Of course churches should be friendly toward seekers. We are to be friendly to seekers no matter the location. But, being friendly, even welcoming, to seekers, is not what the seeker-friendly church movement is all about. Many evangelical church leaders these days have redesigned both their church buildings and their services in an effort to bring more people through their doors. This is, in a nutshell, the essence of a “seeker-friendly” church—offering worldly allurements to attract the multitudes. The proponents of the seeker-friendly church claim to be doing whatever is necessary to “reach the lost.” The fallacy with that kind of thinking is that “the lost” are not seeking God at all. The Bible says that “no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11). This means there is no such thing as an unbeliever who is truly seeking for God on his own. Furthermore, man is dead in his sin (Ephesians 2:1), and he can’t seek God because he doesn’t recognize his need for Him.
But there are lots of people who are seeking to be entertained and assured that God loves them, despite their sin and ungodly lifestyles. There are many who seek a form of religion, and if the goal of the seeker-friendly churches is to fill seats with these people, it appears to be working. Growth in many of these establishments is staggering indeed. Some of the larger ones will usher in tens of thousands of attendees for weekend services alone. With annual budgets reaching well into the millions of dollars, many of these edifices are more likely to resemble a large corporate office than a church. That is why you’re less likely to find stained glass windows than a coffee shop, gift shop, bookstore or even a basketball court. Some even have swimming pools and bowling alleys! To leaders of these churches, the Great Commission has essentially become more of a marketing scheme, with the use of surveys and studies to determine which enticements are needed to “reel them in,” and then to cater to their appetites by giving them what they want.
Another problem with the seeker-friendly movement is that in their desire to please every itching ear, these churches have relegated God and His Word to the back pews, ensuring that no one is offended by the truth. The great doctrines of the faith have been deemed “divisive” and shelved. Sadly, many of these churches are flourishing these days because they have reshaped the gospel into the kind of “product” buyers are willing to tolerate. The bottom line is that these churches have placed the focus on man, not on God where it belongs. And God’s Word cannot be recast to conform to the needs of a consumer-driven culture. God never intended for His Church to be cozy and comfortable. But there is nothing comfortable about the truth, which Hebrews 4:12 describes as “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
The message received by those attending seeker-friendly churches too often is that the Christian life is one of ease and comfort and free from conflict. However, this is certainly not the life that Christ’s followers are to expect. Jesus told us “in this world we would have trouble” (John 16:33) and that we could expect to be persecuted (Matthew 5:11–12, 44; 10:23; 13:21; Mark 10:30; John 15:20) and even hated (John 15:18) on account of following Him. And when Jesus said, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23), He meant that one must be willing to give his life in order to follow Him. Look at what preaching the truth of Christ got Paul—flogged, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and run out of the country many times! Yet this devout servant of Christ still said, “We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9). He further taught us to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
The apostle Paul told us the time would come when men would not put up with sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3). However, with over 70 percent of adults under age 25 thinking all beliefs are equally valid (according to Barna Research), sound doctrine is exactly what is needed. It is the Word of God that plants the seed for the new birth (1 Peter 1:23), and the Word must be taught for the purpose of “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17) and for taking the true message out into the world (Matthew 28:19–20).