Thursday, November 14, 2019

The seeker-sensitive service!

There was a fashion a few decades ago, of making church services to be more 'seeker sensitive'. I think this was a reverse innovation made by Willow Creek church in the USA.

Happily I didn't experience this travesty of Christian witness, practice and mission, but I speak in past tense. I have now experienced it.

I get the feeling that my own church is going this way; minimial Bible reading and prayer and songs (not hymns) that are trite, trivial and musically irrelevant (difficult to sing pop-tunes, not designed for congregational singing). We no longer steep our congregational times with the knowledge of the faith and our delight in it, but act like it is shameful!

A church I've visited a few times over the years seems to have gone further down this path. I've watched its notice board gradually reduce the number of advertised services on Sundays. 20 years ago there were 3. Now there is only 1. So much for the sensitiveness to seekers! How about building up the faithful in prayer, knowledge and love?

Unlike in the USA, where Willow Creek is, there is a very thin and selective community familiarity with Christian churches here in Australia. The probability of someone being a 'seeker' is very low, compared to the USA. As an example of the cultural difference, The Simpsons is replete with references to church life, the characters are frequently in church services, if reluctantly, church life often plays a significant plot role. By contrast, the soap opera 'Home and Away' mentions church so rarely that Christianity, even a cultural dilution of it, is invisible.

Our mission environment in Australia is miles away from that of the USA. We do not need or want 'seeker sensitive services'. They are pointless, irrelevant and pointless again.

Instead, we need to treat our congregations like Christians and enjoy the word read, preached, sung and prayed.

Mission is to be based, as it is in Acts 4, speaking the word of God with boldness. For this we need knowledge and understanding: of ourselves, the scriptures and the society around us to be able to go into it and proclaim the gospel meaningfully.

The church centre can be well used for what I call 'contact' events where people are attracted to come from which those more interested in spiritual things may find the Way. But these must be designed as part of a delivery channel to end with close contact for the faith.

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