Are Anglicans Seeker-Friendly, Mega, or What?
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The Seeker Friendly movement was pioneered in the 1980s by the Willow Creek and Saddleback churches. The basic idea is one shared (theoretically!) by all Christians: We want non-Christians or unchurched Christians to feel welcomed, and be called to know and worship God through Jesus Christ. We want to understand the needs of our community, and seek to connect with them. We want to speak the language of our communities when communicating. No one can disagree with that goal.
Where we would differ from the Seeker Friendly movement, is the idea that Christian worship (primarily Sunday mornings) should be governed by the felt needs or expectations of non-Christians. For us, Christian Worship is for Christians to worship God. It is shaped by the Bible, by the Christian worshiping tradition as found in our Book of Common Prayer, and by the Holy Spirit’s presence. We are unapologetically not crafting our worship services to be similar to concerts, discussion groups, or self-help seminars (as great as those things are in the right context). We expect that non-Christians or unchurched Christians will find our worship to be different than other experiences in their lives. We believe that what we human beings often think we want or need is quite different than what God tells us we want or need. And we believe that the Christian worshiping tradition calls us to go deeper, to learn and grow, and challenges the blind spots of our contemporary day and age.
However, we believe that we can follow classic Christian worship patterns but still be friendly, welcoming, and intelligible. Our liturgy is (usually) in contemporary English, and our music forms blend today’s music with music from other ages in Christian history. We believe that we should preach the Gospel in ways that bridge the Gospel to the everyday lives of people. We believe that a church can be friendly, accessible, and relevant while remaining committed to worshiping God in biblical and traditional ways. We also believe that the mystery of liturgical, sacramental worship has an attractive dynamic that is very relevant in today’s context.
Despite the great blessings of many of our mega sister churches, we also can see the downside of becoming that large, in terms of relationships and in removing people from their own communities. On the other hand, we have encountered small churches that are closed to newcomers and almost seem to cherish being “just us” and doing things “the way we’ve always done them.” There can be a fear of growing larger and having to transition into new ways of relating and serving together. They may as well hang up a sign that says “no longer accepting new members”!
The Anglican model is a neighborhood parish model. This means that we are committed to being a church that is focused on the community around us. If we grow too large, and if many folks are driving in from a particular outside community, we will usually work toward planting another church, rather than building a succession of larger and larger buildings. That said, the definition of a “large” church will vary from place to place, and oftentimes a larger building is needed.
However, we are strongly committed to being a church that is fully established and that lasts for many generations beyond our own. For this area, we want parishes that are large enough to support this goal, but small enough to enable deeper relationships and to really be rooted in the neighborhood.
So we do want to grow in numbers, both in attendance and in finances. We hope and pray that many of these new folks are new Christians or “re-churched” Christians, along with other Christians whom God calls to us. Like the mega churches, we want to reach thousands, we just want to do this through church planting in various areas rather than one centralized location.
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