A seeker is someone who is not convinced that Jesus is Lord, but is actively trying to find out for themselves. The seeker-sensitive movement is a movement where churches design their services to be attractive to seekers in the hopes of seeing them get saved. Their win for their service is to create a church that unchurched people love to attend.
The Tension: Spirit-Sensitive and Seeker-Sensitive
The rub comes for charismatics because services that unchurched people love to attend aren’t necessarily the type where the Spirit is free to do whatever He wants. For example, God loves sacrificial worship with lots of different expressions, but studies show that seekers begin to disengage after about twenty minutes. Sometimes people’s response to the moving of the Spirit causes odd manifestations to happen. These often scare seekers. In essence, classic charismatic services are built around the goal to allow the Spirit to be free to do whatever He wants.
These goals are incompatible with each other. It’s like looking up at the ceiling and down at the floor. You can’t do both at the same time.
That said, it is possible to create Spirit-led services that are very seeker friendly. You can have services where the Spirit is free to do what He wants, while at the same time the congregation makes every effort possible within that framework, to create a great experience for seekers.
Below are some tips to help us fulfill the Biblical call to be hospitable to seekers. Which are right for your church?
Preach Directly to Seekers
In every service you will have people at a variety of stages: seekers, new Christians, growing believers, the plateaued and declining, and also the mature. Each group has different needs, questions, hopes and desires. You need to address each of them, without neglecting seekers. Make sure you talk to the seekers and make them feel welcome.
Humor is often a great way to break the ice, and help people open up. You can open your sermon with a few jokes and that will help you connect with seekers. People who are new to church are afraid it will be boring. Where do you get jokes? Just google them. Make a word document and save the ones you like. Maybe watch some comedians and do the same thing. Make fun of yourself. People love it when they see leaders that they can relate to. Get creative!
Define Your Terms
When you say “the law” or “covenant” or “the plan of salvation” or “sanctification,” seekers have no clue what you are talking about. The people in your congregation really don’t either. When I’m preaching and I come across a word in the text that a person who never went to church wouldn’t know, I define it in clear, simple terms. For example,
“A covenant is a binding legal agreement between two parties. It’s a lot like a like a phone contract. The phone company defines what they will provide, what you have to do to get those benefits, and the consequences of not keeping your end of the deal. God’s covenants are like that. He defines the terms, the benefits of obeying them, and the consequences of not doing so.”
Be Naturally Supernatural
You don’t have to speak in King James English in order to share what God is showing you. You can say, “I feel like the Lord has shown me this….” rather than, “Thus saith the Lord, yea go forth…”
Learn to do commentary when the Spirit is moving. If God is touching someone and they are reacting physically and emotionally, which is often the case, just tell people what’s happening. If people are falling to the ground laughing or they are crying, it’s really an awkward experience for someone who has never seen or heard of that before. Describe what’s going on in a natural way that is free from hype and pretense.
“Sometimes God touches people, and it causes them to laugh or cry. I know that seems a little weird. You might be thinking that some people are making this up, and that could be the case. On the other hand, this happened to me once, and it radically impacted my life. We value creating a space where God can move, so we’re going to let what’s happening continue. If you’ve got questions, any of our leaders are happy to chat with you after the service. Some of them will be at the back right side and I’ll be at the front here to talk to anyone who wants to.”
When you communicate that way, it makes people feel safe.
Master Greeting and Assimilation
Seeker-sensitive churches are amazing at making their church welcoming and creating environments people want to return to. I highly suggest going to one once, just to experience their greeting. Let me describe my last trip to North Point church.
When I pulled into the parking lot there are signs pointing out where to go, and asking visitors to flash their lights to the parking lot attendant. When you do this he directs you to a special visitor spot close to the church. Once you park and start to walk in, a greeter greets you and asks if you have kids. They walk with parents to take their children to the children’s ministry. Then they walk you to the sanctuary. The visitor never gets lost. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that.
Invite a Seeker
When you invite a seeker (especially one you’ve personally invested in) to your church, you will see the service through their eyes. Recently when I invited someone, I felt like screaming “Stop!!!” to what was happening on stage the entire time. People were making overly grandiose claims, and the service was awkward. You will never know if you church is seeker friendly if you don’t invite them yourself.
Create Seeker-Friendly Environments
Just because your Sunday service isn’t seeker-sensitive doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have those types of environments. In fact, there needs to be an environment in your church designed solely for seekers. It can be a small group, Sunday school, or an Alpha course. It should be a place where people can learn the basics of who Jesus is,what grace is, how to pray and read the Bible, and how to develop relationships God and others. It should also be a place where they can ask and answer questions.
Seek the Seekers
It’s crucial to make your church seeker-friendly. And even more important for real outreach is getting your people to interact with seekers outside the church walls – in their lives, on their turf. Too often, church members are so involved in church activities that they have no time for unbelievers. If you and your people don’t have real relationships with non-Christians…. if you and they don’t have any non-Christian friends that they relate to on a regular basis, then you are out of touch and your impact will be limited to those who come to you. Jesus said go – go and find the lost sheep.