Much ado has been made in contemporary American Christianity regarding the idea of being “seeker-sensitive”. That is, the idea promoted in pop-evangelical circles that the Church must reach out to the unchurched (unwashed [i.e. unbaptized]?) masses in a manner sensitive to their “felt needs.” Often this takes the form of knocking on doors in the community to poll folks about what they want in a church, and then incorporating those suggestions into their practice in the hopes of drawing more members in.
It’s no secret that this practice has tended towards supremely absurd results. Chris Rosebrough documents them regularly on his radio program, for those who are curious. And anyone who has done much reading on this (woefully neglected) blog certainly knows of my own distaste for such things.
However, deep as my disapproval of the pop-evangelical practice referred to as being “seeker-sensitive” is, I can’t help but approve of the phrase itself. I hear people on my side utter those words with a sneer or a sigh, but I find myself wanting to use the phrase positively. See, it’s not a bad idea to be seeker-sensitive really, so long as we’re clear on the identity of the seeker, and the nature of that which is sought. Unfortunately, that’s just where we often get things wrong.
Scripture tells us that “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Rom 3:10b-12; bold mine) When we imagine the unchurched to be in the position of “seeker” and God in the position of “sought”, we deny these very words.
Scripture presents the opposite paradigm altogether, as we see in Ezekiel 34:16a, when the LORD says: “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed..” Or in Jesus’ words to Zacchaeus: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Lk 19:10) The Biblical image is of God as the seeker, and his lost ones (sheep, coins, sons) as the sought.
Now I will ask, in light of this understanding, who wouldn’t want to be seeker-sensitive? And in this seeker-sensitive model, it’s not the straying pseudo-seekers calling the shots, but the true Shepherd and Overseer of souls Himself.
Being truly seeker-sensitive, then, means being sensitive to what precisely is being sought by God. As stated above, the basic answer is people. But I think further reflection will be required to flesh this out. God is looking for a specific type of people: His people.
What this means, and particularly what it means for us who desire to be seeker-sensitive, will have to wait for another post.