Have you ever seen those commercials or read the inserts on some prescriptions that seem to describe side-effects that far exceed the issue it is supposedly treating?
You know, crazy things like, “This drug treating a mild cough could cause internal bleeding, the breakdown of the intestinal walls, or cause cancer.” And you’re like “Look, I just want to stop coughing!”
That’s how I feel about the “Seeker Sensitive” Church movement.
It has been (and continues to be) purported as providing the cure for church growth woes and reaching the lost, but instead it has produced some of the worst and possibly some of the longest lasting side-effects the Church has seen in a very long time as it relates to the purpose and function of the Church. After all, this movement has been in play since the 1970’s (going on 40+ years now).
…the seeker sensitive church tries to reach out to the unsaved person by making the church experience as comfortable, inviting, and non-threatening to him as possible. The hope is that the person will believe in the gospel. The idea behind the concept is to get as many unsaved people through the door as possible, and the church leadership are willing to use nearly any means to accomplish that goal.https://www.gotquestions.org/seeker-sensitive-church.html
While I believe the intentions of the Seeker Sensitive Church Movement were admirable, they fell way short of creating an atmosphere that could produce a Church body that was truly healthy, growing, and impactful in its community in the way that God intended the Church to be.
The gathering of the Church body was NEVER intended to be an evangelistic tool at its core. You won’t find that purpose in the Bible. You won’t find early church accounts documenting this goal. It’s simply not biblical.
This isn’t to say that unbelievers may not find their way to our gatherings. Or that unbelievers may not become believers through attending the gathering. If they do show up, the Bible gives us some insight on how to handle that.
They should be welcomed.
They should be hospitably treated.
But, you won’t find anywhere in the Bible that tells us to compromise or hide who we are as believers. In fact, it says quite the opposite.
Take 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 for example:
24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+14%3A24-25&version=ESV
Likewise, your pastor or the leaders of your church should not be held responsible for leading your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and anyone else connected to you to the Lord.
That’s actually YOUR responsibility. You’ll see why shortly.
As a result, the Seeker Sensitive Church Movement has produced some pretty terrible and unfortunate side effects, including, but certainly not limited to:
If you, or anyone you know in the Seeker Sensitive Church Model, is experiencing any of these side effects, stop what you are doing and seek a better Church model. Preferably one in the Bible.
What, then, is the Church gathering actually for if not to act as an evangelistic tool to reach the lost? And what is the role of the pastor and other church leaders?
I am so glad you asked! No really, this is a great question!
The Bible, once again, tells us exactly what the Church gathering is for and what purpose the pastor and church leaders serve.
1 Corinthians 14:26-33 says (concerning the church gathering):
26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+14%3A26-33&version=ESV
See, also, Acts 2:42…
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+2%3A42&version=ESV
You see, the gathering of the Church exists for the building up, equipping, and encouragement of the Church body. It is intended to be a gathering where the BELIEVER fellowships with other BELIEVERS, spends time in learning the tenants of the faith and how to live out the faith, and to pray with other BELIEVERS.
If an unbeliever happens to come to Christ through this, BONUS!
And how does this all happen? According to Ephesians 4:11-16, through your pastor and other church leaders as intended by God:
11 And he (being God) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds (also read “pastors”) and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ephesians+4%3A11-16&version=ESV
Through these people that God has put in place FOR the Church, we are able to attain unity of faith, knowledge of Jesus, maturity, and a steadfastness in our faith so that we are not taken away by the deceit of others.
In fact, according to Ephesians 4, when we operate this way (the way God intended) then we are functioning properly, and it is through this that the Church body grows and builds itself up in love.
Notice that this is not accomplished through fog machines, flashy lights, big and loud praise teams with a comprehensive album release schedule, buff pastors with fashion sense, cool children’s ministries (complete with snack time), the greatest greeting team EVER, fancy buildings, water bottles with your Church logo on it, or whatever else your church is using to attract unbelievers to your gatherings.
The gathering of the Church body was ALWAYS intended to be a place of equipment and encouragement for BELIEVERS to go and do the work of the ministry in their homes, jobs, families, neighborhoods, and other areas of their life.
It is past time to drop this potent and lethal drug called the “Seeker Sensitive Church Movement” with all its ugly side effects, and get back to a more holistic and biblical approach to being the Church.
It is time to get the Western/American Church off the spiritual “nipple” and move on to the meatier things they were designed for.
Don’t you think?