Posted by: William | February 15, 2008

Seeker-Sensitive Churches

A pretty common term these days is “seeker-sensitive churches”. Anyone involved in ministry on pretty much any level is acquainted with the term. The gist is that it’s a model for doing church popularized by the mega-church Willow Creek. The basic idea is for church to be a comfortable, non-judgmental, unthreatening place for unbelievers or “seekers” to come and “feel” the love of God. The churches using this model usually have very contemporary music, extensive refreshments, elaborate church programs to keep everything eye catching, and although there’s probably a lot more to it, the most notable thing about seeker churches is the sermon. They’re almost always topical, preaching on things that matter to the average Joe who doesn’t know God. The abundance of topical sermons, however, often allow for the speaker to teach from the bible, without usually have to actually teach the bible. This is certain danger.

Many churches in America have adopted at least some aspects of seeker-sensitive model. I am almost certainly oversimplifying, but for the sake of discussion we’ll leave it there.

Here is my gripe. For starters, there is a major flaw in the title. Romans 3:11 says, “There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.” So what are people doing when they’re “seeking God” but “haven’t found him yet”? Well, I’m not exactly sure. I suppose they might be looking for comfort, they might be looking for satisfaction, fulfillment, escape from the conscience, purpose, the list could go on and on. But one thing is for sure, they’re not seeking God.

So if we modify the title based on the reality that there are no unbelievers on this earth seeking God, then we’d just be left with “sensitive churches” and that seems pretty reasonable, I suppose. But let’s go a little further here. I’m convinced it still doesn’t make much sense.

What is the sensitivity toward? Is it because teaching the truth as laid forth plainly in the bible would be offensive? The cross is offensive; “blessed is he who does not take offense at me” (Luke 7:23). Is it because perhaps they might feel judged by the soberness of these things? They will be judged; isn’t that among the things we’re hoping they’ll avoid? Perhaps we’re hoping that feeling comfy will make them more apt to believe in Jesus—I think that’s a pretty sad foundation for anyone to build their faith on. Sure, Jesus dined with tax collectors and prostitutes, but do we have any reason to believe that he watered down his relentlessly jolting truth for the sake of his company’s comfort? And sure, Paul was a “Jew to the Jews” and a “Greek to the Greeks” but what reason do we have to believe that in that outfit he wasn’t still pleading for them to “repent and believe the Gospel”?

Truthfully, I think it would be unwise to draw any hard lines on how church is “done”. However, I think that if we take a good hard honest look at scripture we might find that the things we’ve employed hoping to be more loving are, in fact, vastly less loving in light of what is at stake here.

Jesus, I pray that you would give you church humility. Give us grace and mercy and strength to walk out this life that you have called us to, through the Spirit that you have provided for that very purpose. Sanctify us, God, for the sake of your glory!



  1. Right on!

  2. I would probably agree if I had not been led to the Lord through this style of ministry. I do not know if it was in spite of it or a direct result of it. I wonder sometimes if we could do anything we wanted on Sunday mornings as long as there is God’s word…

  3. I agree that the Willow Creek model is off – heck, they’ve even figured that out.

    Where I disagree is that people don’t (can’t) seek God. They may not know what they are seeking, but they certainly do seek that which God provides the solution.

    “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.'” Acts 17:26-28


  4. Certainly people seek that which God provides, but do not seek God, nor does the verse in Acts say that they do. It does justify God though in providing all optimal conditions for people to seek him, although no one will.

  5. Interesting. So would you say scripture say we (a) seek the provisions of God and in so doing some/many inadvertently stumble upon Him… or (b) God chooses us whether we’re seeking His provision or not?

    The 1st would be like the non-believer hanging out with believers on Sunday or whenever and being exposed to His word.

    The 2nd sounds more like predestination.

  6. Well, kind of a combination of the two. I think that man, being at enmity with God, wont seek him and so in order for man do to so that problem would have to be fixed; part of how Paul describes us as dead. In order for man to seek God, or to choose God, we would have to be “brought back to life” so to speak– not something people can just choose to do. God would have to take the first step there. Then, being that preaching is God’s ordained method of making believers, some will likely accidentally stumble upon the truth through a circumstance like church.

  7. Back in December of 06 I put together my notes and thoughts behind Our Turn. This discussion reminded me of that… I’ll email it to you.

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