Still More Differences

When comparing some seeker-sensitive churches with the biblical model, there are even more differences.

The apostles and evangelists in the book of Acts called people to repent, believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized immediately. People were expected, at their conversion, to become disciples of Christ, meeting the conditions Jesus laid down for discipleship, enumerated in Luke 14:26-33 and John 8:31-32. They began loving Jesus supremely, living in His word, taking up their crosses, and giving up all their rights of possession, new stewards of that which now belonged to God.

The gospel that is often proclaimed in seeker-sensitive churches is different. Sinners are told how much God loves them, how He can meet their felt needs, and how they can be saved by “accepting Jesus as Savior.” After they pray a short “salvation prayer,” having never been told about counting the cost of discipleship, they are often assured that they are genuinely saved and solicited to join a class where they can begin to grow in Christ. If they do join such a class (many never return to church), they are often taken through a systematic learning process that focuses on gaining more knowledge of the church’s particular doctrines rather than becoming more obedient to Christ’s commandments. The pinnacle of this “discipleship” program is when the believer eventually starts to tithe his income to the church (to primarily pay for the mortgage and non-biblical staff salaries, what amounts to horrible stewardship, supporting much of which is not ordained of God and robbing that which God does want supported) and is led to believe that he has “found his ministry” when he begins performing some supportive role within the institutional church that is never once mentioned in Scripture.

What would happen if your nation’s government, concerned because there were not enough men volunteering for its army, decided to become “seeker-sensitive”? Imagine that they promised potential recruits that if they joined, there was nothing expected of them—their paycheck would be a free gift, unearned and unmerited. They could get up in the morning whenever they wanted. They could practice the training drills if they wanted to, but they had the option to watch TV instead. If war broke out, they could chose if they wanted to participate in battles or go to the beach. What would be the result?

No doubt the army’s ranks would swell! But the army would no longer be an army, unfit for its task. And that is what becomes of seeker-sensitive churches. Lowering the standards inflates Sunday attendance, but erodes discipleship and obedience. Those seeker-sensitive churches that attempt to “preach the gospel” on Sundays and “do discipleship” at midweek services find that they have a problem if they tell people at the midweek services that only Jesus’ disciples are going to heaven. People then feel as if they’ve been lied to on Sunday mornings. Thus such churches must deceive people at the midweek services as well, presenting discipleship and obedience as options rather than requirements for heaven-bound people.[1]

I certainly understand that some institutional churches do incorporate aspects of the biblical model that others do not. Regardless, the biblical model is clearly the most effective in multiplying disciples and disciple-makers.

Why is the biblical model not followed today? The list of excuses seems endless, but in the final analysis, the reason the biblical model is not followed is because of tradition, unbelief and disobedience. Many say that the biblical model is an impossibility in our world today. But the fact is that the biblical model is being followed in many places around the world today. The explosive growth of the church in China over the past half-century, for example, is due to believers simply following the biblical model. Is God different in China than elsewhere?

All of this is to say that non-American pastors should beware of American church-growth methods that are being promoted around the globe. They would be much more successful in accomplishing Christ’s goal of making disciples if they pursued the biblical model of church growth.


[1] Remember that the requirements that Jesus enumerated to be His true disciple in Luke 14:26-33 were not spoken to people who were already believers, as if He was offering them a second step in their spiritual journey. Rather, He was speaking to the multitudes. Becoming His disciple was the only first step Jesus offered, the step of salvation. This stands in contrast to what is taught in most seeker-sensitive churches.