Seeker Sensitive Worship

In the 90’s there was this shift in the Church. We called it being "Seeker Sensitive," meaning that the church tried to be sensitive to those who were not believers or followers of Christ, but still seeking "in their journey."

This meant that Aunt Sally could no longer sing her painful-to-listen-to solos. It meant we didn’t use insider Christianese when speaking from the front. It meant we chose music that wouldn’t sound foreign to unchurched ears. It meant we tried to not do things that would make us cringe if we had finally managed to bring our unsaved coworker to a service. It meant that we were simply aware that there were those in the room that weren’t yet part of God’s family and that we should do something different because of it.

And I think it was helpful.

The scriptures are full of commands and accounts of people seeking God.

However, (dun, dun, duuuun) in the New Covenant, there are three scriptures that flip this on its head:

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father SEEKS." ‭‭(John‬ ‭4:23‬)


For the Son of Man came to SEEK and save the Lost. (Luke 19:10)


But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke‬ ‭15:20‬)


What if! I mean what if we’re missing something? What if today’s Church we’d be more Seeker sensitive.

"Capital S" Seeker

If God is the Seeker, how would we think differently?

I don’t mean whisking Aunt Sally gleefully around the audition process and onto the platform. I just heard Shelly Giglio (sixsteps music/Passion) say "Excellence isn’t something you do when you’re not busy. Excellence is something you believe in."

But what have we lost by having been so focused on the people in the room - their comforts, their tastes, their preferences, their delights?

What’s one way we could plan this Sunday’s service to be just a bit more "capital S" Seeker sensitive?

I want to hear your answers! Here are some ideas that come to my mind.

SEGUES/WELCOME

  • "Let’s sing not to a God that’s far off, but to Him who is right here in the room with us."
  • "As we sing, let’s ask God to help us become aware of what He’s saying to us and what He’s doing among us."
  • "We might think that getting together was our idea. But it was really God’s idea - He is the one that drew us today. Let’s respond to His invitation as we sing together."
  • "If this is your home church, welcome back. If this is your first time, welcome home.* God has been pursuing all of us. Here’s the time and place where we get to respond to Him. Let’s do that together as we sing."
  • "We hope you’re glad you came. The things you’re about to experience might be familiar to you or completely foreign. You might love it or hate it. But what we’re doing today really isn’t for us. We gather, sing, listen, and respond all centered on Christ, for His honor, for His glory, for His pleasure."


PLANNING

  • Start with a blank paper. Don’t look at PCO and just start plugging and chugging things into their slots. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you, to inspire you, to guide you. Write down anything you sense and then sensitively see if there’s a way that you can integrate it into your existing template. Of course, if there are nudgings that are significantly different than the usual, check with your leaders for resonance and discern it together.
  • Choose songs with an arc in mind. We often choose thematically, preferentially, personally, or logically. What if we were differently intentional? Andi Rozier from Vertical Worship shared the arc they use: Start with Gathering Songs, then Testimony Songs, and end up with Vertical Songs. Another idea is to look for a peak and build the songs toward that, having a plan for where to go after that as well.
  • Pray first. I cringe to even write that, but come on, we’ve all done it, right? We dive into planning without any deliberate sensitivity to the Seeker who we are worshiping. But don’t just pray like you’re checking it off a list! Enjoy a moment of intimacy with God. No matter when you’re planning (be it all day Wednesday, or on Monday night at 9:00 after the kids are in bed), take a moment and get His perspective and culture in the forefront.


LEADING

  • Have your expectations shaped by scripture. I was struck once by a pre-service prayer that basically said "God, help the service go smoothly." I was waiting for more, but that was about it. And sure, I don’t want any trainwrecks, but more than smoothness, I want an encounter with the Seeker. Refresh your soul and renew your mind with some of the stories of God’s people meeting with Him and lead with that expectancy.
  • Save room for dessert. You know how to remember to spell dessert versus desert? You want more of one...it has two s's. Don’t stuff your set with songs. Yes, it’s ok to have a 17 minute and 30 second worship block. Don’t whine because you have limits. Limits are not your enemy. What are you going to do with all the time you’ve been given? Leave room for the best part, the moments of transcendence where God moves us.
  • Remember the Seeker. Leading worship is such a tension. This past Sunday, the worship leader had her big baby boy in her sling as she sang and played keys. It was such a wonderful sight (go Bekah!) We all have lots of responsibilities as we lead that distract us. Stay connected to the One we’re singing to. Look into His face. Hear His voice. Receive His love. And respond!


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and how you’ve navigated this tension as you lead among the seekers and the Seeker.

- Dave

ps. *I heard something like this phrase on a recent WorshipTogether podcast. I steal with the best of them!
pps. I’m not sure that there’s anything more endearing than seeing a group of young Amish children walking back from the playground in their colorful, full-length dresses and suspendered pants...chattering in 4-year-old Dutch.
ppps. After I wrote this, I started doing a little research to see when the "seeker sensitive" movement actually started and found this interesting article and this funny/not funny video.
pppps. Here's my view as I wrote this Fertilizer :)