Peanut Encounter

For the past generation or two a lot of churches in the West have operated under a seeker-sensitive (or seeker-friendly, seeker-driven, seeker-oriented, etc) philosophy of ministry. The idea was to make church appealing and relevant for those seeking God, so they would want to be part it and there find what they have been looking for.

What is a seeker? A seeker is a person who knows what he or she wants and keeps looking until it is found. I have been wondering if people really know what they want. The seeker tag may be a misnomer.

To be clear, I do not have a beef with the church-growth movement and a return to the mission of God from which the seeker movement proceeded. At it’s heart, it is about reaching more people for Jesus. I don’t want to return to a club-mentality of church. Thanks to the church-growth movement, I don’t think we ever will.

However, working from the presupposition that people are seekers and, thus, know what they want, those in the church attempt to give them what they want. Often, though, people don’t end up getting what they need. The very nature of the gospel is that no one was looking for it. That’s why at Jesus’ announcement that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mark 1:15) he followed by saying it required a total reorientation of how life was being lived.

The seeker approach often looks like this: to parents we say, “Oh, you’re seeking how to get through the teenage years? Here’s a fun event where you can drop your kids.” We should be casting a vision for family legacy that will impact generations and nations. To those married we say, “Oh, you’re seeking how to keep your marriage intact? Here are some techniques to keep you under the same roof.” We should be casting a vision for shaping each other’s souls for who the other will be for the next billion years and beyond. Or we may say, “Oh, you’re seeking how not to worry in the midst of turbulent times? Here are five ways to live beyond your barriers.” We should be calling people to abandon themselves to the purposes of God.

The age of the seeker is dead. People don’t even know what they are looking for. Instead the church should be facilitating encounters with what people need. Encounters are surprising. Encounters are unexpected. Encounters are about discovery.

Are you working to help people find what they already know they want? Or encouraging encounters with something they didn’t even know they needed?

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