by Jonathan Haefs
I felt a little awkward when my friend posed the question…not because I didn’t have an answer, but because I had never really tried to voice it.
The basic idea behind the seeker-friendly philosophy is to view everything that happens within a worship gathering through an evangelistic lens. You do everything you can to make people who don’t know Jesus (aka seekers) comfortable and interested in what you have to say. This typically results in a big stage production with lights, cameras, and action. There’s drama, music, performance, videos, a short and immediately applicable message, etc…all delivered in a concert like atmosphere.
The whole gathering is meant to be as engaging and inviting as possible…make it friendly to the seekers. Then, pastors are to encourage the congregation to invite their lost friends. Bring them here, we’ll get them interested, and we will evangelize them for you…eventually.
I know I sound harsh, and not everything I just mentioned is necessarily bad in and of itself, but I speak as one who spent many years implementing this method within my own ministry and gradually noticed some major problems. I slowly began to see a disconnect between my theology and my practice…a great divide between what I saw in Scripture and what I did on Sunday.
Slowly…I saw that everything was backwards.
As a pastor, I had been called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, but my methodology actually stripped the saints of the work of the ministry. Wether I meant to or not, I was communicating to the congregation that I did not believe they were equipped for evangelism so they should just bring their lost friends to the professionals.
I was doing the opposite of what I had been called to do.
God began to reform the way I thought about time spent as the gathered church. I turned my focus towards equipping instead of stripping. All of a sudden, things that had once seemed so important felt superfluous. There was no real need for the incredible lights, performance, and hype. Don’t get me wrong, lights/dramas/videos/and music are not evil things and can be used for the glory of God and the equipping of the saints. Yet, the priority and the use of these things drastically shifted in my theology of worship. Expositional preaching, prayer, communion, testimonies, and praise…these things become much more important.
Equipping took the place of entertaining…
…Evangelism was no longer about bringing, but about going.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He was the ultimate seeker who befriended those in need of him. He continues this seeking and saving mission by the power of his Spirit through his people…all his people! We are all ministers of the gospel, empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim Jesus. We are to be seekers, befriending those who need Jesus.
When my friend asked, “How do you feel about seeker-friendly ministry?” I responded, “I am all for it…as long as were thinking backwards!” What I mean is this… The church gathered is not to do everything with the goal of appearing friendly to so called “seekers.” No. The church gathered is to do everything to equip themselves as seekers…as people who will go and seek out the lost and extend to them the friendship of Christ!
The Gospel is not about people seeking God, but about God seeking people! That is still the Gospel and we have been commissioned as seekers who will go to the ends of the earth with the good news that all who trust in Christ are friends of God! This is what the church desperately needs to be equipped for, this is the friendship the world desperately needs for the lost are plentiful, but the seekers are few!
Do I believe in seeker-friendly ministry? Absolutely. We are to seek the lost who need to know that friendship, sonship, a relationship with God is only possible through Jesus. That is true seeker-friendly ministry!