The Church-Growth Movement, also known as the Seeker-Sensitive Movement, is more concerned with bringing large numbers of people into the church by any means necessary rather than with the true message of Christ. The pastors and elders of the church begin to take upon themselves a new role that looks more like a CEO of a business, rather than shepherds who feed God’s flock. Some churches in this movement poll the neighborhoods they are in to see what needs they can meet. In turn, the church is focused more on meeting the needs of the culture instead of preaching the Gospel of Christ.
The Church-Growth Movement’s roots can be traced to the ministry philosophy of Professor Donald McGavran. He was the organizer of the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1965.
The Church-Growth Movement (Seeker-Sensitive) has at least three unbiblical characteristics:
- Pragmatism (how ministry is done) – The bottom line for the “success” of a particular ministry or spiritual growth is – “Does it work?” By work, we mean, does it bring in people and not, is it the work of God i.e. is it faithful to Scripture. Because this pragmatism takes precedence, any means of doing ministry becomes valid. The problem is what are we appealing to in those who are unsaved, with some gimmick approach in an effort to grow in numbers. It is extremely easy to appeal to the sinful nature of a non-Christian – VERY EASY!!! The tactics will almost always seem successful. But, is it true Christ-like growth? No. Unholy gimmicks do not produce holy people. The reality is this mentality of church growth goes beyond the normal wise decisions, and employs whatever means necessary to gain outward results. Instead, the church should follow God’s example in Matthew 28:19 “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”.
- Unbiblical Standards (how ministry is evaluated) – The pastor is more like a CEO of a business than a shepherd of God’s flock. Growth of the church is based upon business techniques and the perceived needs of the people. The members are no longer serving and worshiping the real Lord Jesus Christ. The church is now entertainment for the members who are treated as consumers. As Spurgeon said, “If we add to our Churches by becoming worldly, by taking in persons who have never been born again; if we add to our Churches by accommodating the life of the Christian to the life of the worldling, our increase is worth nothing at all; it is a loss rather than a gain! If we add to our Churches by excitement, by making appeals to the passions rather than by explaining the truth of God to the understanding; if we add to our churches otherwise than by the power of the Spirit of God making men new creatures in Christ Jesus, the increase is of no worth whatever.“
- Wordly Accommodations (ministry mixed with the world instead of separate from it) – The socialization of the church with the world takes on an illegitimate role. It negates the clear Scriptural commands to be salt and light into the culture and preach the gospel. For example, people like Bono can be invited to and speak at Willow Creek’s Annual Leadership Conference (summer of 2006). Should Christians be reaching out and learning about leadership from the world? This unbiblical shift has adopted the term “missional” as its catch-phrase.
The end result of embracing the Church-Growth Movement is quite obvious:
Worldliness, Delusion, Compromise and Ecumenism (denominations finding common ground at the expense of truth). Unfortunately, more and more churches are embracing the various aspects of the Church-Growth Movement and this spells disaster for true gospel growth.
Initial Leaders and Pastors of the Church-Growth Movement
- C. Peter Wagner, Professor, Fuller Theological Seminary
- Robert Schuller, The Crystal Cathedral
- Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Church
Popular Leaders or Groups of the Church-Growth Movement
- Rick Warren, Saddleback Church (Here’s a review of Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose Introductory Video)
- Bob Buford, Leadership Network
For More Information on Church-Growth
Should a Church be Seeker Sensitive? Got Questions
Church Growth – Success at What Price? By Os Guinness, Ligonier
Straight Talk About the Seeker Church Movement John MacArthur & Phil Johnson, Grace To You
Seeker Friendly T. A. McMahon, The Berean Call