The seeker sensitive church

SERMON TOPIC: The seeker sensitive church

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 10 June 2018


Sermon synopsis: Describing the last days, Paul warns in 2 Tim 3:1-5:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
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In recent years a new movement within the evangelical church has come into vogue, commonly referred to as “seeker sensitive.” Generally, this movement has seen a great deal of growth. Many “seeker” churches are now mega-churches with well-known pastors who are riding a wave of popularity in the evangelical world. The seeker-sensitive movement claims millions of conversions, commands vast resources, continues to gain popularity, and seems to be attracting millions of un-churched people into its fold. So, what is this movement all about? Where does it come from? And, most importantly, is it biblical? 1

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Describing the last days, Paul warns in 2 Tim 3:1-5:


But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of Godhaving a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

When David’s grandson, Rehoboam, became king, 10 of the tribes broke away and formed a separate kingdom in the north. The southern kingdom under Rehoboam became known simply as Judah. It remained with the capital in Jerusalem which was of course the location of both the king’s palace and God’s temple. The 10 tribes in the north became collectively known as Israel and chose Jeroboam as their king.


Jeroboam chose to rule from Shechem but was concerned about the fact that his people still had to go to Jerusalem to worship. He feared that they might be influenced by his rival Rehoboam and change their allegiance. Here’s how he decided to solve this problem:

Jeroboam set up 2 golden calves and established a false religion in Israel as an alternative to the worship of the true God. And his ploy was very successful.

The appeal was to convenience

1 Kings 12:28… He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods…’

Jeroboam set up golden calves in Bethel (south) and in Dan (north). Having these two local locations suggest that Jeroboam was trying to make worship easy. Why travel to Jerusalem (the site God had chosen for worship) when these sites were closer? So Jeroboam established “seeker sensitive” places of worship.

Similarly, the modern seeker-sensitive church tries to reach out to the unsaved person by making the church experience as convenient, comfortable, inviting and non-threatening as possible. (The idea is to get as many unsaved people through the door as possible.)

In order not to take up too much of people’s time, the 45-minute Bible-based sermon is replaced with a 20-minute motivational “feel-good” talk focused on self-improvement.

… why are we so focused on creating an environment that makes those who are perishing feel comfortable? 1

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What are the other characteristics of false religion?

It is man-made

1 Kings 12:28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves…

1 Kings 12:33 On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel.


But it masquerades as true religion

1 Kings 12:28 …He said to the people, “Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

1 Kings 12:32 He instituted a festival … like the festival

held in Judah…

Jeroboam’s religion was “like the festival” - in other words it was a forgery made to look like the real thing.


Paul says that in the last days people will “have a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:1-5) i.e. occupied with religious ritual which has lost the significance.

In Rev 3:20, Laodicea is the only church where Jesus is pictured as being outside his own church! - “I stand at the door and knock”.


He is outside because he is not needed. They say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing” (Rev 3:17).

Like Laodicea, in many of the Western churches today we have a lot of programs but no Christ!

When a Chinese Christian visiting churches on a US tour was asked what he thought about American spirituality, he answered, “I am amazed at how much the church in America can accomplish without the Holy Spirit.”

The Western churches have also faced a crisis where they are worried about losing people. Like Jeroboam to solve the problem, they have invented a false religion. As draw cards they have lots of programs, social events, fitness centres and good professional entertainment.


Like Jeroboam’s false religion, many churches preach a religion that is fake, but it masquerades as true religion.

It is also man-made, using business and secular principles to attain success - which is defined by numerical growth, a large revenue stream and “customer retention”.

Church members are viewed as consumers, and consumers must be given what they want. What they want is to be entertained, so God must be presented as a ‘consumer-friendly’ God.

In the seeker-friendly model the belief is that a successful church depends primarily upon the staff’s ability to professionally and seamlessly conduct the meetings - rather than the presence of God.


“Celebrity Christianity” is the trend whereby Christians adopt the values of the celebrity culture as ideals for the Christian life. And so wealth, leisure, fame and power indicate God’s favour and blessing on one’s life. These become the goals that a Christian should strive for.

One typical book title by a modern pastor is “Live Your Dream: Planning for Success”. By “success” they’re normally not referring to overcoming sin or being a good soul-winner either, but being healthy and wealthy.


There is an emphasis today on “celebrity Christians”. A fuss is made of celebrities who are professing Christians, because people like to associate themselves with success. Some churches even have special seats reserved for sports heroes and other celebrities to sit in.

Yet James writes:

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favouritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.


 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? … Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? (James 2:1-7)


“As a church we are power-hungry and covet top positions as if we are climbing a corporate ladder…Those who are invited into leadership positions are the rich and the influential. We forget that spiritual authority is not given to the savvy businessman or the sports hero but to those who have carried the burden of the Lord.” ~ Kevin Turner





The following excerpt from a ‘Christian’ website sounds more like something you’d expect from a motivational speaker. Hopefully you can see the difference between this and Biblical Christianity.

“The SuccessChurch is based on Christ’s Divine Model of Living, High Achieving, and Winning in life. God wants each of us to be a witness for Him, but a witness utilizing our Success in life from Him to bring Him Glory, and to Succeed through His Power, not ours… We have been led to spread the message that we serve a God of Divine, Unlimited Blessings, and Total, Overflowing, Ever-Enlarging, Multiplying Fullness. 1

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It continues:

There is NO Emptiness of Substance with God, and thusly we believe there should not be Emptiness in any aspect of our lives, including relationships, careers, family, health, and finances and Godly Success. We believe that constant struggle in life is a choice, not a destiny. 1

Compare that to the real gospel which teaches contentment when in need and when hungry:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Phil 4:12).

1 Ibid


This same website says we must be “a witness utilizing our Success in life from Him to bring Him Glory”. 1

Paul tells us to “boast in the Lord” and not about our own success (which the Corinthians clearly didn’t have).

1 Cor 1:26-31 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. 

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 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Incidentally Jesus didn’t say that people would know that we are Christians by our success, but by our love for others:

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)


The church at Laodicea was unaware of their true condition in the eyes of God.

Rev 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Likewise many churches believe they are doing well and being successful, because their measure of success is different to God’s. Men place high value on large churches with many programs and big budgets.

“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15)

And let’s look at the 2 preceding verses to get the context of what values Jesus was referring to.


Luke 16:13-14 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.


Paul warns that “in the last days. People will be … lovers of money” (2 Tim 3:2). He warns Timothy about “people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Tim 6:5).

1 Tim 6:6-10 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that… For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

He reminds Timothy of the real values Christians pursue:

1 Tim 6:11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.


The focus is on gaining followers

The motive behind Jeroboam’s religion was to gain and keep followers (1 Kings 12: 26-27) – much like the motive behind some church growth programs today, where numbers are more important than preaching the truth.

The focus is mainly on numerical growth. The truth is either diluted or not preached for the sake of gaining and keeping more members (and hence more tithe-money).


When the truth is preached, numbers may suffer:

John 6:60,66 On hearing it, many of his disciples said,


“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” … From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

False religion appeals to the flesh

1 Kings 12:31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places…

The “high places” referred to so often in the OT appealed to the flesh. Sexual encounters with ‘sacred’ prostitutes was part of worship. 1

1 Jer 3:2 NLT “Look at the shrines on every hilltop… You have polluted the land with your prostitution and your wickedness.”


In the last days people will prefer entertainment to God, being “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim 3:1-5).

And so we have the phenomenon of “seeker sensitive” churches, which have transformed the church into a religious entertainment centre. The setup will typically include state-of-the-art sound technology along with hi-tech lighting. The shekinah glory is replaced by the smoke machine and worship is reduced to musical entertainment.

Theatrics are the norm so that the seeker doesn’t get bored as they may do in a traditional church.

Songs are eliminated from the worship which speak of man’s sinfulness, the cross or the need of a Saviour.

But Bill Blankschaen says that “Seekers can’t worship… It’s not that they struggle to do so, but that they simply are not capable of doing so due to the pernicious effect of sin… So why design your worship services to appeal to those who cannot possibly truly participate?” 1

He writes that “it’s not as if there’s a bunch of people desperately trying to find God but can’t because your service isn’t cool enough.” 1

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Peter warns of false teachers who preach a message that appeals to the flesh.

2 Pet 2:18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.

But he says their message cannot bring freedom.

2 Pet 2:19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity…

The idea that pleasure is the most important pursuit in life is a sign of spiritual immaturity. Jesus tells of the seed which is “choked by … riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (Luke 8:14)”


And despite the fact that some have been taught that God will answer selfish prayer (provided you get the formula right), God makes it clear that he will not answer prayer that is aimed at simply satisfying a desire for pleasure:

James 4:2-3 … You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.


The message is not offensive

Seeker-sensitive churches try to remove everything that may offend or turn away ‘seekers’ (formerly known as sinners or unbelievers).

The message is aimed at addressing the “felt needs” of the congregation while continually stressing that being a Christian will dramatically improve your happiness and quality of life both at home and work.

2 Tim 4:3-4 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Yet even though the original gospel was considered offensive, it was not tailored to make it more palatable.

1 Cor 1:23 … but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,


The world doesn’t feel threatened by the message of false prophets and as such, is generally friendly towards the proponents of false religion.

Jesus said “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)

In contrast, speaking the truth is construed as being negative. Note Ahab’s response to Jehoshaphat when he asked to hear from a prophet of God (1 Kings 22:8)

There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.

Talking about God’s judgement is not considered to be building people up. Note the words of the officials to the king before lowering Jeremiah into a cistern (Jer 38:4).

This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers… as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.

Proponents of seeker-friendly churches say that the reason behind all the expense, state-of-the-art tech equipment, and the theatrics is in order to better reach the unsaved with the gospel. But it is questionable if it is the gospel that is being preached.

Certain topics are avoided in order not to offend the big givers. Rarely if ever will sin, hell or repentance be spoken of. If sin is mentioned, it will be referred to as “bad choices”.


Instead you will be told how God only wants to bless you, fulfil your dreams, boost your self-esteem and make you rich and successful. God’s holiness, wrath and justice are not mentioned; only his love.


All is well! God will prosper you.

… even prophets and priests cheat the people… “All is well,” they say, when all is not well. (Jer 6:13-14, GNT)

Jesus as the exclusive way of salvation won’t be mentioned. Such topics are considered too “divisive.”

Many today feel that doctrine is not important as long as we all get along with one another. This statement by Paul would be considered too critical or divisive for some:

1 Tim 6:3-4 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing.

1 Tim 1:3-7 … command certain men not to teach false doctrines… Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.


Perfect for busy pastors who don’t have time to water down the gospel all by themselves, Gerber’s Baby Christian Food will supply the needs of any growing seeker-sensitive church.

Pastor, why force solid doctrine on your congregation when there’s a palatable alternative?

But people must be warned of false teaching because it can ultimately destroy their faith:

1 Tim 6:20-21 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.

Speaking of those “who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain”, Paul warns: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction… Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Tim 6:9-10)


Paul speaks of people in the last days being pre-occupied with having a positive self-image:

2 Tim 3:1-5 People will be lovers of themselves… boastful, proud… conceited…

Yet many Christian leaders now promote the very love of self that Paul warned would characterize men in the last days.


In Christian bookstores you might see these titles (Remember “People will be lovers of themselves”):

Love Yourself 1

The Art of Learning to Love Yourself 2

You’re Someone Special 3

Self Esteem: You’re Better than You Think 4

Self-Love: The Dynamic Force of Success 5

Improving Your Self-Image 6

1 Cecil G. Osborne 2 Walter Trobisch 3 Bruce Narramore 4 Ray Burwick 5 Robert H. Schuller & Norman Vincent Peale 6 H. Norman Wright


This preoccupation which has crept into Christian theology and counselling is due to the influence of Self-Image Psychology which derives from the branch of modern psychology called Humanistic Psychology.

A typical Christian psychologist writes: “Our attitude toward ourselves— our self-concept or our self-image—is one of the most important things we possess… If we think little of ourselves, we either accomplish little or drive ourselves unmercifully to disprove our negative self-evaluation. If we think positively about ourselves, we are free to achieve our true potential.” 1

1 Bruce Narramore, You’re Someone Special


Some prominent Christians claim that society’s greatest problem is that of “low self-esteem” - and that everything from abortion, teen pregnancy to rape, robbery and poverty can be solved if only we help people to love themselves more; and to realize their great self-worth!

Robert Schuller explicitly denies that there is any such thing as original sin. He redefines the basic doctrines of Christianity. According to his re-definition, the truth of inherited sin becomes this, that everyone is born with a negative self-image, an inferiority complex that must be overcome. 1

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Not only is this emphasis on self-esteem not found in the writings of historical Christianity; self-esteem, self-image, self-worth and self-love are not concepts promoted in the Bible.

Paul writes that we should have a modest opinion of ourselves:

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Rom 12:3)

And who can forget Jesus’ words in his Sermon On The Mount: “Blessed are the meek” (Matt 5:5)? – NOT “Blessed are the self-confident, domineering and assertive”.


So while some would want Jesus to say, “A new command I give you: Love yourself as I have loved you.”

Jesus actually said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13: 34)

Jesus does not command self-love, but rather love for God and love for one another. He didn’t command us to love ourselves, because we already do.

Matt 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’


According to research, young people today are significantly more narcissistic than during the 1980s and 1990s. 1

Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University says, “We need to stop endlessly repeating ‘You’re special’ and having children repeat that back. Kids are self-centred enough already.” 1

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In her book “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before”, Twenge asserts that narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favour self-promotion over helping others. They are also more likely to commit infidelities in their personal relationships, be emotionally cold, lie without remorse, and exhibit violent behaviour. 1

People who think too highly of themselves have the following traits: self-centredness, overconfidence, lack of care or concern about others, inflated sense of their own greatness, dislike and alienation from other people who don’t appear to adore them, entitlement (the expectation of having things handed to them without much effort).

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The Bible says that too much self-love makes you unaware of your sinful state:

“In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” (Psalm 36:2)

And the final outcome for those who are self-seeking?

Rom 2:5-8 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.


“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24)


Rather than self-love and the idea that God wants you to be successful, reach your full potential and fulfil your dreams; Jesus taught self-denial.

False religion lacks true power

A prophet of God pronounces judgement on Jeroboam and “the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out” (1 Kings 13:5).

Angered by the prophet’s words, Jeroboam attempts to have him seized. But the hand he points at the man shrivels and the king resorts to begging the prophet to intercede with God to heal him.


Tertullian wrote in the 2nd century AD, “A real God is rather more useful than a fake one” (Apologeticum).

The false religion of today is powerless too.

2 Tim 3:5 having a form of godliness but denying its power…

1 Cor 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

False religion has no power to save and no power to change men’s lives. And those who have removed the cross from the Christian message have lost the power:

1 Cor 1:17 … but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.


As the focus of a seeker-sensitive church is on man’s needs, comfort and convenience - in reality, it is totally man-centred, not Christ-centred.

Actually churches should be God-sensitive, not seeker-sensitive.

Welcome to a church, where it’s all about YOU

O altar, altar! This is what the LORD says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who now make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.’

False religion ends with judgement

No sooner had Jeroboam instituted his false religion than a prophet of God from Bethel denounced it and prophesied a future judgement (1 Kings 13).

So what is the special word Jesus has for our rich, materialistic and lukewarm churches?

Jesus also warns them of coming judgement.

Rev 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm— neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Rev 3:19 “… So be earnest, and repent.”


Yet they are still loved.

Rev 3:19 “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline…”

Heb 12:6 “…because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”



It is still possible to be an overcomer in a lukewarm age or church. But in order to overcome you need to hear and heed what Jesus is saying to the church.

Rev 3:21-22 “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”


Jesus desires a personal relationship and fellowship with them:

Rev 3:20 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”


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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (

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