I recently had a brief online discussion with a friend of mine on using a seeker-sensitive approach in reaching out to youth who are not attending church. If you have not heard the term before, seeker sensitivity is an approach by some churches to reach people who do not attend the church through attractive mediums. The attractive mediums are meant to hopefully draw them to start attending church or resume, for those who had left. The attractive mediums may be as follows: surveys to ask those outside the church what they want from the church, using entertainment to liven up the services, inviting celebrities as speakers etc. This was my response to him. I have augmented some areas by adding additional revelations since my original response.
I’m all for checking in on the flock, but we must be careful not to repeat the mistake that seeker-sensitive churches made in the USA. I want to highlight eight dangers I perceive in pursuing seeker-sensitivity methods. These are also eight horrible mistakes that seeker-sensitive churches in the USA made that the church in Africa should avoid.
- Obsession with feedback
Firstly, seeker-sensitive churches in the USA had an obsession with feedback because of low numbers. This led to remedies to bring back the numbers at all costs. The result was that Seeker-sensitive churches came up with a man-focused Gospel instead of a biblical and God-centered Gospel. In short, the Gospel message was compromised to bring back numbers. The danger with a man-centered Gospel is that it sounds almost right. It mentions God severally and quotes scriptures abundantly. It often distances itself from the prosperity Gospel in form and expression and is therefore easy to trust, but they’re similar in substance (God is a means to personal happiness). The God-centered deficiency of this man-centered gospel leads to pulpit sermons filled with humanism, motivational talks and entertaining gyratory sermons that pump you up emotionally but drain you spiritually. Arguably, the king of this man-centered humanism has to be Steven Furtick.
- Bypassing spiritual authority
Secondly, a false estimation of the problem was provided by seeker-sensitive churches in the USA e.g. if youth are not attending church, then only the youth can tell us why or only the youth know the answers. That is not necessarily always true. The danger that seeker-sensitive churches in the USA fell into was that shepherds and overseers bypassed their role of teaching and discernment; they not only asked the patient what the problem was, but they also invited the very patient to suggest what kind of medicine they think they need. When a patient is sick, getting medicine pills in their favourite colour is immaterial. This may sound bad, but I cannot find a better way to say it- The Sunday pulpit is for teachers and preachers of the Biblical text and not for psychologists, doctors, “specialists” and “people groups.” I appreciate the role of the latter in giving insight, but not in leading the church.
- False remedies
Thirdly, seeker-sensitive churches in the USA assumed that those outside the church wanted to be in it but were inconvenienced by a few things the church is doing wrong. So when they asked, “What can we change in the church for you to come?” they were trading Christ’s blueprint for the world’s sketches. While it is true that churches can make mistakes, their solution is not found in asking man but rather in asking God. The reality is that there are people outside the church who would still remain outside of it even if Jesus himself was the senior pastor. Seeker-sensitive churches in the USA forgot that the chief problem of man is sin, not lack of coffee after the sermon. You cannot treat a broken leg with a bandage. Also, if you use carnality to attract people to church, you will have to use carnality to keep them there.
- Ignorance about eschatology
Fourthly, seeker-sensitive churches in the USA overlooked biblical prophecy. A falling away from the elect is part of biblical eschatology. As we approach the end of the world, the churches must get emptier and the true fellowship of believers must get more intimate.
- Forgetting the nature of the Gospel
Fifthly, seeker-sensitive churches in the USA forgot that the Gospel is offensive. While healthy churches do grow in numbers, they do so in light of the attraction of the rugged cross. In certain seasons, the rugged cross may drive away numbers of a church that was filled with nominal Christians. The latter is a blessing, not a curse. Jesus taught that the more His message permeates the world, the more division will occur. Matthew 10:34-36 Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. (NIV)
Sixthly, seeker-sensitive churches in the USA meant well when asking the congregants for solutions, but in doing so they invited the world into the church instead of taking the church into the world. They were sincere but sincerely wrong. If you want to know that the world is in the church, look at the Methodist Church in the UK that endorsed homosexual marriage; look at the mushrooming churches that are obsessed to preach love but never sin and repentance; look at the fear of being identified as a Bible-believing Christian because of social disapproval; look at the pandemic of weak masculinity in marriages and in social groups; look at the foolish feminism in our pews in the name of being liberated women; look at parents in our congregations who cannot discipline children because they are afraid to hurt their feelings; look at the number of self-professing Christians who live a life of unrepentant cohabitation, fornication and perversion; look at how offended people get by the truth; look at how weak and powerless our sermons are. Seeker-sensitive churches were ignorant of Satan’s schemes.
Seventhly, seeker-sensitive churches in the USA just 10 years ago never dreamed of fearing to call homosexuality sin or abortion murder. Today, they make ten thousand apologies before they touch these topics with a ten-foot pole. Some have surprised themselves by even promoting these things that Christ and the Church oppose. They are controlled by fear.
- Forgot who is boss
Eighthly, seeker-sensitive churches in the USA forgot that Christ will build His church, not man. If the church is keen and faithful to her task, then the matter of who leaves and who remains will be relegated in rank. Feed the sheep and Christ will build His church. Therefore, what are the church’s faithful tasks that we should focus on, in my estimation?
- Share the pure unadulterated message of the Gospel
- Edify the church from the Bible text
- Disciple believers
- Take care of the poor, orphans and widows
May Christ find faith on the earth when He returns.