Monday, June 28, 2010

User Friendly Churches

Yesterday the following headline caught my eye:: "Church Tries to be More Inclusive: Church Changes Name, Removes Cross to be More Welcoming."The following is the link to the video about this church’s attempt to become more “user friendly:

The terms “seeker sensitive” or “user friendly” are often polarizing. Obviously, in the case of this church and many others, the term has come to symbolize a complete rejection of the symbols and message of Christianity in an effort to attract people.

This is seeker sensitive to the extreme and is not biblical. No matter how seeker sensitive a church becomes, the message of the cross will offend. Those who wish to remove the offense of the cross cease to be a Christian church and thus exist only as a organizational club that talks about God-in the most unoffensive way of course!

Personally, I am all for being seeker sensitive, but not at the expense of the cross of Christ. I believe that churches do need to be sensitive to seekers. After all, Sunday morning is the time when most people are likely to visit a church. How does one become sensitive to seekers?

1. Create attractive environments. Seekers notice things the average long-time attendee does not. When I refer to creating attractive environments I am referring to clean rooms, restrooms, uncluttered hallways, etc.

2. Create inviting environments. By this I am refereeing to the attitudes of the teachers, greeters, and other personnel. The experience for a seeker begins in the parking lot; therefore, it is imperative that there be designated guest parking areas, friendly greeters at the doors, and informative welcome center, and appropriate signage. When they enter in to the worship area, they should be greeted with good pre service music, etc. When they good to a classroom, they should be greeted by a friendly teacher.

3. Acknowledge their presence. In the old days, guests were often asked to stand or remain seated while everyone else stood. I don’t recommend this method. I’ve been a guest in a church that did that and it was embarrassing! What I mean by acknowledging their presence is in the preaching side of the service. The pastor should provide them with direction in finding a passage. For example, “Please turn to 2 Peter 1. Now if you go to the last book of the Bible called ‘Revelation’ turn left slowly and you’ll run into 2 Peter. If you hit 1 Peter you’ve gone too far.” Also, the pastor should acknowledge a seeker’s doubts. For instance, if preaching on Jonah, the pastor should explain why he believes this is a true story, but he understands that some in the audience may be unsure. However, the issue is not to debate the historicity of whether Jonah got swallowed by a big fish, but to show the main point of the sermon (e.g., what happens when you run from God.). Don’t get me wrong, I believe the story of Jonah and would explain why, but the bigger issue is running from God. Seekers can identify with that topic! In other words, don’t create obstacles that the seeker has to navigate before they can get to the message.

4. Provide steps. Let the seekers know what they need to do. For example, announce a connection class or membership class as the next step. In this class one can explain the next steps (e.g. getting connected into a small group, etc)

Here are a few warnings regarding being seeker sensitive.
1. Do not water-down the truth of God’s Word. I may surprise you to find that seekers want the truth. They may not always like the truth, but they are there because they want to know the truth

2. Do not run from the cross. . The message should always lead back to the cross of Christ. Somewhere in the message, the Gospel should be presented. It doesn’t always have to be full-blown Gospel message, but somehow the connection to the cross should be made. The seeker needs to understand that the answers are ultimately found in Christ.

3. Do not slam people. This one is has been difficult for me because I grew up in a culture that thrived on slamming political leaders, religious liberals, etc. While one may feel the attacks are justified, to the seeker this sounds cold, harsh and mean. Again, one doesn’t have to put down others to make a point. One may show the fallacy of their ideals, but attacking individuals simply reinforces the seeker’s belief that the church is unloving and unkind.

I’m for being seeker sensitive but never at the expense of the cross.

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