Do you remember the “Try God” slogan? I was never a fan of it. I use to tell people that God is not an experiment and He’s not interested in being tried. I thought about this in light of the following quote from D. A. Carson:
“In much contemporary evangelism, there is little concern for whether or not God will accept us, and much concern for whether or not we will accept him. Little attention is paid to whether or not we please him, and much to whether or not he pleases us. Many popular evangelistic methods are molded by these considerations. As a result, there is far too little stress on God’s character and the requirements of the kingdom, and far too much stress on our needs. Worse, our needs are cast in preeminently psychological categories, not moral ones alienation and loneliness, not bitterness and self-seeking” (D. A. Carson).
This is a needed word of caution. Our tendency is to try to persuade people of their need for Jesus based on what He can do for them: give them peace, joy, freedom from anxiety, love, security, hope, and many other experiences. But to start the gospel with these promises could lead to the self-deceptive conclusion that turning to God is all about me and my needs—a conclusion that has led to disillusionment and even to false conversions. It’s true that with salvation there is joy, peace, security, love, and hope. But there could also be persecution, suffering, discipline and trials. Right? We really must be careful about accenting the benefits of the gospel as incentives for turning to God. Unregenerate minds will likely interpret these benefits in self-oriented and distorted ways!
This is one of the problems with trying to create a seeker friendly Church. God must be viewed as the seeker or we will miss the right emphasis in Christian witness.
Reflect on a distinction made centuries ago by St. Thomas Aquinas. “….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 to bring the conviction that leads to conversion. Jesus told us that the kind of inner work the Spirit does is to “convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment” — three unlikely themes for seeker services.