Seeker Gymnastics

Dan Southerland, “the leading expert on implementing the Purpose Driven paradigm in existing churches”, writes a recent article published on the popular “pastors.com” website, entitled, “Seeker semantics.” According to Pastor Southerland, there is a chief difference between “Seeker Driven” churches and “Seeker Sensitive” services.

“Seeker Driven” are those weekend church services that make “winning the seeker” the main goal. To accomplish this goal and emphasis “they’ve added contemporary music, topical teachings, videos, drama and multi-media – all of which are good methods – to their focus on the seeker. Since the goal of the weekend service in such models is to reach the seeker, worship time is reduced, performed music is used more than participatory music, and the teaching is kept ultra light in its topic and tone.” Southerland offers no examples of current “Seeker Driven” churches and the tone of his article assumes that Purpose Driven Churches are NOT “Seeker Driven” churches.

“Seeker Sensitive” services, according to Southerland, are distinctly different from “Seeker Driven” churches in that, “The purpose is still for the family of God to meet together, to worship and to be fed.” “Seeker Sensitive” church services have merely changed their awareness of who is present and they adopt appropriate manners for seekers who may be present.

This is fascinating! Why? Because Dan Southerland, “the leading expert on implementing the Purpose Driven paradigm in existing churches”, has just re-written the best selling Purpose Driven Church (PDC) paradigm. Consider Rick Warren’s comments in PDC:

“Each week at Saddleback, we remind ourselves who we’re trying to reach. . . . Once you know your target, it will determine many of the components of your seeker sensitive service: music style, message topics, testimonies, creative arts, and much more. (253-254).

“The style of music you choose to use in your services will be one of the most critical (and controversial) decisions you make in the life of your church. It may also be the most influential factor in determining who your church reaches for Christ and whether or not your church grows. You must match your music to the kind of people God wants your church to reach. . . . If you were to tell me the kind of music you are currently using in your services I could describe the kind of people you are reaching without even visiting your church. I could also tell you the kind of people your church will never be able to reach” (280-281).

“At Saddleback we categorize songs according to target. Songs on the crowd list are appropriate when unbelievers are present (at our seeker services). Songs on the congregation list are songs that are meaningful to believers but wouldn’t make sense to the unchurched (we sing them at our midweek worship service)” (286).

“Use more performed music than congregational singing in your service for seekers. Visitors do not feel comfortable singing tunes they don’t know and words they don’t understand. It is also unrealistic to expect the unchurched to sing songs of praise and commitment to Jesus before they become believers. That’s getting the cart before the horse” (291).

“The style of preaching that I use in our seeker service is very different than the style I use to teach believers. . . . When preaching to believers I like to teach through books of the Bible, verse-by-verse. . . . Verse-by-verse, or book, exposition builds up the body of Christ. It works great when you’re speaking to believers. . . . But what about unbelievers who are not yet motivated to study Scripture? I do not believe verse-by-verse teaching through books of the Bible is the most effective way to evangelize the unchurched” (294). [By the way, Saddleback no longer has a mid-week believers' service].

The quotes could continue. Obviously, Rick Warren advocates a “Seeker Driven” service on the weekend. Has Dan Southerland changed? Are Southerland and Warren divided? Has the Purpose Driven movement changed? No. Nothing in Warren’s book has been openly disavowed or publicly altered. This is more typical Seeker Service verbal gymnastics.

It appears to be typical for proponents of the seeker driven approach to counter their critics by assuming for themselves the very criticisms made against them. If the critic says the purpose of seeker services is driven by the lost and leaves the believer behind, the PDC proponent says the opposite, despite what is publicly written in the PDC handbook. For another example of this approach, seek Rick Warren’s article, “What a Purpose Driven Church is Not.”

Despite what Southerland writes, the Purpose Driven movement is still one driven by what the lost want and not primarily by what the Bible says. One has to wonder why the PDC leadership is going to such great extremes to play both sides of the fence?

Author: Bret Capranica

I am married to Kelly (thecapranicavilla.wordpress.com) and Pastor-Teacher of Summit Woods Baptist Church, Lee's Summmit, MO (summitwoodschurch.org)

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