Reading “Church Turned Inside Out” is like looking at a commentary on the raw data provided by George Barna. Authors Linda Berquist and Allan Karr (B&K) provide some great insight on the distinctions between an “Attractional Church” (AC) and a “Relational Church”(RC). By contrasting the two, I see the transition that has taken place in our lives over the past 9 years.
AC’s are big on “first impression” (front door/lobby, colors, aroma, sound, etc.). They are central and use a hierarchical structure. Organizational leadership and “job descriptions” are imperative. They use advertising, parking lot banners, leaflets, even movie type trailer videos that promote “come, hear, see, experience!”
They work well in cultures that are “still influenced strongly by modernism and in which centralized organizational systems are still perceived as the best way to organize.”
The highest challenges for AC’s are financial. A lot of money is demanded to commence, proceed, operate and maintain due to a majority of income being used for mortgage, utilities and staff salaries. It is the opinion of the authors that “the high investment of resources required to sustain the organization means many of these churches never develop a kingdom ecclesiology.” Assimilation is valued, but extremely difficult. And as a result, “there can be a large back door.”
Further quoting B&K “…a more consumer or audience culture (as opposed to a participatory culture)…” is a major draw.
RC’s are much more basic communities thriving on relational dynamics which enable them to focus more fully on expanding relationships and missional engagement. B&K surmise that “they tend to be structured simply and are organized as either a single cell or a decentralized network of affiliated cell groups.” RC’s are usually led by lay people or bi-vocationally. There is rarely a hierarchy consisting of clergy/lay people since leadership “is based more on spiritual and relational authority than on positional authority structures…They not only gather relationally but also focus both internally (ministry to one another) and externally (evangelism and hospitality) on relationship. Intimacy and accountability are byproducts.”
RC’s gather informally and encourage open participation. Teaching and sharing is open to all who are present and participants can ask questions or make comments freely. The gatherings are not dependent on location or a specific day or time. Homes, coffee shops, parks, etc are typical venues for RC gatherings.
Finances are not nearly as challenging to RC’s as they are to AC’s. This creates a freedom to direct resources to many more outside causes.
The greatest challenge for RC’s is the tendency to allow relationship to overshadow mission and a condescending attitude toward conventional forms of expression. It is the common “holy huddle” problem.
For Teena and me, the consequence between investing energy and time in each context has been radically different. Stress and pressure seem to be diminished greatly in the RC paradigm than it is in the AC paradigm due to the decrease of lofty and sometimes unrealistic expectations. The sacrifice has been a steady income with a “regular job” – but the adventure and intrigue makes up for the lack tremendously.