Friday, November 28, 2014
"Seeker-Friendly" Is NOT Gospel Friendly
. . . We visited Willow Creek Community Church not too long ago, and it seems to have spared no expense in its missions to attract the masses. Looking past the swans gliding across the mirror lake, one sees what could be mistaken for a corporate headquarters or a very upscale shopping mall. Just off the sanctuary is a large bookstore and an extensive eating area supplied by a food court with five different vendors. A jumbo-tron screen allows an overflow crowd or those enjoying a meal to view the proceedings in the main sanctuary. The sanctuary itself is spacious and high tech, complete with three large screens and state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems for multimedia, drama, and musical presentations. . . .
Mega-churches across the country have added bowling alleys, NBA regulation basketball courts with bleachers, exercise gyms and spas, locker rooms, auditoriums for concerts and dramatic productions, and Starbucks and McDonald's franchises -- all for the furtherance of the gospel. Or so it is claimed. Although it is true that such churches are packing them in, that's not the whole story in evaluating the success of this latest trend in "doing church.". . .
Evangelical church-growth leaders are adamant that the marketing approach can be applied -- and they have employed it -- without compromising the gospel. Really?
First of all, the gospel and, more significantly, the person of Jesus Christ do not fit into any marketing strategy. They are not "products" to be "sold." They cannot be refashioned or image-adjusted to appeal to the felt needs of our consumer-happy culture. Any attempt to do so compromises to some degree the truth of who Christ is and what He has done for us. For example, if the lost are considered consumers and a basic marketing "commandment" says that the customer must reign supreme, then whatever may be offensive to the lost must be discarded, revamped, or downplayed. . . .
Secondly, if you want to attract the lost on the basis of what might interest them, for the most part you will be appealing to and accommodating their flesh. Wittingly or unwittingly, that seems to be the standard operating procedure of seeker-friendly churches. They mimic what's popular in our culture: top-forty and performance-style music, theatrical productions, stimulating multi-media presentations, and thirty-minutes-or-less positive messages. The latter, more often than not, are topical, therapeutic, and centered in self-fulfillment -- how the Lord can meet one's needs and help solve one's problems. . . .
Thousands of churches here and abroad have completely restructured themselves as outreach centers, for the unchurched. This, by the way, is not biblical. The church is for the maturing and equipping of the saints, who then go out to reach the lost. . . .
The vast majority of those who attend seeker-friendly fellowships profess to be believers. Yet most were drawn to those churches by the same worldly allurements that were meant to entice the unchurched, and they continue to attend, being fed the same biblically anemic diet created for the wooing of unbelievers. At best, they receive the skimmed milk of the Word; at worst, pablum contaminated with "profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called" (1 Tim.6:20). . . .
The overriding message from psychologically driven Willow Creek and Saddleback is that the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit are insufficient for delivering a person from a habitual sin and for transforming his or her life into one that is fruitful and pleasing to God. . . .
T.A. McMahon, "The Seeker-Friendly Way of Doing Church," The Berean Call, March 2004