Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sensitivity to Seekers

One of the major movements in the Christian church is Seeker Sensitivity. It is hard to pin down exactly how it is to be defined, as different people have various ideas of what it is. But I would like to look at principles, good and bad, that are found in the movement.

Seeker Sensitivity has noted that we now live in a culture where the familiar Christian language and Christian practice are no longer understood by the public at large. However, we need to make a positive effort to reach out to the people around us who need to know Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15). And we need to reach out to meet people where they are, rather than hiding in our Christian ghetto (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 19:1-10). Also, we cannot let our own self-righteousness get in the way because we think we are better than others (Luke 7:36-50; 18:9-14; Titus 3:1-7). Therefore, it may be asked whether the things we do as Christian congregations could be unnecessary barriers that keep people from hearing our message. However, we cannot do away with all Christian terminology and Christian practice. Some do not have an easy cultural equivalent. It may be honestly debated what things are or are not necessary. But we need to explain ourselves so people will understand us. And we should avoid meaningless cliches that communicate nothing helpful

An assumption common in the Seeker Sensitive approach is that people do not understand us, and if they did, they would accept our message. There is a real here danger of believing we can please everyone. We are commanded as Christians not to be conformed to the world (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4; Romans 12:1,2). To avoid that, our ultimate motivation cannot be to please men (Galatians 1:10; Proverbs 29:25; Matthew 23:5-7). There are undoubtedly those who have misunderstandings and stereotypes of what Christianity is, and it is worthwhile to try to correct them. But others reject Christianity because it conflicts with their own beliefs and outlooks, and they need to be convinced. Further, we are warned that the message of the cross is a stumbling block to those who will not accept it (1 Corinthians 18-25; 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:3-5) and that those who follow Christ will be opposed by those in the world (John 15:18-21; 16:1-4; Matthew 10:16-20). Ultimately Christianity involves a real choice and cannot be eased into. And if we have nothing to say that goes against the grain of our culture we become meaningless.  In the end we can be perceived as pandering, fast-talking salesmen who will promise anything, which can drive people away.

Therefore, we must work to be in the world and not of the world. This is a difficult balance to maintain. And it is easy to go to extremes in reaction to those who go too far the other way. But we must be aware of the danger in both directions to find the way between.

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