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What is Our Church's Attitude Toward Seekers?
by Tom Goodman
July 24, 2008

A church will fall into one of four categories in its attitude toward spiritual seekers.

I know . . . I know.  The word "seeker" has fallen out of fashion like an old tie.  Believe me, I'm tempted to drop the word, because it's been so derided in some circles.  Then again, when I read Bible texts such as Acts 15:17 and Acts 17:27, I remember I'm in good company when I try to identify those in my community who seek God.

So, where does our church fall in our relation to seekers?  Can you identify your Sunday School class or Common Ground group in the following taxonomy?  How about your own approach to non-believers?

Seeker-Hostile:  Church groups with this mindset view non-believers as a threat.  Most in this mindset, of course, would say that individual believers must be kind to non-believers and look for ways to share the gospel.  But they would insist that corporate life of the church is no place to involve a non-believer.  Therefore, the study topics, conversations, and even jokes in the Bible study classes or worship services create an environment hostile to a seeker's questions or objections.

Seeker-Indifferent:  Church groups with this mindset are indifferent to the concerns and questions that non-believers have of the faith.  They believe the job of the church is simply to provide Bible studies and activities that meet the needs of believers.  Churches that are seeker-indifferent may have evangelistic activities and support mission causes, and they may encourage the individual members to witness to non-believers.  But it simply doesn't occur to these churches that they have a responsibility to engage the concerns and questions of spiritual explorers.

Seeker-Sensitive:  Church groups with this mindset focus on building believers while connecting with the seekers that believers bring with them.  In one sense, the aim of worship services and Bible study groups in these churches is the same as it is in seeker-indifferent churches:  The church exists to build a strong community of believers.  But seeker-sensitive churches pursue this goal with sensitivity to non-believers who have begun to be attracted to the faith through their friendship with believers.

Seeker-Targeted:  Church groups with this mindset direct everything they do toward reaching the non-believing world with the gospel.  The music, the sermon topics, the approach to Bible-study... it's all done with the aim of catching the attention of non-believers and persuading them to embrace the gospel truth.

I want us to be a seeker-sensitive church.  I do not believe that we should ignore non-believers as we conduct our worship services, but neither do I believe that the main reason for a worship service is to connect with non-believers.  At Hillcrest, worship services exist to build believers, but they also exist to connect with earnest seekers that believers bring with them.  I believe we should be a place where people find and follow Jesus together -- that's a nice summary of our mission.

Among several of the speakers and writers I enjoy, the word for this kind of church is "missional," and maybe I should keep up with the times by adopting the new label.  Still, whether a church is labeled "seeker-sensitive" or "missional" isn't nearly as important as whether the church deserves the label!  Let's make sure that what we do as Hillcrest leaders will contribute to the salvation of spiritual seekers in our community.


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