Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Insensitivity of Being Seeker Sensitive

This morning as I read the paper, I noticed an article which announced the death of a news anchor. Observing his picture, I would surmise that he was in the prime of life. I would guess his age as being in the 30's or may be 40's. Of course, he didn't die of natural causes. He died in a snowmobile accident.

Now, no one knows (accept the Lord), as to the spiritual state of this man. The article didn't mention if he was of any faith at all, and of course a secular paper isn't going to report on whether or not a person professed Christ...unless it is an obit at the family's request.

While we certainly hope this person was born again, let's assume for the sake of illustration that he was not and that he never heard the Gospel.

Let's discuss two scenarios, both having to do with his last day on Earth. Let's say you know this guy. Furthermore, let's presume that you, a person who professes Christ, would like to see this person "get to heaven".

Finally, let's look at this from two perspectives.

Perspective one: You really, really don't want to offend this guy. Your reasoning is "I don't want to turn him off to the Gospel. It is his choice and it is important for me to convince him that he needs Jesus".

So, you plan to "Love him to Jesus". Of course, this means doing things slowly, gradually. Your first move is to just "become his friend". So you say "Hello" to him. You ask him about some of his interests. Ok. Great. No problem! But after talking a bit, you decide that enough is enough. . .after all, you don't want to make him uncomfortable, so you leave it there and say "see ya later!"

Then this morning's story appears in the paper.

What has happened to this guy? Well, he never heard the gospel, right? We know that Romans says "Faith comes by hearing the Word of God"(Romans 10). But he didn't hear it (at least from your conversation...) did he?

A popular line today is "You may be the only Bible people read". Well that's good as far as it goes. But it might be better to say "You may be the only Bible people hear". The problem is, your "friend" didn't "hear" anything, did he?

Meanwhile, what has happened to this guy? Well, there are numerous stories in Scripture. Jesus had much to say about the afterlife. In one of them, He told about the Rich Man and Lazarus. It is widely accepted as an historical account of two real people and what happened after they left this Earth. If you've been exposed to scripture for any length of time, you know the story but I'll include it here from Luke 16:

"19 There was a certain rich man who was customarily clothed in purple and fine linen and making merry in luxury every day. 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores 21 and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. But even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it happened that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich one also died and was buried. 23 And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things. But now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, there is a great chasm fixed between you and us; so that they desiring to pass from here to you cannot, nor can they pass over to us from there. 27 And he said, I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. 30 And he said, No, father Abraham, but if one should go to them from the dead, they would repent. 31 And he said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded, even though one rose from the dead."

The rich man had plenty...he had what the poor man needed. However, he didn't help poor Lazarus out. They both die, and the rich man finds himself in hell. What is his concern now? That someone go to his brothers and warn them so they won't join him in his fate! Did he say "Have someone go and be a buddy to my brothers?" No. Did he say "Get someone to go deal with their felt needs so maybe they'll want heaven?" No. He said "Send someone to testify to them!". And even Abraham told him "Unless they believe the words of Moses and the prophets..." nothing else matters...even if someone were to rise from the dead! (And, of course many still don't believe, even though our Lord rose from the dead!)

See, it is the LAW that convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). That is the work of the Spirit, and the Spirit uses the Word of God (1 Timothy 1:8) to address the Law which is written on each person's heart (Romans 2:15).

So, from this, we see clearly that the Biblical, Heavenly emphasis is on what they must hear, not what we think (or they feel) they must have.

Now, someone will say "You mean you just throw scriptures at people and don't help them if they need help? Of course we help those in need! James said "2:14 My brothers, what profit is it if a man says he has faith and does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and if one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, but you do not give them those things which are needful to the body, what good is it ? 17 Even so, if it does not have works, faith is dead, being by itself."

But what if I have what someone really needs (the Gospel) and don't give it to them? If I am not willing to share the Gospel with those who need it, James implies I don't have it to offer them! To the point, to neglect giving the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost person is just as serious an indicator of non-saving faith as not meeting their physical needs if I have the means to do so! And, which "need" is greater, a person's physical need or spiritual need?

Feed the poor person? Sure! But give him the gospel too. Give a person clothing when they need it ? Yup. But give them the gospel too. And, if they won't believe the law ("Moses and the Prophets") what good is the endless seeker sensitive, entertainment oriented "banana bread treatment" going to do?

Second point of view: You know this guy. You know he doesn't profess Christ. You don't want him to go to hell. What do you do? Be his friend? Fine! But you show your friendship to him by telling him what he needs to hear. If you've never met him before, you can make small talk. But you can swing things around to the spiritual. That's what Jesus did. In John 4, he approached the woman at the well. He asked for a drink of water, no doubt he was thirsty. But He didn't keep things on the physical level. He switched to the spiritual. It didn't take him days or months to do it. It took a few moments. He was about to offer her what she really needed...living water. So, "10 Jesus answered and said to her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give Me to drink, you would have asked of Him, and He would have given you living water. "

He was baiting his hook! He intentionally switched to spiritual things and went on help her understand her sinfulness!

Was he condescending? No! And properly done, Biblical evangelism isn't that way at all.

So, you share a little small talk. But make the change to spiritual things. All you have to do is ask "do you know of any good churches around here?" or "Do you have a Christian background?" or something of that nature. You are just "testing the waters" to see how they react to talk about spiritual things. Also, people love to talk about themselves, they can't be offended if you ask them a question about them!

Then ask them if they think they are a good person. Offended? No way! They will be happy to tell you they are good. Remember, they are talking about their most precious subject...themselves! Take them through three or four of the commandments. Ask them if they have ever told a lie, stolen or lusted. If they admit having lied, ask them what this would make them...let them point the finger at themselves, and let God's Law do its' work. Ask them if they think they'd go to heaven or hell. If heaven, why? Would a just judge let criminals go free? Of course not? If they think they'd go to hell, how do they think they'd avoid their fate? Ask for forgiveness? On what basis? "Judge, I know I killed the guy, but I'm just asking you to forgive me!" Won't work! Someone must pay the fine!

But that is when the death of Christ on the cross makes sense! Then you can explain how the judge of the Universe came around to our side of the bench and paid our penalty for us! And then they can understand the importance of repentance and faith in what Christ has done for us!

So, if you had met this guy who died in a snowmobile accident, which approach would be more apt to help him understand his need for a savior? And if you knew he were going to die in that accident, how would that change your approach?

My friends, you have no idea if the next person you talk to won't die tomorrow!

So, can you see how the "seeker sensitive approach is really insensitive to the lost? If not, something is horribly wrong.

But you know what? The seeker "sensitive" approach is also insensitive to God! Don't think so? Read your Bible. As you read it, consider the message that men of God give to others. For those of you who only care about "what Jesus said" (as if the rest of the Bible is not equally inspired), consider the first words of Jesus' public ministry: We read from Matthew 4: "17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent! For the kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

Throughout His ministry on Earth, He continually pointed people to their sin. From Luke 18:

"18 And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 19 And Jesus said to him, Why do you call Me good? None is good except One, God. 20 You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother. 21 And he said, I have kept all these from my youth up. 22 And when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, Yet you lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven. And come, follow Me. 23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful, for he was very rich. 24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, He said, How hardly those having riches shall enter into the kingdom of God!

Jesus forced him to deal with his false concept of what "good" is and, after the man justified himself, showed him that he was guilty of breaking the first and second commandments...that you shall have no other Gods before the Lord, and that we are not to bow down to idols! So, he demonstrated what was really important to himself; his earthly riches!

And Jesus let him walk away. After all, the man "did not believe Moses or the Prophets"!

And what of the feeding of the 5000 in John 6? Wasn't that Jesus being "seeker sensitive"? Well, if so, he failed. Yes, Jesus was showing mercy on those who were hungry. But He was also performing a food miracle to validate His claim to Whom He was. But if he was being a model for being seeker sensitive, he failed! Why? Because later in the same chapter, he turned people away because they wanted more bread!

My "seeker sensitive" friends -- If you really care about being sensitive to God and your lost friends, will you do as Jesus did? Are you willing to say as He did in John 6: "26 Jesus answered them and said, Truly, truly, I say to you, You seek Me not because you saw the miracles, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for that food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man will give you. For God the Father sealed Him."

Sure, you can meet their physical needs and meet their emotional needs. But it doesn't stop there nor, by our Lord's example, does it take alot of time to move to the realm of spiritual needs. . .which, contrary to what they think they need, is what they so desperately need.

So you say you care about what our Lord cares about? Then stress what Jesus stressed. The eternal, the spiritual.

You know, after He died, 1 Peter 3:19 tells us He "made a proclamation to those now in prison" to announce what He had accomplished. Why? To save people in Hell? No. Because proclaiming the message glorifies God. Why else would he preach the news of His victory over death to those who are eternally lost? For the same reason that "every knee shall bow". . .even those who are sent to hell. Why? "To the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:10,11)

So, you wanna be "seeker sensitive"? Then be sensitive to the only seeker that the Bible says exists. . .Jesus, the one Who came to "seek and save the Lost" (Luke 19:10).


9 comments:

Lane Chaplin said...

"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."
(1Jn 3:18)

What is more loving than sharing the truth with someone? I've been thinking about it a lot recently, and I think it's so dangerous to call it the "Seeker-sensitive" movement because it's such a misnomer. First, the people it's focused on catering to people who are not seekers, and second, the leaders of this movement aren't actually sensitive to those who are seekers (those who've been convicted of their sin and are seeking first the Kingdom). The "Sensitive-To-Please-Unbelief" Movement is more precise and takes out room for any misunderstanding.

It helps so much to have contrasts like this, Tim. This post shows how empty that movement is and the extent of how it caters to unbelief. I would much rather a person hate me for telling the truth for a while and them believe after a time, than to have some kind of false, counterfeit "relationship" with them and never share the truth with them at all. Again, it's so great to have these contrasts, Tim.

Here's a video of Paul Washer giving advice on witnessing much like what you presented in the second part of the article:

Paul Washer on How to Witness Honestly

Take care,
Lane

Tim Brown said...

Thanks so much, Lane!

Doulos Christou said...

Tim,

I couldn't agree more. Let's love our friends and neighbors enough to tell them the truth while we still can.

beaconlight said...

Great post, Tim! I agree whole heartedly with everything you wrote. Couldn't have said it any better myself! Christ would have been severely rebuked by today's leading CGM experts.

Tim Brown said...

Beaconlight:

I think they do it all the time when they say "You need to be more 'Christlike'...when you have been doing what Jesus did instead of trying to entertain them into the kingdom...

Coram Deo said...

Tim,

I just finished reading a piece on Christian evangelism in Israel.

In effect the author commends a "draw men with your loving good works" tact given the fact that evangelism/proselytizing are illegal in Israel.

Given the temporal illegality of witnessing in Israel the author points to the NT passages about submitting to governmental authority and being obedient to secular laws and concludes that showing forth your light unto men is the only available option for Christian witnessing.

Now I respect this particular blog author and generally agree with much that he produces, but I find myself shaking my head in disagreement on this point in light of Christ's repeated commands to preach the gospel and due to the myriad suffering, persecution, and martyrdom of the saints of God.

The Apostles themselves were ordered by the Jews to quit preaching Jesus and were beaten and Peter's resounding response was "We ought to obey God rather than men."

All of the 12 were executed by earthly authorities with the exception of John the beloved Apostle who was nonetheless exiled to the rocky wind stripped isle of Patmos whereupon he was given The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Where has our confidence in Christ gone?

Why do we fear temporal persecution more than we fear God?

Why do we refuse to take up our cross (an instrument of torture and death - not a good luck charm on a necklace or bracelet) and follow Him?

Why do we hold our reputation, our comfort, our safety, our job, or even our lives dearer than we hold our obedience to the offense of the cross and the glorious Gospel?

Why do we esteem ourselves (by holding onto the items listed above) higher than others who need to hear the truth?

What has become of the church militant?

Tim Brown said...

Coram:

Thanks for your post.

Would you mind if I post your comment as an article on its own?

Coram Deo said...

tim brown said...
Coram:

Thanks for your post.

Would you mind if I post your comment as an article on its own?

11:27 AM, January 27, 2008


I don't mind at all and please understand that I didn't come here looking for an "Amen" chorus either.

Perhaps you agree with my position; perhaps you agree with the position articulated by the author I referenced, or perhaps you hold an altogether different view.

One thing I've come to know from reading your blog is that I can expect a scriptural, Christ-centered, God honoring response to my inquiry and that's what I'm seeking.

In Christ,
CD

Tim Brown said...

Hi Coram:

I agree with you! And I think it deserves more attention than what it would get here.

Thanks so much!

Tim