Seeker Friendly Services

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.

Steve Cornell


About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Church, Church growth, Seeker Services, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Seeker Friendly Services

  1. john johnson says:

    Could you tell me who this writer is you quote and what artivle/book it came from? That would be very helpful.

    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.”

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  2. Josh says:

    Steve,

    Hello. I am just visiting your blog today for the first time. I am from Manheim, PA. As far as seeker churches go and the dangers of the seeker movement, there is no better book out right now than Bob DeWaay’s “Redefining Christianity”. I would highly recommend it.

    Blessings,

    Josh
    http://www.bloodtippedears.blogspot.com

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  3. Nerla says:

    My friend… I think you missed the forest for the trees. It’s the people, stupid.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/november13/1.48.html

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  4. thinkpoint says:

    Hit a nerve? The cross of salvation and the cross-carrying call of discipleship, is the message of the true gospel. I do not doubt for a moment that Bill Hybels and his staff believe this and preach it (albiet more pointedly now then at the beginning). I do hold the method to be flawed (even as Bill himself encountered problems with it along the way). When do we pull the drape off the statue depicting true discipleship? When do we let them know what Jesus will call them to do—come and die? Aquinas’ point remains amazingly poignant.

    “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.”

    Yes, it really is the people—for eternity!

    Blessings,

    Steve

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  5. cbcpayouth says:

    “Come to me – all of you who are weary and have burdens – and I will give you rest… my Yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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  6. Josh says:

    cbcpayouth,

    So, what does that mean to you?

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  7. Have you ever been to Willow Creek Community Church? I’m guessing not. Do you know anyone who serves there as a volunteer or as a staff member? Again, I’d bet not. You can certainly nit pick portions of their methodology, but you can do that about any church that probably isn’t “your” church. Willow has been open and honest about their short comings, but they also deserve credit for having been part of the transformation of thousands upon thousands of people’s eternities. How’s your church doing on that, or more specifically, how are YOU doing on that? God will be the judge, Bill Hybels will have to answer for himself, but how about you? It’s easy to swing at windmills on a blog, but when the rubber hits the road that’s entirely different. I don’t agree with Bill Hybels on a number of things, but I will cheer for him and his church’s success to the glory of God. I don’t have time to waste being a hater.

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  8. SC says:

    Chris,

    I did not mention Willow in this piece. It was written years before Willow engaged in serious self-correction. I have been to Willow and I have a friend on staff there. Whether Willow or any other, I offer the same concerns. I clearly do not view Willow as non-evangelical or heretics. That would be foolish. Why did it hit such a nerve?

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