The Seeker Church: Is Anyone Making Disciples?

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Bill Hybels , the unofficial father of the seeker movement in the United States, recently admitted that seeker churches have done a very poor job of making disciples.  This is damning because making disciples is what Jesus commanded us to do!  Why has the seeker movement failed in the church’s central purpose?

I attended a seeker church this past weekend.  As I was sitting there watching the pastor perform his way through his presentation, props, film clips and all, the thought struck me that the seeker church is in many ways a Protestant form of Roman Catholicism (I grew up Roman Catholic and the Roman Catholic church is having the same problem).  I know the connection is not immediately obvious because of the major differences in liturgy, hierarchy and theology.  But there are several significant similarities:

  1. Time:  This won’t take long– 45 minutes to an hour, max.  You can set your watch by these services.  And if the pastor or priest goes just a wee bit longer, the congregation gets restless.
  2. The Bible:  Leave your Bible home– the folks on the stage or altar handle the Bible reading which is normally a mere sprinkling of verses yanked from their context.  Moreover, there is no attempt to teach you how to study the scriptures yourself. 
  3. Worship:  Just watch– there is a performance up front.  You’re more of an observer than an active participant in worship.
  4. Message:  It’s groundhog day– you hear the same, short message repackaged every Sunday.  The sermon (or Homily) is to preaching what cotton candy is to nutrition.  Sweet but of little value.
  5. Outcome:  Low commitment and little life change.  A significant portion of Roman Catholics disagree with official church teachings, and Hybels’ own research shows the seeker movement has failed to produce disciples

Now before I get hate mail from my Roman Catholic and Seeker-oriented friends who can cite several exceptions, let me grant that there are exceptions, but they simply prove the rule.  We’ve got to stop defending our church practices if they are not doing what Jesus told us to do.  If you’re not making disciples, you’re not doing church the way Jesus commanded it.  As Jesus warned, we can’t let our traditions nullify the Word of God.

Unfortunately, most other denominations are not doing much better.  We’re loosing 75% of our young people because– instead of making disciples who are in awe of God and devoted to His purposes– a majority of churches from most  denominations are producing shallow narcisists obsessed with themselves and their own happiness.  

We fail to realize that what we win them with we win them to.  If we win them with entertainment and low commitment, we win them to entertainment and low commitment.  Charles Spurgeon was way ahead of his time when he implored the church to start “feeding the sheep rather than amusing the goats.”

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