Willow Creek has realized that its "seeker-sensitive" model of "doing" church has not produced the results it was looking for. Although I came across this admission a few weeks ago, I am just now getting around to commenting on it.
The megachurch in Illinois recently conducted a four-year research effort to determine how effective their methods of church growth were. I guess they came to the conclusion that they had to change things up a bit and get a little deeper.
I'll be interested in hearing what the response is among my colleagues and fellow pastors who have bought whole-heartedly into their methods. Thousands upon thousands of pastors, as well as interested laypersons, across all denominations, flock to this Mecca of church growth. I, myself, am not against studying what has worked for others, per se. Yet I have always maintained - even if only to myself - that popular methods of "church growth" should have us all a little hesitant. The Willow Creeks and Saddlebacks of this world may be effective for what their mission is, but that doesn't necessarily translate into every church around the world - and it certainly isn't the most effective model for Seventh-day Adventists, who feel as though we have been called to herald a different message than the rest of the evangelical world.
And at the heart of that message is a depth that is often lacking at "seeker-sensitive" services.
I freely admit that we should probably be a little me sympathetic to the visitor that sits in our pews from week to week. I am very uncomfortable many times on a Sabbath morning when I look up and see a face I don't recognize, realizing the message I have prepared for that morning may not scratch where he or she itches, or perhaps even be a complete turn-off to a person who is looking for a more generic sermon than I was hoping to give.
Yet, it seems to me that when visitors do come, they have an expectation that a church will talk about "churchy" things. This is not to say that we should present things that are always over a visitor's head, but there should be a way of having a healthy mix of "generic" Christianity and "deeper" Christianity. If it is always generic Christianity and "milk," then how do we expect our attendees to grow?
Of course, I understand completely that our church members should feed themselves during the week, and not rely so much on the pastor to feed them during the sermon. But there is still a power in the oral and spoken word, presented in the context of corporate worship, that can be missed if we are just gearing our services and sermons towards "seekers."