Part 1 of 3
What is a seeker?
Not every churchgoer is ready to be challenged. A church’s expectations of visitors can’t be high. Seekers may be in a church but they’re not the “church” – at least not yet. They’re still a “customer” – the lost searching for answers.
Churches should emulate Paul, “becoming all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Advertising, facilities, programs, etc. are all fair game for attracting “customers” to come in to a church. Better yet, go out to them on their turf, on their terms, to show them the love of Jesus Christ as He did – healing, feeding and serving before telling them who He is.
Today, the first strategy of asking seekers to come to us has largely replaced us going to them. Attraction via amenities has proved time consuming and expensive, not leaving much staff bandwidth or church budget to invest in community engagement. Likewise, fear of losing members, those who pay for the amenities, keeps churches from challenging members boldly to live out the Great Commission in the world around them.
How did they become a seeker?
Maybe they witnessed Christians showing kindness – and are curious
When they come into the church are they seeing kindness lived out by the church? Are they seeing opportunities to give back to those in need in the community?
Maybe something happened to them – and they want answers
Are they getting those answers within the first couple times they finally dare to step into a church? Or are they getting life lessons that sound more like counseling than Christianity? How long will they keep coming back if they don’t find the answers they need?
Maybe they hit rock bottom – and are not only ready to hear, but to accept
They’re still “customers”, but they’re more ready to “buy what you’re selling”. Yet are they hearing the gospel and getting a compelling invitation to commit their lives to Jesus?
Maybe they’ve seen the fellowship of believers – and they want community
Few today probably see church as the place to make new friends, particularly given the common perception of churches today as more judgmental than caring. If they do show up, how many will be comfortable joining in church activities out of the gate?
What do seekers hear when they get to church?
Yet when seekers show up at church, they too often hear:
- More about how to have a better life than to turn theirs over to Christ
- Weekly invitations to serve yet quarterly invitations to be baptized
- More about classes to become a member than classes to become a disciple
- Many ways to give to the church versus many ways to impact the community
I’ll never forget finally convincing an atheist friend to come to church, only to have the pastor harp throughout about inviting friends and serving at the church. A seeker darkened the doors that day – open to hearing answers to deep questions. What he got instead was validation of his suspicions – that church was about church. Of course, he never came back.
When seekers walk in, do they see Christ or an institution? Do they see a factory producing output or a warehouse storing inventory? Do they see a healthy, organic entity growing “out” as it grows “up”, infiltrating and infusing all aspects of society with the love of Jesus?
Unfortunately, most churches today still subscribe to Invite, Involve, Invest, the “rallying cry of the internally-focused church”, as their growth model – keeping too many seekers from finding what they’re looking for.
If a seeker finds Christ…
A few weeks ago we asked the question, “At what point in a Christian’s walk with the Lord are they ready to be challenged with the Great Commission?” Once a seeker becomes a Christ-follower, they are no longer a “customer”. They ARE the church – the living, breathing hands and feet of Christ.
As business executives know, new “converts” are some of a company’s best “evangelists”. They’re excited, raving fans. That excitement typically subsides over time. In the case of new Christians, nothing is more exciting than the conversion of a “customer” of the church to the “church” personified. So why don’t churches encourage these new Christians to tell everyone they know about their newfound faith? They know enough about Jesus to accept Him as their Lord and Savior – surrendering their very lives to Him. Doesn’t that qualify the new believer as a spokesperson for Christ – sharing why they made such a drastic decision? Some of the most impactful Christians I know are often those who are least indoctrinated. Jesus sent His disciples out quickly – before they were necessarily ready – knowing they may not have all the answers but providing them valuable on-the-job training.
But instead churches continue treating new Christians as “customers”, asking them to:
- Tell others about the church, leaving conversions to the “professionals”
- Become members of the church
- Plug into a small group – which don’t adequately train them to live out the Great Commission
Why are pastors still “selling” when new Christians are no longer “customers”? Why aren’t churches taking a few minutes to celebrate their entry into the Kingdom – not their entry into the “4 walls” – and then quickly sending them into the mission field? These new Christians are insiders now, much like employees ready to be trained and sent out to pursue the real “customers”. New Christians should be challenged with the Great Commission on day 1, with in depth training kicking in on day 2 – striking while the iron is hottest. They should be given simple instructions – the same Jesus gave His disciples – to preach the gospel and demonstrate love and compassion by the power of the Holy Spirit so people will listen. To continue catering beyond conversion is a disservice to new Christians and to the Kingdom.
It’s your turn…
How can churches ensure more seekers make the full transition from “customers” to converts and then from new Christians to not only disciples, but disciple makers? Does your church cater too far into that cycle, failing to challenge soon enough in the process to mobilize raving fans?