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The Seeker-Friendly Movement
 
The motives for the seeker movement are good.  They want to reach the lost for Christ.  The results, however, have been devastating to the Church.  This movement has absolutely ravaged the Church.
 
Feeding the flock and building up the body has taken a backseat, and most of the efforts are being poured into evangelism and trying to reach the lost.
 
So the attitude has become, “If you are already a Christian and you want to grow, you can come on Wednesday night or some other obscure time, but Sunday morning, the time when the most people are here – that time is going to be devoted to trying to draw as many seekers as possible, and win them to the Lord.  And we will win them first by winning their friendship and then, eventually, once we have our hooks in deep enough, we’ll present the gospel to them.”
 
Everything in church growth these days revolves around the seeker.  A seeker is someone who has not been born again but who is willing to come to a church if it is interesting and entertaining.  In their efforts to draw more and more seekers, church leaders are instructed to do away with anything that will make “unchurched” people uncomfortable.
 
The way you do that is by coming up with a profile of what the average unbeliever in your area is like, and tailoring your service to be attractive to him.  This was popularized by Robert Schuller, who took surveys from the unbelievers in his area to find out what they didn’t like about church.  Then he eliminated those things from his church and the unbelievers began coming to his church by the thousands.
 
A disciple of his by the name of Bill Hybels did the same thing at Willow Creek church, and he drew unchurched seekers by the tens of thousands, and ended up with the largest church in the country.
 
That launched a movement.  After Bill Hybels came Rick Warren, at Saddleback Church in California.  He followed that method and grew his church from 0 to 15,000 in 10 years.  He wrote a book on how he did that entitled Purpose Driven Church, which has been read and followed by the vast majority of church leaders in the country.  And the driving philosophy of that book is on page 219, where he says, “Anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart.”  The idea is, it’s totally within your power to make someone become a Christian.  All you have to do is find the right technique.  So you take surveys, read George Barna, and make a profile of the typical unbeliever in your area.  Then give him a name.  For Rick Warren, it was Saddleback Sam.  For Bill Hybels, I think it wasUnchurched Charlie.  You find out what kind of music he listens to on the radio, and you style your worship music after that.  You find out what he likes and doesn’t like, and you conform everything at the church to fit that, so that when he visits, he wants to stay.
 
Maybe he’s not interested in God, not interested in worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ, not interested in repentance, not interested in what the Bible has to say, but he loves the coffee and the music and the décor and the parking situation – and the pastor is amusing enough, and so he keeps coming back.  And the strategy is, if you can keep him coming back with those other things, sooner or later he will be affected by how wonderful everyone is, and maybe some of the preaching will have an effect, and finally he will be persuaded to become a Christian.
 
Throughout Church history the Church has been tempted to think that if we can just get the world to like us, they will accept our message.  It doesn’t really sound like that bad of a plan from a human perspective, if you think of conversion as a natural thing.
 
If Rick Warren is right, and salvation is strictly a matter of human ingenuity, this is definitely the way to go.  But we follow Christ’s example, not human wisdom.  And in John 6 Jesus makes a very strong statement about how to handle seekers.
 
In John 6 we see the ultimate group of seekers.  John tells us of a crowd of people so determined to seek out Jesus that they walked all the way around the Sea of Galilee twice to find Him.  In fact, in v.26 Jesus calls them seekers: “Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me…”  This is Galilee Gus 
 
Next comes Jesus’ technique for schmoozing them and winning over their friendship:
“you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life (vv.26,27)
 
The seekers come to Him, and He rebukes them for seeking the wrong thing.  They were seeking Him, but for temporal, physical reasons rather than spiritual reasons.
 
Amazingly, that is exactly the kind of people the seeker movement is trying to attract.  In Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren says, “It doesn’t matter why people initially come to Jesus, what matters is that they come.”[1] He goes on to say that the way to discover the key to a person’s heart is to start with his felt needs.[2]  Draw them in through their physical, temporal interests, and then once they’re here, and become comfortable with you over time, hit them with the Gospel.
 
That strategy has given rise to what is now the most common kind of preaching –felt need preaching.  You identify some thing that the people feel as a need.  Maybe they want financial security, or less chaos in the home, or a less boring life - you pinpoint something they see as a need, and make that the topic of your sermon.  And once you have their interest you can eventually give them what they really need, which is the Gospel.
 
Again, on the face of it, it sounds like a good idea.  And Rick Warren says that was Jesus’ method.  He says that Jesus did His miracles for the purpose of drawing a crowd in gaining a hearing.  “Jesus often met a felt need in order to establish a beachhead for evangelism in a person’s life.”[3]
 
That may sound like it makes sense; the only problem is, it’s the exact opposite of what the Bible says. These people are seeking Jesus to meet their felt needs, but does Jesus then go on to give them what they are seeking?  No.  He rebukes them for seeking the wrong thing.
“you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” (v.26)
 
Jesus goes on to tell them what they should be seeking.
 
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." (v.27)
 
What should we do with seekers?  At the very outset we should begin by teaching them how they can become acceptable seekers – seekers God will receive.  Our job is not to make God acceptable to them.  Our job is to help them become acceptable to God.  And rule No.1 in becoming an acceptable seeker is giving up your quest for things in this world and seeking eternal things.
 
(This is a frightening reality for the people in the health/wealth prosperity gospel.  That whole “name it and claim it, blab it and grab it” crowd generally spend their time naming and claiming physical things.  They are primarily concerned with physical health, physical prosperity and other temporal blessings.  You don’t often see them naming and claiming the real treasures, like perseverance in suffering or meekness.
 
You don’t often turn on TBN and hear Paul Crouch say, “Send us $10,000 and God will grant you humility!”  It’s always something physical, and that is unacceptable to God.)
 
When seekers come should we preach to their felt needs so they will stay?  No.  We should rebuke them for their felt needs if their felt needs are for temporal things, and call them to seek that which is truly valuable.  We should follow Jesus’ example and tell them in no uncertain terms, “Do not work for things that spoil, but for things that endure to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  If you just want to get things from God; if your only interest in Christ is for him to make your life smoother and easier and more comfortable, you’re seeking the wrong thing, and you will be rejected by Christ.”