Loving Questions for Pastors of Seeker-Sensitive Churches #2
Which came first: the seeker-sensitive service philosophy or a commitment to sound biblical exposition? Consider this testimony by a prominent pastor of a large seeker-sensitive church about the early days of his ministry:
By January 1976 it had become evident that the core believers, who were working so hard and giving out so much, desperately needed deeper Bible teaching and corporate worship. So we started the New Community, our midweek believers service.
No church should be criticized for experiencing a learning curve. Nonetheless, the fact that a commitment to serious Bible teaching came after the seeker-sensitive philosophy in this church begs the question, “Is the seeker-sensitive philosophy biblical?” In this same church, the pastor writes that several other course corrections took place regarding church government, membership, and even the adoption of expository preaching for some services. However, when it came to the services oriented to seekers, the prevailing opinion among the church’s leaders is that they got it right the first time around. While this is possible, it seems worthy to suggest that the biblical evidence, coupled with a history of acting first and looking to Scripture second should cast at least a shadow of doubt on the biblical nature of the seeker-sensitive service philosophy.
Along the same lines, affirmation that this church’s seeker-sensitive philosophy was appropriate came from the wrong places. The dramatic success of the church led to some early and serious secular criticism that likened the church to a cult. Therefore, when the church was covered positively by the press, it was seen as a victory.
Finally the publication date arrived. Fearfully we flipped through the pages in the special Sunday Magazine, only to discover a sensitively written account of an unchurched family’s spiritual transformation, a moving description of a weekend service, and a thoughtful discussion of our motivation for ministry and our dreams for the future.
Whether God intended this or not, the elders and many core people who had suffered through that horrendous year saw that article as an affirmation from God, a sign along the way that said, Keep going. You’re heading in the right direction. Stay close to Me and obey Me. Continue to seek truth and you’ll find the light at the end of the tunnel.
No doubt God uses many worldly devices to bring encouragement and discipline to the believer. However, when it comes to the fundamental question of the direction of the church, there is something sad (albeit understandable) about finding more assurance in a journalist’s pen than in the inspired Word of God. Again, it is natural to see such an article as a stamp of approval of a healthy ministry, but if the churches of the day are not vigorously looking for stamps of approval from the Word of God, what hope is there that God’s written agenda will truly be accomplished? If we look to ourselves and our impressions of His leading before Jesus Christ and His explicit direction, will not our churches be like waves tossed to and fro by the wind?