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Monday, August 01, 2005

Purpose-Driven, Seeker-Sensitive

I remember some time back when I read on someone else’s blog how a survey was taken about what people wanted in their church. The summary was something to the effect of, “No one said, PowerPoint, big bands, seeker-sensitive or purpose driven. Instead, they said…(insert good stuff we want in our churches here).”

At the time I thought, “Sure.” After all, we all want those good things. I didn’t know much about “purpose-driven”, and thought that “seeker-sensitive” meant “watering down the sermons”. You know what? The people in those surveys aren’t in decision-making positions in growing churches.

Why do I say that? Because they talk about results, not methods. You see, PowerPoint isn’t a goal in a church – it is a method or a tool. Of course the average churchgoer wouldn’t request PowerPoint! They want “uplifting music”, and don’t understand that when PowerPoint and a band is used, that more people enjoy the music. Thus, they don’t mention the tools.

I am ¾ of the way through “The Purpose-Driven Church”. My current church calls itself “purpose-driven and seeker-sensitive”, so I figured I’d better find out what they mean. What are they?

They are loaded terms. Liberal. Conservative. Socialist. Radical. Purpose-Driven. Seeker-Sensitive. Terms that mean different things to different people, and often not what they were supposed to originally mean.

Purpose-driven simply means oriented on the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Seeker-Sensitive just means to make your church welcoming to those unfamiliar with church. My primary reasons for opposing seeker-sensitive services (or what I thought they were) was that 1) the Word is watered down and 2) the church is for believers, not unbelievers.

Well, I have been doing other reading too, one of which is a discipleship and outreach strategy called REACH. What REACH made clear was that while we are all called to evangelize, most churches will only have about 10% of their members who actually attempt to lead someone to Christ through personal evangelism. That really shocked me. We can’t win the world on 10%! Even Coral Ridge Presbyterian, the home of the effective “Evangelism Explosion”, has about the same level of participation in its evangelism ministries. What does this mean?

It means we have to get non-believers into church. We have to use our other 90% to that effort, which is much more attainable than getting them to personally witness Christ to others. Also, once we get them to church, we have to make the church a place they want to come back to. Purpose-Driven, Seeker-Sensitive. Do your sermons have to be watered down? No. They should just be understandable, avoid Christian jargon, and be applicable to life whenever possible. It isn’t achieved by just tossing the pulpit, abandoning the robes and getting rid of the candles. Those things may or may not have an effect. What it requires is utilizing tools to reach the lost, however we can, without compromising the message. You have other methods of edifying the church besides the Sunday morning sermon (like Sunday and Wednesday nights, for example, as well as separate small groups). We must reach the lost.

David over at Contrarian Views made a point some time ago that we needed to do something different than rely upon personal evangelism to reach the lost. I disagreed with him, insisting that it (evangelism) is everyone’s job. I was coming form the ideal, he from the real…because although 100% are called to evangelize, only 10% will. Thus, a different way is necessary indeed. I think that Rick Warren has the way identified. David was right – we can’t continue to rely upon methods that are not working for success. To reach the world, we must do the things that will help us reach the world.

The book is worth a read. Making a judgment upon it before you read it, like I did, is just silly.


  • "although 100% are called to evangelize, only 10% will"

    But neither part of that is true, at least not in the sense that I think you mean. All Christians are called to share their faith, their centre in Christ. And all Christians do so to some extent - it's simply not possible for a Christian's life not to reflect some aspect of their faith. At the least, attending church on Sunday is fairly obvious.

    What we're not all called to do is to follow specific evangelistic programs, to hand out leaflets or to "witness" to crowds of strangers in the town square. There's no hint anywhere in the Bible that we must all do such things. We share our hearts with our friends and colleagues, we talk with them, we are open to them. We share Christ with those around us. The issue isn't whether we do it, only how well we do it.

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 8/09/2005 05:39:00 AM  

  • I don't mean a specific program, John, although all the ones you mention would be included in the 10% scenario. I mean, specifically presenting the necessity and method of salvation from our sins to someone who does not already follow Christ. That is evangelism, and is the 10%.

    I agree that there are other ways that we show and share Christ, but if the command is clearly to "go ye therefore and make disciples" a specific, intentional verbal component is the call, beyond living our faith in action. It is our (expected and forgiven) failure to heed that call that demands that we not rely upon just personal evangelism and use the recognized and generally favorably viewed church services to reach the perishing.

    Does that make sense? Thanks for your input.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/09/2005 11:15:00 AM  

  • The point I was making, though, is that although most people won't preach at their friends, this is actually correct behaviour. Only some are called to be evangelists. For the rest of us, living a Christian life is all the witness that we should do. This will, of course, involve answering questions honestly and openly when they come up, and it will involve being open about why we think the way we do about things, but these are quite different to "evangelism".

    As for the "generally favorably viewed church services", I really don't think they are as favourable as you think. Even many churched Christians find them cringeworthy and uncomfortable. For those outside the culture of church, they are very commonly completely foreign and unhelpful (even repulsive). Part of the urgent task is to work out what the church, as a body, can do to replace the 19th century "rally" model that will actually talk to our culture. This has nothing to do with changing our views - just the way we communicate them.

    Basically, I think the assumption that all Christians ought to be doing "evangelism" in the "church" sense is wrong. Our calling is to follow Christ and be conformed to His likeness, not to recruit new Christians. For some, that Christ calling will involve specific evangelism and, for all, it will cause Christ to be made known.

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 8/09/2005 12:55:00 PM  

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