My mom and stepdad drove up from Houston to attend Josh’s 2nd birthday party last weekend. I asked them if they’d heard of a Christian band called, Leeland, of whom I am a big fan. I had mentioned that we have sung some of their songs in our new worship service geared at ministering to the more emergent generation in our congregation.
She asked if emergent was like being seeker sensitive. I started talking about how the culture has changed, and up out of it has emerged this group of Christians who desperately want to follow the teachings of Jesus just as He intended and want to reach the world with His message. As I understand it, they want their faith to propel them into being more active in God’s purposes, and they want the gospel to mean what it says instead of what we want to hear.
She said that she had asked because she is against seeker sensitive churches. And I can’t blame her. When I first heard the words ‘seeker sensitive,’ I got all excited and began dreaming of people reaching out and showing the world the grace of God. I imagined heaven’s future population counter just spinning around and around at an increasing speed as more and more people came to acknowledge Jesus as their Savior. But as it turned out, when I would watch these churches’ sermons on TV or read some of the books about them, the gospel seemed watered down to meet the people where they were. It sounded sugar coated because no one was talking about sin or the realities of punishment for those sins. It was telling them what they could get out of salvation rather than what God should get. I wanted so badly to attend a church who thought intentionally about the unbelieving world and not just focusing on their own flock, but I didn’t want to get caught up in treating God like He was a slot machine or a genie in a bottle, here only to fulfill my silly desires.
I remember writing to a friend a while back and asking about whether he thought it was ok for these people to be going to church only to leave in a feel-good daze similar to an opium high. I wondered how can you be challenged to rely on God, increase your faith, and walk in an awareness of your sinful nature and thus need for Jesus’ atoning sacrifice if you believe you are sinless? If you’re not telling people the ugly realities of life, you’re doing the gospel and the world a disservice.
The Word of God is wonderful in its entirety, and we are wired to understand it enough to accept it without having to leave out the parts that make us uncomfortable. If we think we can reach this culture without acknowledging that we are ALL screwed up by nature and need Him, we might as well shut our doors completely.
Do I think all seeker sensitive churches are like this? Good grief, NO! I even happen to believe all churches MUST be sensitive to those seeking God. But we don’t have to offer them a diluted version of Christianity. They WANT it all to be real. They WANT it all to affect them to change. If they didn’t want a change, they wouldn’t be seeking a change! It’s ok to tell them that they are messed up and only one thing can fix them, unlike what the culture is telling them. We don’t want the church to be seen as another escape from the pressures and pain of life. We want it to teach us how to manage our lives and our problems, not ignore them or run away from them. We want the church to teach us about the character of God and why Jesus chose to sacrifice Himself in order to bring us into a relationship with the Father. We want the church to equip us to do the same to a world desperate for the real thing and not just the counterfeit, 10-minutes-to-a-better-you culture. And we want it to really pay off. If we teach the real Gospel, it surely will.