When people ask me what I believe about seeker-oriented churches like Willow Creek, Saddleback, Northpoint, Fellowship Church etc., I am quick to point out their benefits. I am thankful for these seeker-oriented churches because of their passion for the local church and their passion to win the lost. It is important that the Church (capital “C”) recognizes and values the strengths in churches with different emphasizes in strategy or theology. Some may say, “Yeah, but do they speak in tongues?” Give me a break, are you serious?!? I highly value the ability to pray in the Spirit (in tongues), but where in the world did we get the idea that speaking in tongues is the absolute validation of orthodoxy?
I have no problem joining hands with other church traditions as long as they acknowledge: (1) the absolute authority of the Scripture as our final authority on matters of faith and practice; (2) the ethical supremacy of love for God and neighbor; and (3) adherence to the Nicene Creed. I believe that strength, depth and growth in Christ comes as a result of opening our eyes to what God is doing in other church traditions. That does not mean that I agree with everything that other traditions believe or practice, but I have expanded my theological horizons by opening up to guys doing ministry outside of my little theological/ecclesiastical circle.
Let me comment on the Creed for a second. The Nicene Creed (actually the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed—the original creed was written in 325AD and then edited in 381) forms the boundaries for our belief system. If the Bible is the current to the river of Orthodoxy, then the creed forms the banks. Here is the creed to see if you are in “the River.”
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty
Maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, eternally begotten from the father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in Being with the Father, through whom all things came into being.
Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down from the heaven and became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, becoming man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; suffered and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures he ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Ok, back to seeker churches…
So for all of the passion in seeker-oriented churches, the weakness of their strategy is that they create a consumer culture within the church. By this I mean that they create a “what’s-in-it-for-me” vibe within the local church. The needs and desires of the unchurched person drive the evangelistic strategy of these churches. The problem is that Christians begin to pick up the message that the whole idea of the local church is to feed their needs. So Consumer Christians look for a church where they feel comfortable. They look for a church that will serve their kids, their teenagers, their grandmamma. They ask of their local church, “What have you done for me lately? (Ooooooh, ooooooh, ooooooh, yeah!)” Consumer Christians may wrap their self-absorbed seeking in a spiritual guise, but bottom line they think the church is about them getting their needs met. Oh brother!
Darrell Guder in Missional Church says that these kind of churches become “vendors of religious goods and services.” Most seeker churches do not really want to be just a “vendor,” but that is the unfortunate byproduct of a seeker-oriented ministry. Their intension is to be culturally relevant, which I think is the goal of all evangelistically-minded churches. Nevertheless, I do not believe the seeker model is the way. I think the missional model is…
The missional model sees the local church as a mission base in its local community. Pastors and teachers in missional churches are trying to be good missionaries in their indigenous contexts. In trying to be a good missionary, missional pastors start with God and theological truth and try to contextualize those truths in culturally clear ways. The difference with the missional model is that these communicators start with God and end with God. He is both the starting point (not the needs of seekers) and he is the goal (not the satisfaction of Christians). Essentially, missional pastors in the US are trying to do what international missionaries have done for years. The missional approach is really being put into practice by a number of emerging churches. I was talking to a couple of pastors about the missional model this week and I googled it and I found, who else, but my old friend Mark Driscoll talking about this very idea. These videos are in the same spot that the “Chicks and Dudes” video is located, but click below if you would like to hear Mark compare the seeker church vs. the missional church. There are two short videos to look at: