Seeker Sensitive or Saviour Sensitive?
We are living in the post-modern era, and post modernism can be defined by this: Absolute truth—that is to say a truth that is for all peoples for all times—cannot be known through reason or science because it is unattainable or non-existent. Because of this widely held to belief, all truth has become relative based on personal experience. One of the movements that has stemmed from post-modernism is the “Seeker Sensitive Church.” This movement really gathered steam in the early 1990’s, and many churches were holding seeker services on Saturday nights. No hymns are sung, no offering is taken, and the message is short, full of anecdotal humor, and designed to meet the “felt needs” of the audience. Felt needs and real needs are entirely different animals, with felt needs being things that you feel you need. In other words, they emanate from our emotions, and desires, and often will have nothing to do with what we really need. The Bible clearly teaches that man’s greatest need is not a felt need, but a known need, clearly lined out in the Scriptures. If I could just say this and move one without laboring on the point; Man’s greatest need is to be reconciled to God. That is not a felt need, nor is it relative truth, it is real and it is absolute. That being said, I do not completely see the need for a seeker sensitive mindset in our churches today. Rather, I believe that we need to be a Saviour Sensitive church with our initial thrust being the precept of reconciling man to God, and then nurturing that relationship, which centers on absolute truth, with the Word of truth. This passage in Acts chapter 8 is a magnificent illustration of what can happen when God’s people are sensitive to His leadings. As we mentioned last week, Phillip found himself in Samaria after tremendous persecution had plagued the church at Jerusalem. God is using Philip in a mighty way to reach souls with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to consider this text this morning and glean some Bible truths that we can prayerfully apply to this body of believers in a message titled “Seeker Sensitive or Saviour Sensitive?”
1. The Saviour Sensitive believer listens to the demands of heaven. In verse 26, we see the divine command for Philip to leave what had been happening in Samaria and to head over to Gaza. This is an interesting junction in Philip’s life because this call goes against human reasoning. Samaria was densely populated, and Philip had already witnessed the power of the Gospel at work in that city. Gaza on the other hand was a desert area, that was inhabited by the Philistines in Old Testament times, and now was basically unoccupied. God is not asking us to work out things in our own mind before we answer His call. He wants us to accept His higher thinking and planning and to accept it as His will for our lives.
Isaiah 55:6-11 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.0 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Philip had no way of knowing that what he was going to do next was going to be recorded in the Scriptures as one of the greatest acts of obedience, selflessness, and submission. How did Philip know to go down to Gaza? He listened to the Lord.
I Samuel 3:9-10 Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.
This is such an important concept for us to understand this morning, because it is a major difference in how churches determine their program. Some leaders listen to heaven, and others listen to the heathen. Let me give you some examples taken right from the church growth writings.
- The audience, not the message, is sovereign.
- Think of your church not as a religious meeting place, but as a service agency-- an entity that exists to satisfy people needs.
Some have the desire of pleasing the Lord, and others want to meet the people where they are. Philip had no idea that he was being sent to speak with a man of importance and authority. He just listened and obeyed.
2. The Saviour Sensitive believer explains the mandate of heaven. I want you to see the focus of the conversation between the Ethiopian and Philip (verses 28-35). There can be no doubt that the Word of God was given first priority in this conversation. The Ethiopian was reading from it. He wasn’t getting anything out of it. Do you see what you are reading? How can I unless someone guide me? That follows what is said in Romans chapter 10.
Romans 10:14-17 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Explaining what the Bible says is one of the greatest gestures we can make in this post-modern world.
Nehemiah 8:8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
Nehemiah 8:10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Nehemiah 8:12 And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.
Sometimes when we dig deep into the Word, I am concerned that we will go over the heads, or explain something too deeply. If we leave this place without understanding the sense, then we have not done well in our preaching and teaching. Philip takes the text that the eunuch was reading from and preached about Jesus to him. I wan you to understand that he did not feel led to talk about the economy of Ethiopia, or the power of Candace, or the hurts that this man was facing, he simply preached Jesus. This is not always the aim of the seeker sensitive movement.
- The ground we have in common with unbelievers is not the Bible, but our common needs, hurts, and interests as human beings. You cannot start with a text.
You may not start on common ground with the Scriptures, but you have to get there before you can implement any helpful counsel.
I want to close with this idea. The Ethiopian was seeking after truth, and God sent a messenger to relay the truth to him. It is wrong for us to think that we can tailor a service to meet the needs of the seekers. We should focus on centering our services on the Saviour and believe that God will-- through providence, door-to-door visitation, personal invitation, continuing to stand on the truth and rightly dividing the Word of truth-- meet the real needs of the truth seekers. The first need that must be met is that of reconciling our Holy Lord to sinful man. You may be surprised what transpires from there. As one of my mentors in the ministry used to say, “Just fall in love with Jesus, and everything else will take care of itself,”