What are so-called “seekers” actually seeking?
You know, those seekers that we talk about so much. Whole churches can be seeker sensitive, or seeker driven, or seeker centered, depending on how aggressively they want to seek seekers. That was a weird sentence.
When churches decide they want to appeal to seekers, it drives them to try all kinds of ploys and tricks to gain and keep their attention. But does anyone ever ask what it is that seekers are actually seeking?
I haven’t heard one person ask that question.
And that very fact may mean that churches across the country are at best, wasting their time, or worse, trying to lure the wrong seekers.
What Are Seekers Seeking?
Marketing step one: define your market or audience. I know this, and I didn’t even go to marketing school. But I doubt anyone is asking this question. We assume that the kinds of people we want to come into the door of our churches are seeking out some kind of a spiritual experience. They are looking for God.
If that’s what seeker churches believe, then why do they seem to give seekers everything except what they are looking for?
The motivation of bringing someone to Jesus has become the justification for every carnival, festival, and asinine publicity stunt in churches today. I have a love/hate relationship with The Museum of Idolatry (with its humorous url: “A Little Leaven.”) I love it, because it’s entertaining. I hate it because it makes me want to pluck my eyes out and shove them in my ears. Every day, it’s another bit of the sideshow that has become the modern church.
If I went to a church and my pastor decided that he was going to teach us how to Doug E, I think I would vomit…then leave, never to return. It’s horrible and awkward, and very real.
Before you start trying to attract “seekers,” you have to ask which seekers. Because the overlap in the market between seeker churches and circuses seems to be pretty large.
There Are No Seekers
Question two: if seekers are really seeking that hard, why do we have to put on such a huge spectacle to get them in the door?
I am positing a somewhat radical sounding theory: that seekers do not exist.
There is not a cloud of souls, lost out there in the ether, blindly groping around, trying to find their way into a church. They are a figment of our imagination. The idea of a “seeker” is a lie.
How can this be? Because if they were looking that hard, if they were really seeking, they would have found what they were looking for already (or given up.) The real seekers are the people who get their asses to church on Sunday, even the days that don’t have a carnival with a bouncy castle. Real seekers know the difference between the Bible and bullcrap . . . usually. Someone who is really seeking a divine experience knows that most of what seeker churches are feeding them isn’t what they are looking for, and they’ve moved on.
And if you want to get super-technical on theology, the Bible is clear that no one is a seeker. It is God who is seeking us. Bam!
What Kind of Seekers Are We Seeking?
This all begs the question: if “seekers” do not really exist, then what seekers are we trying to attract?
Dogs like bones. Cats like mice. And idiots like Nickleback. You put something out there, you’re going to attract whomever likes it.
So, if you believe me that “seekers” as we think of them, do not exist, then just who is filling “seeker churches?”
I feel bad for seeker churches. They are in a trap. They think it takes a big show and production. They think that they have to keep raising the stakes to keep peoples’ attention. They think Jesus is not enough. They think that people have to be constantly pandered to and have their egos constantly stroked. They think this, because it’s true of the kind of people they have attracted and discipled at their church. And now it’s a vicious cycle with incredibly high stakes. If people lose interest, then they stop giving money, and their massive buildings get repossessed. Have to keep butts in the seats.
Okay, I know there will be people who call me out on the exception to the rule that I’ve just made, but let’s hear it anyway. Tell me what you think: is all the pomp and the circus acts justified, or are we really going after the wrong kind of seekers?