The day has finally arrived for us to not only entertain the idea of the “seeker-friendly” church, but also to embrace it. This move isn’t made in order to capitulate to culture; rather, it flows from a proper understanding of the gospel.
The New Testament endorses the seeker-friendly church. Jesus was a big fan, as was Paul. Peter and the other apostles avidly promoted it too, as evidenced in their letters to all the seeker-friendly churches they planted. Because it was the model in the first century, the 21st-century church should also be radically seeker-friendly.
Let me define what I mean by the seeker-friendly church. When we think of seeker-friendly churches, we imagine skinny jeans, flashy lights, fair trade coffee, and the tendency to prioritize felt needs over Christ and his gospel. The idea is that unbelievers will come to church when we make church less “churchy.” So we get rid of the things that make Christianity unsettling and off-putting in order to attract more “seekers.” We try to be cool and relevant since that’s what “seekers” want.
I’m not convinced.
Who Are Seekers?
The triune God is both the means and the end of salvation. The Father draws us to the Son, and the Spirit convicts and enables us to recognize our sin, awakening us to life with God (John 6:44; Rom. 8:11; Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:3). Left to ourselves, none of us seeks God. As the apostle Paul declares, “No one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God” (Rom. 3:10–11). Left to our own devices, we are dead in our transgressions (Eph. 2:1). We are both unable to seek God and hostile toward him (Rom. 8:7).
If we are to seek God, then, he must initiate. He must intervene to make us desire him. “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him,” Jesus explained (John 6:44). If seeking God is only possible through God’s intervention, then seekers have been awakened by the Holy Spirit to the potential delights found in the gospel.
Seekers Seek the Gospel
So how do we cater to seekers? How do we cater to those God has put on a journey toward becoming united with Christ? How can we encourage them onward to the beautiful truths for which they’ve been awakened?
The answer is simple: give them the gospel. There’s nothing wrong with rock concerts and artisanal brews and free T-shirts in and of themselves. But on their own they’ve never changed a heart. Give people what their soul cries out for. Give them what God has awakened them to. Give them Christ. Unfold the truths of the gospel so they cannot help but marvel at the beauty of Jesus. The true seeker is the one God draws to Christ. To present him with anything other than the unadulterated gospel does him a monumental disservice.
Carnal Means Attract Carnal Men
Anyone mostly interested in flashy lights and 20-minute sermons from the wisdom of men is likely turned off by the gospel in all its truth. As Paul Washer has observed:
If you use carnal means to attract men, you’re going to attract carnal men and you’re going to have to keep using greater carnal means to keep them in the church. [True seekers] honestly want Christ and honestly want his Word and honestly want to be transformed. They don’t need anything else; all they need is true worship of the true God and Scripture being preached to them and lived out before them. That’s what they want.
The truly seeker-friendly church will boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus and hold him high as the most beautiful object of our affection and allegiance—the one most worthy of glory and praise. One can only seek God if he’s begun stirring affections for his Son. The truly seeker-minded church, then, will offer the timeless truths of the gospel, pointing beyond the pews to the triune God in all his glory.