How to think like a seeker?
So, "How do you construct a mission oriented church?" We've seen that there are three requirements for building a church for the un-churched (seekers):
- Begin by attempting to view what we do from the perspective of a seeker.
- Commit a significant portion of the church's energy, money, time and personnelto reaching seekers.
- Structure for growth.
Let's take a closer look at the first requirement.
THE SEEKER'S PERSPECTIVE
So how do we view what we do from a seeker's perspective? How can we look at church through the eyes of someone who doesn't go to church?
For many of us this is almost impossible. Some of us were born and raised in church. Church attendance has always been a part of our lives. We're like longtime members of a very exclusive club. We know the club's purpose, the club's rules, the club's motto, the club's song, the club's handshake, and the club's structure. Because we know all these things, we're very comfortable in the club's environment. But what about non-club members who visit the club? They don't know any of this stuff. Does it make any sense to expect them to feel comfortable in the club's environment?
Perhaps we can look at this another way. In order to try and put yourself in the shoes of a seeker, try to imagine this: One of your friends has joined a Buddhist group, and he's asked you to attend a meeting at their ashram. What is the number one emotion you will feel when you attend their meeting? FEAR!!! Why? First of all, you don't know what an ashram is. So you're already out of the language loop. (An ashram is the same thing as a church building.) Secondly, you don't know what to expect. Are they going to lock the doors behind you? Are they going to make you chant or put on a funny looking robe? Are they going to shave your head? What do you hope? You hope they'll leave you alone and just let you check it out.
You now have some inkling of what seekers feel when they attend church. Like you at an ashram, their number one emotion is FEAR!!! They're wondering: Are they going to use words I don't understand? (Words like justification, sanctification, atonement - words that half the diehard Christians don't even understand.) Are they going to pressure me to do stuff I don't want to do? (Stuff like give money, hold hands with people they don't know, or "go down front" at the end of the service.)
What do they hope? That we'll leave them alone and let them check out Christianity in a non-threatening environment. As Bill Hybels, pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church, said, we need to "provide seekers with a safe place to hear a dangerous message."
This is precisely what Good News Gathering is attempting to do in our worship gatherings, small groups and youth programming, i.e. to provide un-churched people with a safe way to experience the Good News of Jesus Christ.
WHY SUNDAY MORNING?
Many people agree that we need to provide a safe environment for seekers to check out the Good News. But why should we do this on Sunday morning? Why can't Sunday morning services focus on the needs of believers? Isn't this a time for believers to grow deeper in the Lord?
First, most believers already know more than they practice. They don't need to "know more" in order to be saved. They need to practice what they already know in order to save others. Far too many Christians haven't learned that growing deeper in the Lord comes with changes in character and lifestyle and commitment to service.
Second, most un-churched people still associate church with Sunday mornings. They are more likely to check out Christianity on Sunday morning than at any other day or time in the week. GNG must take advantage of this window of opportunity.
Things To Consider
- If you are not a Christian, how do you feel about Bill Hybels' statement that we need to "provide seekers with a safe place to hear a dangerous message"? Does the message of Christianity strike you as "dangerous"? Perhaps, for Christians and non-Christians alike, the most dangerous aspect of Christianity is allowing Jesus to take control of my life. It's no longer "my way", but "His way." That's hard for all of us, even when we know that His way is always the best way.
- If you are a Christian, have you ever thought of the Ministry Center as your home? Imagine inviting someone over to your house for dinner. How would you treat them when they came? First of all, you would be there when they arrived. Can you imagine how they would feel if they arrived and no one was home? Second, you would warmly greet them at the door. You wouldn't make them figure out how to get into your house. Third, you would invite them in, show them around, make them feel comfortable and ask them if you could get them something to drink. And when it was time to eat, you'd offer them the best seat at your table. Imagine how they would feel if you made them stand while you ate because there weren't enough seats at the table. Or what impact do you think it would have if you made them eat in the kitchen while you and your family ate in the dining room? They'd probably wonder why you bothered to invite them over in the first place.
The same is true when we invite Seekers to attend GNG. Think of the Ministry Center as your home. How does this shift your perspective toward our guests? Would you park at the high school so our guests can park on site? Will you move down and move in so our guests can sit in the back and on the aisles? If needed, would you sit in the Atrium overflow area so guests could sit in the Auditorium?