The Medium is Not Condusive to the Message

A couple days ago I pointed out that “seeker sensitive: may be more “missional” than some would like to imagine. But today I’ll give you the critique of the “seeker sensitive” model. This post and the previous post come out of a 10 page paper I turned in this past quarter entitled Seeker Sensitive and Missional? In it I offered not only the critiques but the responses as well. If you want a copy of my ramblings, just e-mail me.

So what are those things that are said to be sinful about the “seeker sensitive” approach? Below are two of them. (and here, here, here, and here are a whole bunch more)

The first is that it does not present the “whole” gospel, a critique levied by both conservatives and progressives. A conservative perspective would point out that many of the sermons preached in the Bible were hardly of a seeker sensitive nature. Instead, we have Peter forcefully telling the people of Jerusalem that it is they who are responsible for crucifying Jesus. Whatever part of the Gospel is shared in a seeker sensitive way, it is usually not the part about judgment, and sin. The more progressive in the Church would like to point out that most suburban churches are likely to have a reduced view of what the gospel or “good news” is. “What about the serving the poor and the sick?” they would say. “What about justice, and systemic evil?”

A second critique has its genesis in the person of Marshall McLuhan, who said, concerning communication, "the medium is the message" (This is a huge concept that I’m not going to go into here. Click the link to find out more.) With this in mind, pastors have some serious thinking to do. If it is true that two of the most potent, anti-gospel aspects of our society are consumerism and individualism, what does that say about the mediums we use to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ?

In a seeker sensitive service, nothing is done to confront them. Even if the words of the sermon address it, the medium encourages it. In most mega churches, individuals come with a great deal of anonymity, and effectively consume the worship. They get an emotional high from the professionals up front, without ever participating in a real community. Even for the serious Christian, the format of the mega church worship service is highly individualistic. It is one way, from the professional to the customer; and at best, returned one way, from individuals to God, irrespective of what is happening around them.

How is my neighbor this morning? Do I know their name? Could they tell me if there was a crisis in their life? Would I tell them if there was one in mine? The seeker sensitive worship service is not conducive to what it really means to be the Church.

So what does it “really mean to be church”, I don’t know. But that won’t stop me from telling you what I think in my next post. But before I do, what do you think?


Blind Beggar said...

Consider maybe that the critics of “seeker sensitive” equate seeker sensitive service with Church (or seeker sensitive service = Church). In reality, a seeker sensitive service is just that, a service. It is just one aspect of the total life and ministry of a Church. Presenting Jesus to non-believers is just one small step in total discipleship and I don’t know of any major “seeker sensitive” Church that doesn’t take seriously their responsibility to help believers grow and deal with judgment, sin, the poor, to be missional, etc.

Your point about Marshall McLuhan and "the medium is the message" is worth some contemplation. McLuhan tells us that a "message" is, "the change of scale or pace or pattern" that a new invention or innovation "introduces into human affairs." So a question that might merit some thought could be stated something like, “How has the introduction of seeker sensitive approaches changed the scale, pace or pattern of Christian discipleship?”

Anonymous said...

Very good thought above!