Friday, November 14, 2014

The Failure Of Seeker Sensitive, Purpose Driven Marketing Plans

If you are still a proponent of the Seeker Sensitive, Purpose Driven models of church growth, I believe that you are well-intentioned and have a sincere, evangelistic desire to be more relevant, attractive and acceptable to contemporary cultures and the unchurched communities around you. For that reason, many of your church leaders are tempted to affect radical changes in your traditional worship services and programs. Everything about church is carefully planned to reach certain demographic markets. Therefore you might find your church's "ministries" list reading like a menu; something for everyone. Bowling ministries, Superbowl ministries, Starbucks coffee shop ministries, skate park ministries, and a plethora of other attractions are planned to reach the customers in hopes that, if they like us, they might join us.  I recently heard of a church that was doing a weekly beer ministry; a limit of three beers with a bible study.

Does they work? Of course they do if your purpose is to increase attendance. That's good marketing but it asks the wrong questions. The right questions are; who is the Church? Whose is the Church? And who is the object of your worship?

In the marketing plans of the Church Growth movement, the consumer is the object. Somehow, we reason, if we can get them in and keep them in long enough, they might like us and stay around long enough to "get saved."

Two things happened in the movement a few years ago that should cause you (if you are serious about your ministry) to take an honest, critical look at what you are doing.

First - In June of 2006, Pastor Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel founder and senior pastor, rejected the emerging church movement and asked that all of those CC pastors who were moving in that direction cease calling themselves Calvary Chapel churches. In a subsequent action, a notice was placed in the Calvary Chapel Distribution Website stating: "The teaching and positions of Rick Warren have come into conflict with us at Calvary Chapel. Pastor Chuck has directed us to discontinue this product effective immediately."

Both Purpose Driven and the emerging church promote contemplative spirituality, which is a belief system that is contrary to biblical Christianity.

Second – As a result of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their philosophy of ministry, Willow Creek’s leadership determined that most of what they had been doing for many years and what they had taught millions of others to do had not produced solid disciples of Jesus Christ. The experts admit being wrong.

If you want to attract a crowd, the "seeker-sensitive" model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, this is a loser. In a shocking confession, Bill Hybels stated: "We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and became Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become 'self feeders.' We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own."

The original copy of this story, FIRST-PERSON: A shocking confession from Willow Creek Community Church leaders, by Bob Burney can be found at

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