Who's the Real Seeker?

During my early church years, the “seeker sensitive” movement was spreading like a wildfire in Australia. A great many churches were tailoring their styling and messaging toward a sincere desire to show hospitality to “seekers.” There has been much debate about the methods and strategies of the seeker sensitive movement. Some people believe that tailoring to “seekers” has resulted in a watering down of truth. Others have complained that the result of seeker sensitive strategies has simply made the church more like the world. On the other hand, some seeker-based churches may simply point to their growing attendances and claim success.

The biggest problem I have with a seeker-based approach is not necessarily on the basis of styling, and I certainly wouldn’t want to see a watering down of the truth of Scripture. The issue that I have is on the basis of where we place our confidence for the success of the gospel. Is it in our strategies or is it in the sovereign work of a saving God through the proclamation of the gospel? When we understand God’s work in the gospel, we understand who the real seeker is.

As I read Scripture, I find it difficult to find a biblical definition of a human seeker. God has often spoken about the human heart in the opposite way. In sin we are desperately wicked and full of evil (Jeremiah 17:9). We are dead in our transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1-3). Paul spends three chapters in Romans coming to the conclusion that it doesn’t even matter if you are a Jew or Greek. Romans 3:9-12 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one, no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."

It seems that everywhere I seek in the Scriptures, I only end up finding one seeker.

God consistently reminds Israel that he is the God who called them (Isaiah 48:12). Even though God called Israel and formed them as his chosen people, they rejected him and broke his covenant with them. Isaiah warned that national Israel’s rejection of God would bring about an inclusion from the Gentiles who do not seek him. Isaiah 65:1 “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, "Here I am, here I am," to a nation that was not called by my name.” Paul makes it clear to the Romans that we have now seen this gentile inclusion through Christ. Romans 10:20-21 “Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me." But of Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people."

So, what do we make of this? Israel did not call out to God, but God called out and formed Israel. The Gentiles had no thought of God, but God sought out the Gentiles who were not seeking him. Once we include both Jews and Gentiles in the list of non-seekers, who else is there to include? In the whole world, God is the seeker. The reason that Jesus came into this world was to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Where does our confidence lie for the lost in this world? 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

Regardless of what you think of the methodologies of the seeker movement, the Bible says that God is the seeker and that when he calls, he is always successful. John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”

Where does that leave us? Our call is to faithfully and indiscriminately proclaim the gospel so that God might call and save his lost sheep. Our call is not to methodologies and strategies, but to a message. This is a message that is often proclaimed to people who don’t want to hear it. These are the very ones that God so often saves because when he calls, the weakness of his message is stronger than mankind’s obstinance.