In a lot of criticism for the “Seeker-driven” churches, there’s usually mention of false assurances of salvation. What does that mean? Does it mean that despite repenting and confessing, Jesus Christ is the one and only true way to the Father, that people are still doomed to hell? … I’m so confused and honestly MORE than a little frightened.
Hey, thank you for this question.
First please know: God is not really in the business of scaring people into loving Him, so if any part of you is thinking, “I have to get this right or I’m doomed!” — then I don’t believe it’s coming from God. We can leave behind the fear, so says 1 John 4:18.
When we say the phrase seeker-sensitive, it was originally coined by Willow Creek Community Church, the huge megachurch in Chicago. About a decade ago, the leadership thought that creating a service around “seekers” — people curious about the church — would attract more mainstream crowds. The word “seeker” replaced sinner because it felt more friendly and welcoming.
There is a ton of anecdotal evidence that says the whole seeker-sensitive movement was a bad idea (Willow Creek has since mostly stopped services for seekers). I’m not so black-and-white on it. I think it was a decent idea to reach out to people who didn’t grow up in church. Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 says he became all things to all people, that he might save some. I believe adapting to seekers was born out of good intentions.
But as with any idea, the downside is that any church culture will always grow a subculture of bad ideas. All of them. Even the best ideas can be corrupted in human hands. Think of any movement in church history and this has always been true. If the Bible can be subverted for twisted agendas, then surely so can church culture.
Some pastors get scared of their youth group having sex, so BAM, you get fear-based scare tactics on dating that damages the youth. John Calvin expounds on God’s sovereignty and BAM, you get some arrogant Reformed Neo-Calvinists. I bet John Calvin would hardly recognize Calvinism today. If we’re criticizing seeker-ministries, we have to take that microscope on everything else.
Again, there is always going to be a cyst on the original intent of a decent idea, no matter how good it is, and that’s human nature: we’re bound to take things to extremes.