Mammoth Cave National Park, in south central Kentucky, is one of the oldest tourist attractions in North America. People have visited this site since 1816. I often wonder what attracts people to these places. Is it the 400 miles of underground passageways in the longest cave in the world, or the hundreds of acres of woodlands in the beautiful Green River Valley surrounding the historic cave? Or, could it be the weird names of some of the small towns in the area such as Horse Cave, Cave City, Bear Wallow and Uno? I have a deep attraction to that part of the world for a totally different reason. It is my home, the place where I grew up, and where my family lived, and still lives today.
Discovering what attracts people is multi-billion dollar business! Corporations and businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year trying to attract people to their products, services, and places of business. The same is true for churches and religious organizations. For the last twenty years or so, many Christian denominations have focused most of their resources and training efforts to help leaders and pastors develop “seeker friendly” strategies.
It is important to make sure our churches and the events held in our buildings are attractive and welcoming. We need to be sensitive to those who are seeking answers to life’s questions, and to those who need help sorting out all the many challenges life brings. However, we are not simply selling a product or drawing people to an event. There is an eternal dimension to who we are, and to what we do as followers of Christ that cannot be overlooked. It is found in Jesus’ words to some of the Gentiles who were visiting Jerusalem. Evidently, they heard about the miracles Jesus was doing, and they came to His disciples asking, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (John 12:20 ESV)
How did Jesus respond? He talked about His death and resurrection. He spoke of His disciples following Him. And, then He said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.” The dimension we must always keep in mind is that Jesus is both the attraction and the attractor. It is not important how they see us, but it is very important how they see Him.
What really attracts someone to God? What draws someone into a relationship with the Living God, and ultimately compels them to allow this attraction to transform their lives? It is Jesus! It is not what we believe about Jesus, or what we say about Him. It is Him. Do they see Him? Do they see Him in the way we treat one another in our churches? Do they see Him in how we demonstrate compassion for the poor? Do they see Him when we demonstrate forgiveness and mercy with each other and with total strangers?
As pastors and leaders, we need to learn, it is not about building attractional buildings, programs or events, but growing an attractional community – the community of faith. This is what really matters! I think this is what Jesus had in mind when He said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, ‘If you have love one for another.” (John 13:35 NKJV)
Frankly, it does not matter how you greet people coming into your church building, or how impressed they are with your worship services, if they do not see Jesus in you, and in the way you live your life. If they do not see Him, their attraction to your church will be superficial and short-lived. Make sure they see Jesus! He should be the main and the only attraction in our worship services!