As I made clear in my last post, I am not a huge fan of the seeker sensitive movement – but I do think that there are faithful and appropriate ways to be welcoming to seekers. It’s not as though we have to choose between putting seekers in charge and pretending they don’t exist.
There is a happy medium.
A church can be robust and accessible; convictional and congenial; obedient and open handed.
But it doesn’t happen by accident.
Here are 5 things you can do that will help seekers – without harming the Body of Christ.
Keep your website up to date
You’ll notice that I didn’t use the word “excellent”. I don’t think your website needs to be excellent but it does need to be useful and up to date. People will visit your webpage multiple times before visiting your physical plant. They don’t need to be “wowed” but they do need to be informed.
They want to know what time your service starts, what you believe, what organizations you are affiliated with, who your pastor is and what his preaching sounds like. If that information isn’t readily available then you will likely never see them in the flesh.
Have well-trained ushers and greeters
Should an actual seeker visit your church they will generally need help navigating the building.
Where are the washrooms?
How do we sign in our kids for program?
Is there special seating for nursing mothers?
Is there a smoking section near the building in case I need to step out?
Make sure your ushers know the answers to these questions and make sure they are willing to give assistance as required. I love it when I see ushers downstairs helping a visiting family check in to Children’s Ministry. It’s one thing to point to a staircase, it’s another thing to say “Let me take you there”.
Prioritize Children’s Ministry
I recently met a man at our church who would certainly qualify as a spiritual seeker. He’s been coming out faithfully now for nearly 3 months. He listens to our Into The Word podcast almost every day. If he misses a worship service he makes sure to watch it on-line.
He’s a seeker.
God is drawing him and he is leaning in.
The whole thing is quite surprising. He never meant to become a seeker, he only came to our church because he figured it would be a good place for his kids. He had heard that our church had excellent programs for children of all ages. He planned to sit in the air-conditioned sanctuary while they did their thing downstairs.
Apparently, God had other plans.
I’ve heard other versions of this same story dozens of times now and I’ve become convinced that good Children’s Ministry is good adult evangelism. If you want seekers to sit under biblical preaching then do a great job taking care of their kids.
Make sure the toys are clean and regularly sanitized.
Make sure the volunteers are well trained, properly screened and clearly identified.
Have a check-in system.
Do a great job with Children’s Ministry and you will see moms and dads sitting peacefully under the life-changing Word of God.
Display lyrics and verses on screen
I know that some folks are concerned about the loss of hymnbooks and by the growing number of people reading Bible verses off a screen.
I get that.
I share that concern to a great extent.
But I’m also aware that newcomers will find our hymnbooks confusing and they will almost certainly not have brought their own Bible. Therefore I prefer to go with a “both/and” approach. I always encourage people to open their Bibles to the text under discussion. We give out page numbers that correspond to the pew Bibles that are available to everyone.
However, we also display the verses on the screen.
There are few things more embarrassing then having to look in the Table of Contents in order to locate “Song of Solomon”. If your pew Bible happens to refer to it as “Song of Songs” then the confusion and embarrassment may be further compounded.
Just display the passage on the screen.
And do the same with your songs and hymns. If you want to give out a number so that folks can look it up in the hymnal – then by all means do – but make sure that the words on the screen match the words in the book. PowerPoint can include or exclude depending on the diligence of the operator.
Putting lyrics and verses on the screen – while still having pew Bibles and hymnals available – allows the seeker to remain incognito while helping them get up to speed.
Define and explain insider terminology
Christianity is a language of words. You cannot preach the Gospel without words and you cannot conduct a Christian worship service without words.
I think the thing I liked the least about the seeker church movement was the idea that we had to dumb everything down. We couldn’t use words like “atonement”, “imputation”, “Sovereignty”, “propitiation” or “depravity” because newcomers would never understand.
My 9 year old understands imputation.
I told her that if we confess our sin God “PUTS OUR SIN” on Christ on the cross. Our sin is like a filthy robe. We take it off and Jesus PUTS IT ON. And then he gives us his robe of righteousness. All his good deeds are PUT ON US. And now like Jesus, we look like sons and daughters of the King!
How hard is that?
Why can’t we just explain things?
Why can’t we say: “Depravity doesn’t mean that you are totally awful, it means that you are everywhere broken. The disease of sin that you inherited from your first parents has seeped into and affected every single cell in your body. It changes how you think, how you speak and how you feel.”
Do we really think that seekers aren’t smart enough to understand that?
Do we really need to dumb everything down to the lowest common denominator?
Seekers need the actual Gospel. They don’t need Chicken Soup For The Soul they need the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
So if you love seekers then speak the truth and because it’s necessary, use words.
Words that have been tested and approved over time.
Just take a minute or two and explain to people what they mean.
This will be helpful to seekers – and it will be good for your people too – because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.
Thanks be to God!
Pastor Paul Carter
To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here. You can also find it on iTunes.