth.”
However, churches must not be attractional alone. Attracting others to worship God is only one half of the equation. Next week we’ll unpack more theology behind the attractional emphasis in ministry before seeing how it has shifted now that Jesus has come to earth and sent the church out.