Confessions Of A Pastor: Coming Clean On The Seeker Sensitive Movement!

For those of you that know me well, you know that I have a zeal for outreach, a love for the ragamuffin and have also been infatuated with electronics and things that are on the cutting edge.  All of this has positioned me in a place to be very susceptible to the ideology and teachings of the "Seeker Sensitive Movement."  In fact, for many years of my ministry I bought into this ideology... hook, line and sinker!

So what changed my views on the Seeker Sensitive Movement?  Theology happened!  

Now, let me be very clear that there are some very valuable things that we can glean from the Seeker Sensitive Movement.  Having nice signage, adequate parking spaces and a clean presentable church building are great 'practical' things to be aware of.  But the church cannot stand upon these mere man-made methodologies!

So, back to theology.  What happened?

As I studied the doctrine of man I soon realized that this thought that there are millions of non-Christians clamoring to come to church if only the church would become a little more hip, well... is a myth.  Romans says that, "no one seeks God."  In fact, this sinful nature does the exact opposite!  This sinful nature turns inward to 'self' and does not look externally to God.  Scripture undercuts the fundamental core belief of the Seeker Sensitive Movement, that nonbelievers are actually seeking God.  

What scripture teaches is the exact opposite, that it is God who does the seeking!  Think about it for a moment!  What is the incarnation and salvation history all about?  It is about God pursuing His creation through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!  Man doesn't ascend, God descends.  Man doesn't seek, God seeks man.  Man hides, God finds.  


For more on this subject take a moment and read the parables of Luke 15:1-32 from the perspective of God being: the woman searching for the coin, the shepherd searching for the lost sheep and the father running out to the prodigal son.  Wow!  What Gospel!


Anonymous said…
"Millions of non-Christians clamoring to come to church if only the church would become a little more hip." I've been exposed to a lot of the "seeker friendly" ministers in my day trying to make the gospel more appealing by removing unnecessary stumbling blocks, and certainly (only God knows) it does seem like (even thought they won't admit it) many of these pastors also think that being "hip" will also help. But I want to distinguish between these two strategies---that is, seeking to remove unnecessary stumbling blocks to the gospel and being "hip." The reason is very important on two levels.

1) I've never heard any seeker sensitive pastor actually articulate his view on this in the simplistic terms of becoming more "hip" to attract "millions" who are seeking God apart from God's grace by their mere free will, as you have articulated it here (although perhaps there may exceptions to that) and ...

2) Even as a Calvinist (7 pointer) I think there are many unnecessary stumbling blocks to be removed in so many of our churches (and here I can only speak from my own experience and limited perspective) and that even though only God's sovereign grace draws people to himself, we are still responsible to remove such unnecessary stumbling blocks (especially if they are moral failures on our part like being unfriendly, rude, inconsiderate, cultural snobbery, denominational elitism, or even theological elitism, etc.).

Your thoughts?

Hey Bradley,

Good to hear from you my friend.

I hear what you are saying. I think one could argue for the need of contextualization in ministry to a certain extent. In other words, I don't think many would be against the work of missionaries in 'translating' the Word into a native tongue of an un-reached people group. Language and culture can many times create barriers of communication. Barriers that can be overcome/removed.

From my Lutheran perspective, my biggest concern with the seeker sensitive movement is their tendency to 'replace' God's Means of Grace with the most frequent trend. What typically happens is that many seeker-sensitive folks add a layer between the hearer and the Gospel so as to draw the hearer into the Gospel. The layer is intended to bridge the gap between the hearer and the gospel. Inadvertently what ends up happening is that the Gospel is given secondary status, the intended bridge siphons the church's energy away from the Gospel which is of first importance and the man-made bridge replaces the means of grace.

I agree with what you are hitting on above though. I would distinguish the differences as:

1) Healthy: Removing obstacles so as to serve the Means of Grace in connecting the person to the Gospel.


2) Unhealthy: Replacing the Means of Grace with man-made obstacles which inadvertently creates more obstacles.

Grace and Peace