The “seeker sensitive” model of ministry is a model opted for by many churches (especially in North America). Services are designed for “visitors” for “unbelievers” for those “outside” the Kingdom with the goal that this approach will bring them inside. The “called out assembly” (for that is what the church is) is (biblically speaking) a group of Christ-followers, called by Christ out of the world to meet in His name, to honour Him, to function as a body under Jesus Christ who is the head.
John the Baptist was hardly “seeker sensitive” in fact his preaching called people out and tested their “sensitivities.”
Consider Luke 3:7-9
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him,
John was drawing crowds. A spiritual curiosity had come over Judea and the city of Jerusalem about some desert preacher who had just launched his ministry. They were coming to be baptized, to demonstrate their repentant hearts (or so they thought) as an application of his prophetic exhortation.
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
What a welcome! What a public call-out! Did John suspect their motives? Was he pushing back against a “group movement” to ensure that the hearts of these people were truly ready to make the changes the LORD was requiring. Now this may not be a model we may imitate fully, yet too often, preachers are tempted to say, “All is well. All is well. Even though you are not living for God, you’re fine. Everyone struggles. I struggle. We all struggle together….” John is calling for full-blown repentance. Repentance is not shown by the tears streaming down the sinner’s cheeks, but by concrete actions evidencing a change of mind. It is beginning to live differently and leaving behind old patterns of evil.
In the closing sentences of this same paragraph John anticipates a religious objection from his audience. “We don’t have to make those changes. We have a religious heritage.” He continues…. “And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
What is John saying? Your ancestors may have known God, but that does not guarantee your salvation. Someone has well said – ‘God has no grandchildren.’ God doesn’t owe you anything. You don’t have any “status” with God. You must come in full repentance.
John uses the illustration of a skilled lumberjack who is going through the forest and evaluating trees. Unfruitful trees are being removed, those that do not bear good fruit.
What’s the application for our lives today? I conclude with a few questions –
1) How does my life evidence that I have truly repented?
2) Though blessed with a heritage of believing ancestors, is my faith in Christ in the present tense?
3) How fruitful if my life for God?
4) How may I submit to His pruning, His cutting back and cutting away of any aspect of my life which does not glorify Him?
Let’s join the hymn writer and pray, “Spirit of God, descend upon my heart, Wean it from earth through all its pulses move, Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art, and make me love Thee as I ought to love!”