Seeker Friendly vs. Denominations–A False Dichotomy

This is more for so-called Church leaders than lay-folk, but feel free to engage it in either case.

At the seminary, I learned about high-brow, denominational Christianity’s generally negative view of “seeker friendly” churches. (For the uninitiated, this “seeker friendly” designation means “churches folks enjoy going to”.)

There was a feeling of, “‘seeker friendly’ is fine, and it has a place. But after conversion, the new believer will find themselves desiring something more than easy-to-repeat and easy-to-digest platitudes, encouragements, and affirmations.” Then, the thinking continues, at that moment, the mainstream denominations (the “churches folks attend begrudgingly Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday after Wednesday, painfully bad sermon after painfully bad sermon, while always stubbornly ignoring all signs that something is amiss if everyone keeps leaving”) will step in and save the day.

Subsequently, curiosity grew and I began going to “seeker friendly” churches, too. I have been back and forth between the two ever since.

Here’s an observation that I didn’t expect. Week after week, the “seeker friendly” churches say something like, “I grew up, like you, at a (insert mainstream denomination) church.” The leader will then add some personal anecdote about how “…only later did I realize the full freedom allowed by the Holy Spirit to break from tradition, conservatism, etc.” And in so doing, the “seeker friendly” leader, will have made his or her appeal to those who are seeking to go “deeper” or seeking greater “meaning.”

In other words, no different than the stoic, wise, and time-tested denominations, the “seeker friendly” churches were hocking that they are the place to find real, deep meaning. “The denomination gets you started, but ultimately fails to satisfy,” they say.

For this reason, because you’re both suggesting you’re the place to “go deep,” I confidently say, “You’re both wrong.”

I’ll add this. Two thousand years ago Paul wrote, in a letter to one particular church of his day, “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.”

Here, we have some options.

We can say, A: “Paul was talking only to that particular body of believers alive some two thousand years ago which was manifesting itself as ‘fleshly’ as opposed to ‘spiritual’ and his words have nothing to do with me.”

Or we can say, B: “Paul was talking only to believers who manifest themselves as ‘fleshly’ as opposed to ‘spiritual’, no matter what era they live in, including contemporary believers,”

Or we can say, C: “Paul’s admonishment, unbeknownst to him, was to all believers. (Period).”

(There might be other options too.)

I choose C.

I choose C for the following reasons.

1. It’s not A, because I wouldn’t have heard of the Gospel, Paul’s letter, or the Bible if Paul was only talking to his immediate audience. (There should be no surprise here. This is kinda inherent to a Bible-believing Christian’s view of Scripture.)

2. It’s not B, because there exists in all of us a shameful little thing called “pride”. The moment I believe that “I made it” (in this case, ‘I’m spiritual’), I, again, lost the battle.

3. It’s far more exciting and interesting to live a life which never summits. And, it’s a nearly impossible mental gymnastic to defend spiritual maturity, and simultaneously maintain that the Christian’s satisfaction and fulfillment is only found in actual (neoconcrete?) life with Jesus–after whichever happens first, the Second Coming or death.

In short, if you’re a Christian leader, please return the “I’ve got a secret” tactic to the get-rich-quick, make-friends-easily, persuade-people-now motivational guru’s you stole it from and pass the milk.

2 comments

  1. lcaurbrsy

    Exceptionally well written, succinct way to make sure (whether you are a seeker friendly or denomination church) that your weekly message and doctrine truly understands there is no true summit where we reach spiritual maturity on earth as believers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. insanitybytes22

    I have decided that some 90% of Christian pleasure and joy in the world comes from making sure you tell everyone else they’re doing it all wrong. Could be contemporary worship music, weird lighting, sprinkle baptism versus immersion, or using crackers and grape juice for communion. Whatever the issue, somebody else is doing it all wrong and our job as Christians is to take note of this and to declare our tribe to be morally superior. Extra credit points for whispering “heretic” when those others walk by.

    Liked by 1 person

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