Picture an amazing movie trailer. Heavy music, intense fight scenes, passionate kisses, A-list actors flashed across the screen, and that last tease that gives you goosebumps. So you save your money or steal some to get a ticket, buy some popcorn with butter-juice, plop down in a sticky seat, and you watch…the trailer again. One-and-a-half minutes later, the lights go back up and everyone files out.
Such is the “seeker-friendly” church, or more accurately, the seeker-oriented one.
Seeker-Friendly: Welcome, friend!
Just about every church wants to be seeker-friendly (except that weird place with seven people who think aliens are demons coming to get us). And to be seeker-friendly is admirable when it’s done right.
A seeker-friendly church is one that is welcoming to outsiders. Whether they be Christians looking for something new, former Christians who lost their way, or people who never thought twice about Jesus before. Anyone who gets curious is welcome.
Better yet, it’s accessible. This church may have an informative website, friendly people whose only job is to be hospitable, childcare, coffee, zero obligation to give any money, and a strong message where Jesus is the hero.
Not bad, right? So why my critical metaphor? Because for every good thing, there’s a cheap counterfeit. If you make “Frosted Flakes,” they’ll make “Frostie Flakes.” If you make Beauty and the Beast, they’ll make Beastly. And if you make a seeker-friendly church, they’ll make a seeker-oriented one.
Seeker-Oriented: A Gateway to Nowhere
On the surface, they seem identical. Same open doors, same genuinely friendly people, same food and drink, maybe even the same message. But after several weeks, you’ll notice subtle differences. Or more accurately, you’ll notice nothing different from the first time you came.
The seeker-oriented church is one that’s always looking for new people, but that’s it. Once you’re in, there’s nothing left to see. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie.
“Get people in the church” is the motto, and they have great reasons. They want people to come to Christ. But once a new person does that, they’ll bump their head on a glass ceiling and stare longingly up at the sky. Anyone and everyone will get mowed down so that Sunday morning is good for the newcomers, newcomers who may become church members, where they can quickly get pushed aside into the “Done” box where they can be ignored in favor of the next new guy.
An Issue of Abandonment
If pressed, these churches would probably quote Luke 15:1-7 where Jesus says a good shepherd leaves ninety-nine to find the one that is lost. True, true, but Jesus also said, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)
The seeker-oriented church behaves as though nothing exists beyond salvation, which is just unbiblical. After the Gospels come the Acts. Actually, EVERY book after the Gospels (with the possible exception of Hebrews) is written to existing Christians. Salvation is definitely the most important thing, but it’s not the only thing.
A church that leaves when a person becomes saved–or perhaps a member–abandons that person. Life still has plenty of ups and downs. There are journeys a Christian must take, healing that is required, and grief to endure. What does the salvation-only church say to such a person? Nothing. Or perhaps bare platitudes meant to check of yet another box on the list.
Sometimes, this creates revolving-door churches. You come in, see nothing beyond the doorway, and turn around. But worse is the megachurch built on this principle. People come in and see that all they need to do is show up on Sundays to make God happy. There’s nothing more to be done, so thousands get comfortable and stagnant while their spirits rot.
More Than a Door
Jesus said, “I am the gate,” (John 10:9) meaning we only come to God through him. But a gate is merely an entry point, not a destination. Salvation is absolutely necessary, but it’s only the beginning. Jesus opens the gateway to God, and there’s too much God to explore in one lifetime.
A church that exists only to seek new believers is like a couple that only gets married to have kids. It’s multiplying, but it’s not being fruitful! Life goes on after kids grow up. Life goes on after you get saved.
Does your church keep going after they’ve found someone new? Does it help a new believer to grow in God? Does it strive for longevity as opposed to Sunday-morning excitement?