One of the recent stories heard throughout the blogosphere is how Willow Creek Community Church, the church started by Bill Hybels that essentially started the seeker-sensitive church movement, is, um, going deeper and focusing more on mature believers. From this article:
He spoke about the high levels of dissatisfaction mature believer have with churches. Drawing from the 200 churches and the 57,000 people that have taken the survey, he said that most people are leaving the church because they’re not being challenged enough.
“Anonymity is not the driving value for seeker services anymore,” says Hawkins. “We’ve taken anonymity and shot it in the head. It’s dead. Gone.” In the past Willow believed that seekers didn’t want large doses of the Bible or deep worship music. They didn’t want to be challenged. Now their seeker-sensitive services are loaded with worship music, prayer, Scripture readings, and more challenging teaching from the Bible.
In the larger REVEAL survey taken by 200 churches, people were asked what they want most from their church. Three of the top four responses were:
1. Help me understand the Bible in greater depth
2. Help me develop a closer personal relationship with Christ
3. Challenge me to grow and take the next step in my faith
Some point out that Willow Creek is still being market-driven in it’s approach. In this case, though, it’s interesting to see what the market is asking for: depth of understanding, depth of relationship with God, and to be challenged.
I’ve been a part of different types of churches with different types of church services. I’ve been in Pentecostal services that would scare almost any visitor off. I’ve been churches where I’ve felt the presence of God during the service. I’ve been in churches that are very much seeker sensitive. For the seeker sensitive approach to work, there has to be another layer where real relationships and commitment can happen, and I’ve seen churches do this effectively. However, I’ve also seen people grow disillusioned when the church system and philosophy becomes the end all, be all.
In pondering the whole church service thing, I sometimes wonder if experiencing God in a service, and really feeling the power of God, is a good way to go. I mean, if we believe in a supernatural God, can’t He work in people’s hearts as we worship him? And I’m using worship in a broad sense here. I wonder if we discount what God can do in our midst. Probably.
My current church meets in a large coffee house. We are surrounded by brick walls and art. The music portion of our service is different each week. It isn’t showy, is contemporary, is often stripped down. The sermons are not theatric, if anything they are subdued, authentic, honest. And there is depth, lots of depth, hard questions, and some hard answers. Several years ago, sermons were mostly topical. Now our sermons are from books of the Bible. And when you don’t skip over the hard passages, it makes for some very interesting sermons. The Bible is full of uncomfortable topics, not just to non-Christians, but to Christians. Our church has grown once we stopped trying to make it grow and just preached the Bible. There are still things that can be better, but I’m thinking there’s something to survey results. I think people are tired of simple answers, shows, and plastic. They want depth. Or maybe it’s just that they need it.