Friday, May 27, 2011

The Pastoral Sin of Creating Seeker-Friendly Churches

Why do Church members not mature to be like Christ?
I have just finished reading the most incredible book by the now very popular author among American seminaries, Dallas Willard. I picked up a copy of a book he wrote in 1986, The Spirit of The Disciplines (understanding how God changes lives). I loved learning how to implement spiritual disciplines to become more like Christ, and honestly, I have not yet started any live changes. Like all books, I feel the need to allow its teaching to simmer in my heart during quiet time with the Lord to determine what He would have me to do first.

But I am writing about this because what I read in the last two pages of the book surprised me, in a good way, and for me at least, it made this book a classic that should be read by all disciples of Jesus Christ. What could possibly be so powerful, you may think? I will let Dallas Willard's words speak for himself:

But there is a prevailing problem. The people of Christ have never lacked for available power to accomplish the task set for them by their Master. But they have failed to make disciples in the New Testament sense of the term. And naturally following upon this, they have failed even to intend to teach people to do all that Christ would have us do. ....
At this point in history, every leader among those who identify with Christ as Lord must ask himself or herself: "How can I justify not leading my people into the practice of disciplines for the spiritual life that would enable them to reign in their lives by Christ Jesus? How can I fail to give them this opportunity?...
Ministers pay far too much attention to people who do not come to services. ... The Christian leader has something much more important to do than pursue the godless. The leader's task is to equip saints until they are like Christ (Eph. 4:12), and history and the God of history waits for him to do this job. It is so easy for the leader today to get caught up in illusory goals, pursuing the marks of success which come from our training as Christian leaders or which are simply imposed from our world. It is big, Big, always BIG, and BIGGER STILL! That is the contemporary imperative. Thus we fail to take seriously the nurture and training of those, however few, who stand constantly by us. (italics and caps taken from the book text, as is)
Everyone who has a pastoral role to others, ... must strive for a specific understanding of what is happening to those who come regularly under his or her influence and must pay individual attention to their development. This is the absolutely sure way to "win the world" (John 17:21-23).  
There is a special evangelistic work to be done, of course, and there are special callings to it.  But if those in the churches really are enjoying fullness of life, evangelism will be unstoppable and largely automatic. The local assembly, for its part, can then become an academy where people throng from the surrounding community to learn how to live. It will be a school of life (for a disciple is a pupil, a student) where all aspects of that life seen in the New Testament records are practiced and mastered under those who have themselves mastered them through practice. Only by taking this as our immediate goal can we intend to carry out the Great Commission.
I want to shout the last sentence from the roof top of every church! Only by taking this as our immediate goal can we intend to carry out the Great Commission. How long will pastors of American churches not hear God's cry? How long will they seek "illusory goals" pursing "the mark of success" of "big, Big, always BIG, and BIGGER STILL"? When will they become themselves spiritually disciplined disciples instead of evangelically aimed program promoters? What will cause them to see "equipping the saints" is  to be their God designed role in the body of the Church, not getting the godless lost to come to church?

Plain and simple, the Bible is quite clear on this point: The local assembly (called the church) is the place for disciples to meet regularly to be equipped until they are like Christ! Churches are not for lost souls; they are for saved souls! A church is one of few places in this entire world that is to be set apart unto God in holiness, not a place to make seeker-friendly goals to draw godless people to God.

The Great Commission has been twisted totally out of context on the altar of seeking "illusory goals" pursing "the mark of success" of "big"! Jesus desires remaining fruit that is spiritual matured through the equipping by ministers who should be teaching them in the local churches. Pastor must stop feeding baby food in sermons driven by the seeker-friendly illusory goal and equip his flock through solid, convicting, developing food from the Word of God.

Most pastor are taught to judge the health and effectiveness of his ministry by higher numbers indicating growth, but oh how deceptive the lie of "how many" is! 

True disciples of Jesus will be racing to the doors of a church that was equipping them week by week to be like Christ, and each true disciple would carry his weight of the ministry (in service, tithe, ministering, giving, winning souls to the Lord)! There should be no free-loafers in the Body of Christ who simply come to the local church to enjoy programs, having activities for their children and a place to find friendships or socials.

Churches should not be a place that non-Christian find comfortable or appealing, since they don't have the indwelling spirit of Jesus Christ but are children of the Evil One. 

If people with Satan as their father are drawn continually to come and attend church to hear the message and participate in gatherings, in greater and greater numbers, pastoral leadership should be alarmed, not celebrating. Evangelism is to be done through the outreaching arm of every church, ministering each where they live, work and play. And once a person comes to know Jesus they should then be baptized into the faith, since they are a member of the body of Christ, and therefore encouraged to continually attend services to be taught how they are to live to be like Christ.

Is this not clear and Biblical teaching? And if so, why do so many pastors not obey God?


  1. An interesting article Lindy and a strong rebuttal of the seeker-sensitive church movement. I would be interested to know what you think of church websites. Should they be seeker-friendly? To at least encourage seekers to visit the church? Or do you see the website as "hard hitting" from the start on the need for salvation and discipleship?

  2. Thank you for the comment and question, Denzil. That is a really great question, and one I have not thought about yet. I am continually in the process of thinking through things, if you know what I mean. I don't really think that churches should be hard hitting at all. So I am sorry my article gave you that impression. A church should be a supportive place - a place to grow in our ability to love and to be loved. So a church website should be inviting, and helpful for someone to learn about God and even have articles on becoming a disciple. I think it would be great for members to be able to share what God is doing in their life, to ask & receive prayers, and to seek wisdom in making godly decisons. A seeker should never be disouraged from coming to church or looking at a church website... they should always feel accepted, loved, and to know they are valuable (especially to God). I hope that helped.


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