Seeker-Sensitive-ModelWhat The Seeker-Sensitive Movement Got Right

Despite all of the bad press and harsh criticism, most seeker-sensitive pastors love the Word and believe in its full inerrancy.  They are fully devoted followers of God, and they are passionate about being obedient to the calling of God for their ministries although they have certainly strayed away from the biblical model of a pastor and of the church (more on these issues later).  Moreover, there are at least four major benefits of the seeker sensitive movement.

The first major benefit of the Seeker-Sensitive Movement is its dedication to evangelism.[1]  In fact, the entire reason that these churches have decided to be sensitive to the needs of the seeker is for the purpose of evangelism. They believe that if they are too forward about the Gospel -especially the tougher teachings of the Bible- then the unbelieving visitor will be scared away.  As unbiblical as this methodology is, the intent is pure and godly.  Bill Hybel wrote quite succinctly, “We preachers…have our work cut out for us.  The topics we choose, the way we present Scripture, the illustrations we use, the responses we ask for, all need to contribute to our goal of effectively presenting Christ to non-Christians….[A]nd I’ve learned a lot…about what kind of preaching attracts them, keeps them coming back, and most important, leads them to take the momentous step of following Jesus Christ.”[2]  With these words, Bill Hybel states quite clearly that everything that he says from the pulpit revolves around the desire to lead the unbeliever to Christ.  Clearly he has a passion for evangelism.  Unfortunately, this same passion is missing in many churches.

Secondly, the Church Growth Movement has directed much of their efforts into making disciples, rather than decisions.[3]  It is widely recognized that one of the major faults of the Billy Graham crusades was the emphasis on decision making.  These “decisions” were often nothing more than a response to emotional and sociological stimuli.  Unfortunately, many of the individuals that made “decisions for Christ” were never discipled or mentored in their new faith.  This is a wrong that the seeker-sensitive movement is determined not to repeat.  In order to prevent this unfortunate error from occurring, seeker-sensitive churches heavily advertise their small group programs which are designed to help the church goer grow in his walk with the Lord.  Chris Seay, the pastor of a seeker-sensitive church is Houston, TX, once described his church by using the analogy of a peach.  He said, “it is soft and inviting on the outside, but once you get involved and take part in the activities and small groups then you are able to grow in your faith and realize how solid the church really is.”[4]  The intent is clear: be inviting and non-offensive to the unbeliever, but be supportive and challenging to the believer.  This church structure is clearly designed to disciple people in their walks with the Lord.

The third major benefit of the Church Growth movement has been the development of a means of analyzing the health of a church.[5]  The Bible clearly shows us that a healthy church will grow (Acts 2:41), but it also shows us that an unhealthy church can grow as well (2 Tim. 4:3).  Therefore, a growing church is not always a healthy church.  This is where the Church Growth Movement can add some helpful insight.  According to Norman Anderson, “Church growth specialists have caused us to think about church diseases such as ‘ethnicitis,’ ‘koinonitis,’ ‘St. John’s Syndrome,’ ‘people blindness,’ etc. Such analyses have helped us to be more analytical in determining what is happening in a body of believers.”[6]  Certainly, it has been a great benefit for all church leaders to have tools that help them analyze their church’s health.

And lastly, the fourth major benefit of the Seeker-Sensitive Model, which is very similar to the third, is a means of analyzing a church’s impact on the community.[7]  After many years of work, a pastor my get stuck in the routine of ministry; he may begin to rely on an outdated program merely because it had success many years ago.  The Church Growth Movement, however, has been very good about avoiding this particular mistake, for they pride themselves on being free to throw out any program or wipe the entire slate clean.  They are always analyzing the effectiveness of their ministry and are willing to make the necessary changes to remain effective.  This flexibility has huge benefits in the effectiveness of these churches’ ministries.

However, despite these major benefits of the Seeker-Sensitive Movement, proponents of this methodology are not without error.  In fact, it will be shown that their approach to preaching the word and even their understanding of such elementary concepts as the purpose of the church and the state of the sinner are inexcusably faulty.

[1] Norman P. Anderson, “The Church Growth Movement and the Megachurch Model,” Reformation and Revival 02:3 (1993), 95–96.

 [2] Hybel, Briscoe, and Robinson, Mastering Contemporary Preaching, 29.

 [3] Anderson, “The Church Growth Movement and the Megachurch Model,” 96.

 [4] Chris Seay, “A Personal Conversation”, November 15, 2008.

 [5] Anderson, “The Church Growth Movement and the Megachurch Model,” 96–97.

 [6] Ibid., 97.

 [7] Ibid.