Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A good critique of seekerized church life

SBCLife, the monthly journal of the Southern Baptist Convention that is published by the SBC Executive Committee has a very interesting and helpful article in the January 2006 issue. It is written by William Brown and is entitled, "The Seeker." Brown is an associate professor of evangelism and church planting at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

He is concerned that with all the emphasis on "seekers" in contemporary church growth thinking that unbiblical notions have inevitably taken root that cloud important theological truths about salvation. After all, "The Bible establishes from its opening verses that God is the iniator of His relationship with mankind. He is the Seeker."

Brown credites Charles Finney with laying "much of the groundwork for modern seeker theology" with his "semi-Pelagian position--that a non-Christian could accept Christ, of his own initiative, whenever he so chooses." All of this leads to the current seeker model of ministry that prevails in so many sectors of evangelicalism.

"After all, if I can stir emotions so that people will 'accept Christ' after they have come to the service, then should I not also do whatever I can to get them to the service in the first place?" This mentality leads to all kinds of questionable methodologies. Brown cites the example of one church's "springtime initiative to encourage members to minister to their friends" which consisted of a raffle. Everyone who brings a friend to church gets one entry in a drawing for a new Harley-Davison motorcylce. Guests get two entries! [Note to self: find the name and location of this church and schedule an official visit as a guest before the Spring is over!]

Brown rightly criticizes this kind of approach. Such practices are induced by "seeker theology" that "has damaged the lost and the church. Many seekers have become 'Christians' without experiencing conversion and becoming followers of Christ." Brown wonders if by such man-centered theology and the erroneous methods that it spawns, we have "innoculated a generation of Americans against Biblical Christianity's call to discipleship." His answer: "I am afraid so."

This is a very good article. Brown makes the distinction between being genuinely and biblically evangelistic and being driven by unbiblical thinking into lots of evangelistic activity that may garner many decisions but few disciples. I am encouraged that this has appeared in SBCLife. And I am encouraged that an evangelism professor at one of our seminaries has written it.

(all the quotes come from page 12 of the January 2006 issue of SBCLife. HT: Eric Benson)


Scripture Searcher said...

How grateful all Bible believing Southern Baptists
should be to Professor Brown for putting his thoughts in print -

and to SBC Life for sharing this insightful article with the leaders of SBC churches (and the world)
regarding the contemporary, cultural "meaningless membership" mess.

May we all continue praying for genuine reformation and revival in ALL churches in the USA and the entire world!

allofgrace said...

Kudos to Professor Brown for having the courage to call the seeker sensitive movement what it is--an easy believism gospel. May his tribe increase.

keith whitfield said...

On December 31, 2005, Abundant Life Church in La Marque, Texas gave away a $120k house to a lucky "worshipper" on New Year's Eve. Since 2003, the church has given away a car, a motorcycle and furniture. According to the church's website, lighting, music, indoor fireworks and balloon drops were part of the festivities. A church member/home builder charged the church $53k to cover the cost of materials to construct the house.

On ABC's Good Morning America, anchor Diane Sawyer, asked the pastor: "Isn't this bribing for God?" pastor Walter Hallam replied, "I'll do whatever it takes [to get people in church]." More than 2000 people were expected to attend the New Year's Eve service, so i guess the pastor accomplished what appears to be his goal-- fill the place, "whatever it takes."

Ben said...

As a current SEBTS student, I find the news of this article immensely encouraging. Hopefully he'll leave copies of the article all over the campus for everyone to read. Perhaps he'll convince some of his colleagues about Finney.

Full text of the article here. Sorry, I can't find a direct link, but scroll down the left sidebar for the article titled "Seeker."

Ben said...

Ok, here's a direct link.

David B. Hewitt said...

Glory to God! May the Reformation in the SBC continue.

Benji Ramsaur said...

I'm encouraged. I'm a student at Southeastern and this is one more of the good things that I have been seeing at the seminary. I also was encouraged to see that some of Danny Aykins recommended books (on display at Lifeway) were John Frame's "The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God" and "The Dooctrine of God" and Van Til's "The Defense Of The Faith."

David & Rose Ann said...

As Sinclair Ferguson said in Southlake, Texas back in October during an Evangelism conference, commenting on Ezekiel's dry valley, "In the U.S., pastors have no trouble getting the dead bones together. In UK, we can't even get the bones together." His larger point was even though the dead bones come together, only the annointing of the Spirit through the faithful preaching of the Word can get the bones to ever come alive.

pray4renewal said...

Amen, Dr. Brown.

What churches need is the preaching of the Word of God through actual preaching and healthy, spiritual, theological songs of worship.

At the church I am the pastor, all the people want is to just fill the seats. I have told them we can fill the seats but so what? The lost need to be won. Entertainment only brings them back for more entertainment not what they need.

May God bless the church with pastors who will stand strong for intentional evangelism within their communities as a regular ministry activity of their congregation.

God will bring revival, but we must pray and preach until it comes.

May the dead dry bones be made new.