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Is Your Church Seeker-Hostile?

A “seeker-hostile” church service is where the activities, worship style and “in-house” jargon are so foreign to newcomers that they have no desire to return. 

The Apostle Paul, in speaking to the Corinthian church about the use of tongues, talks about a seeker-hostile service and presents a broader principle which applies to every church: “If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me” (I Cor. 14:11 NIV). 

Paul goes on: “But in a church meeting, I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language” (I Cor. 14:19 NLT).

Why would Paul be so concerned with communication in a common language? 

Because he assumed there would be unbelievers in the midst of their Christian worship. 

It was important to Paul that the services not be an obstacle to understanding the Gospel, because “if you come together as a congregation and some unbelieving outsiders walk in on you as you’re all praying in tongues, unintelligible to each other and to them, won’t they assume you’ve taken leave of your senses and get out of there as fast as they can?” (I Cor. 14:23 MS).

All services, whether “believer-targeted” or “seeker-targeted,” should be seeker-friendly. Unfortunately, not all services are.

The following Service Evaluation Scale can be helpful in evaluating and planning the service(s) in your church.

If your church service (or new service you are planning) is seeker-targeted, where the primary focus is on outreach to non-Christians, you will want to design your service to be far up, and far right on the axes below.

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charlesarn@churchleaders.com'
Charles Arn is Visiting Professor of Outreach at the new Wesley Seminary (Marion, IN). He has written twelve books in the field of congregational health and growth, including What Every Pastor Should Know (2013) and Side Door (2013).