Rethinking the Seeker Paradigms

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.

Seeker Driven

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.

Seeker Sensitive

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.

Seeker Coherent

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.

An Addendum

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.


3 thoughts on “Rethinking the Seeker Paradigms

  1. I like the ideas. I would think “seeker coherent” would be more about not using typical Christian vocabulary that unchurched people wouldn’t understand. I think corporate worship in general is completely foolishness to those who are perishing.

    I think I disagree with what I read to be your interpretation of what v. 25 means. I think most Baptists redefine Paul’s meaning to be only “preaching the Word of God”, where, as other places in the NT, v. 25 indicates that prophecy is more than just preaching as “the secrets of his heart are disclosed.” Anytime I’ve seen it or heard testimony about it, it’s exactly like that– someone through the Holy Spirit telling another person what no one else could possibly know about them. As Paul spells out in Corinthians, it’s a spiritual gift. Our pastor in Waco told some stories of how he was given it on occasion; the Holy Spirit would tell him that a deacon was having an affair or some such, and he’d privately call the guy out all the while fearful that he was nuts for thinking that about his deacon.

    I’ve not seen that gift much in SBC churches as it’s officially frowned on (as are tongues). So, if your seminary friend uses that paragraph to define his church then I’d like to visit it.

  2. Tapp,
    As always thanks for the thoughts. I would agree with your summary of “seeker coherent” it is just a different way of saying contextual. As for the interpretation of the Corinthians text I just read a commentary, by a cessationist, and that was his synopsis of the passage. So there is definitely more to talk about and develop there, very little of which I know much about. My main point is that the typical Seeker Driven/sensitive interpretations of that text do not seem to fit what is actually being said there.

    How did the move go? Are you all still living out of boxes?

  3. I can’t go along with cessationist views. I’d love to put a group of cessationists on a plane and let them try and figure out/rationalize the miraculous in church movements around the world. Or let them attend some non-charismatic churches in the States where people are being trained to develop their gifts of prophecy and healing.

    The move went well, I’m garage saling today to find some more furniture. We’re slowly moving from suitcases to dressers, been living out of suitcases for over a year now. I kind of prefer the suitcase to a dresser, actually.

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