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I’m a big fan of adapting your sermon to where your audience is in their spiritual journey. It means spending time to analyze where the majority of my audience will be in their journey with God and trying to determine what they need to make the next step. That means that when preaching for youth, I often preach seeker-sensitive, because I know that a lot of students are at the very beginning of their spiritual journey.

But I’ve discovered that not everyone knows what preaching seeker-sensitive means. There are a lot of prejudices and wrong associations about preaching seeker-sensitive, although I must admit some of them are caused by preachers applying the principle wrongly. Let me try to make clear what seeker-sensitive preaching is not.

It is not watering down the gospel.

It is not just preaching the basics.

It is not saying what your audience wants to hear.

It is not presenting Jesus as the easy fix for all your problems.

It is not choosing easy Bible passages.

It is not avoiding words like hell or sin.

It is not just preaching positive messages.

It is not just topical preaching.

It is not staying under 15 minutes.

It is not using only short Bible passages.

It is not preaching a less radical message.

It is not just preaching from the New Testament.

It is not preaching to make people feel good.

It is not avoiding difficult topics.

It is not preaching the prosperity gospel.

Seeker-sensitive preaching means adapting my sermon to the fact that my audience is, for the most part, not committed to Christ. I see it as a golden opportunity to preach the Gospel in all its force, allowing God to work in hearts and draw people to Him. It means I carefully choose my topic, my passages, my words, my tone and my style so I have a better chance of reaching my audience with the wonderful news that Christ died for their sins. That’s it.

What does seeker-sensitive preaching mean to you?

Rachel Blom has been involved in youth ministry in different roles since 1999, both as a volunteer and on staff. She simply loves teens and students and can't imagine her life without them. In youth ministry, preaching and leadership are her two big passions. Her focus right now is providing daily practical training through www.YouthLeadersAcademy.com to help other youth leaders grow and serve better in youth ministry. She resides near Munich in the south of Germany with her husband and son.

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Mark A. Teets

commented on Oct 28, 2011

I would think your purpose would be to help your listeners grow and mature in their relationship with the Lord. With that in mind at what point do you start to challenge them with deeper truths that will take them further on in their salvation. If you stay at the same level will they fall victim to Hebrews 5:11-6:8?

Dr. Luke Kauffman

commented on Oct 28, 2011

Seeker sensitive is defined in Scripture as, "Seek the Lord, while He may be found." The modern model is shopping the text that fits many audiences who are still dead in trespasses and sin.

Mark A. Teets

commented on Oct 28, 2011

How do you apply the seeker service method if your listeners are at different levels of spiritual maturity?

Sam Rodriguez

commented on Oct 28, 2011

I guess I can see the author's point except that she has redefined what the Seeker Sensitive movement is. In a nut shell, it is a movement that seeks to make the "seeker" comfortable in Church in hopes that they will hear the Gospel in a non-threatening way and respond favorably to it. However, the Bible says "as it is written: ?None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God." Romans 3: 10,11 In my opinion it is better to leave the Church alone as God intended it to be used "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles? doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." Acts 2: 42

Dr. Luke Kauffman

commented on Oct 28, 2011

Mark, a minister approaches an audience as one does a class in foreign lanuagages. As their curosity stays with you, soon you and the class will have the same communication tools. So it is with teaching Scripture to those whose eyes are blinded. The power of the Word to the deaf and blind in heart will soon have them seeing and hearing the Heavenly language just as this happened to you and to me.

Glenn Hawkins

commented on Oct 28, 2011

Having been on staff at a "seeker sensitive" church and since leaving, I was challenged to reconsider what "seeker sensitive" means. Just a cursory study through the Scripture shows that a seeker is NOT a non-believer: they can't seek because they are dead in sins. Romans 3 spells it out--as Paul clearly states and even quotes from the OT: there is NONE who seek after God. The One who seeks in relation to non-believers is the Lord Jesus when He said, "The Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost." On the human level, the seekers are the believers. There is only one passage where one could possibly make a case for a non-believer seeking and that is Acts 17 when Paul preached at Mars Hill. So, in reality, a seeker sensitive service is "catered" for a believer--which means, in part, Bible teaching aimed at equipping the saints for the work of ministry--matching precisely what a pastor's divine mandate is (Eph 4:11-12). On the other hand, an evangelist is one who deals with the non-believer. In my opinion, an evangelist doesn't need to be in the pulpit; he needs to be on the street corner. Leave the feeding of God's people to those who are pastors.

Mack Harrell

commented on Oct 28, 2011

Whenever I hear or read the word 'chance' ... I shudder. CHANCE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT!!

Zachary Bartels

commented on Oct 28, 2011

What you're describing is great! But it's almost never what people mean by "seeker sensitive preaching."

Fernando Villegas

commented on Oct 28, 2011

Sam Rodriguez, it may well be that Ms. Blom is redefining what the Seeker Sensitive movement is; which, if that is the case, that is a GOOD thing. It is good for those in the Seeker Sensitive movement--as it is good for those of us in ANY movement--to be constantly reflecting on their intentions and their methodologies, to make sure they are consistent with the way of Christ. There is no need for those of us outside of that movement to hold them to previous definitions and not allow the term "Seeker Sensitive" to evolve in meaning, especially if that evolution moves them in a more biblical direction.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Oct 28, 2011

Mack Harrell, language is not math. It is not as precise, it is much more fluid. I would encourage you not to get so hung up on one specific word without taking the context in consideration.

Bruce Waldt

commented on Oct 28, 2011

I just left a seeker church after involvement for 2 years..Entertainment over edification..Little doctrinal teaching..Zero expository preaching/teaching.. Fostering pews with decisioning for Jesus but no fruit !! Swimming in the same mud puddle one was saved out of decades before..More worship and less Word..

Fernando Villegas

commented on Oct 28, 2011

Dr. Kauffman, speaking of language, I think your analogy of a foreign language class is right on the mark. We are learning a new language, here--the language of reality, the language of God as he is (not as we THINK he should be) and of the universe as he created it to be. Seeker-sensitive preaching means recognizing that the class does not speak that language, but presumably they WANT to learn, and some may have more previous exposure to that language than others (I had learned the Hebrew and Greek alphabets before I took those classes in college, so in some ways I was a little ahead of most of the class, but not much). Seeker-sensitive preaching means you take them with you, step by step, in a logical progression, at a pace they can handle. And the goal of seeker-sensitive preaching is for those who are seeking, at the end of the day, to be like their teacher. At least, this is what I think seek-sensitive preaching should be.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Oct 28, 2011

bruce waldt, I agree with you that church as you described is not good. But as Ms. Blom demonstrates, there are those within the seeker-sensitive movement who are doing things differently than that church, who are attempting to be more biblical in their ministry. I would encourage all of us not to let past experiences prejudice us against everyone who identifies with that movement.

Keith B

commented on Oct 28, 2011

yes, there is a difference between preaching an evangelistic message to a group of mostly non-believers and an expository sermon for Sunday morning. If, however, we tailor our Sunday mornings to the "seeker", we are missing the point. Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as a "seeker", since the Bible is clear that no one seeks God. Instead of doing church for the goats, we should be feeding the sheep. If an unbeliever wanders in, make him/her welcome--but don't change the message.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Oct 28, 2011

k b, you seem to have dismissed a whole range of texts that both encourage and command us to seek God (cf. Dt 4:29; 1 Chr 22:19; Job 5:8; Ps 63:1; Jer 29:13; Mt 6:33; Heb 11:6, and many others). Of course, no one seeks God by their own initiative, which is the point of texts like Romans 3:11. But it is false to assert that "the Bible is clear that no one seeks God." On a larger issue, I think part of the problem is that perhaps we expect too much of the sermon preached during the worship service. We expect it to be BOTH understandable to new believers AND challenging to mature Christians, as well as edifying to everyone else in between. Quite frankly, that's unrealistic. k b, you talked about "feeding the sheep," a phrase you use quite often. But our primary task as pastors is NOT to "feed the sheep," and certainly one sermon a week will NEVER be sufficient to feed the sheep, no matter how deep that sermon may be. Our primary task as pastors is to teach our flock how to feed themselves, how to read, study, interpret, and meditate on the scriptures individually and in small groups. Our primary task as pastors is to teach them to feast on the Word of God daily. THAT is how the sheep get fed. One sermon a week is not sufficient to accomplish this work.

Thomas Sterbens

commented on Oct 28, 2011

Some really great comments here... One of the difficulties with dialog is assumption with regard to terms and nomenclature. *Is there a standardized definition for "seeker sensitive?"

James Walker

commented on Oct 28, 2011

I believe we have missed the essential point that "church" is where "believers" come together worship, receive and share. This is often missed because we take great pains to get "unbelievers" to join into this environment. I am of the strong opinion that soul winning is till best with one-on-one witnessing. Bringing the new believer to congregate with the family of believers in the context of worship, sharing and receiving is still the ideal. Looking to a "worship service" to win the lost while simultaneously feeding the flock will usually result in one or the other or neither happening very well. The meaning of "church" is the "called ones". It is Christ who calls with an irresistible calling and hence we "congregate.

James Walker

commented on Oct 28, 2011

I believe we have missed the essential point that "church" is where "believers" come together worship, receive and share. This is often missed because we take great pains to get "unbelievers" to join into this environment. I am of the strong opinion that soul winning is till best with one-on-one witnessing. Bringing the new believer to congregate with the family of believers in the context of worship, sharing and receiving is still the ideal. Looking to a "worship service" to win the lost while simultaneously feeding the flock will usually result in one or the other or neither happening very well. The meaning of "church" is the "called ones". It is Christ who calls with an irresistible calling and hence we "congregate.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Oct 28, 2011

James Walker, I'm in fundamental agreement with you, but I would like to point out, however, that as we are seeing, we cannot simply make a distinction between an unbeliever and a believer. There is a third category--the seeker. They are not an unbeliever, because in order to seek God, they must on some level believe that he exists (cf. Heb 11:6). But they are not quite a believer, yet. So while I agree with you that the primary purpose of the worship service and the sermon are not to win the lost, the worship service is a quite appropriate place for seekers to seek God. (By the way, 1 Cor 14 is not averse to having unbelievers come to a worship service, either.) So I think it is good for us to consider how to communicate the Gospel in way that will be understood by those who are "seeking God." Also, let us all keep in mind that although for most of us, the worship service is the primary context in which we preach, there are many other context where we preach that are outside the worship service (e.g. weddings, funerals, baccalaureates, etc.), where the majority of the listeners will probably be unbelievers or seekers. It's important to keep them in mind, as well, when we preach in those settings.

James Walker

commented on Oct 28, 2011

I believe we have missed the essential point that "church" is where "believers" come together worship, receive and share. This is often missed because we take great pains to get "unbelievers" to join into this environment. I am of the strong opinion that soul winning is till best with one-on-one witnessing. Bringing the new believer to congregate with the family of believers in the context of worship, sharing and receiving is still the ideal. Looking to a "worship service" to win the lost while simultaneously feeding the flock will usually result in one or the other or neither happening very well. The meaning of "church" is the "called ones". It is Christ who calls with an irresistible calling and hence we "congregate.

James Walker

commented on Oct 28, 2011

Mr.Fernando Villegas - Are you a comment moderator? I often read your critiques of other posts including mine. I think it is nice when our posts can simply stand on their own without "yea" or "nay". I neither critique comments from others nor do I look forward to having mine critiqued. Let's let each other's post stand on their on merits.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Oct 28, 2011

James Walker, I meant no offense. The way I learn and grow is by interacting with people, having conversations, challenging others' assumptions and having them challenge mine. To some it may seem confrontational, but to me it's actually quite fun. But that's me, and I respect that fact that others are different. So believe me again when I say I sincerely meant no disrespect, and I will honor your request to have your comments stand on their own. Thank you for your understanding, and may God bless you richly this weekend!

Thomas Sterbens

commented on Oct 28, 2011

Some really great comments here... One of the difficulties with dialog is assumption with regard to terms and nomenclature. *Is there a standardized definition for "seeker sensitive?"

Rachel Blom

commented on Oct 29, 2011

I am loving the discussion here, thanks so much everyone for sharing your thoughts! Let me make a few things clear: first of all, this post was originally published on my own blog and I write for youth pastors mainly. The points I'm making therefore apply mostly to 'youth services'. Some of the remarks of what a Sunday service is or isn't or a church is or isn't therefore don't apply. Because I am honestly not saying that every Sunday morning service should be seeker-sensitive! Secondly, I agree that no one out of himself will honestly seek God, however I also believe that God is at work in non-believers. Look at Zaccheus, God moved him to seek Jesus earnestly and he ended up getting 'saved'. I believe that in my audience there will be young people, led and prepared by the Holy Spirit to hear the gospel. It's my 'job' to present it to them in a way they can understand it, just as Jesus did with His stories and parables. And that's what I meant by using the word 'chance', though strictly speaking Mack Harell is right of course that chance has nothing to do with it...it was merely an expression. Thirdly, I am not a big fan of the seeker-model as most understand and execute it (a seeker-service on Sunday morning where everything is aimed at making non-believers as comfortable as possible) which is why I wrote this article to subtly show that they don't 'own' the term seeker-sensitive. I consider myself a seeker-sensitive preacher, without ever watering down the gospel, or only preaching mere basics. That was what I wanted to make clear in this post, that preaching seeker-sensitive isn't about preaching just the basics or anything like that, that you can preach on the most difficult themes and still be seeker-sensitive. I think preaching seeker-sensitive has more to do with how you preach, than with what you preach on. It's about not using church language, about finding common ground with your audience, about always preaching the gospel and putting Jesus front and center, about preaching with love and compassion. I actually wrote a follow-up post about this on my own blog in which I define how I see seeker-sensitive preaching. I hope that clears a few things up!

John E Miller

commented on Nov 7, 2011

1 Timothy 2:12

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