Monday, October 31, 2005


Someone asked me recently if CTK is a “seeker” church (they had heard we were). I replied, “You heard wrong.” I went on to say, “We call ourselves an ‘Outreach Church’ rather than a ‘Seeker Church.’” Let me explain the difference.

Both the “seeker” church and “outreach” church believe that a bridge needs to be built between God and the lost. They just start building that bridge at different sides of the chasm.

God Lost

“Outreach” “Seeker”
Starts Here Starts Here

The “seeker” model begins by thinking about the unchurched person: Who are they? What music do they like? What TV programs do they watch? What don’t they like about church? Both Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago and Saddleback Valley Community Church in California, when they began, conducted extensive surveys in their community to find out the answers. Then they structured their ministry accordingly and popularized a model of bridge-building ministry called “seeker-sensitive.” The “seeker” model ends up looking quite different than a traditional church, and quite a bit more effective. Many other churches have followed suit with good results as either a “seeker sensitive” or “seeker-targeted” model.

While we respect the “seeker” model, at CTK we’ve taken a slightly different approach. In the “outreach approach” we begin by thinking about God: Who is He? What does He want us to know? How much does He love this world? What price is He willing to pay to reach the lost? Then we “clear the path to the cross” by removing every obstacle that gets in the way of God’s love. When you structure your ministry around outreach, it also ends up looking quite different from a traditional church, and quite a bit more effective, at times resembling the “seeker” church.

Does the starting point matter? Some would say “As long as you build the bridge, who cares on which side you start.” Truly, the difference is subtle. But it shows up. Two areas where it shows up are truth-telling, and worship.

Truth-telling. Because we start from a slightly different place we have less of a temptation to “tinker with” or “water down” the message to make it more palatable for the ears of the non-believer. Our mandate is “What does God want to say?” instead of “What do people want to hear?”

Worship. In “seeker” services worship is minimized (“seekers don’t know the words to our songs,” etc.). In the “outreach” model we view true Christian worship as a powerful tool of evangelism (explored in more detail in the book Worship Evangelism, by Sally Morganthaler).

“Seekers” and “Outreachers” should not be confused with the Hatfields and McCoys. There is no animosity between them. Both the “seeker” and “outreach” models of ministry fall into a larger class of “relevant” ministry. Both are driven by a desire to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Both want to honor God by building a bridge to the lost. We just start building in different places.

Warren Bennis: “All great groups believe they are on a mission from God.”

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