Seeker-Sensitve Church Services (Part One)

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WHY CONSIDER THEM?

1. The Bible models different aspects of ‘Seeker Sensitive Services’

> The Bible models a ‘COME & SEE’ approach to evangelism

Rick Warren says: When a couple of inquirers wanted to know about Jesus, he replied, ‘Come, and you will see!’ (John 1:39). In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said to seekers, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ And on the last day of the great Feast, “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink’ ” (John 7:37).

Both ‘Go and tell’ and ‘Come and see’ are found in the New Testament. In Luke 14, where Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a great banquet, the Master’s servants are to go out and invite the hungry to come in and eat, ‘so that my house may be full.’ We do not need to choose between ‘go’ and ‘come’; both are valid forms of evangelism. Some people will be reached by attraction, while others will be reached by confrontation. A balanced, healthy church should provide opportunities and programs for both”.[i]

> When we read through the gospels, we often find Jesus speaking to both believers and unbelievers at the same time.

> The Apostle Paul encouraged the Church of Corinth to take steps to cater for unbelievers in their church services.

Some argue that worship services are exclusively for Christians. However, according to 1 Corinthians 14:1-22, the New Testament church expected unchurched people to attend. Paul even instructs the Church of Corinth to take special steps to accommodate them: “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers…For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says…Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying?” (1 Corinthians 14:9,13,22).

> Pentecost shows us that unbelievers can be drawn towards Jesus and even come to faith in Jesus when they experience believers worshiping God.

Tim Keller says: “In Acts 2, we find further compelling evidence for evangelistic worship. When the Spirit falls on those in the upper room, we read that a crowd gathers because they “hear [the disciples] declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (v. 11). As a result, they are curious and interested: “Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’ “( v. 12). Later, they are deeply convicted: “They were cut to the heart and said ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ “( v. 37). Again we find the church’s worship attracting the interest of outsiders. This initial curiosity and interest eventually lead to conviction and conversion; in other words, it is evangelistic”.[ii]

2. ‘Seeker Sensitive Services’ help equip Christians for mission

> Inviting an unbeliever to a ‘Seeker Sensitive Service’ is an easy way for a Christian to start a spiritual conversation

> Inviting an unbeliever to a ‘Seeker Sensitive Service’ is an easy way for Christians to do evangelism without feeling the pressure of having to do it all themselves.

Andy Stanley argues that “far more personal evangelism takes place if believers feel the freedom to invite their unbelieving friends to church. It is easier to invite people to an event than it is to confront them about their personal belief system”.[iii]

> As we speak directly to unbelievers during the service, we find that we are also modelling to the Christians how they can do evangelism & apologetics.

> By creating a service where we expect unbelievers to be there every week, we raise the value of evangelism and remind Christians of the need to be on mission.

According to the National Church Life Survey, “Creating an outward focus, contexts for faith sharing and a culture of evangelism amongst attenders is increased through activities such as evangelistic church services, events, or Bible studies, door-knocking, outdoor evangelism, or drop-in centres. Those involved are more likely to have invited someone to church in the past year and to be at ease sharing their faith”.[iv]

3. ‘Seeker Sensitive Services’ make it easier for unbelievers to come to faith

> Unchurched Australians are willing to come to seeker-sensitive services

According to the Australian Community Survey, one in six unchurched Australians claim that they would come to church if a friend invited them, while a further two in six are unsure.[v]

Added to this, when unchurched Australians were asked about their most desired entry point into a church, the Australian Community Survey found that…
* 40% prefer a worship service
* 34% prefer a community activity or program
* 5% prefer a small group[vi]

> Unchurched Australians are often integrated into the life of the church through seeker-sensitive services

The National Church Life Survey found that Australian Churches with high levels of unbelievers often have attenders who regularly invite others to church.[vii]

They also found that of all the Australian churches using seeker type worship services, over half of them consider the service to be a vital part of their evangelism strategy.[viii]

> Unbelievers are more likely to come to faith if they can belong before they believe

There are at least three reasons for this…

Firstly, if an unbeliever is able to belong before they believe, they will be given an EXPERIENCE OF GOD. Mark Mittleberg argues that “once outsiders discover what it feels like to be on the inside, among believers and in the presence of God, many of them will be highly motivated to respond to the gospel”.[ix]

Secondly, if an unbeliever is able to belong before they believe, they will be given MULTIPLE OPPORTUNITIES TO HEAR THE GOSPEL. According to Flavil Yeakley, those converts who go on to become fully active disciples have been exposed to an average of 5.79 different Christian influences prior to their conversion, while those who drop out had only seen or heard the Christian message 2.16 times before their decision.[x] W. Charles Arn explains: “The more exposures a non-Christian has to Christ…the more accurate his understanding of the real commitment he is making. The fewer exposures, the more incomplete his understanding and the greater the chance of the person dropping out”.[xi]

Thirdly, if an unbeliever is able to belong before they believe, they will be exposed to MULTIPLE CHRISTIANS. W. Charles Arn says: “The assumption is that any individual Christian is an incomplete representation of the person of Christ, and that only through exposure to the body of Christ – the local church – can a non-Christian most accurately perceive the implication and meaning of being a Christian disciple”.[xii] Clearly one-on-one evangelism has its place, but a team approach to evangelism may bring more long term results.

4. ‘Seeker Sensitive Services’ make it easier for an unbeliever to integrate into church life once they come to faith

> If an unbeliever doesn’t feel comfortable coming to church before they become a Christian, what makes us think that they will feel comfortable coming to church the day after becoming a Christian?

> If people can belong before they believe, they are much more likely to feel a sense of belonging after they believe.

According to David Chatelier, new arrivals to church are likely to leave if they cannot build five or six significant relationships within their first 6 months.[xiii]

5.  ‘Seeker Sensitive Services’ make it easier for an unbeliever to grow spiritually once they come to faith

> If an unbeliever can belong before they believe, they will often be exposed to several months of Bible teaching before they become a Christian.

Every time the message is targeted towards believers, the unbelievers have an opportunity to hear about the implications of the gospel. So by the time they become a Christian, they already know what they are getting themselves into.

6. ‘Seeker Sensitive Services’ make it easier for an unbeliever to do evangelism once they come to faith

> New Christians and even Unbelievers are able to invite people to a ‘Seeker Sensitive Service’.

According to the National Church Life Survey, church attenders who were previously unchurched are more likely than long-term attenders to invite friends and family to a church service.[xiv]


[i] Warren, Rick (2007-09-04). The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission (p. 235). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[ii] Keller, Timothy J. (2012-09-04). Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (pp. 302-303). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[iii] Young, E., B., & Stanley, C., A., “Can we do that?”, (Louisiana: Howard Publishing Co., Inc., 2002), 3.

[iv] From National Church Life Survey Website, Cited 20th Nov, 2013, http://www.ncls.org.au/default.aspx?sitemapid=6507

[v] Australian Community Survey (1998). Cited in Bellamy, J. et. al., “Why People Don’t Go to Church”, (Australia, Adelaide: Open Book Publishers, 2002), 88-89.

[vi] Australian Community Survey (1998). Cited in Bellamy, J. et. al., “Why People Don’t Go to Church”, (Australia, Adelaide: Open Book Publishers, 2002).

[vii] National Church Life Survey (1991). Cited in Bellamy, J. et. al., “Shaping a Future”, (Australia, Adelaide: Open Book Publishers, 1997), 114.

[viii] Bartlett, S., (2003), “Growing churches in our Australian contexts: the Saddleback and Willowcreek models”, Cited from http://www.crossover.baptist.org.au/Main.html, 10th of May, 2003.

[ix] Mittleberg, M., “Building a Contagious Church”, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000), 47.

[x] Yeakley, F., “Why churches grow”, (Arvada, Colorado: Christian Communications, 1979), 65.

[xi] W. Charles Arn, “Evangelism or Disciple Making?” quoted from Wagner, C., P. et. al., “Church Growth: State of the Art”, (Illinois: Tyndale Publishing House, 1986), 60.

[xii] W. Charles Arn, “Evangelism or Disciple Making?” quoted from Wagner, C., P. et. al., “Church Growth: State of the Art”, (Illinois: Tyndale Publishing House, 1986), 61.

[xiii] Chatelier, D., “Lectures in Church Planting” at the Queensland Baptist College of Ministries, February, 2003.

[xiv] From National Church Life Survey Website, Cited 20th Nov, 2013, http://www.ncls.org.au/default.aspx?sitemapid=5143

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