Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Seeker-Sensitive or Saint-Driven?

I’ve been reading the book Growing Your Church Through Evangelism and Outreach (Edited by Marshall Shelley, Nashville: Moorings, 1996). One thing that is interesting about this book on church growth is the variety of contributors ranging from Bill Hybels (as one might expect) to Ravi Zacharias.

John MacArthur has a chapter entitled “Our Sufficiency for Outreach.” In it he shows his disdain for popular church growth techniques. The church, MacArthur contends, is primarily for saints, not for unbelievers. To quote (p. 159):

My calling as pastor is to lift God’s people before the Lord, to bring his Word to his people, and to equip them for their calling. Unbelievers, in a sense, are incidental to that primary purpose.

I would never think, How can I structure this service to accommodate unbelievers? or How can I make unbelievers want to attend? because that’s not our purpose—unless we are gearing a special meeting for evangelism. We do have an evangelism outreach on some Saturday and Sunday nights. But we would primarily ask our people to bring those they know.

The biblical pattern is that the church gathers to worship and be edified. It scatters to evangelize.

I tend to agree with MacArthur on this one. It is not that I do not think the church should be a place for evangelism, but it would seem that the church can be primarily seeker-driven or saint-driven, one or the other, but not both. And contrary to what one might think, the saint-driven church has every bit as much of an opportunity as the seeker-driven church to get its members actively involved in evangelism. Again quoting MacArthur (p. 160):

Christians have something non-Christians want. I trust that by giving our church people a clear understanding of the gospel, they will be able, when doors open, to start where people are and lead them to the good news of forgiveness and salvation.

Saint-driven churches are not by definition non-evangelistic churches. When we help professing Christians gain a deeper understanding of the gospel, they become the best evangelists for the church. So I prefer to see our efforts in the weekly worship service go first to equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. “Gather and scatter” rather than “Bring ‘em to win ‘em” is I think a better (and more biblical) approach to doing church.


djg said...

IMO, whether a church is seeker or saint driven is not a major issue: the crux is are they "accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15)and fulfilling the Great Commission by making disciples. This is one of the few issues that I disagree with John MacArthur, but, hey, Paul and Barnabas had a "sharp disagreement" over John Mark!

It's true that the early church was saint-driven, but remember, the church met in homes not in large sanctuaries. So if we should be "saint-driven" b/c of the early church example, then we better sell our "churches" and go back to meeting in homes!

Jared Nelson said...

Good churches should be both. The problem with a lot of "seeker-sensitive" churches is some churches never try to give them something to find. There are exceptions such as the Acts 29 network of churches. They don't let certain hang-up legalisms (tattoos, smoking, alcohol, dancing) get in the way, but preach orthodox/reformed doctrine and get people involved in service ministries. Best of both worlds! Only offend because of the gospel, not needless rules (Col 2:20-23)