seeker-sensitive, seeker-friendly, seeker-driven, seeker-oriented

The Christianese buzzwords “seeker sensitive” and “seeker friendly” aren’t heard as frequently as they were ten or twenty years ago, but they still come up in conversations about how churches can persuade people to come to church.

definition of seeker sensitive, seeker friendly, seeker driven, seeker orientedThese various “seeker” terms mostly arose in the 1980s and early 1990s as some church leaders were wondering how to connect with an increasingly disaffected adult population of “baby boomers.” It was around that time that suburban churches such as Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Church in Chicago and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California began experimenting with ways of drawing non-Christians into church by offering a brand-new, contemporary kind of church experience. This break from traditional formats of church services in order to appeal to non-Christians is called the “seeker-sensitive movement.” A lot of churches across the United States began to implement the strategies that Warren and Hybels were practicing and promoting.

The three handsome gentlemen pictured here are three megachurch pastors who have been associated with the seeker-sensitive model of church growth and evangelism. From left to right, Bill Hybels, Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Texas, and Rick Warren.

The seeker-sensitive strategy has had its fair share of critics in the past 20 years, but even the critics have to admit that the changes introduced by seeker-sensitive churches brought a lot of new people into church who otherwise would’ve never darkened the door of a narthex. For all the charges of “watered-down doctrine” and “compromise with worldliness,” the seeker-sensitive movement packed a lot of new people into pews (or into theater-style seats for those megachurches that had upgraded from wooden pews to plush upholstery).

So, in a nutshell, what are these terms about? They’re about churches trying to be more accessible to non-Christian visitors who have very little previous Christian experience. In Christianese, non-Christians who have some interest in Christianity are sometimes called “seekers” (because although they haven’t found Christ yet, they are “seeking” him). Hence, all these terms refer to churches that are trying to be more “sensitive” and more “friendly” to seekers. In some cases, churches are going even further and are actually designing all of their church services and ministries around seekers, hence the stronger terms “seeker driven” and “seeker oriented.” You can read more about this distinction in the definition for seeker-sensitive below.

 

seeker-sensitive adj. As in seeker-sensitive approach; seeker-sensitive church; seeker-sensitive (church) service; seeker-sensitive model; seeker-sensitive movement; seeker-sensitive worship. Having been designed to be appealing and understandable to potential converts (who are sometimes called *seekers) who have no previous experience with church culture (that is to say, they are *unchurched).
Synonyms: *seeker-friendly; *seeker-comprehensible.
The intended audience of a church service that is seeker-sensitive, seeker-friendly, or seeker-comprehensible is a mix of both Christians and unchurched potential converts. By contrast, the intended audience of a church service that is *seeker-centered, *seeker-driven, *seeker-directed, *seeker-focused, *seeker-oriented, or *seeker-targeted is primarily unchurched potential converts. (See *seeker-driven for more information about this second group of terms.)
The format of a typical church service is virtually the same for all nine of these “seeker” terms: the service features a casual dress code, minimal audience participation, multimedia presentations, skits and dramatic performances, upbeat contemporary music by a live band, and short, practical sermons. There is no pressure on attendees to become members of the church, to convert to Christianity, or to give money to the church. Speakers and presenters all make a conscientious effort to avoid using Christian religious jargon and figures of speech (i.e., *Christianese). Even the building in which the church service is held is usually free of traditional Christian fixtures such as crosses, altars, pulpits, pews, and stained glass. The goal of these efforts is to remove as many hindrances to conversion as possible.
The seeker-sensitive methodology is often associated with *megachurches and with evangelistic efforts to reach “baby boomers” (people who were born between 1946 and 1965).
See also *blended service; *feelianity; *felt need; *purpose-driven; *Saddlecreek; *seeker-sensible; *sinner-sensitive; *Willowback.
1989 Voce Evangelica XXVIII. 46 : For dynamic preaching with the anointing of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven they would find services that are “seeker sensitive” with a form of entertainment, seminars and lectures. They would hear that the Church has need of a better marketing strategy. 1990 Logan Beyond Church Growth 65 : CBC [=Community Baptist Church] recently decided to gear its five public worship services more intentionally to meet the needs of the unchurched. This meant more skits, drama, an dother creative forms of communication; a greater dependence upon quality musicianship and uplifting, easy-to-sing choruses; and continued focus on simple but dynamic teaching…. CBC strives for an appropriate balance of quality for believers that is “seeker sensitive.” Previous to this, under my leadership, we already had designated the last two Sunday-morning services as being intended more for the unchurched. 1993 Towns 10 Sunday Schools That Dared to Change 21 : Pastor Larry Lamb saw the explosive multiplication of condominiums and houses for baby boomers north of San Diego, California, and knew the traditional American church would not reach them. He envisioned a nontraditional church that was seeker sensitive and user-friendly, yet evangelical in doctrine and evangelistic in thrust. 1993 New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung (TX) (15 Oct.) 7 : The big thing in church growth now is to be “Seeker Sensitive.” This means that we have to speak the language of those we are trying to reach. 1994 Baptist Bulletin LX. 9 : The point is that church leaders must be seeker sensitive; our activities in worship should not necessarily alienate the “unchurched” who visit us. The seeker-service church is a positive example for us in terms of its evangelistic commitment and its sensitivity to the concerns fo the lost. 1994 Martin, McIntosh The Issachar Factor: Understanding Trends That Confront Your Church and Designing a Strategy for Success 39 : Seeker-sensitive churches include older and newer congregations which have chosen to use a worship style more user-friendly to the unchurched, but not exclusively targeted toward them. 1995 Warren The Purpose Driven Church 80,245 : The church should be seeker sensitive but it must not be seeker driven. We must adapt our communication style to our culture without adopting the sinful elements of it or abdicating to it…. Seeker-sensitive services focus on needs common to both believers and unbelievers. 1995 Hybels Rediscovering Church 175 : But whatever course you take—whether it’s a monthly seeker-sensitive event, a quarterly outreach breakfast, or some other approach—every church needs to figure out, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, how to fulfill the front end of the Great Commission. 1995 Rainer Giant Awakenings: Making the Most of 9 Surprising Trends That Can Benefit Your Church 135 : Because they [=non-Christians] may not understand traditional liturgies, hymns, or sermons, an intentional effort is made to be “seeker-friendly” or “seeker-sensitive.” Hymnals may not be used. Sermons may be couched in easy-to-understand, practical-living principles. Anonymity is always provided. Every possible effort is made not only to hold the seeker’s attention, but also to avoid offending him or her at all costs. 1995 McIntosh Three Generations: Riding the Waves of Change in Your Church 191 : In the seeker-sensitive model the Sunday morning worship service is planned to meet the needs of the believer but with great sensitivity to the unchurched person who may attend. 1996 Hybels Evangelism: Becoming Stronger Salt and Brighter Light 87 : Start getting creative. Discover anything and everything you can invite seekers to attend. It might be a small group, a seeker-sensitive worship service, a Christian concert, a money management class, a dramatic presentation. 1996 Covenant Companion LXXXV. 20 : Following the model of prominent megachurches many churches have developed “seeker-sensitive services.” Such services reduce or eliminate ecclesiastical language, liturgical practices, and even symbols like the cross or communion table. 1996 Sloan Mass Communication in the Information Age 568 : The controversial seeker-sensitive movement or what theologians call the megachurch is a product of our media culture…. The movement claims to be more sensitive to the spiritual needs of the unchurched among baby-boomers, busters, and generation Xers. 1997 Arn How to Start a New Service: Your Church Can Reach New People 100 : Seeker-sensitive service and seeker-friendly service are often used interchangeably. These two terms, however, should not be confused with seeker-targeted service or seeker-driven service. The first two terms describe a church service in which the assumption of the service planners is that a predominant number of attenders are Christians and are present for the purpose of worshiping God and enhancing their spiritual growth. The last two terms describe a service in which the assumption of the service planners is that a predominant number of attenders are non-Christians and are present for the purpose of evaluating God and enhancing their spiritual exploration. 1998 Evangelicals Now (Dec.) : In many churches in the SFC [=seeker-friendly church] movement … there is only one main weekly service which serves believers and the unchurched. This is called “seeker-sensitive” worship. 1998 Chandler Feeding the Flock: Restaurants and Churches You’d Stand in Line For xix : Seeker-sensitive churches are those that tailor their main services and programs to appeal to persons either unfamiliar with—or turned off by—traditional church worship. The chief concerns about seeker-sensitive churches are that the essential Gospel is compromised by secular approaches and adapting messages to appeal to non-Christians. 1998 Moeller Exploring Worship Anew: Dreams and Visions 2 : “Seeker-sensitive” worship aims to attract the unchurched by using the aspects and resources of modern society such as the sounds and techniques of popular music, motivational speaking, and the like. 2000 Sargeant Seeker Churches: Promoting Traditional Religion in a Nontraditional Way 74 : The vast majority of pastors (94 percent) said the terms “seeker sensitive” or “seeker friendly” described their church’s services “very well” or “fairly well.” The terms “seeker targeted” or “seeker driven” were noticeably less popular…. The preference for the terms “seeker sensitive” and “seeker friendly” over the terms “seeker targeted” or “seeker driven” reflects the fact that less than half of all seeker churches devote a distinct service to seekers. 2000 Orange Coast Mag. (Sep.) 131 : Megachurches pride themselves on being “seeker sensitive,” that is, providing an environment that is welcoming and attractive to the first-time churchgoer. That “seeker-sensitive” environment usually includes a large facility that may look little like the traditional image of stained glass and a church steeple. 2001 Jones Postmodern Youth Ministry: Exploring Cultural Shift 153 : The evangelical church took a similar turn in the 1980s and ’90s, led by some seeker-sensitive megachurches. In this model, words like sin and justification were avoided in worship and entry-level classes on the assumption that those terms will be a turnoff to Joe and Jane who are not versed in Christianese. 2002 Rima Rethinking the Successful Church: Finding Serenity in God’s Sovereignty 34 : Many pastors and church leaders were drawn to the seeker-sensitive approach that has been so successfully employed by uniquely gifted pastors like Bill Hybels and Rick Warren. 2003 Kimball The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations 25 : Currently in our culture, when someone refers to a seeker-sensitive worship service or approach, they many times are referring to … a strategy of designing ministry to attract those who feel the church is irrelevant or dull. This often involves removing what could be considered religious stumbling blocks and displays of the spiritual (such as extended worship, religious symbols, extensive prayer times, liturgy, etc.) so that seekers can relate to the environment and be transformed by the message of Jesus. 2004 Dever Nine Marks of a Healthy Church 3/e 26 : We might find something of the same goal in the seeker-sensitive model, seen in the writing and ministry of Bill Hybels and his associates at Willow Creek and the many churches associated with them. The impulse has been, once again, one of evangelism. 2004 MacArthur First Peter 234 : The seeker-sensitive philosophy of church growth, with its spirit of inclusivism and de-emphasis on doctrinal clarity and love for the truth, has imbibed the world’s marketing strategy and developed a kind of pop gospel that currently dominates the ecclesiastical landscape. 2005 Leonard Baptists in America 250 : “Seeker-sensitive” ministry is a primary evangelical method of megachurches, an effort to bring sinners to faith and enlist them in the church. 2006 Stetzer Planting Missional Churches 263 : A biblically sound seeker-sensitive church asks, “How can we conduct worship and communicate convictions in ways that welcome outsiders yet simultaneously honor God, his Word, his directives, and Christian practices?” 2007 Carter Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective 202 : We have had the church-growth movement, the seeker-sensitive movement, the ancient-future-church movement, the emerging-church movement, and the missional-church movement, and the last thing we need is another movement. 2012 Williams Falsified: The Danger of False Conversion 6 : The term seeker-sensitive refers to putting more importance on the “needs” of un-believers than on the need to teach the Word of God to believers, thus equipping believers to obey God’s Word. 2012 Peverall It’s Not Too Late: An About-Face for Local Churches 162 : Let us not, however, demonize the term “seeker sensitive.” The very nature and purpose of the church includes seeker sensitivity.
seeker-friendly adj. As in seeker-friendly approach; seeker-friendly church; seeker-friendly (church) service; seeker-friendly movement. Syn *seeker-sensitive.
Sometimes seeker-friendly church is abbreviated SFC.
1990 Ratz, Tillapaugh, Augsburger Mastering Outreach and Evangelism 34 : My staff and board now are prodding me to make the church and its ministries more seeker friendly. They’re evaluating my preaching and schedule to help me be a more evangelistic pastor. They are producing ideas for outreach, novel methods for reaching outsiders, and ways to make our services sensitive to those who are not believers. 1991 George Prepare Your Church for the Future 39 : Hybels terms this strategy “seeker services” (or more accurately, seeker-friendly services, where believers can bring friends). 1992 Malphurs Planting Growing Churches for the Twenty-First Century: A Comprehensive Guide for New Churches and Those Desiring Renewal 183 : The seeker friendly/sensitive meeting. This service is designed to try and reach unchurched lost people and nourish believers at the same time in one service. 1993 Guinness Dining with the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts with Modernity 79 : Many “seeker-friendly” churches have quite deliberately subordinated both worship and discipleship to evangelism, and evangelism to entertainment, and in the process subverted the traditional defining features of the church. 1994 Hybels, Mittelberg Becoming a Contagious Christian 129 : There are many people who would make great strides in their spiritual journey if someone would go to the effort of strategically inviting them to a seeker-friendly church service or outreach event. 1995 Pritchard Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church 12 : Thousands of churches and pastors … have altered their music, programming, and preaching to be “seeker friendly” or “seeker sensitive.” 1995 Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church Communicator vols. 5–6 106 : Some “seeker friendly” churches purposely avoid preaching anything strongly biblical or doctrinal because they fear that this might make unbelievers (“seekers”) uncomfortable and turn them away from the church. 1996 Malphurs Strategy 2000: Churches Making Disciples for the Next Millennium 93 : The seeker-friendly ministry is carefully designed with both the seeker and the believer in mind. Usually there are no separate services for the believer and unbeliever. Both groups are present at a Sunday morning service that attempts to reach them together. Sermons are topical, relevant, and biblical. Pastors design their messages to have an impact on both groups. 1997 Turner Anytime, Anywhere: Sharing Faith Jesus Style 63 : An interesting recent trend is the development of seeker-sensitive or seeker-friendly worship services. The assumption is that many seekers have little or no familiarity with traditional Christian liturgy, and church dropouts will find it more comfortable to return to a contemporary style of worship. 1998 Evangelicals Now (Dec.) : In many churches in the SFC [=seeker-friendly church] movement, a “seeker-focused” service is targeted for the unchurched, and some other weekly believer-focused service becomes the worship service for believers. 1999 The NIV Standard Lesson Commentary, 1999–2000 44 : Sometimes, in an effort to be “seeker friendly,” we make our worship services very casual. In the process, we might be conveying a very common and ordinary—even human—picture of God. How can we balance a friendly welcome with a sense of the awesome holiness that Moses confronted in the burning bush? 1999 Susek Firestorm: Preventing and Overcoming Church Conflicts 34 : He saw powerful demonstrations of a “seeker friendly” approach. It was a blend of well-done skits, contemporary music, and a brief message. Success stories abounded. 2000 Leadingham Common Ground 106 : Churches can also help their members by providing attractive “seeker friendly” programs that they can invite their non-Christian friends to attend. 2000 Sargeant Seeker Churches: Promoting Traditional Religion in a Nontraditional Way 74 : The vast majority of pastors (94 percent) said the terms “seeker sensitive” or “seeker friendly” described their church’s services “very well” or “fairly well.” The terms “seeker targeted” or “seeker driven” were noticeably less popular…. The preference for the terms “seeker sensitive” and “seeker friendly” over the terms “seeker targeted” or “seeker driven” reflects the fact that less than half of all seeker churches devote a distinct service to seekers. 2000 Gibbs ChurchNext: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry 197 : Willow Creek Community Church provides an impressive contemporary model for applying a strategy by which unchurched people are invited to a seeker-friendly service, where they can listen without being pressured. 2001 Evans The Overcommitted Christian: Serving God Without Wearing Out 136 : In the 1990s the phenomenal growth of the Willow Creek Church in Illinois, through seeker-friendly services, raised awareness of the needs of those interested in Christianity yet who know little or nothing about it. Many churches have followed their example and held seeker services in which people are not asked to recite creeds or sing hymns that they don’t believe. Instead they are presented with the gospel, probably using drama and music in addition to speaking in plain English, and invited to consider their response. 2002 MacArthur, sermon at Grace Community Church (Sun Valley, CA) as quoted in MacArthur Truth Endures: Landmark Sermons from Forty Years of Unleashing God’s Truth One Verse at a Time (2010) 201 : That is the man-centered, self-esteem gospel that was picked up by the number one disciple of Robert Schuller, Bill Hybels, and translated into the seeker-friendly movement that has hijacked evangelicalism. It’s a kind of quasi-Christian narcissism. 2005 Kraft Appropriate Christianity 461n11 : For example, the “seeker-friendly” (or seeker-driven) paradigm popularized by Willow Creek Community Church of the Chicago suburbs and Saddleback Church of California’s south Orange County attempts to attract or entertain people into the Kingdom. 2006 Burns Liturgy 97 : Characteristics of these various modes of seeker-friendly experiences of church often seem to include: a reduced diet of scripture, perhaps not expounded by a preacher; an absence of sacraments; a setting in a context which may resemble a theatre or cinema rather than a building shaped by the tradition of space used for Christian worship. 2007 Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly vols. 104–105 311 : Most churches these days claim to want to be “seeker-friendly” and try to be welcoming to outsiders. 2008 Titusville Herald (PA) (29 Feb.) 24 : The contemporary service at 7 p.m. is seeker friendly. The congregation members come as they are in jeans and worship in an informal atmosphere. There is also no offering at this service. 2009 Kimball Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations 131 : Historically at Willow Creek’s weekend seeker-service, the goal was to remove as many spiritual symbols and spiritual terminology as possible in order to be seeker-friendly. Apart from one congregational song, historically they don’t even have musical singing as part of worship. 2010 Kunneman Decoding Hell’s Propaganda 173 : The problem with the seeker-friendly trend is that most pastors are not only using dramas, casual dress, and free snacks, they are also toning down the Word of God. 2010 Propp And with All Your Mind: A Novel About Evangelical Theology 568 : Silas asked, “So are you one of those—what’s the term—wait, ‘seeker-friendly’ churches?” “We do advocate a seeker-friendly approach,” Glen replied immediately. “Which means that we have several huge plasma screen monitors in the sanctuary, as well as smaller monitors all around the facility, so that everyone in any of the buildings, as well as people watching from one of the ‘overflow’ rooms or one of the child care rooms, can see and hear everything that’s going on in the sanctuary. We also have theater-style chairs—which are so much more comfortable than traditional straight wooden pews—and we use PowerPoint to display the words to the songs on the screens, rather than use traditional hymnals.” 2011 Urick Practical Christian Living 303 : I spent almost four years in a “seeker friendly” nondenominational church that adopted Rick Warren’s modern church growth methods. Since the “elders” would not clarify where they stood on certain matters, there was constant division and confusion over doctrine.
seeker-comprehensible adj. Syn *seeker-sensitive.
1996 Reformed Theological Seminary Reformed Quarterly XV. 26 : We are not seeker-focused or seeker-driven…. We are seeking to be biblical. That means we are seeker-comprehensible. When non-Christians come to worship, they understand what is being said. If we use terms like “justification,” we define it because it is a biblical word. We also explain the use of creeds and their origins. 2006 Stetzer Planting Missional Churches 263 : Seeker-comprehensible and seeker-driven worship gatherings are not the same. Seeker-comprehensible worship asks, “How can we make the unbeliever understand and feel as comfortable as possible in this context?” 2008 Stuart Heroes and Villains of the Bible 72 : We have to be extremely careful that our “seeker-friendly” or “seeker-comprehensible” service is not a marketing tool to attract unbelievers at the expense of glorifying God.
seeker-driven adj. As in seeker-driven approach; seeker-driven church; seeker-driven (church) service. Having been designed to be appealing and understandable to potential converts (who are sometimes called *seekers) who have no previous experience with church culture (that is to say, they are *unchurched); having an intended audience of primarily unchurched potential converts.
Synonyms: *seeker-centered; *seeker-directed; *seeker-focused; *seeker-oriented; *seeker-targeted.
The seeker-driven methodology is often associated with *megachurches and with evangelistic efforts to reach “baby boomers” (people who were born between 1946 and 1965).
For more information, see *seeker-sensitive.
1992 Malphurs Planting Growing Churches for the Twenty-First Century: A Comprehensive Guide for New Churches and Those Desiring Renewal 288 : What thrills Bill [Hybels] most is the fact that these people are inviting their lost friends to a “seeker-driven” Bible study where fifteen have accepted Christ over a five-month period of time. 1993 Bell Bridge over Troubled Water: Ministry to Baby Boomers—A Generation Adrift 7 : Seeker-driven worship services draw the crowds. Market-driven strategy promotes the church. Is success a sign of Gospel relevance or of spiritual decadence? Has the church bridged the gap with a generation set adrift, or has it lost its own moorings in attempting to be all things to all people? 1995 Warren The Purpose Driven Church 80 : The church should be seeker sensitive but it must not be seeker driven. We must adapt our communication style to our culture without adopting the sinful elements of it or abdicating to it. 1995 Barna Evangelism That Works: How to Reach Changing Generations with the Unchanging Gospel 87 : The most courageous of these churches are “seeker driven,” while a much larger proportion of the seeker-oriented congregations are more properly described as “seeker sensitive,” meaning they want to be accessible to seekers but not at the expense of the traditions, routines or other believer-driven church activities. 1995 Morris The High-Impact Church 219 : Hybels recognizes that the unchurched need to hear the gospel in words they can understand. Seeker-driven services assist Willow Creek’s members to evangelize their unchurched friends, neighbors and associates. The services appeal to those who might not be attracted to a church that offers a traditional, preacher-to-audience message. 1997 Anderson Student Ministry for the 21st Century: Transforming Your Youth Group into a Vital Student Ministry 102 : In early- to mid-fall, we focus on seeker-driven events. For three or four weeks straight, we arrange off campus events to which our core students can invite seeking friends. 1999 Boschman Future Worship: How a Changing World Can Enter God’s Presence in the New Millennium 27 : One of the reasons that we know we are living in a declining era is because we are so saturated by so many different church models and paradigms; we have seeker-driven churches, purpose-driven churches, permissive churches, resurrected churches, twenty-first century churches, metro metamorphosis-size churches and new apostolic churches, just to mention a few. 1999 Capaldo, ed. Green Horns 108 : Even if you feel your church should not be seeker driven, your website should. It is a gross waste of resources to design a site for those who already have the good news at the neglect of those who don’t. 1999 Basden The Worship Maze: Finding a Style to Fit Your Church 93 : In my observation, however, few “pure” seeker churches exist anywhere. Not many are truly seeker-driven or seeker-directed, where the entire service is structured for seekers only. Most congregations that are experimenting with or seriously attempting this style are offering a seeker-sensitive or seeker-oriented service. 1999 Peace Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve 343 : In the so-called seeker-sensitive and seeker-driven churches, the needs, interests, and questions of “pre-Christians” are factored into the whole worship experience. Music is based on the tastes of outsiders. Sermons are preached with little overt theological vocabulary. Offerings are not taken during the service. 2000 Sargeant Seeker Churches: Promoting Traditional Religion in a Nontraditional Way 74 : The vast majority of pastors (94 percent) said the terms “seeker sensitive” or “seeker friendly” described their church’s services “very well” or “fairly well.” The terms “seeker targeted” or “seeker driven” were noticeably less popular…. The preference for the terms “seeker sensitive” and “seeker friendly” over the terms “seeker targeted” or “seeker driven” reflects the fact that less than half of all seeker churches devote a distinct service to seekers. 2002 The Northumbrian Community Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community 392 : Some churches or ministries are “seeker-driven,” fashioning their approach to bring and effectively speak to secular individuals. They seek to reach unchurched non-Christians and turn them into devoted followers of Christ. 2003 McLaren The Church on the Other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix 20 : Many gifted leaders and wise writers are helping us get the needed sightings. They are painting vivid and inspiring pictures for us: the rediscovered, seeker-driven church (Bill Hybels), the purpose-driven church (Rick Warren), the permission-giving church (William Easum) [etc.] 2003 Koessler True Discipleship Companion Guide: The Art of Following Jesus 254 : Although he was “seeker sensitive” in his approach to making disciples, he was not seeker driven. 2004 Jones, ed. Church Planting from the Ground Up 51n4 : Hybels is most readily known for his innovative leadership and development of ministries under the umbrella of a “seeker-driven philosophy,” i.e., providing ministries and worship services that target unchurched people. 2005 Kraft Appropriate Christianity 461n11 : For example, the “seeker-friendly” (or seeker-driven) paradigm popularized by Willow Creek Community Church of the Chicago suburbs and Saddleback Church of California’s south Orange County attempts to attract or entertain people into the Kingdom. 2005 Malphurs Advanced Strategic Planning: A New Model for Church and Ministry Leaders 190 : Churches like Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago are seeker-driven. They make it very clear that their primary goal is to reach out to and win seekers to faith in Christ. Thus they have a separate service for seekers and design what they do around attracting and reaching seekers. 2008 DeYoung, Kluck Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be 127 : I hope the movement corrects itself, because there are voices within the conversation that are theologically orthodox and truly want to reform the evangelical church from some of its reductionistic, seeker-driven, arrogant, tradition-shunning errors. 2009 Reid Evangelism Handbook: Biblical, Spiritual, Intentional, Missional 126 : Megachurch pastor Rick Warren popularized the “seeker-sensitive” movement, while fellow megachurch pastor Bill Hybels emphasized a “seeker-driven” approach…. “Seeker driven” refers to planning much (or all) of the church—Sunday services, and so on—from the posture of a “seeker.” 2012 Payne Kingdom Expressions: Trends Influencing the Advancement of the Gospel 112 : A term that was closely related to seeker sensitive, and sometimes equated with it and the movement as a whole, was “seeker driven.” Churches that were seeker driven designed their entire weekly gatherings as an event for the unbeliever and outsider. This usually meant that the church had to have a separate weekly gathering for believers, as the seeker service was more akin to an evangelistic rally.
seeker-centered adj. Syn *seeker-driven.
1994 Murren Leadershift 211 : Although basic, orthodox doctrine will never cease to be important, seekers will not be patient with some of the doctrinal nit-picking that is prevalent in many churches. Seeker-centered churches can develop two focuses—one that is highly visible and seeker-centered, and one that is behind the scene, oriented to nurturing committed Christians. 1994 Martin, McIntosh The Issachar Factor: Understanding Trends That Confront Your Church and Designing a Strategy for Success 39 : These churches are typically described as either “seker-centered” or “seeker-sensitive.” Seeker-centered churches usually are new church plants which have chosen to target almost exclusively the unchurched. 1997 McIntosh Make Room for the Boom or Bust: Six Church Models for Reaching Three Generations 83 : Seeker-centered churches also go by the name seeker-driven because their philosophy of ministry is driven by the desire to reach the unchurched. 2000 Church of God Evangel XC. 000 : Like Willow Creek, the Stevens Creek church features a “seeker-centered” service on Sunday morning, with the liturgy planned primarily for individuals who are not used to attending church. 2003 Stackhouse Church: An Insider’s Look at How We Do It 20 : According to church-growth wisdom, only new or quite young churches ought to consider implementing the seeker-centered extreme. For most established congregations (that is, churches more than ten years old), moving toward the seeker-sensitive end of the spectrum is the most that can and ought to be attempted. Doing more would cause deep disruption in a church. 2004 Presbyterian Church in Canada, General Assembly Acts and Proceedings 359 : Seeker centered worship, also called seeker targeted or seeker driven worship, is primarily oriented towards the unchurched…. Everything, from the message to the music, is designed to make a positive impression on the non-believer. 2005 Smith Voices That Carry: Conversations with Some of the Evangelical Church’s Most Interesting and Influential People 60 : I am not opposed to being “seeker-sensitive,” but I am opposed to being seeker-centered. It should be God centered, and Bible-based. 2006 McIntosh Beyond the First Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church 167 : These churches often try to adapt the Purpose-Driven or Seeker-Centered model of church to the tastes of a younger audience.
seeker-directed adj. Syn *seeker-driven.
1999 Basden The Worship Maze: Finding a Style to Fit Your Church 93 : In my observation, however, few “pure” seeker churches exist anywhere. Not many are truly seeker-driven or seeker-directed, where the entire service is structured for seekers only. Most congregations that are experimenting with or seriously attempting this style are offering a seeker-sensitive or seeker-oriented service. 2003 J. for the Scientific Study of Religion 549 : In this regard, WCA [=Willow Creek Association] offers the results of “practical wisdom experiences,” information and resources, and a network of clergy with similar interests in evangelism and, especially, the “seeker-directed” approach.
seeker-focused adj. Syn *seeker-driven.
1996 Reformed Theological Seminary Reformed Quarterly XV. 26 : We are not seeker-focused or seeker-driven…. We are seeking to be biblical. That means we are seeker-comprehensible. When non-Christians come to worship, they understand what is being said. If we use terms like “justification,” we define it because it is a biblical word. We also explain the use of creeds and their origins. 1998 Evangelicals Now (Dec.) : Should the Sunday service focus on the seekers/unchurched or on believers? The seeker-focused service (as made popular by Willow Creek) has the following elements: multiple communication forms (commonly music, drama, testimony, teaching, questions-and-answers); excellent production/artistic quality; low or no audience participation…. In many churches in the SFC [=seeker-friendly church] movement, a “seeker-focused” service is targeted for the unchurched, and some other weekly believer-focused service becomes the worship service for believers. 1999 Pederson Drama Ministry: Practical Help for Making Drama a Vital Part of Your Church 15 : Another group, while not opposed to drama in the church, views it as appropriate only for those churches that have a more contemporary edge, those that are “seeker focused.” Drama, they argue, shouldn’t be part of a traditional worship experience because at the core, worship and entertainment are antithetical. 2000 Mittelberg Building a Contagious Church: Revolutionizing the Way We View and Do Evangelism 13 : You may be seeker-focused, seeker-friendly, seeker-neutral—or you may not even like the term seeker. You may be traditional, contemporary, or somewhere in between. You may be mainline, evangelical, fundamentalist, denominational, independent, conservative, progressive, or one of a hundred other labels. 2005 Malphurs Advanced Strategic Planning: A New Model for Church and Ministry Leaders 158 : The answer is the following vision: We see friends bringing friends to a Sunday morning seeker-focused service because they will hear the Good News presented clearly and creatively in an atmosphere of acceptance. 2007 White, Duesing, Yarnell, eds. Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches 18 : Most seeker-focused churches do not practice church discipline. Few things could be less seeker-oriented than the act of publicly disciplining a member for improper behavior. 2011 Roxburgh, Romanuk The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World 177 : As the community changed, more and more people in the church were leaving and heading for the new, seeker-focused churches springing up in the expanding suburbs.
seeker-oriented adj. Syn *seeker-driven.
1991 Barna User Friendly Churches: What Christians Need to Know About the Churches People Love to Go To 19 : Steps were carefully taken to convert its ministry, based upon a traditional service format geared to churched people, into the type of seeker-oriented, contemporary ministry that has made Willow Creek so famous. 1992 Malphurs Developing a Vision for Ministry in the 21st Century 188 : Some people had caught the vision for reaching their nonchurched friends and felt comfortable about bringing them to the contemporary worship service at 9:30 a.m. or to one of the seeker-oriented Bible studies in the homes of some of the couples in the church. 1994 Benedict, Miller Contemporary Worship for the 21st Century: Worship or Evangelism? 20 : Some churches make a mistake in thinking that by adding contemporary Christian music and new musical instruments, such as guitars and drums, they are becoming more seeker-oriented. Although they may be drawing closer culturally to the seekers in their community, they are more likely to attract fellow believers who have a different taste in music or in style of worship. 1994 Hybels, Mittelberg Becoming a Contagious Christian 145 : Inviting friends to seeker-oriented outreach events not only encourages them to attend; it can also raise spiritual topics of discussion. 1994 Wright, Miller A Community of Joy: How to Create Contemporary Worship 59 : Because these [Sunday] services focus on guests, seeker-oriented congregations often offer a believer-oriented, highly participational service during the week, perhaps on Sunday or Wednesday night. Because the unchurched set the agenda for the Sunday morning services, a believer-driven service becomes essential. 1995 Barna Evangelism That Works 87 : [Some] seeker-oriented congregations are more properly described as “seeker sensitive,” meaning they want to be accessible to seekers but not at the expense of the traditions, routines or other believer-driven church activities. 1998 Lyon, Smith, eds. Tending the Flock: Congregations and Family Ministry 82 : Seeker-oriented megachurches consider even … understated Christian iconography to be potentially off-putting to the unchurched visitor. 2000 Livezey, ed. Public Religion and Urban Transformation: Faith in the City 000 : The most influential megachurch model: Willow Creek Community Church, with its “seeker-targeted” or “seeker-oriented” sensitivity to today’s unchurched, skeptical, disaffected, yet spiritually searching baby boomers. 2000 Byars Christian Worship: Glorifying and Enjoying God 103 : Frequently, the seeker-oriented churches use high-tech electronic systems to project slides or videos, and employ sophisticated sound systems. Approaches to worship in these new congregations vary, of course, but in many cases those assembled remain a largely passive audience. 2001 MacArthur Revelation 22 : Today’s user-friendly, seeker-oriented, market-driven church doesn’t preach much against worldliness. To do so might make unbelievers (not to mention many believers) uncomfortable, and is therefore avoided as poor marketing strategy. 2004 Malphurs Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century: A Comprehensive Guide for New Churches and Those Desiring Renewal 407 : Some of the more seeker-oriented Boomer churches value anonymity, because they realized that many seekers from the Builder and Boomer generations preferred to be left alone to consider the claims of Christ without having to stand and introduce themselves or interact with the people sitting near them. 2004 Smidt, ed. Pulpit and Politics: Clergy in American Politics at the Advent of the Millennium 286 : Willow Creek Community Church … is best known as the preeminent seeker-oriented congregation, which is one version of the new-paradigm, nondenominational churches (Sargeant 2000). Its core ministry is the seeker-directed weekend worship services … designed specifically to appeal to people turned off by organized religion. 2006 Schaap Speaking of Pastors: Parishioners Tell Their Stories 19 : Emmanuel was known as the big church in the area, the one that pulled in lots of new Christians, and I thought it was probably more of a seeker-oriented place than I was looking for, the kind of Southern California wannabe mega-church that was more about the show than the gospel, more about the numbers attending than the authenticity of the word that was coming from its pulpit. 2007 Leonard Baptists in America 250 : Seeker-oriented worship is often predicated on the idea that the non-affiliated may well be “turned off” by the traditional or be uncomfortable with services that use elaborate liturgies, hymnbooks, vestments, and other religious accoutrements…. Services often include skits or other dramatic presentations along with the sermon, which is directed toward practical implications of biblical texts and principles. 2007 Chandler Courageous Church Leadership: Conversations with Effective Practitioners 51 : Like a lot of seeker-oriented churches, we had minimized money. We didn’t want people to think that we just wanted them to come for their money. So we downplayed that subject. 2009 Chapell Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice 139 : Being entirely “seeker-oriented” is not really an option for Christ-centered worship. But being “seeker-sensitive” is still an appropriate way to think about worship. Being “seeker-sensitive” is not the same as being “seeker-oriented.”
seeker-targeted adj. Syn *seeker-driven.
1988 Inter-Varsity 28 : The InterVarsity chapter at the College of DuPage is holding a three-week series of seeker-targeted large-group meetings this week and next. Pray that students invite many non-Christian friends to come. 1995 Pritchard Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church 12 : Hundreds of churches … have adopted a Willow Creek style seeker service designed for the unchurched. Christianity Today has described Willow Creek as the “undisputed prototype” of this new way of doing church. Bill Hybels has been the most persuasive advocate in making “seeker-targeted” churches a viable option for evangelicals. 2000 Loscalzo Apologetic Preaching: Proclaiming Christ to a Postmodern World 119 : I have heard of some seeker-targeted churches—some, not all—that have removed all vestiges of the cross, both physical and verbal, from their gatherings. No mention of Jesus’ suffering or death is ever made. They say they don’t want to offend seekers with a concept as gruesome and offensive as crucifying someone. 2000 Grassi The Ultimate Hunt 180 : To some degree, our modern “seeker-targeted” churches have placed such a premium on church growth and reaching the lost that we have lost our religious awe and our consciousness of the presence of the Almighty. 2000 Rahn, Linhart Contagious Faith: Empowering Student Leadership in Youth Evangelism 69 : It’s fair to say these group meetings were seeker-sensitive even if they weren’t always seeker-targeted. 2000 Sargeant Seeker Churches: Promoting Traditional Religion in a Nontraditional Way 74 : The vast majority of pastors (94 percent) said the terms “seeker sensitive” or “seeker friendly” described their church’s services “very well” or “fairly well.” The terms “seeker targeted” or “seeker driven” were noticeably less popular…. The preference for the terms “seeker sensitive” and “seeker friendly” over the terms “seeker targeted” or “seeker driven” reflects the fact that less than half of all seeker churches devote a distinct service to seekers. 2001 Sjogren Seeing Beyond Church Walls: Action Plans for Touching Your Community 23 : These are the hyphenated churches. The seeker-targeted, purpose-driven, spirit-empowered, revival-expecting Church of Whatever. 2002 Galloway Leading in Times of Change 117 : An effective seeker-targeted ministry is in place. The organ is gone. No one sings in robes. Contemporary music, multimedia, drama, and video have become important components of worship. 2004 Beach An Hour on Sunday: Creating Moments of Transformation and Wonder 46 : Using drama or contemporary music does not necessarily mean you are a seeker-targeted church … designed to reach unchurched people. 2005 McNamara, Davis The Y-B-H Handbook of Church Planting (Yes, But How?) 133 : Three such new “church models,” in particular, have become increasingly popular in recent years—seeker-targeted churches, network churches, and cell churches. There is much debate as to whether these church models will be short-lived or more enduring forms of church life. 2006 Duduit, ed. Preaching with Power: Dynamic Insights from Twenty Top Communicators 229 : Some people equate “seeker targeted” and “seeker sensitive.” And those are two different models. 2006 Young The Creative Leader: Unleashing the Power of Your Creative Potential 121 : I do not buy into a seeker-targeted approach in the popular meaning of that term. Our weekend services are not designed for the unchurched seeker or the veteran saint. They are designed with everyone in mind. I am seeker-sensitive or seeker-targeted in that I believe everyone is a seeker. 2006 Stetzer, Putman Breaking the Missional Code 100 : The seeker churches in the eighties and nineties pioneered the seeker-targeted approach to worship. Their focus was on nonbelievers to the extent that many did not call their weekend services “worship.” 2009 Luz Imagine That: Discovering Your Unique Role as a Christian Artist 103 : We began to reorient the entire church around a style of ministry called “seeker-targeted,” which is a philosophy of outreach using highly charged and arts-oriented weekend services to share the Gospel. 2013 Voelz Quirky Leadership: Permission Granted 62 : We cringe at labels and are not seeker sensitive, seeker targeted, postmodern, emerging, emergent, or any other label available to church culture.

8 thoughts on “seeker-sensitive, seeker-friendly, seeker-driven, seeker-oriented

  1. It would be great to have a list of all the seeker friendly churches in America…….Especially in New York State.

  2. “For all the charges of “watered-down doctrine” and “compromise with worldliness,” the seeker-sensitive movement packed a lot of new people into pews (or into theater-style seats for those megachurches that had upgraded from wooden pews to plush upholstery).” They may pack the pews but it’s the gospel that saves and a watered-down gospel is an empty message. Heaven won’t be filled with those who heard the half truth of the gospel. Knowing God is love is not enought, you must know you are sinner separted from God and His love, you don’t get that in the ‘watered-down doctrine’ in the ‘seeker friendly’ Churches.

  3. If a teacher of the Word does not tell a potential convert what sins are, then he will not understand the very reason that God came down to earth.

  4. Peter, the Apostle, trotted out that first sermon at the formation of the church in the Bible, and it starts out sounding seeker-friendly, seeker-comprehensible, even seeker-inviting, and then he just blows it. He ends up telling these thousands of people listening that they’re all guilty of murdering Jesus even though they all couldn’t have done it. (He says it was with the help of others, okay, but still–then how are those good people to blame?) And then when they ask what they must do about it, he fails to correct them and tell them that there is nothing they can do and to pray the Sinner’s Prayer to be saved by faith alone. And then the rest of the Apostles get involved and introduce communism. What a disaster. It’s just so good to know that Christians today aren’t so off-the-wall and over-the-top. God has blessed us with a much better education, with the grand perspective of time, history, and theology which the Apostles didn’t have available to them. We obviously have a much more refined measure of the Spirit, and much better relationships and feelings between ourselves, God, and others. What can we do but praise God continuously for this great change and all those who have been reached as a result?

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