It ends up that a seeker-sensitive model of the church has been practiced since the very beginning of the church, even though it looked nothing like our seeker-sensitive models today. Paul’s idea of being seeker-sensitive was that we don’t come across as raving mad in our supernatural practices at church and also that we prophesy over the unbelievers that visit us:
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor 14:24-25)
And so here we see an evangelistic characteristic of prophecy. Paul says this gifting allows the prophets the ability to know things about others that they could not otherwise know. This mark of the prophetic is widely recognized and practiced in most supernatural churches today. I could go on with many stories to illustrate this, but for now I’ll just name a few.
I always figured that if God was going to disclose the secrets of my heart to someone as they prayed/prophesied over me, he would simply tell them a long laundry list of sins I already knew were in my life. Therefore, going up to someone to have them pray over me was difficult at first. But when I finally did ask others to pray for me, God never seemed to point those things out to them. Instead, God would give me authentic prophetic words I didn’t expect to hear.
For instance, one woman told me that I needed to learn to cry again. This certainly caught me off guard. Around that time I had maybe cried five to ten times in ten years and most of those times were the result of extreme physical or emotional pain. If I came across any kind of media that managed to pull out a few tears, I’d replay it just to tear up again.
Even though I wished I could cry more, I didn’t know why this issue was something that God had to prophesy over me. But then God reaffirmed the word when a different woman said the same thing a month later. She felt that I needed to figure out why I stopped crying in the first place.
Seriously—you can’t make this stuff up.
Now I wouldn’t say that I ever figured out why I stopped crying in the first place, but in comparison to who I was at the time, it seems like everything makes me cry today. If that makes me sound unbalanced, that’s fine. If you spent most of your life unable to cry like I did, you would happily accept this gift. I’m glad that God cared about something that seemed so minuscule to me in comparison to everything else in my life.
Though sometimes prophetic words can cause you to fall on your face. Take for example, Vineyard founder John Wimber’s experience while on a plane. Wimber was completely caught off guard when he saw a middle-aged businessman sitting across from him with the word “adultery” written on his forehead. Apparently he had been staring so intently at this open vision that the businessman noticed. Wimber then had the name of the woman this man had been sleeping with pop into his head and asked,
“Does the name Jane [not her real name] mean anything to you?”
His face turned ashen. “We’ve got to talk,” he stammered.
The plane we were on was a jumbo jet, the kind with a small upstairs cocktail lounge. As I followed him up the stairs to the lounge, I sensed the Spirit speaking to me yet again. “Tell him if he doesn’t turn from his adultery, I’m going to take him.” (Wimber, John and Kevin Springer, Power Evangelism. Ventura, Regal, 2009, p. 75.)
As Wimber launched into what was bound to be an incredibly difficult conversation, something strange happened. After he had explained to the businessman that God had told him the woman’s name and that his life was at risk, he then writes,
I braced myself for what I was sure would be an angry, defensive reaction, but to my relief the instant I spoke to him, his defensiveness crumbled and his heart melted. In a choked, desperate voice he asked me, “What should I do?”
At last I was back on familiar ground. I explained to him what it meant to repent and trust Christ and invited him to pray with me. With hands folded and head bowed, I began to lead him in a quiet prayer. “O God…”
That was as far as I got. The conviction of sin that had built up inside of him seemed virtually to explode. Bursting into tears, he cried out, “O God, I’m so sorry” and launched into the most heartrending repentance I had ever heard. (Ibid.)
John Wimber then mentioned to the man that he was going to have to admit what he had done to his wife and that he might as well do it now, right there on the plane. As the man did this, we are given even more proof that the prophetic gift is convicting and evangelistic, because somehow, his wife received both his confession and Christ. I know—not the way I saw that going down either.
As we look at prophecy in the light of these stories, we see that Paul did want church services to be seeker-sensitive and evangelistic. Of course, his understanding of seeker-sensitivity is very different from ours. He didn’t necessarily want church services to be built around attracting outsiders (not that there’s anything wrong with that to some extent), but rather he didn’t want them to be so crazy and chaotic that they chased outsiders away. He also wanted us to prophesy over unbelievers to show them that God is real. So Paul still wanted crazy supernatural things to happen in church whether it offended outsiders or not, but he wanted such things to be done decently and in order.
Said another way, we are not to diminish the work of the Holy Spirit in order to reach people; for after all, it is God who saves souls—not us. And it’s a shame that we’ve tried to strip away Jesus’ command to do ministry in the power of the Spirit (Lk 24:49) so that we can do it our own way; for it leaves us trading in the raw power and direction of God for an arsenal of cheap psychological tricks.
Want to continue the conversation? Take the long journey with my book/audiobook, The Rush and the Rest, or take a shorter path with my condensed version, Fantasy IRL.