A new trend has hit the Church growth circuit, — Seeker Friendly Services. Many leaders became quickly fascinated by this new way to fill their empty pews. The goal of the seeker service is to reach church dropouts suffering from a case of religious boredom. In these Church services, those disillusioned by traditional religion or sick of the liturgy are offered church that doesn’t feel like “church.”
These services are typically contemporary, non-threatening, and informal. The gospel is offered softly while worshipers drop by for a “chat like” sermon from the pastor. Each visitor may remain anonymous as long as he or she desires. One leader of the trend was known for saying, “We don’t ask seekers to sign anything, say anything, give anything, or do anything.”
In many places, seeker services have drawn large crowds of un-churched people. However, a few churches using these methods acknowledge the difficulty of moving seekers beyond the seeker level. Calls for commitment and willingness to serve are only answered by a small percentage. Jesus’ demands of self-denial, daily cross bearing, and laying up treasure in heaven, are a hard “sell” after the soft-sell approach used to attract “seekers.” Moving seekers to such commitment is as challenging as securing committed Sunday school teachers in traditional churches.
One writer observes, “The real irony is that we have assumed that growing church membership means that the ranks of the Christian army are growing whereas the number of combat troops is in fact shrinking. Churches have become hospitals where sin-sick souls are given aspirin and entertainment to distract them from the diseases of their souls. God forgive us, we are more concerned with numbers than with holiness. The Church’s growth is largely a cancerous growth, and we do not even know it.”
Over the years, I have questioned how those who promote this approach to church growth would understand the Bible verse that says, “No man seeks after God” (Rom. 3:11). Those considering or involved with “seeker” services should reflect on a distinction made centuries ago by St. Thomas Aquinas.
“Aquinas said that we confuse two similar yet different human actions. We see people searching desperately for peace of mind, relief from guilt, meaning, and purpose to their lives, and loving acceptance. We know that ultimately these things can only be found in God. Therefore, we conclude that since people are seeking these things they must be seeking after God. People do not seek God. They seek after the benefits that only God can give them. The sin of fallen man is this: Man seeks the benefits of God while at the same time fleeing from God himself. We are, by nature, fugitives.”
According to the New Testament, people do not seek God unless his Spirit works in their hearts. Jesus told us what kind of inner work the Spirit would accomplish. He said the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment — three unlikely themes for seeker services.