Sunday, February 18, 2007

Seeker-Friendly Churches

It occurred to me today in adult Sunday School that all churches are seeker-friendly in some sense. Any church that has members had folks who sought them out, even if only for reasons of habit or family, and felt welcome enough to stay.

The difference is whether you are appealing to a broad range of seekers or a narrow one. What we call seeker-friendly churches are those which appeal to as large a number of who they think is out there as possible. The complaint against them would be that they appeal to a lowest-common-denominator. The complaint against the other churches would be that they have narrowed their appeal so enormously as to become useless. If you only appeal to cradle Baptists over 60, that's too narrow. On the other hand, appealing to the most generic group of seekers will leave out folks who aren't very generic.

Our church is populated by well-educated 40-60 year-old evangelicals and their children up until they get driver's licenses, at which point they go elsewhere, or nowhere. Just about every family has at least one person working in education. That's too narrow. People who fit that demographic feel really comfortable from the first week they come - all well and good - but we should be able to expand that somewhat, wouldn't you think?


Anonymous said...

Many Protestant religions have become consumer items, marketing themselves as "mainstream" and "inclusive" to attract donation paying congregations. For many Americans, religion is a Sunday thing. You take the kids, hoping they'll gain a sense of morality and ethics after listening to the sermon.

Faith cannot be a one-day-a-week thing. Faith requires that we not only merely take in what is spoon fed to us by our pastor, but requires our own participation as we wrestle with God for our salvation. Faith requires work; we must study the teachings, we must meditate and seek direction, we must learn to live the principles, not merely mouth the platitudes. True faith is an every second of every day thing.

But most Americans want the easy solution. They want to hear that God loves them and forgives them and all they have to do is be nice people and everything will work out in the end.

The human spirit has a hunger for truth, especially about the nature of being. This hunger drives us to search, and when all we find is milk at the end of the journey, it's not enough for some people and so they turn away, not realizing there is more to find. But it's soooo HARD and requires believing in magic and invisible flying spaghetti monsters! It's all fables for little children to scare them into being good.

Everyone believes in something, everyone finds SOMETHING to give meaning to their lives, even if they don't call it religion.

Should God be marketable? Whatever happened to "straight is the way and narrow is the gate?" I believe it is by reaching out for God, by our struggle and our tears and our ultimate realization that we are weak and flawed, that we can come to know our true relationship with the Divine and receive the strength and humility necessary to get through mortality with grace and humor. We never quite finish the good race, but we should never give up striving. -cp

Ben Wyman said...

If you appeal to a wide range of people from all walks of life, you end up with thousands of diverse people who have no one to talk to.