A movement of seeker-sensitive churches, with the goal of making church services and other programs more appealing to unchurched people, began developing in the 1980s. Is this a biblical practice?
Of utmost importance is how one defines the term "seeker-sensitive." There is clearly nothing wrong biblically with making changes in church traditions in order to offer a service in understandable language, clothing appropriate to the local community, or a building that is appropriate to local culture. Missionaries worldwide work diligently in these and similar areas to adapt cultural practices to better impact people for Christ.
However, there is much concern if and when a church seeks to change its message in order to be more appealing to the unchurched. For example, some churches will not preach or teach on certain subjects because they are considered "too controversial." Other churches have removed crosses or other religious symbols from the church auditorium to make it "seeker-friendly." Communion and baptism are also sometimes removed from weekend services to other times.
When core beliefs and practices of the local church are changed or removed in the name of appealing to the unchurched, the very message of the church changes. Two important principles related to this topic are provided to offer guidance on this issue. First, Paul taught in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." Christians are not to be ashamed or hide anything related to presenting the good news of Jesus, including all of the teachings of God's Word.
Second, Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, "I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." In his efforts to evangelize new cultures, Paul often adapted certain practices to achieve greater impact. However, this did not include a change in message. He taught the same gospel and the same Scriptures in all locations, whether this resulted in many conversions or in persecution.
Today's churches must carefully evaluate potential changes made in the name of being seeker-sensitive. Will these proposed or current practices honor God as well as help reach new people? Though it is important to aggressively share God's Word with others, the one we must ultimately seek to please is the Lord.
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