This refers to the method of conducting a Sunday morning church service where all the events surrounding the service are tailored with the unchurched in mind. The goal of this model is to attempt to make the “seeker” feel comfortable by making the service understandable and enjoyable. In this sense, the church is attempting to build a bridge with the unbeliever with the ultimate goal that they will hear the Gospel and be saved. The preaching model in the seeker churches follows suit. Every sermon is simply another way to present the Gospel. Deeper learning, fellowship, and discipleship are encouraged but are not normally part of the Sunday service. They are commonly found in mid-week small groups and studies. Opponents of the seeker model will argue that the Sunday service is not meant to be for the unbelievers, but for believers. There is a wide range within the spectrum of how seeker-sensitive a church might be. One end might be thought of as “seeker-friendly” and the other “seeker-driven.”
(also: “seeker-friendly,” “seeker churches,” and “seeker-driven”)
Just in case you missed my post about this at iMonk.com, here is what I said:
How has the “seeker” emphasis affected your perception of your congregation’s worship services?
I am from a tradition (Dallas Seminary-type Bible/Community Church) that is not too friendly toward the idea of “seeker friendly.” When Rick Warren’s book Purpose Driven Church first came out, it was critiqued very heavily in these parts (boarding on anathema!), and it was very moderately seeker sensitive compared to much of what is now going on in Evangelicalism! My tradition believes that the actual church service on Sunday Morning is for the believer, not so much for the unbeliever (this is key). Believers are to go out into the world with the message of Jesus Christ. Therefore, our purpose is not to attract the world to the church building or Sunday Service. For example, the church service itself is not the church, it is a particular function of the church. Christians do not go to church, we are the church. People themselves are to be seeker friendly, not the church service. Church service is to perform a particular function of covenant renewal among believers. This comes through discipleship, fellowship, and worship. To make the church service seeker friendly is like trying to make a court room seeker friendly in order to attract the outside world. There is a particular purpose of the court. Outsiders are welcome, but their presence will not detract or manipulate the main objective. The ultimate evangelistic goal is not to make people come to church, but for the church to be salt and light as the people of God in every situation. Yet, at the same time, we are not naïve enough to think that all those who come to the church or are members of the church are all truly Christian. The church is filled with non-Christian members. As well, we welcome anyone to come, therefore there will be seekers in attendance. For this reason, the essence of the Gospel will often be communicated during every church service.
This is not to say that we want the church to be “seeker repulsive” by any means. We desire to welcome the outsider and be salt and light as the outsider comes into the church. With open arms we will help the seeker to understand what we are doing and why. But we don’t want to accommodate our service for the sake of the seeker at the expense of the purpose.
Are there changes you have made to accommodate and bring back seekers?
Over the last decade, while our spoken attitude toward the seeker friendly “movement” has generally stayed the same, you can see many changes and adaptations. Most Dallas Seminary type Bible/Community churches have placed more emphasis on changing the type of worship that is offered. I am not too sure that this could be called seeker friendly since this is actually a change in preference from the church body itself. As well, “christianese” is not spoken quite as much. But, again, this is not so much because of the seeker, but from a desire to speak in a way that is understandable and less traditionalistic. The language of tradition is good, the language brought about by traditionalism is deterring to both the believer and the seeker.
Are there changes you would never consider, even if it would put more non-Christians in your service?
Yes, accommodating truth. For example, because the culture is much less tolerant of the doctrine of Hell, this does not mean we don’t teach it. We may be more sensitive toward people’s feelings and change the way we approach it, but this will amount to an empathy toward society in general, knowing that the body of Christ may be affected by the same feelings.
Having said this, whatever means can be used to make the Gospel and discipleship more effective will be used. Whether it is using air conditioners, electric lights, holding Saturday services, using PowerPoint screens, changing the name “Sunday School” to “Fellowship” or making home groups available, and the like, these are all accommodations to the effectiveness of the Gospel. While there are many Bible churches that have become Fundamentalistic, believing that the way they conduct church service on Sunday morning is also part of the Gospel, the spirit of my tradition does not promote such. This would be more in line with Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox expressed theology (i.e. they believe that the way church is done is part of the Gospel). However, all traditions are susceptible to the temptation to become traditionalistic. Our tradition must continually assess ourselves, asking if those methods that we hold on to are the way things are supposed to be done or simply the way we have done them for a really long time. Change is good for the church in this sense. I know a Dallas Seminary pastor who intentionally mixes things up ever so often to keep his people from falling in love with the way the church service rolls. I think this is good.