I am sure that most of you are familiar with the Seeker Driven and Seeker Sensitive paradigms of corporate worship. They have after all been popular methods of “church growth” for quite some time now. In a recent conversation I had with a friend from seminary he described his church as being “seeker coherent” a phrase which I think adequately describes the biblical model for corporate worship and also fits well within the current church growth jargon so as to be easily understood. I want to look at these three paradigms side by side and see how this new category of Seeker Coherent differs from the other two. I will begin by stating that both the Seeker Driven and Seeker Sensitive paradigms are built upon false presuppositions which find no biblical support.
This model is syncretistic at best. The needs of the so called “seeker” drive the direction of all that the church does. This means that the church’s theology and methodology are radically altered by the needs of those it is seeking to attract. In this paradigm the church tends to be focused on meeting felt needs, which are usually physical or psychological, rather than on proclaiming the gospel and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.
This is by far the most popular model within Evangelicalism and chances are that the methodology of the corporate worship service that you attend has been profoundly affected by this methodology. This model can be summarized by the phrase “build it and they will come” like the above model it presupposes that hordes of lost individuals in rebellion against their creator are lining up to attend corporate worship somewhere every Sunday. Within this model the focus is on meeting felt needs as above and gospel proclamation, although this can be debated, rather than equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Within this model the pastor is the church’s primary evangelist and “seekers” are brought to this corporate event to hear the gospel.
Unlike the above two models this model’s primary focus in on equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Since corporate worship is the gathering of the people of God to worship God it is counterintuitive to make the central focus of this event the evangelization of the lost. Rather the corporate gathering of the church aims to glorify God and to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). If it is all about equipping believers and glorifying God then why have seeker in the title? I think the answer is found in Scripture.
“22Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (I Corinthians 14:22-25).
There is far too much going on in this text to fully explain here; however, several observations can be made that are pertinent to the discussion at hand. Critical to understanding the presence of unbelievers in the corporate assembly of the church is the repetition of the conjunction “if” Paul is giving a hypothetical situation. Mass amounts of unbelievers entering the assembly is not normative; this is a devastating blow to the Seeker Driven and Seeker Sensitive paradigms. Furthermore, if Paul were encouraging a Seeker Driven/Sensitive paradigm, as proponents of these views claim, then why would he discourage the use of tongues if they are a sign for unbelievers? Rather he encourages them to prophesy, to corporately proclaim the Word of God, and because of this the unbeliever will be convicted of both his sin and the presence of God. What Paul is encouraging them to do is to focus on equipping the saints for the work of the ministry to preach to proclaim the Word of God; he want the glory of God and the people of God to be the central focus of the corporate gathering of the Church.
However, notice also what he is arguing for. He is arguing that what happens in the assembly should be coherent, easily understood, by any unbelievers who should enter. Thus we have a church both fulfilling its biblical purpose and doing so in a way that is comprehensible to the culture in which that church gathers.
While “Seeker Coherent” fits well within the current church growth lingo I do not prefer to use the term “seeker” because it seems to contradict Romans 3:10-11. Within Scripture there is a category of individuals known as “God-fearing.” Such language is certainly unpopular in an age where God is viewed as a cosmic Santa Clause rather than a sovereign Creator and Judge; however, different terminology should be used to emphasize the total depravity of man and the sovereignty of God in electing individuals to salvation.