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)

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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