Is it possible your church is risking revival by adopting seeker strategies?
“All these new methods of how to build the church have left me confused.”—David Wilkerson
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing revival is defined by an influx of new believers into the church. After all, we see this happening in the great revival chapter of the Bible, Acts 2:
“And continuing daily with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47).
The ultrasimple protocol seems clear: Provide opportunities for the lost to get saved, and as a result, the church will grow. Ultimately, it is presumed, with enough such impact, revival will land.
Unfortunately, many pastors are adopting this paradigm, and due to the necessity it creates, they are also adopting many of the strategies that seeker-sensitive churches are known for. Most of these pastors would be shocked and horrified at such an accusation. Yet, the truth remains that many pastors who are passionately pursuing revival are compromising that pursuit due to a misunderstanding of just how revival will come.
Friend, the ultimate goal of revival is not a church full of new Christians. It’s a church full of the presence of the Holy Spirit and an army of fully surrendered burning men and women of God. You’ll know revival has hit when the church is full of people who can’t stop praying on fire, which is a key evidence of legitimate salvation. The desire to be with God night and day consumes us!
The seeker model results in some very tempting false positives. Keep the bar low, the atmosphere naturally familiar and the pace slow, and you absolutely can gather a crowd of people who are interested in Jesus. Churches can become mega in size, leaders can gain a reputation of success and a lot of people can entertain an affinity for God as their busy lives allow.
I could buy a large building, fill it with comfortable leather couches and serve the best coffee in the city for half the price of everybody’s favorite chain. Add in some connection opportunities, possibly some live entertainment and some 10-minute sermonettes, and I would have a large group of people almost overnight.
Or I could call a prayer meeting and wait for the remnant to show up.
5 Seeker Strategies That Threaten Revival
1. A Non-Threatening Environment
The purpose of the church, including the Sunday service, is not, nor has it ever been, to draw in visitors. It is not to be an evangelistic tool.
The purpose of the church is clear in Scripture. It is to be a believer’s intercession meeting with a focus on the nations.
“And He taught them, and said, ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it a “den of thieves”‘” (Mark 11:17).
When I was pastoring several years ago, I became increasingly frustrated with our pre-service prayer. I have always held raging, explosive intercession for one hour before the start of every service. I started this as a youth pastor and continued as a senior leader.
I wasn’t frustrated with participation because people filled up that room every week. It was often my favorite part of the day. I wasn’t frustrated with the level of passion or focus. The roof regularly came off that prayer room.
My frustration hit after a simple revelation. If the church is a house of prayer for all nations, why was prayer intentionally scheduled to end when the church service began?
I have always been aggressively given to prayer. I’ve taught on it, written a book and innumerable articles and based a school of ministry on it—yet I was embarrassed by my error.
The obvious reason why a fiery prayer meeting would end prior to the start of the service was because many people who would be uncomfortable in such an atmosphere would feel out of place. It seemed right. It felt appropriate that we would be sensitive to the seekers who might not enjoy such a supernatural environment. Oh how that human wisdom grieves me today!
My job as a leader is not to create an atmosphere that is naturally familiar! It’s to invite everybody into a shocking, burning atmosphere of Holy Spirit activity that will cause the flesh to cringe and spirits to explode!
The most important shift I ever made in church ministry was to extend the hour of pre-service prayer right into the first half of the service! When the service began, the firebrands were already on their faces, pacing the room, praying in tongues, dancing and shouting and declaring the Word of the Lord with boldness. The previous hour of fire would launch the beginning of the service like a rocket. Not only did we start the service with raging intercession, we also moved musical worship down a notch. It would come in later, after prayer set the foundation for the rest of the service. The service was finally a prayer meeting; the church, a house of prayer.
My promise to those under my leadership has always been clear: I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. This means we must promote an extremely threatening, costly, uncomfortable church atmosphere that results in only the hungry and surrendered locking in.
You see, the church wasn’t “added to daily” through natural means. Don’t forget how it all started:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues as of fire, being distributed and resting on each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to speak” (Acts 2:1-4).
2. Overemphasis on Connecting People
So often today, churches are marketing themselves as the perfect place for you. You matter. Come as you are. We have saved a place for you. I have to wonder if it’s a club or a church, a place for natural man or our magnificent God.
Again, the primary goal of the church is to nurture a habitation for the Spirit of God to dwell and for the people to pray for the nations.
I cringe at church marketing strategies that emphasize just how well I would fit in if I attended their church. Pastor, it’s not about me! Tell me how much Jesus is glorified and how massive your vision is for prayer, revival and kingdom advance, and then I’ll get excited. The moment I hear about how special I am and just how I can fit in is the moment I realize filling seats is a little too important.