Why I Left Your Seeker-Friendly Church

Why I Left Your Seeker-Friendly Church August 15, 2013

It’s not you. It’s me. That’s why I left your seeker-friendly church.

At least that’s what I’m telling everyone. Just to be polite.

I know I should just be honest, being a Christian and all, but I’d rather not feel like an evangelical outcast if I can help it. It’s bad enough that I haven’t renewed my subscription to Christianity Today (If we could just keep that between us, I’d appreciate it).

But truth be told, I just don’t get what this seeker-friendly church stuff is all about.

For a long time now, I’ve just assumed somebody else knew what they were doing. But after nearly four decades in Christian circles, I’ve come to realize what a silly assumption that is. In fact, it’s quite possible that we’ve just slapped a God sticker on a smelly garbage can and called it a seeker-friendly church.

Just Slap a God Sticker on It

About a decade ago, the mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, came up with a brilliant idea to raise funds for her cash-strapped city. She offered citizens of the blue-collar bastion on Lake Erie a chance to sponsor – wait for it – a garbage can. The cans would be strategically placed around the city to receive trash, thereby cleaning up the streets of unwanted litter.

And the best part was that for a small donation, you or your family could have your name emblazoned on one of those cans! That’s right. It would still be a smelly garbage can – but with your name on it! Just donate and slap a sponsor sticker on it.

Needless to say, the plan met with the success it deserved. I think the mayor and a few other politicians desperate for cheap advertising actually sponsored a can or two. But the basic idea is a popular one in the church today. Find an idea somewhere in the world that seems to work and just slap a God sticker on it – everything will be just fine.

Maybe that’s where this seeker-friendly stuff came from. We saw how to get people to show up for Aerosmith, at the mall, or even for an Atlanta Symphony concert and thought, “Hey! Let’s just slap a God sticker on that! Do what they do, but call it church. We’ll give it a cool name like ‘seeker-friendly’ and we’ll pack ‘em in!”

What’s Wrong with Being Seeker-Friendly?

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against being friendly. And the magic act, 3-D glasses, and popcorn we’re pretty cool. Certainly, as Christ-followers, kindness to all, even our enemies, should be a priority. And every church should be a welcoming environment to all comers.

But here’s a simple question: If your worship service is all about attracting those who don’t yet share the faith, why would I stay? Unfortunately, much of what gets communicated on Sunday is a steady diet of gumdrops and milk. Sweet treats for the seekers and milk for those who’ve recently made commitments to follow Christ.

Don’t get me wrong, those items should be present in any diet, but not as the main course. As a father of six, I know how that diet ends. Either I don’t grow as I should or there’s going to be a cleanup in aisle 4. At some point, God’s people need to eat real foods – whole grains, veggies, and a little meat, even at the risk of offending those who just stopped in for the free soul candy.

Three Problems I Have with Seeker-Friendly Churches

If I could distill my concerns down to bullet points and stick them to the glass entry doors of your church with the adhesive approved for use throughout the facility by the Pastor of Maintenance and Facility Care, I suppose they’d read like this:

  • There are no seekers. Not really. In my post Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church, I noted that “Come to think of it, I never was a seeker.” A few people reacted in shock to my statement. But I think it’s biblical.  “As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10-12 ESV) So if the Bible is true, no one shows up at your church seeking God – unless God is already at work within their hearts. God saves sinners, not us. And for centuries, He did it without chasing after imaginary seekers. We all need to be reconciled to Him, to be sure, but it’s not as if there’s a bunch of people desperately trying to find God but can’t because your service isn’t cool enough.
  • Seekers can’t worship. See, I thought, apparently somewhat naively, that a worship service would first be about worship. But seekers — maybe we should just call them unbelievers – can’t worship. It’s not that they struggle to do so, but that they simply are not capable of doing so due to the pernicious effect of sin. They can go through the external motions, but “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14 ESV) No matter how hard he or she might try, all our supposedly righteous deeds are like filthy rags to God. (Is. 64:6) Worship can only happen in spirit and in truth – two things that unbelievers do not yet have. So why design your worship services to appeal to those who cannot possibly truly participate? [ See Why I’ll Never Stop Singing in Your Church ]
  • The Gospel looks stupid to seekers. Deal with it. Like Paul said above, it’s all foolishness until the Spirit opens their eyes. All too often, your church feels more like a middle school cafeteria than a church storming the gates of hell. It’s as if the message is “Won’t you please like us, pretty please! Let’s connect on Facebook – BFF LOL!” We should expect the gospel light to be offensive to those in darkness – not us, the gospel. Jesus warned us that would be the case. So why are we so focused on creating an environment that makes those who are perishing feel comfortable?

What’s the Point of Being Seeker-Friendly?

It’s about where you put your focus. What’s the point of designing your church to seem attractive to those to whom the gospel is unattractive? Is it just to get them in the door? I’ve got to tell you, at times your church more resembled a network marketing meeting than a church service. Been there done that. Just get people to the weekly meeting and let the flashy band, superstar speaker, and stellar child care do the rest. Don’t forget to take a sample and sign up on your way out – oh, and tell your friends about us!

At some point later, I guess, we’ll talk about all that tougher stuff about dying to self, forsaking all to follow Christ, and – gasp — hell and sin. But for now, just push that Easy Button. Settle back into your stadium seating and enjoy this riveting drama and dance routine we’ve cooked up for you while we smile incessantly.

Sounds like the classic bait-n-switch to me. I don’t recall Jesus charging his disciples to “lure potential recruits in with flashy programs, comfy chairs, and a free foot massage. Then, when the mood is right, guys, drop the whole repent thing on ‘em – but subtle, boys, subtle with a capital S and that rhymes with – well, you know – that word we do not speak of. (Wink!)”

What’s Church for Anyways?

Quite the opposite, I recall him telling us to go out into the world, not bring the world into the church. He has called us to be ambassadors who go out, not sales reps who stay in, lurking at the hotel to sign up prospects lured in by the promise of sweet treats and easy riches. He told us to make disciples, not water down the gospel power to make it more seeker-friendly.

After engaging in worship in spirit and truth, the natural next priority of the church service should be to make disciples. We could also rightly call it training worshippers. Seekers can’t be disciples. But believers can be and should be ever growing as more fully devoted followers of Christ. That is the great commission after all – the mission of the Church – to make disciples.

Is there a place for evangelization in the church service? Of course. I agree with many voices who have stressed that every sermon should call hearers to repentance in the context of the gospel. But 80% of our focus should be on discipling believers to go out and live out the gospel, to make every day of their lives a worship experience for all to see. Rather than investing 80% of our energy attracting non-existent seekers, why not focus on those who already believe, are desperate to grow, and are urgently needed to live out their faith in this fallen world.

Like I said, it might just be me. No doubt many will accuse me of being old, out of touch, and grouchy – exactly what’s wrong with Christians these days.  Some days I feel as if all of that is true. Except that I feel it a lot less now since I left your seeker-friendly church. Maybe that was Why I Stopped Showing Up On Time at Your Church.

I suspect there are a lot of other Christians who’ve left for the same reasons but didn’t want to say anything for fear of being taken to the evangelical woodshed. Maybe they’ll speak up now. I don’t know. Do seeker-friendly churches burn heretics? Can’t think that would look good on the evening news though it might cause a bump in attendance.

Or maybe I just don’t get what it means to be seeker-friendly. I thought the Church was supposed to be God-friendly, not seeker friendly. Silly me. Who knew?

Have you become frustrated by your church’s fixation on being seeker-friendly? In what ways do you think the Church focuses on the wrong things – and the right things – on Sunday? Leave a comment below with your thoughts. 


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  • jq2intx

    Love your blog entry. Seekers are us, we should be seeking to be more like Christ and pablum won’t get us there. Thank you for your honesty, I find programs to be annoying, yet so many of the churches seem to be fixated on programs for youth and for marriage and for young singles, on and on, ad infinitum. I belong to a church now that is very small but has an expository preacher. Find it very refreshing to hear the gospel preached fully.

    • Glad you found a good church. Smaller — or bigger — isn’t necessarily better. But our focus matters. Thanks for the comment!

  • Susan_G1

    I don’t know you, so please forgive me for “not understanding you” as you would like to be understood.

    I believe you like stirring up a hornets’ nest thinking it is engaging and thought provoking. Sad. You sound bitter and angry. Is that supposed to be attractive to seekers? Believers? Is it Christ-like? Ill bet it is attractive to atheists.

    You know there are no seekers based on a narrow interpretation of the Bible? I guess you think that when God touches someone’s heart, they come alive in full wisdom of Scripture. Go straight to Romans, skip Gospels, do not collect mentors.

    What of the seekers we read of in the Gospels? Does Scripture lie? Do we have a contradiction here?

    Of course, if you are already well-versed in Scripture, you do not belong in a seeker’s church, unless you have a calling to mentor young Christians. So move on and write about the positive experiences you’ve had elsewhere.

    May I ask a personal question, you “who equips Christians to think, live, and lead with abundant faith”? How many people have you personally brought to Christ? Oh, that may be a moot point, since to you there are no seekers.

    I personally don’t find what I now need in a seeker’s church. But fortunately, I had gentle mentors when I needed them.

    • Thanks for your attempt to be gentle, Susan. If I’m hearing you right, there should be seeker churches and non-seeker churches?

      • Susan_G1

        Yes, that’s what I think. I think the pastors of seeker churches should encourage (non-mentors) members to move on after a couple of years to a “meatier” growth church. Why not? Do students start at university? No, they start at kindergarten, moving forward in learning. Should universities have classes for those just beginning to read, and everything in between? No, they should not. A church trying to be everything from kindergarten to university is stretched too thin. Likewise, a non-seeker church pastor should sit down with walk-ins after the service and assess their ‘comfort level’ with the church, referring them to seeker (starter) churches rather than intimidate young Christians away.

        At some point, we find a church that feeds and challenges us at a deeper level or we stay weak.

        My attempt to be gentle matched yours in the post.

        • AbnDoc

          Interesting concept. I would suggest that this division in training is needed; but, I doubt a person would want to leave an actual church they have been at and now feel comfortable with where their friends are and go to a new place just because they have learned basic concepts and accepted Christ.

          There are those however who will do that. They voluntarily remove themselves from the seeker churches. Some may seek a church that is more substantial but as more and more churches become “seeker friendly” it becomes harder. Unfortunately, many will just leave the church altogether because they don’t see the point in being there anymore.

          I believe that we do need different focuses for people based on their understanding and knowledge. That is theoretically done in Baptist churches (where I have been affiliated) during Sunday morning training, Sunday night training and Wednesday night training classes. These are usually broken down into “new Christian” classes and then they go to age or sex based classes so the people feel more comfortable with the people they interact with.

          Sunday morning congregational services are used primarily for worship and sharing the Gospel. Sunday night services are similar but are more of a teaching service.

          That is how it is supposed to work there but unfortunately, many times it all gets watered down into a bland mushy baby food. We need new or seeking Christians surrounded by strong Christians. Only by seeing what a strong Christian is and how they react during hard times will they learn to become stronger. A child that never interacts with adults and who never see what an adult acts like will never learn to be an adult.

          But, I can totally see what you are trying to say.

          • Susan_G1

            If we are instructed that to become Christlike, we need to die to ourselves, that we need to sacrifice our comfort circle to grow, that we can still keep in touch but move on, it’s doable. We just need to be truthful and bold and willing to see one’s church membership fall for God’s greater good. It isn’t fair to try to hang on to everybody and do a bad job in the process.

          • dhenry

            I agree with you AbnDoc!

    • BrianinLA

      Susan, the job of “sharing” the gospel, however you define it, is YOUR job. Not the worship service. Read the scriptures closer. “Seekers” were not converted in worship. It was either one on one, or at large gatherings, normal for the time and culture, that speakers expounded a particular belief or philosophy. I disagree strongly there should be seeker and non-seeker churches.

  • Superb post, thanks! The church service is for equipping and building up, not necessarily evangelism. That’s done outside the church. Our big-box churches have that backward, they want to look like the world to attract the world, and have to keep on being like the world to retain the world, which they aren’t doing well. Look at any denomination’s stats, people are leaving the big box churches because they are a lame copy of the world, rather than a God-fearing contrast to the world.

    • I love that phrase “big-box churches.” Big churches don’t have to function that way. And small ones can function that way too, I suppose. Thanks for the comment!

  • Steve

    Bill, I completely understand. Thanks for saying something. I believe you are rightly stirring a hornets’ nest — it is needed. Christians in so many, many “contemporary” circles are smart, but ignorant. And they don’t realize they are ignorant. What are they ignorant of? Three things: Bible knowledge, sound theology, and church history. Combined, these three, used with humility before God and men, can and will shape sound worship and ministries. Without them, we will go find “what works”, slap the God sticker on it, and call it “effective.” I hope your writing makes many contemporary Christians uncomfortable enough to go back and see why they do what they do and discover as well, that no church should ever depart from a foundation that has been time-tested.

  • Michael Gustin

    Thanks for this Bill! It’s refreshing. I am 20 and have been arrested and exiled from seeker-friendly churches for this exact reason. I will not stay quiet. This needs to be made aware of. We must shed light on the wolves that stand in the pulpits..Paul Washer said something about the seeker friendly movement. He said that you’ve got true sheep (a very small amount) in these seeker churches, that are never fed because the pastor is too busy finding carnal means to bring in carnal people, but in reality keeping the carnal, carnal. I believe in this time, those that are truly God’s are leaving the corporate power structure system of the church. He is calling us OUT, because honestly, at these churches, sin is never addressed. The gospel is watered badly…I was at a church on easter, where they didn’t mention, sin, repentance, or the blood ONCE. It blows my mind…thanks for sharing.

  • AbnDoc

    I agree. The Bible speaks of Christians who only drink milk and never get to the meat of the Word. Something that has led me away from church is that we never learned anything new after we left the Children’s and Youth groups. By the time you are 18, you have heard the tiny number of stories they repeat over and over again. Why would a college student want to learn the ABCs or long division? If they aren’t growing and learning new things, they won’t see a point in being there.

    We also have to remember that the church (little c) is a building filled with people. Not all of them are members of the Church. The Church (big c) is the believers not the building.

    Some of these people are true Christians who are desperately trying to find a way to bring people in and keep them excited.

    Others are people who are not really serving God but they like being a part of
    a group and like the ideas they pick and choose from the Bible.

    Even God calls His children out on the things they do wrong and especially
    those he calls luke warm. They claim to be Christians but do not have
    any passion or desire for him. They just go through the motions.

    Calling yourself a Christian and being a Christian is two different things and
    with the lack of true Christian leaders today, it is hard to know what
    that difference is sometimes.

    We need Godly leaders who can teach the truth and let the people accept it or reject it. Jesus never sugar-coated what he taught. Some accepted him and some rejected him.

  • Rick

    Interesting post, and I agree with much of it, but how do you define seeker-friendly?
    You have a relationship with Maxwell and Catalyst, yet both (at the top) are involved with churches that could be called could be called seeker-friendly.
    There are degrees of seeker sensitivity, so when does one cross the line?

    • Good question as to definitions, but I’m not sure there is a clear definition or that churches fit neatly into such categories. In a word, I would define it as focus – where is it? Our why matters — to God and in determining our what and how.

      I have no problem laboring alongside any Christians to move the Kingdom forward, even if we disagree on a lot of stuff. It took me some time to realize that I didn’t have to compromise what I believe to love and co-labor with brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I disagree. The funny thing is, the more I get to know Christians with whom I thought I had disagreements, I learn that we have far more in common than we knew. Jesus garden prayer was that we would be one. We can’t unite around truth if we have no relationship in which to talk about it.

      By the way, on the other side of the spectrum I’ve known many churches that were visitor averse. Once the holy huddle had convened it was pretty tough to get in.

  • rvs

    Lol. I very much appreciated the humor in this. Thanks–I blame Aristotle for some of the oddball behavior you mention. Rhetoric is not (should not be) primarily about profiling the audience, targeting the audience, etc. Many seekers don’t really know what they want. Thus, attempts to cater to “what they want” reveal a lot more about the church in question than the seeker who seeks.

  • Jack Boulet

    Was reading Romans too lately… Very similar convictions though I have had to
    press Romans 14, under scored by Romans 12; for my own sake, as well that we
    cannot really judge those who are of a weaker faith as we all have walked the
    line. The book of Johnny.;o)

    It is our prerogative and command in love to act in love for the sake of Christ’s plan of which he prayed in the garden for the sake of Unity. In that way we would prove God’s will in Christ and in Christ in God and Christ is in God. He said so; actually he was crying it out as he was hurting and very alone in the garden at he time. I am frustrated too having seen many variances in many “religion” “boxes” yet I remain for my health in the Spirit in God’s love for the sake of love in Christ sacrificed. God places us where we are when we are for his purposes, it is his game and he sees all the spokes in the wheel, we walk the line along our own spokes towards the center and the reason we all exist, we exist because God loves us and he created our universes for all of us and in heaven a place and palace for each and every begotten soul. That meaning I am Deocentric, I just made that up.

    That being said, how are preparing for this proposed wedding. I recently attended my mother’s parish in Edmonton Alberta, the seniors rocked the place and I was the least of the voices there. Here where I am the parish of the same faith direction looks at me as though I am an outsider as I sing in the Spirit always. Oooops my bad! Does this mean both are invalidated by the weakness of the second, no heavens no, it means: If I know so much it is up to me to do so much and to lead by the Spirit given to me.

    I also partake in another faith direction in a very “seeker friendly” church which has very many gifted people. It is led by a great man of God from a family of God. I have to ask, am I angry because of the gifts of the others being demonstrated in faith or am I angry because I am not seeing with loves eyes the efforts of those who serve in faith and hope?

    What is the meaning of my purpose in Christ Jesus? Why do I wash my brothers feet, why do I first serve and desire to be last? It is a contradiction in humanity where we are contradicting out better natures for what you explained; it is sin that is arguing for us. It is also our American individualism preying on us with sin like a wolverine follows a wolf pack waiting for carrion and lunch snacks.

    So how do we prove God exists then? We stand regardless of our flesh and human nature and stand on the plank in our eye, having pulled that out first, we
    prove a better church and build together; and we in forgiveness and grace fight
    for the right to be good people and in doing so, we fight together in Christ
    all unified in forgiveness knowing we all have a purpose and gifts that are
    giving by the Holy Spirit (caps) who proves in our humility first our willingness to be together: and that willingness to be together that in God all things are possible, gives us strength and hope. So ask now, am I standing alone walking a tight rope and not working together with the other boxes of Christianity; we are not cereal snacks to be devoured are we?
    Are we working with or against? When Paul travelled did he respect the work of others and build with or against? Prove it I say!

    It is not a frustrated thing it is a joyful thing that we all can share together yet we divide and we divide and we divide until finally the salt between us becomes an unsavory brine. Ask what have I done to ease my frustration, am I sorrowful or angry, let’s really be honest here; are we sponsoring true prophesy that is building
    the church, or are we dividing and dividing and dividing? What is the foundation of all revival, it is fellowship in unity of the Spirit.

    Yes go out, go out and spread the good news, the good news of a Unified church blessed by God the creator by Christ’s purpose. That being love and the grain we cross, like the wood we crossed to kill Christ to make it work. That was not the Jews alone, it was all of us and his salvation is given freely. We messed it up then and we continue because we are vipers to eager to self satisfy, we are afraid to be last. Have faith I tell you, have God’s faith and love in your heart. We are in no position to judge the works of another so long as we have sin. 1John))) …Goes good with Romans, good food, more than milk, the word of God’s complete banquet. Why eat only vegetables, God has prepared a whole and full table overflowing, it is we, the silly crucifiers who complain that the bread of others is not right, yet they are sitting at the same table and eating the same bread. Stop it, have some manners at the table. Let us pray and give thanks that God has
    loved us first and for all blessings and gifts, Amen.

    God’s love be with you and may it cleanse your frustration and ease your heart into that joyful place that is promised. May Jesus Christ my savior be yours also and may we together find the means to bring Joy to all God’s children together. Amen, Amen, Amen.

    Jacques Boulet, your brother in Christ.

  • I think most “seekers” are being had. They are comfortable with what they know and the church tries mightily top hand these seekers back to themselves.

    The church ought be counter-cultural and reflect something of the other-worldliness of the gospel.

    What was the question?

    • Counter-cultural. Like in but not of? Sounds good. There’s a question?

  • Kathryn Brown

    I experimented with some very liberal denominations (Society of Friends (Quakers), graduating to Episcopal) for a while because I was experiencing so much anxiety over my beliefs/ my unbelief that those were the only places I felt safe. (I know this isn’t exactly the kind of church you are referring to, but Quakers are known as “seekers.”) I knew that I could just show up and sit with God, whomever or whatever he is. Today, I joyfully attend a Presbyterian Church in America PCA (but one that is more evangelical that most PCA’s.) I feel that God used my time with the Quakers to calm my anxiety while teaching me to listen to Him and trust Him (“Be still and know that I am God.”). I really cherished my time with the Society of Friends but when I became increasingly hungry for God’s Word I knew it was time to move on. It took a lot of courage for me to set foot in a Reformed denomination, but the church I go to know has made a special effort to reach out to the church damaged and the skeptical through thorough, accurate teaching of scripture, emphasis on the Gospel, and sensitivity towards barriers to faith that many of us experience in a post-modern culture. There is a need to reach out to non-believers, as God may bring them to your “seeker-friendly” church when he begins to work on their hearts. 🙂 The key is staying to true to the Gospel! Only the Gospel, taught with love and gentleness, can melt a person’s heart and bring them to the Lord.

    (I don’t mean to say anything negative about the Quakers or the Episcopal Church— just illustrating the different roles that “liberal” and “conservative” (for lack of better words) denominations played in bridging the gaps from “seeking” to “maybe this is true…” to “I’m on board” (but still struggling with doubt ALL the time!)

  • Benjamin Sasso

    I am not sure what seeker-friendly churches are, but by your description they seem like a new age approach to church, a watered down gospel. Since you don’t define them, it is a generalization.
    However what I have witnessed in the US are the exact opposite. A lot of churches where people know the Bible, but do not share the gospel. Churches that are closed circle of friends and family. That is not the model we get from scripture either.
    It is difficult not to generalize when you try to describe churches, because there are all kinds. But I really wonder why US people (what you call americans) are so extreme in everything.
    Isnt it possible to have a church designed with an environment which is attractive to non believers. A place that is attractive to them because the place is designed to be attractive and because it is full of loving people, true disciples wanting them to come to Christ. Where the the gospel is taught and where there are Bible studies weekly where they can grow and learn “meatier” things, be discipled with personal attention. Where they can learn to be true disciples desiring to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth?
    If one is a disciple of Christ and feels the need for meatier things, perhaps one needs to remember Christs words, “my food is to do the will of the Father”. Often those who no longer feel satisfied with the teachings from the Bible is because they are ready to be giving, serving, mentoring, instead of seeking to receive.

    • Sharon Bollum

      Benjamin, that is the most thoughtful and beautiful response of all. Thank you for sharing that. You have hit the nail on the head.

    • Larry Barnes

      I love this comment, and I think it hits to the heart of the matter, and it isn’t seeker friendly or not. I’ve seen amazing Christian people who love the Lord and have been in churches for 50+ YEARS. But they don’t know any non-Christians. They don’t do mission work, meet their neighbors, serve the poor, etc. Maybe people should stop complaining that the church isn’t feeding them meat and actually start feeding themselves.

  • Joyce M. Sappington

    I belong to a “seeker-sensitive” church. It’s loosely affiliated with Saddleback. We are a satellite of a local church in a larger community. I’m the one that begged that pastor to begin another congregation in my community, that is of lower income, and somewhat isolated from the rest of county as we are in the mountains. When we first started (about 7 years ago) we averaged about 50 people a Sunday in a rented community center, but we just felt totally filled up after each service. Now we our own facility but only average a little over a hundred a Sunday. There are over 4000 people in our community and 6000 in the entire foothills area. The same people volunteer each Sunday. Some of those who gave their lives to Christ within the past 7 years and are still struggling. I will be coming off a summer long sabbatical from serving and attending. What I found was that I was SPIRITUALLY STARVING. We have a great time of worship, but the message is Pablum. They keep pressing for people to join small groups with the thought that there’s where you really get fed, but people just don’t fit them into their schedules for the most part. We have all the “tricks”; contemporary worship, a Youth Program where they have a “rock band”, videos, play games, etc…, the little kids have Sunday School while the adults are in service, the pastor really tries to make sure the service doesn’t last over an hour, people are really friendly when you come in. When we first started we were doing outreaches in the community (harvest festival, helping people with work around their houses, Easter egg hunts), but all that has gone away for the most part. It’s more like “we’ll open the doors on Sunday and hope the people come.” Since we are a satellite church, our Pastor lives and spends most of his time down at the main campus. He’s up here maybe 2 days a week. And people are STARVING for spiritual food. But I don’t believe God is telling me to leave. I think He wants those of us who see what is going on to stay and contend for the Faith and contend for the real MEAT of scripture to be taught. Small groups should be for fellowshipping together and, yes, doing some meaty topics (for the more mature), but they are also the place to really disciple the young “seekers”. I don’t think “seekers” are showing up on Sunday to just hear a feel good sermon. By their very title they are looking for something more. If all we’re giving them is a watered down version of what they are truly hungering for, they’ll still go away dissatisfied. And those who are more mature will continue to lose out.

    • Thanks for the comment. Randy Pope has done some excellent work on discipleship in the church. Getting plugged in at Perimeter now here in Atlanta. Small groups alone are not the answer. Intentional discipleship within them that apply the preached word — now that’s more like what Christ called us to do.

    • RichJ

      Joyce, it is a different situation, church, pastor, area, etc., but the summary you gave fist my church perfectly. Your reason for staying as well. I think the lack of “meat” in the service defeats the outreaches we do. We invite many and have had many come in and leave. I would not recommend anyone go to my church. I am staying to try to challenge the pastor to see what is going on. You are not alone, hang in there.

  • Agni Ashwin

    So why not Catholicism or Orthodoxy?

    • I don’t know what you mean. Are there such things as seeker-friendly churches in the orthodox or catholic tradition? I’d be interested in knowing.

  • Mark Able Jones

    We should definitely only let people born into a Christian family become Christians. I’m sure that’s what God wants. I’m sure he values worship over helping others. I’m sure Jesus was definitely not a fan of acceptance.

    • Mark, I’m certain you’re being sarcastic here, but I’m not understanding it based on anything in the post itself. However, I am very certain that he values worship of himself over, well, everything.

      • BrianinLA

        Sarcasm aside, if necessary, I don’t think Jesus would value worship of himself over anything. More than likely it makes him sick.

  • William 1

    Until the “church” actually -congregation in the origional language-quits being afraid of their Gods -their Gods kingdom LAWS-referred to by the Truly God fearing Jews-as the teachings and instructions of God-YA’WY in the origional they wander around confused and disoriented in these kinds of “churches” till they die! Those teachings and instructions of YA’WY-GOD are divided into 3 sections
    Commands-not just the Ten as there are 613!
    Jesus did away with, by His atoning death, burial and resurrection, of the need to bring, every year, a sin offering-that is the ONLY PART OF THAT ONE SECTION OF ORDINANCES HE DID AWAY WITH-ALL ELSE IS STILL RELEVANT!
    As Paul?says: I thank my GOD-YA’WY, that because of Jesus substituionary act on the cross, I am no longer under the Law of sin and death-the bringing of an animal to cover my sins-because Jesus is now my eternal Lamb, ever living seated at the right hand of His Father-YA’WY! He is not referring to the WHOLE LAW BUT ONLY -THE (ONE) LAW OF BRING A SACRIFICE FOR SINS EVERY YEAR!
    To make a disviple one had to teach the “SCRIPTURES” THE LAW!

  • Rick Hopkins

    Great post! Unfortunately you can’t say something like this about the American church anymore without being called angry, bitter, cynical, etc… That seems to be the fallback dismissal of modern day prophets calling out the church for what it has become by those who can’t step back and take an honest look at it. The prophets of the old testament were all a little angry and bitter probably too because the Israelite people kept screwing things up and getting it wrong. But their heart also ached for the people to snap out of it and get it right and follow hard after God. I’m there with you man, and so are more and more people within the church. God seems to be raising up His Church within the church…

  • janie inMN

    excellently written… thanks for your boldness in declaring the truth… God called us to go out and make disciples… the church is to edify and EQUIP believers… so VERY MANY churches now-a-days are falling into the “tickle the ears”, “preach what they want to ear” mentality… all ‘signs of the times’…

    LOOK UP!! for your redemption draweth nigh! JESUS IS COMING!! will you be “ready”???

  • Carrie

    This was a great post. I was in a seeker church once, which served a purpose and was a “safe” time for me after coming out of a cult. After 3 years I surely wasn’t being fed and moved on to an expository preaching church. Now I call the seeker churches “Starbucks Churches” and I steer very clear of them.

  • Nicky

    I will know that a church is truly Christ-like when I can see that everyone matters…I think a lot of church is very well meant, but often like The Emperor’s New Clothes’. I am very weary of hearing that we are all parts of one body….but feeling that only a few have very much say….a body listens to what the parts are saying and takes it into account….if you ignore a foot that’s sore….because it’s not convenient to listen, pretty soon you’ll get a blister…and if that gets ignored, it may become infected and then you’ll HAVE to stop….or lose the foot. How many times does someone stop,truly look you in the face, listen to your pain…and say, ‘Ouch! I am SO sorry for your pain and loss…..I don’t know how you can possibly bear it. Let me be with you a while. I don’t know what to do, but let me keep you company. We’ll ask God for help and I want to be sure to that you know you have not been forgotten.(How many times has someone truly shared your personal joy either!!!? I bet they do in Heaven)
    It means sharing the pain. It often means FEELING the pain. What are we afraid of? Death? Where is our faith that there will be life after death. When we say, ‘You should just get over it..’ or we’re happy with, ‘I’m fine, thank you and we know it’s papered over, we are just like the Levite and the Priest, or whoever it was that walked on by for fear of being mugged…or late…rather than helping like the Samaritan…I couldn’t give a monkey’s cuss what we call our ministries. I know love when I see it. Well done to Robert Maasbach’s ministry when he brought his team to our city. I could just see and know that everything he brought was true to Christ. Well done…I’m just so sorry that our own local churches still prefer religion to life….and yes, I am angry. We’re like quacks peddling a poor reflection of Christ…and yes, I am sorry…I feel like a traitor to church..I so want to fit in, but I don’t and I’m wondering if that really counts…….but I don’t half hanker after Jesus…..He managed without all the programs and buildings…(admittedly, He was in a warmer drier climate). He was….and I believe, still is, interested in truth….and relationship…..being connected, really joined up. Thanks for listening.

  • grannygoodfood

    A major problem, if not THE problem, is that Hegelian Dialectic has
    infiltrated the church. “Has God said?” was the first lie and not much
    has changed since then. God’s Word must necessarily be compromised so
    that people FEEL good about going to church. Feelings, though, have
    nothing to do with obedience. “Seeker-friendly” means “world-friendly,”
    sensuous, coddling the flesh, and feeling good about the experience on
    Sunday. What about Monday through Saturday?

    local church did a video to bring people in for Easter service (Ishtar,
    Babylonian goddess) by filming “Jesus” and the apostles around a table
    and then they started doing the Harlem shake, which is a rude, crude,
    vulgar dance.

    In 2010, I warned Christians about a drum circle
    event that local Wiccans were sponsoring. The Ministers Alliance said I
    was an alarmist. One of them said I was a ‘cancer to the body of Christ
    and need to be cut out.’ Another said I should be crucified upside down
    inside a fire circle. These are not the pagans; these were “God’s”
    people saying this in response to truth.

    I opened an
    office/store, The Life Emporium, to reach out with nutritional
    information. The local Baptist church boycotted my store because I told
    them Diet Coke was addictive and caused brain tumors. (I’m a Health
    Counselor and Doctor of Naturopathy.)
    We don’t go to church anymore. We simply don’t know whom to trust.
    Seems that Keith Green was right so many years ago: God’s people wanna
    go back to the slavery of Egypt and really don’t care about taking
    dominion in the Promised Land.

  • Rick Fox

    All too often the church disregards holiness for extravagance. I agree with Rick, the gospel becomes dilute to lure in the masses only to see the excitement dry up with the milk of the gospel being poured out for too long. The church is called to come out of the world, not look like the world. It’s o.k. to be friendly and inviting, it’s when we compromise biblical doctrine for exuberance that the draw of the Spirit get’s lost in pomp and circumstance. The gospel is offensive to those trying to protect their way of life, those who don’t want to give up the reigns of their life but when the chaff is blown away, the dynamics of a spirit lead church becomes a powerful entity that has far more impact than any entertainment could afford.

  • Tricia Johnson

    I read your post because one of my friends posted it on Facebook. I’m not impressed with your sarcasm. As a writing teacher, I tell my students that sarcasm does not translate well from spoken to written. This article is a good example of that.

    I see a couple of your points….that no one seeks after God (clearly) and that “seeker sensitive” is not really something that can even possibly be true. I am not now and never have been in a church that is considered “seeker sensitive.” Mostly, my husband has been my pastor, although we are between churches at the moment. He’s been a pastor for 30 years.

    The gospel needs to be presented at every service. There is never a time when it’s inappropriate. We’ve seen people come to Christ who have been in church leadership for decades, yet never saved because they never really heard the gospel from the pulpit because they were raised in church and the gospel had somehow become irrelevant. Their pastors were too busy making disciples to lead the lost to Christ first. Not so with my husband and I’m so very glad.

    The first time I ever heard the gospel was in church……I visited on the invitation of a friend……I was 18 years old…..the pastor preached a good message all about the gospel…..I got saved that day. In church. In a gospel-preaching church that to this day believes the gospel is the center of our walk.

    You may get your point across with a few people who like that sarcastic approach, but I don’t like sarcasm when it comes to Bible-teaching/preaching. Truth is what sets us free, not some overly critical observations given in sarcasm which don’t show the whole picture of any given church.

    • Nom DePlume

      Tricia, a lot of great Biblical teachers employ sarcasm, hyperbole and irony to powerful effect. Spurgeon was good at it. Job said to his foolish friends “Doubtless you are the only people who matter, and wisdom will die with you!” (Job 2:12) and when the people worshipped Baal, Elijah said “Yell louder! After all, he is a god; he may be deep in thought, or perhaps he stepped out for a moment or has taken a trip. Perhaps he is sleeping and needs to be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27). Of people wo insisted on circumcision for Christians, Paul said “I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” (Galations 5:12) Jesus said to the Pharisees “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24). Sarcasm can be a powerful way of asserting the truth of the word of God and treating error as the trash that it is.

      I think your real issue here is that this article is “overly critical.” There is, of course, no such thing. Christians are exhorted to be critical of everything, to hold everything up to the light of Scripture.

      Finally, you say “The gospel needs to be presented at every service.” There is nothing in this article that suggests otherwise. Quite the contrary. Be wise, Tricia.

      • Cold Industry

        The Bible is rarely sarcastic, even if it is effective when it uses that sarcasm.

        Sarcasm is also overused in Evangelical circles and regularly employed in a highly demeaning way. It is often evidence of someone who thinks they are superior to those they are mocking, rather than a necessary tool to bring about restoration or repentance. Sarcasm should be used sparingly, just as it was in the Bible.

        There is actually the possibility of being “overly critical.” There are people who are so critical that their speech is odious and unhelpful, to the point of being offensive. (Take, for example, Paul’s injunction for fathers not to embitter their children.)

  • Anthony

    Bill, how about a campaign for getting people to think hard about Jesus’
    definition of God? In hearty agreement with a Jew, Jesus affirmed the
    creed of his splendid Jewish heritage. Are we sure that that creed is still
    loud and clear in Church? Or has something happened (early in church history) to
    fog the whole issue about who and how many God is?

  • Dave O

    This post hits hard with me in ways I cannot begin to explain. I have been with my church for nearly 4 years now and asking some serious questions as of late. There is no focus whatsoever on discipleship or building and training new leaders within the body of our church. We just finished rehabbing an old warehouse into a church that holds 600+ people, this was a daunting task from its beginning. Out of the attendance of 500 with at least half being men, only 15 showed on a consistent basis to build this building. I couldn’t keep thinking if “I’m the pastor, this is a huge red flag”. Now understanding the goal in mind, I completely understand why it isn’t even mentioned or addressed and it sorrows me greatly to know the reason as someone who as poured my heart and time into my church.

  • Delecia del Rosario

    Amen!!!! We have taken away the sanctity and reverence of God – and the things associated with God. Many – if not, most – of the new big-box churches have auditoriums, not sanctuaries. They offer treats and drinks in order to make everyone comfortable as they are entertained by the church “programs”. I am very saddened to see such a large number of people do “drive-through Christianity” each Sunday (or Saturday); many times the services are set up for such Christians to check off “went to church” on their weekly to-do list. I don’t think we have to water-down the word of God because the years of our world have advanced. We, Christians, are continually cowering down or surrendering to people’s relationship with sin. (Meaning, we are looked upon as being “haters” because we don’t allow others to live in their sinful lives comfortably. Dare we call sin…sin. God, please intervene!

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  • Livin

    The only problem with this post is that the Bible says Jesus draws all people to himself so while “no one seeks for God” all arebeing called but some do refuse his calling and hence are not seekers.

  • BrianinLA

    Very good article, even for us non-evangelicals. Seriously, this is just one of many reasons I left the evangelical church for mainline denominations 20 years ago. In my view, the “seeker-sensitive” church exists for one reason and one reason alone. The average Christian believes if they pay (offering) a church to “evangelize” then it isn’t their job. Worship was, and is, never for non-Christians. (or Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.) Worship is not actually for Christians. Worship is the corporate point in the week for followers of the Way to come into direct contact with whatever we call God. Introducing others to this way of life was never (please read your early church history) the role of the worship gathering. Does that mean we should make things as obtuse and complicated as possible? Of course not. But I agree, the watering down to the lowest common denominator, if even then, only further degrades any hope of a Christian community actually having an impact on their neighborhood, town, or country. I see this same level of stupidity when talking to well meaning church members about youth participation. “Oh, we just have to make it interesting and relevant to their desires or the youth will leave!” Bull#*@t! Youth, and frankly, the average non-church attendee don’t have a clue. But as I said, I left the evangelical church many years ago because of this demeaning attitude. I am no longer there so my opinion doesn’t matter and if I was attending, my opinion would get me ostracized.

  • alan mitchell

    Stop proof texting and read your bible in context. There is an entire chapter in 1 Corinthians devoted to what worship should look like. Here is an excerpt (aka context):
    1 Cor 14: “23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and INQUIRERS or UNBELIEVERS come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an UNBELIEVER or an INQUIRER comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” Notice that PAUL is giving worship instruction that take serious INQUIRERS or UNBELIEVERS in a way that isn’t dismissive. One of the main themes presented in this rare chapter on how to conduct a worship meeting is intelligibility, specifically to those who are INQUIRERS or UNBELIEVERS. On side note the word inquirer has been used synonymously with the word seeker by Jonathan Edwards(“the foremost phil/theo america has ever produced”-perry miller) and company long before Hybels came along. There are some serious issues with the seeker sensitive movement, but the baby in the bath water is their concern for “lost sheep”(luke 15), their obedience in conducting their worship services with the INQUIRERS or UNBELIEVERS in mind, aka the seekers.

  • Redeemed

    Glad it only took you 40 years to figure this out ….

  • Richard J. Young

    I read a few of these posts until I decided most just don’t get it and simply love to hear themselves or jump on another bandwagon (wind of doctrine).

    Stop wasting time and preach and live the Gospel. Learn the Word and pray. Make a goal to stop with the milk and desire the meat of the Word. Seek to live and demonstrate the 1st and 2nd commandments as per NT.

    You CAN’T go to church. Either you are his (and keep his commandments) or you are not. IF YOU ARE HIS (believe in the saving grace of God the Father through faith in Jesus the Christ, the only begotten Son of God, trust and obey him, deny yourselves daily and pick up his cross and follow him) YOU ARE HIS CHURCH.
    The “americanized church” of today is nothing but a worldly social club and I suspect he knows you not! Hell is going to be HOT folks!!

    Lastly if the Apostles didn’t do any more to evangelize the world than today’s so- called ministers they would still be in the upper room wanting to be fed and pampered.

  • Patriot for Christ

    You can easily see that the problems we are facing in this country is direct result from the growth of the “seeker friendly emerging church”. These poor souls are not taught the full truth. They have no idea on how to look at the world through biblical lenses. Then again, how could they? The pastor is afraid to talk about sin. Allot of light with no salt.

    We are called to point out false gospels and false teachers.

  • Gabe

    I do not understand the feeling or compulsion to need to tell others exactly what to do, what they must believe. Why is it we think people are so stupid that they can’t think for themselves or grow without getting zapped by the cattle prod of “the church”. This argument about “meat and milk” is absurd. It is presented in a way that tries to make you think that the “meat” is something someone else has that unless we buckle down, furough our eyebrows and become as angry as you sound we will never have it. By the way, what IS this “meat” you speak of? Is it doctrinal purity? Is it absolutism? Some of the things you said I can’t believe. I do not believe you applied critical thought to many of your statements such as “There are no seekers”. Is it not Jesus who said “SEEK and ye shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you”?
    “Seekers can’t Worship”? Really? I remember Jesus saying the very rocks would cry out in praise to him if we ceased to”.
    Really what this comes to is that christianity hasn’t changed that much. It has always been an exclusive club that hasn’t had to work very hard to maintain numbers because for a long time it was the only game in town, reinforced by political and cultural support and fear. Now the tide has turned, there are more choices and people don’t have to be afraid of change.
    There are plenty of churches out there that are fundamental enough that you can find one to suit you. Just because someone enjoys the coffee or popcorn at another churches service doesn’t make them spiritually inferior to you. There should be no set standard for worship. Every person worships differently. YOU are the one who needs to move on. It sounds as though you reached a level where you can learn no more at that particular church. So…. move on! Other people there may not be ready to move on, maybe they haven’t reached your level yet but that doesn’t mean they won’t! Did you not grow enough to reach a level to realize you needed to leave there? Just do it gracefully and not as you have done here. What you are doing here turns more people off to God then a laser light show.

  • Eben

    This is true even in Cape Town South Africa. I was a worship leader until I was told that I’m not allowed to use the word worship because music is not the only form of worship and it may confuse the “unchurched” or “seeking”. I’ve recently stepped down and I have felt freedom like I haven’t felt in years. And yes, I haven’t brought up many of the points just like the above author hasn’t. But when the church service can be pyramidized (like a pyramid scheme), that is where I draw the line. We are marrying images of the work into the image of the church and we wonder why we have powerless churches today. No more!!! We have to go where the word of God is alive.

  • Larry

    I have been a Christian for 27 of my 51 years. Yes I know not everyone’s testimony is the same, however, unless it involves recognizing one’s sinfullnes, repenting, and choosing to trust in Christ’s payment on the cross as your debt paid, it will not stand the test. 90% of the “Evangelical” churches we have attended have become “entertainment” centers that cater to lukewarm Christians and the lost. When the whole neighborhood’s on fire, trying to convince people to flee their burning homes by a juggling act in the street ain’t gonna cut it. The model Christ and the Apostiles established is evangelism happens outside the Church, then the Church is for believers to become deciples by equipping them for holy living and being effective witnesses.

  • Naomi

    Carol, I don’t want to burst your bubble, but you might want to “Google” some of these TV preachers you are watching.