Recruiting in college athletics is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year task that involves seeking out talent, assessing skills, and evaluating character. Athletic programs live or die by it.
The church has been given a task similar to recruiting. We are called to evangelize, sharing the gospel with the lost in hopes they will come to Christ. Evangelism is not optional for the church anymore than recruiting is optional for a college coach.
At first glance, the call to evangelize may seem overwhelming. Just look at the description of unbelievers in Romans 3:10-11 to understand our mission field:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.”
Over the past twenty years, the term “seeker” has been used to describe people in search of God. However, the description Romans 3:10-11 paints of unbelievers leaves little room for the term “seeker.” Verse 11 even states that “no one seeks for God.”
That’s why I believe we need to rethink and redefine what we mean by “seeker.” I’m not anti-seeker (just keep reading). But I do believe we need some major clarifications. Every Great-Commission church must be able to answer the following questions biblically:
- What is God doing in the world (i.e. the mission of God)?
- What is the church’s role in God’s mission?
- How should the church perform its role?
What is God Doing in the World?
Praise God, Romans 3:10-11 is not the end of the story. Scripture provides various accounts of people seeking God:
- Zacchaeus: Why was the wee little man climbing a tree to see Jesus (Luke 19:1-10)?
- Nicodemus: Why was this ruler of the Jews willing to risk his reputation to speak with Jesus (John 3:1-21)?
- The Ethiopian eunuch. Why was he so interested in the Isaiah scroll if he couldn’t understand it (Acts 8:26-40)?
If there is “no one [who] seeks for God,” how do we explain Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, and the Ethiopian eunuch? Notice the common theme in each story:
An angel of the Lord directed Philip to the Eunuch (Acts 8:26). Jesus told Nicodemus that “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). And after Zacchaeus was converted, Jesus explained, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
In every episode, God was seeking the sinner before the sinner was seeking God. It is by the Holy Spirit that our hearts are convicted of sin and drawn to Christ. That’s why we pray for the lost!
The mission of God, therefore, is to seek and save those who are lost, multiplying disciples around the world for His own glory (Genesis 1:27-28, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8).
What is the Church’s Role in God’s Mission?
If unbelievers are seeking God, it’s because God has sought them, and is moving in their hearts. And if the Holy Spirit is doing the work, then we do not need to lure them in with a barrage of marketing and gimmicks.
Perhaps a better way to identify genuine seekers would be to sow the pure, unadulterated Gospel indiscriminately through gospel-saturated hospitality, relationships, and preaching. Those who respond to the truth of the Gospel can only do so by the power of the Spirit. Those are true seekers. And the church must continue pursuing them.
We never stop spreading the gospel to everyone, and we never stop pleading with the lost to repent and place faith in Christ. However, we must keep our eyes open for opportunities where it is evident God is working in someone’s heart. That’s what Jesus often did when He left the crowds to focus on a seeker like Zacchaeus.
But Christ is doing more than seeking mere converts. He is seeking worshippers, making disciples, and shepherding His people (John 4:23, Matthew 28:18-20). How we go about evangelizing unbelievers impacts how we make disciples and shepherd believers. Conversely, how we minister to believers impacts how we evangelize unbelievers. The “how” is just as important as the “what” and the “why.”
How Should the Church Perform its Role of Evangelization?
No college athletic program can survive by merely collecting players. Nor can the church fulfill its purpose by merely sharing the gospel with the lost. We must make disciples who will be conformed to the image of Christ and magnify His glory to the ends of the earth!
But if all of our efforts are focused on drawing crowds through any means necessary –to the point that even our corporate worship services, Sunday School classes, small groups, and other activities are all planned around lost people –when will we ever feed the flock and make disciples?
College coaches never quit holding practices, meetings, and workouts for the sake of recruiting. In fact, when recruits visit campus, they often watch the team practice or play. Players are never neglected for the sake of recruits.
One temptation of seeker-driven churches is to view evangelism as the primary task of the church. I respectfully disagree with this idea. The church is to exalt Christ by obeying His command to make disciples of all nations, which includes evangelizing the lost. In other words, we evangelize the world, in order to make disciples of all nations, in order that the churches produced will exalt Christ for the global glory of God! Evangelism is not the ends for which God created the world. Instead, it is a means to that end. Seeker-driven churches are tempted to reverse the order of priority.
The church that is recruiting with gimmicks, to the neglect of training disciples, feeding the flock, and challenging the congregation will never be mature. At best, they will have a massive collection of immature converts who believe the Christian life is all about recruiting more immature converts and God’s Word will be reduced to passages that recruit the best. It is demeaning to Scripture and demonstrates little faith in the sufficiency of Scripture.
Unless something interrupts the trend, this kind of church becomes no more than a club for morality, community, and service projects.
Christ’s church is called to something greater.
The shift from seeker-driven to seeker-sensitive may seem small, but it is vital. It is just as evangelistic, but recognizes God’s work in evangelism as primary. Paradoxically, when our view of God’s work in evangelism is heightened, our own role in evangelism is heightened as well. Moreover, our evangelistic efforts are fueled by the promise that God is working. We are not alone in seeking seekers. When we come across a genuine seekers, we know God has already begun to move!
How a church approaches the concept of seekers will shape every part of the Church’s ministry including the Sunday service, discipleship strategy, evangelism efforts, community involvements, and membership process (more on that in a future post).
- Christ is the ultimate seeker. He seeks and saves the lost.
- Unbelievers seek God because He seeks them first.
- The Church’s approach to seekers must be consistent with Christ’s seeking.
- The Church must be Christ-driven and seeker-sensitive.
- Seeking seekers must not take the place of feeding the flock.