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10 Keys to Advancing “Seekers” to Maturity

10 Keys to Advancing “Seekers” to Maturity

Blog Post 32 - Nurse and Old Woman (iStock_000004996552XSmall)

Part 3 of 3

Seekers are “customers” – churches should win them to Christ by whatever means necessary, which may include appealing to the self-interest you’d expect of “customers”.  Seekers are understandably self-centered – looking for hope, meaning, purpose, community, happiness – answers.  They come in shopping for something – “what can the church or religion do for me?”.  As we discussed last week, “elementary and high school” churches are designed for seekers – spiritual children.  Children are immature.  Maturity essentially boils down to the degree of self-centricity.  Caring for others is learned.  A child has to be taught to think of someone other than themselves.

Just as we educate our children so they’ll stop being absorbed with self, new believers must be trained (i.e. discipled) to stop being consumed with self.  Otherwise, even though they’ve come to faith, they’ll continue to be immature.  Graduating to a higher level of education in their walk with Christ means coming to grips with what it means to BE the church – in other words, selfless.  Paul refers to that process as dying to self – being crucified with Christ.  The new believer has joined that camp of those called to die to self, just as a maturing child should put aside childish things and learns to put others first.

However, if churches don’t challenge and disciple new believers (i.e. spiritual children) all the way to maturity, they’ll remain “consumers” of church rather than the church personified.

Changing the Seeker’s Mindset

Selflessness can permeate and transform a church culture.  Not only will selflessness manifest itself in how members care for each other but it will be evident in how the church body (as a whole) cares for the church’s true “customer” – the community where the church is planted.  That’s when the transition from childhood to adulthood is complete.  When members recognize the “fields” are white for harvest and take personal responsibility for seeking seekers – in other words, being the Church.

Yet members won’t arrive at that place of maturity unless they come to realize…

  1. …where the “fields” are

Many today think that planting a church in a community means we’re “in the field”, and believe that churchgoers in the normal course of daily life will be good harvesters.  However, most churches don’t prepare or empower members adequately – typically only asking them to invite people to church, leaving evangelism to the “professionals”.  How many churchgoers share their faith or even talk about God between Sundays, except with their Christian friends?

  1. …why they’re at church

They are not at church to be served but to serve.  They are Christ’s body, designed for praying, caring and sharing.  Instilling a service versus consumer mindset will mean eventually members and attenders become less dependent on the church for what it can do for them and more engaged in being the church to others.

  1. …challenging is Biblical, catering is not

No longer catering to churchgoers doesn’t mean churches stop taking care of their members or ignore them.  Church is a family.  However, it does means transitioning members’ thinking about their role by investing more in challenging them (e.g. with the Great Commission).

  1. …the urgency of the need

It’s human nature to need a cause outside of ourselves to force us to look beyond ourselves.  The hopelessness of the lost in the community should be a mission-critical, common cause for every church.   There are also often pressing social issues such as homelessness, hunger or troubled youth around which a church can rally.  See our short eBook – Transform Your Community Forever in 6 Months.

  1. …their own problems may not be as bad as they thought

Once churchgoers shift their focus to bigger problems in the world around them, their maturity process kicks into high gear.  Self-absorption only drives people deeper and deeper into their own “stuff”, whereas loving their neighbors is the path to “recovery”.

Changing the Pastor’s Mindset

Pastors have to lead the way or the congregation won’t reach maturity – dying to self and taking the Great Commission as seriously as Jesus intended.  Before pastors can help others adopt this new mindset, their own must adjust accordingly…

  1. …around “parenting”

Pastors are raising too many spiritual children in the church today.  They fear consumers will leave if they challenge them to have a dramatic impact on the world around them – so they don’t.  Enabling and coddling, particularly of long-time members/attenders, has to stop. The Kingdom needs more disciples – and disciple makers.

  1. …around expectations

Rather than seeing members as voluntary participants in church activities, view them in their proper light as “insiders” – more like employees charged with real responsibilities both within and outside the “4 walls.”  Historically, democracies fail because politicians eventually give too much away in order earn votes.  Churches offering cheap grace perpetuate the church’s current decline in growth, impact, influence and perception. (see 2 Timothy 4:1-5)

  1. …around the term “externally focused”

We throw around that term as if it’s an optional characteristic of certain churches, or somehow deserving of merit.  Yet externally-focused is what the Great Commission dictates every church should have as a core competency.  I wonder whether the Lord is pleased with any church that’s not “externally focused” – one that doesn’t adequately prepare, send and serve such as to win more to Christ.

  1. …around giving back

People in the midst of building their careers often think “once I get where I’m trying to go, then I’ll start to give back”.  Countless times I’ve seen and heard pastors say similar things – “We just need to get the new building done, then…” or “Once we get a little bigger, we can have more impact, then…”.  Be a generous church now – at any size or any stage of development.

  1. …around how to share the gospel

Too many pastors and churches try to “outpreach” Jesus.  He had the perfect words, but knew they weren’t enough.  The Church’s gradual relinquishing of the front-line compassion role in society to others over the past 100 years, no longer following Jesus’ model, instead telling people who Jesus is without showing them first, has severely damaged society’s view of Christians and the Church.

It’s Your Turn

Which of these points stands out to you as most responsible for why more churchgoers aren’t reaching “maturity” today?

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