Some of that sounds good. We SHOULD be welcoming at our churches. We should feel loved. But we really need to ask ourselves a few questions like, "Should these things really matter to us?" Another question to get answered first is, "What is the purpose of "the church"? Why do we go to church in the first place? Is it for us? Or is it for God?
The Seeker Sensitive Church Model (as described here by GotQuestions.org) is designed to get people to not only feel welcome when they come to church but to keep them coming back. To feel that they are loved, despite what they may have done, or despite their personal opinion of Jesus or The Cross. They are focused on retaining the "seeker" and having them eventually come to a faith in Jesus. They also would tend to be welcoming to ALL faiths and denominations - the Mormon, the Muslim, even the agnostic or the atheist.
I am all for "seekers" coming to saving faith in Christ, but WHICH Christ? Are they hearing the complete gospel message? Or a watered-down version so that no one becomes offended?
There also is a tendancy for these churches to put a lot of emphasis on "the experience" and the "feelings" we have while at the Seeker Sensitive church. "The music was really awesome today!" "The doughnuts were a little stale this morning, and the coffee? Do we ever wash those coffeemakers?" Our "experience" is often what matters most and we tend to forget about the main purpose of the church - to teach, to exhort, and to preach the gospel. When we get right down to it, the real problem with some of our churches today is that they are MAN centered, not GOD centered.
Let's talk about church for a bit. Should we be modeling our own churches after big churches like Willow Creek (Bill Hybels), Saddleback Church (Rick Warren) or Lakeland Church (Joel Osteen). They're big. They must be successful, right? Let's turn to God's Word for our answer. Let's take a look at the book of Acts and read about the very FIRST church. What was IT like? What should OUR churches really look like and "feel" like today?
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." - Acts 2:42-47
Wow! There's a whole list of church characteristics! If you're church shopping, if you're "seeking," you might want to take the following checklist with you from Acts 2:
- They were devoted to the teaching
- They were devoted to fellowship
- They were devoted to the breaking of bread
- They were devoted to prayer
- Everyone was filled with awe
- They were together and had everything in common
- They sold their possessions
- They gave to anyone who had a need
- They met every day
- They ate together
- They praised God
In 2007, Bill Hybels, lead pastor at Willow Creek Church - a very seeker-sensitive church in suburban Chicago, announced to his congregation that all of their seeker sensitive plans and models, all the millions of dollars their Willow Creek Association had spent on programs, were "not working all that well." It was determined after a massive survey of their members and several focus groups, which is another seeker-sensitive characteristic, that what was REALLY desired by the people of their congregation was to "grow closer to God." Duh.
Please watch this video. It's amazing. Bill Hybels stands in front of his congregation and tells them that he and many of the Willow Creek programs have failed. Bill is supposed to be a great leader but he led his flock nowhere. Survey after survey after survey (enough with the surveys Bill!) showed them where they were failing. They strayed from the Acts 2 church model.
Bill Hybels - Seeker Sensitive Failings.
Amen to that!! Amazing stuff Bill. Thanks . . . I guess.
The problem with the seeker sensitive church comes when they become SO seeker sensitive that they begin to tweak the Gospel message because they don't want to offend anyone. The seeker sensitive churches grow because the people hear what they WANT to hear. They seldom hear about sin and the need for repentance. God calls these people, "people with itching ears" in 2 Timothy 4:3. Read it . . and weep. It applies to many of our churches today.
"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."
We are so focused on the "nickels and noses" these days, and about being politically correct and not offending anyone, that we forget that we are most likely offending a holy and righteous God!
I pray that ALL churches would be God-centered, not man-centered - just sprinkling a little Jesus dust on the service to make it "official." Jesus is what matters most, my fellow Christians, not us. Everyday, we need to be reminded of the Gospel message, we need to be in fellowship EVERY DAY. We, as churches, are to be a family of believers, not "seekers."
Here's a test to try sometime. Once you get past the greeters, try counting the number of people greeting each other in love. The pastor of our church encourages "healthy touch" (hugs, handshakes, holding hands during prayer, etc). That's good! And what ever happened to the "holy kiss" that is mentioned in scripture SEVERAL times? I'm not suggesting we french-kiss our neighbors but would a kiss on the cheek be so bad? And let our affection for our brothers and sisters be real, not fake or forced.
One more verse for you before I close. If you are still open to the book of Acts, go back to the beginning of the chapter. Read about the Holy Spirit coming amongst the fellowship of believers, then about Peter as he stands up and preaches the Gospel, and THOUSANDS were added to their number.
The Gospel message was read, people believed and were baptised. The church began! And then we read how the church grew. It wasn't because they were "cool" and had amazing treats, worship music and special lighting. It wasn't ANYTHING that man did, it was all God's doing. Read the last half of verse 47 . . .
" . . . And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
Yes, we should greet others when they arrive at church, but not because we are "assigned" to do so or "because we want to appear welcoming." We should all have the Spirit of Christ in us. And the feeling welcomed part? Everyone should feel welcomed because of our love. As the old song goes, "They will know we are Christians . . . by our love" - not by the ornate, flowing robes and collars that priests and pastors wear, Not by the number of Hawaiian shirts in the crowd, or by the "cool" bumper videos.
Church, and this is US, not a building, should be about praising God, worshiping God, and loving God. We should be all about God and nothing else. If our focus is on things above, on Jesus Christ and Him crucified, everything else will take care of itself. God will add to His church. It's HIS church. We should keep it that way.
A church family is a wonderful thing. There is no need for bells and whistles when there is the love of God to warm us. God, thank you for the church, YOUR church. May we always be an example of your love here on earth . . . as it is in heaven.