Reformed Theology vs. Seeker Sensitive “Theology”

I have just started reading Why I Am Not A Calvinist by Walls and Dongell. In the introduction the authors make an interesting observation about the recent growth in Reformed Theology in our country. They said

Why is Calvinism making a comeback? What is its appeal? No doubt there are several factors involved here, but let us mention just two. First, part of Calvinism’s attraction is surely that it represents a stark alternative to the superficial, seeker-sensitive theology that predominates in many churches in America.

Second, many see Calvinism as a liberating doctrine that breathes new life into sterile and legalistic devotional life. (pp. 16-17)

It is the first reason that I want to address here. I read this and I thought how much sense that this explanation actually makes. Think about it. The seeker-sensitive model has been around for quite some time now. It is huge in our country. The problem with it is how shallow it is. It is great at getting people into the church, getting people connected, and building relationships but after that the spiritual growth of the people is really lacking. I know most who are proponents of the seeker-sensitive model would not agree with that assessment but I believe it to be an accurate assessment. Do an internet search and you will find many, many people pointing out the shortcoming of the model. The authors agree and state it this way

God is often reduced to a “cosmic bellhop” whose only concern is to meet whatever needs contemporary people feel in their lives. The biblical picture of a God of holy love before whom we stand guilty and in need of salvation is obscured or even denied. Doctrine is dismissed as irrelevant , Scripture is used as a self-help manual, and worship is replaced by various forms of entertainment.

Wow, what more can you add to that. The authors point out that many people who are in the seeker-sensitive churches come to a point that they realize God must be taken more seriously than He is in these churches. As they begin to search for a new “way” they find a home and a comfort in Reformed Theology.

I think this is an incredibly insightful revelation. It may have been around for a while but even if it has, this is the first time I have heard it. I personally have read and studied a little bit about the seeker model. I rejected it because of it shallowness. It is designed to place all the focus of the worship services on those who are not yet believers, to make them feel comfortable, non-threatened and willing to come back.  Don’t get me wrong, I think this needs to be a focus for all churches but not the focus of the worship services.  This is to be done in small groups and evangelism events.  Worship services are for believers!

The seeker model also tends to water-down the Gospel message in order not to offend or challenge non-believers. I think that we can change our methods without compromising the message. Many seeker churches cross this line.  If you have to change the message to reach someone did you really reach them?  If so, with what?  I have heard Dr. James White state it this way:  “What you win them with is what you win them to!”  That means that if you win someone with a watered-down gospel message then that is what they are going to commit to.  If someone commits to a watered-down gospel message, is that the real Gospel or a false gospel.  When, and if, the true gospel message is presented to them they may reject it or think what they have is good enough.  Have you done them any good or just paved their road to destruction?

The growth in reformed theology being a function of people rejecting seeker sensitive churches…..what do you think?


14 Responses to Reformed Theology vs. Seeker Sensitive “Theology”

  1. royingle says:

    The basic difference I would have with Walls view is that this assumes that most seeker churches embrace Arminianism but I have found that not to be the case. Most of them are semi-Pelagian. However, I do agree with him that the revival of Reformed theology comes mainly as a reaction to the seeker model but sadly not to be biblical Arminianism.


  2. Tom says:

    I have not gotten the impression that Walls assumes that most seeker churches are Arminian. In fact, I think he says that to most seeker churches theology is discarded and seen as irrelevant.


  3. george woodward says:

    All of these different ‘theologies’ are simply the works of men departing from the ‘simplicity of the gospel’, and wandering off into their ‘deep studies’, which take them off into the vanity of their own minds. The Scripture could not be any clearer. Jesus died and rose again for all people. The ones who believe in Him are saved. The ones who do not are lost. The Bible is absolutely true. Much of this speculation is error. It divides the Body of Christ. It is harmful to the spreading of the unconditional love of Jesus. REFORMED THEOLOGY HAS NO PLACE IN SCRIPTURE. IT IS THE WORK OF MEN NOT LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Very easy to see, if we are humble and broken before our precious Redeemer.


    • Marvin says:

      If the gospel is so simple explain what you mean by terms like “believe in Him, saved, do not believe, lost, and the Bible is absolutely true. The word theology is made up of two Greek words, Theos and Logos, which mean a word from God. So when you put down theology and say we don’t need it you are saying we don’t need a word from God; we don’t need to hear from God.


  4. Tom says:


    Two years ago I would have agreed with you. Now, I must disagree strongly.

    The Scripture could not be any clearer. Jesus died and rose again for all people.

    I agree that the Scripture could not be any clearer. Jesus in fact did NOT die and rise again for all people. He did die and rise again for HIS people. Matthew 1:19-21 says “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (20) But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (21) She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. [ESV]”

    The question then becomes Who are going to be His people. We are told this also in Scripture. John 6:37-44 says All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (38) For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. (39) And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (40) For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (41) So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” (42) They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (43) Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. (44) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” [ESV]

    As you can see, God must act before anyone will come to (believe in) Jesus. He chooses whom He will draw. Ephesians 1:3-7 explains how He does this. It says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,”

    Please point out how you can come to any other conclusion from these verse. The Scripture is very clear. It is easy to see when we take the text at face value. So, I must disagree with your assertion that “REFORMED THEOLOGY HAS NO PLACE IN SCRIPTURE” since Reformed Theology is derived directly from Scripture.

    At any rate, thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your views,


    • mark says:

      A very complex issue: It is hard to ignore Romans 9, and Ephesians 1. Our Soveriegn Lord is in charge. Saul/Paul was elected to write much of the NT. Moses was elected to Lead. Jeremiah was elected to be a Prophet before his birth. God’s thinking is so far beyond ours. I am increasingly convinced that election and free will are completely compatible.


      • Tom Shelton says:


        I agree, election and free will are completely compatible…..just not the way the advocates of free will mean it. The will is free only to do what is in agreement with its nature. The nature of people are born with is sinful because sin has us enslaved until God frees us. That does not invalidate our choices though….from our perspective and understanding we are making valid choices (free will choices). All our choices are in agreement with our nature so when we are lost we can only make choices consistent with our sinful state. When God regenerates us he gives us a new will, one freed from the sinful nature and that is now capable of choosing him…which we will do. And this is also a valid choice. So, therefore, election and free will are compatible.


  5. Lisa Metzger says:

    This was very insightful! Thank you for posting this!


  6. Tom says:


    Thanks for visiting my blog and taking time to comment.


  7. Jeffrey L. Schieding says:

    I agree with the article concerning seeker-friendly churches. I was not drawn to Christ as an unbeliever because the Christians who were trying to lead me to Christ lived and acted like I did(like the world). I knew they had something different that I did not have- and that kept me curious- not an easy nut to crack and at the time pretty cynical-the people showed by their lives and church that they were an entirely
    different people than I was accustomed. Seeker friendly makes unbelievers feel comfortable in OUR churches, our places of worship-making them feel right at home.
    Something wrong here? My heart was pricked and convicted by Jesus’ gospel and not by
    worldly, compromised seeker anything. J.L. Schieding


  8. Tom Shelton says:


    Well said. Thanks for visiting my blog.


  9. Acidri says:

    I guess im three years late in reading your article but i must say at the time you wrote it (about three years ago) i was busy filling church with seekers.Afterall i wanted the zeal for my father’s house to consume me.After watching and seeing an equal number of those ‘converted’ turn into rank apostasy and wax colder than their original state and after a good dose of good scripture reading i must say i agree with your article. The growth of seeker sensitive methods has in turm contributed to a hunger for sound doctrinal teaching hence the resurgence of reformed theology or better still calvinism. Acidri’s Blog


  10. Randall says:

    Without firm Biblical perspective, we are lost in a sea of the will of man, weak and susceptible to attack from the Enemy.

    However, let us not undermine God’s purpose in the seeker model, that it may bring those to the point where they can hear something about Jesus and be drawn into closer relationship with Him. How are we to know or judge how God accomplishes His Will? For those of us that genuinely worry about discernment of the critical theological points, we should pray for the Spirit to guide us to correct teaching to accomplish His Will. For those that are just merely trying to build ‘their’ ministry and churches and diluting the gospel message in accordance with their will and not God’s, then that’s another matter and not one of theology.


    • Tom Shelton says:


      You assume that God is using the seeker model to advance His kingdom. I would disagree with this premise. I would argue that the seeker model is an invention of Satan designed to draw people away from God’s true purpose and to make them less useful to Him.


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