Last week I wrote about Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and the church. In follow-up to that post, here’s one about the changing dynamics of church.
There has been a church growth strategy called the “seeker-movement.” The idea has been that we can use the church service to basically introduce people to spirituality without demanding too much from them on the front end.
But here’s at least one problem with that ideology – nobody’s in the dark about what they’re doing at church. That is, nobody walks into a building with “church” in the name, a cross on the side, and a preacher on the stage (or on the screen, as the case may be). Even though you could argue that some churches don’t present the full and simple gospel, anybody who walks into a church generally recognizes that it’s a “Jesus place.”
And because that seeker already knows that, there’s always a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s sort of like a time share proposal. You get a free trip to an exotic location, meet nice people, see everybody having a good time, but in the back of your mind you know that at some point you’re going to get the real story – the sales pitch (not that I’ve ever invested in a time share or pyramid scheme…)
The way this works in the seeker-sensitive environment has been effective. You introduce concepts, mere ideas of faith, at first, and then as the people get more and more involved in relationships you introduce the commitment aspect of belief. And that has worked fine and has honored God for alot of years. Many people have come into the kingdom of God because of the influence of fellowships like these.
But it breaks down if the people who are coming aren’t coming for a “low-commitment” time. And now they aren’t. Instead, people – at least young adults – are coming with an attitude that says, “Show me you have something worth committing myself to.” And frankly, Coldplay songs and hints for a better life aren’t going to cut it.
The new seeker service is challenging. It’s engaging at all levels – emotional, intellectual, even physical. The reason this is effective is because people now are searching for something to truly give their lives to and for. That’s why volunteerism is on the rise. That’s why campaigns of justice and mercy are “popular.” It’s because these things who people they can really impact the world in a positive way, and people are choosing that impact. They’re choosing it with or without the church.
So here’s where it relates to me and maybe you, because if you don’t like “seeker-sensitive” stuff, we could easily just sit back on our proud haunches claiming our spiritual superiority. But the truth is that not many people are coming. And if what I wrote is true, that the reason people come is because they’re looking for something worth giving their lives to, then we’ve got to ask the question – is the gospel we are presenting really worth giving your life for? Is it really more satisfying? Is it really more engaging? Is it really worth it? Or are we presenting spiritual truth that doesn’t change us or the world?