Monday, November 22, 2004

Seeker Sensitive Church

I know... been awhile since I wrote. Lots happening right now. I did, however, just run across this dialog I had with a friend of mine way back in 1999. He was writing of his observations after moving to Thought you might enjoy his comments.

How do you like the "seeker sensitive" model?

I have put a lot of thought into this question. Especially since there was such a big change for me when I came to the desert. But anymore I don't think that what we do is really seeker oriented. I'll have to explain a bit. There are all of these categories that you can talk about. Seeker driven, seeker sensitive, I've even heard "seeker aware." If there was a continuum of styles it would be hard to even say how to draw it up. Lets say that the continuum goes from totally seeker-driven like Bill Hybels to believer-driven.

I'll say that Bill Hybels would look like this: concert style music that is not deep but rather entertains and conveys a message of hope or joy or about the alternative nature of the gospel as opposed to our culture. Not much about blood, lambs, thrones or whatever else. The teaching would be topical and would address needs. How do you have a great family, dealing with stress, loving better and so on. The things about this service that are seeker are these: little biblical content but rather containing biblical truth, no deep worship but rather an appealing relaxing atmosphere to get your spiritual needs met while the church is wooing you into deeper commitment to Christ.

There are obviously some things about this service that we don't do. We don't have shallow worship and we don't have shallow teaching. We have big well produced worship but not shallow. So there is a problem there. The next problem comes up when you try to define what a believer service is... fellowship, communion, deep worship, ministry, deep teaching. I think that all of these things have an evangelistic, supernaturally appealing thing about them. Deep down I believe in the evangelistic quality of a real biblical community. I believe in the foolishness of preaching, the power of worship to draw and in the power of communion and love in fellowship to draw people. So in that way I wouldn't even say we are really seeker driven. So then what is seeker sensitive? Do seekers get into our worship, do they understand when we teach on tithing? I think the issue is accessibility. A big issue is the time factor. We try to make services 1:15 because everyone is busy. We try to make them uplifting in worship style. We try to make the worship shorter so that it doesn't pass them by. I have actually found that long worship is bad for most people unless they are at a conference. Another issue is excellence. We try to have things appear orderly and well done. We put a ton of work into children's programs and in worship. So I think we simply have a regular church that doesn't do expository teaching.

Here are some questions that I don't have the answer to.
* How long does worship need to be for it to be worship?
* What do you have to sing about for it to be worship?
* What do you have to teach about for it to be teaching?
* If seeker churches try not to drive people away who are seeking, what are non-seeker churches doing? Are they trying to drive them away? Do they not care?
* What day should your service be? Does it matter?

Here are some other questions I want to answer better:
* How can we make the gospel easily communicated to those who need it?
* What do I do that is not required by God that keeps people away from him?

Does it meet all of your expectation?

This is hard question to answer too. What I expected to learn when I came here was how to make disciples, do evangelism, build a program and train leaders. I wasn't drawn here because of the seeker thing. Like I said it is not really a seeker deal to me. But I will say that in general we should not put all of our eggs into the seeker basket. That movement is here to teach us to remember that people that need Christ need someone who will tell them. An analogy will help. If I went to Africa I would not speak in English I would learn a new language. So I want to fight the tendency to shrink and continue to extend into speaking the language that seekers speak. I don't think that the future will validate the criticism that Barna brings against the seeker movement. The issue is not whether you bring your bible to a service but whether you are making disciples of the people who are getting saved at your seeker service. A study should be done by George Barna someday exploring how people came to Christ before the printing press. I realize he was talking about biblical literacy.

What will YOU do differently when you plant a church someday?

This is a huge question that I don't really want to answer right now. Maybe some other time.

What will you keep that you think could work anywhere?

1. Focus on making disciples, real ones will do evangelism
2. Be concerned with the momentum of the body. Help use it to create greater investment on the part of the believer
3. Assess where people should be and coach them into that place
4. Talk about the present and the future and closely related: talk about what is going to happen not what won't happen
5. Communicate well with people
6. Prioritize your time and don't let trivial things run your life
7. Read all the time for pleasure and stimulation
8. Visit other people who are doing it well
9. Don't hang around ministers who are negative unless they want to get better
10. Get away often to reflect
11. Initiate the creating of your church culture rather than having it dictated by default.
12. Talk about what is going on in your area and not what Anaheim is doing.

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