Some time ago there emerged a concept designed to attract more people to church services. Normally termed “seeker sensitive,” it attempted to make worship services more attractive to people who were open to biblical spirituality, but might be turned off by their past experiences and/or current impressions of church. The theory was (and is) by making the music more contemporary sounding and engaging; providing family-oriented programs, especially child care; and gearing sermons to the uninitiated, including integrating movie clips and other entertaining elements, would draw far greater numbers of people who would otherwise be turned off.
Those critical of such an approach tend to be concerned about what they perceive to be a disregard for the essential substance of biblical teaching. Does not sensitive-seeker packaging demand a watering down of content? And why cater to seekers anyway? Won’t genuine seekers be attracted to the Gospel regardless of how palatable we try to make it?
Isn’t it more important to be God sensitive rather than seeker sensitive? After all, how seeker sensitive was Peter on that special Shavuot (Day of Pentecost) in Acts, chapter two?
But is it really an issue of one or the other? Does not the effective preaching of the Gospel, while certainly being God-centered, exhibit profound sensitivity to the hearers? The criticism of the seeker sensitive approach may be justified, but I wonder if these critics are willing to accept that in the name of being God sensitive, they may be profoundly people insensitive. Certainly we should never water down the message with which we have been entrusted, but do we really have to be boring and uninteresting in order to demonstrate our faithfulness to God? It’s one thing to attempt to fabricate engaging environments in order to increase attendance, but is not the Creator God worthy of being represented in an interesting and engaging way? And if Yeshua went out of his way to become like us in order to reach out to us, should we not do what we can to make his message of repentance and love as understandable to others as possible?
On the other hand, if we think we need to water down the Gospel to attract people, then we don’t really understand it or the actual needs of the people we claim to be sensitive to. Real seeker sensitivity demands we be God sensitive first. For when we are, then we will begin to possess the kind of God-inspired people sensitivity we (and they) need.