- The Samaritan woman at the well.
- Nicodemus, the Jewish civil and religious leader
- Andrew, a fisherman.
- Magi who traveled from the East with gifts for a new King.
- A Roman centurion with a deathly ill servant
- A tax collector who went to extremes just to see Him and climbed into a tree.
- A rabbi with a dying daughter.
- A handicapped man whose friends had a "whatever it takes" attitude.
- An anonymous woman with an incurable hemorrhage.
- A rich, young ruler.
- Many more we know about from the biographies of Jesus called "Gospels". Many, many more we don't.
What they had in common was a need, be it spiritual or physical, and they sought out Jesus. Some were actually looking for Him, with curiosity or even an inkling that He might be the promised Messiah. Most, not all, embraced Him as Savior.
Back in the 90's (or so) a term was coined to represent men and women who are like the list above: needy and wanting an answer or healing or solution. If he didn't use the term first, he at least became most famous for its use at his Willow Creek church outside of Chicago, but whether or not you or I agree with him on every point, Bill Hybels' ministry became symbolic of the term "seeker".
"Seeker" became a buzz word in some evangelical circles, and typical of evangelicals and fundamentals, whenever someone introduces something new, be it terminology or ministry strategy (which I find are never new, but usually something forgotten retrieved) we (I'm an evangelical) take sides. At our heart, it seems, we truly enjoy divisiveness ala the Corinthian church by drawing lines in the sand - and sand constantly shifts - by declaring, "I'm fer it" or "I'm agin it". Often in our quest to guard our perceived "orthodoxy" we over-analyze and miss the forest for the trees. Semantics should never divide. You say "tomaughto", I say "tomayto". It's still a tomato. "Seeker" simply means someone outside of faith in Christ who needs Him and is searching.
So here are two paradoxical axioms that I ponder. Actually the second can't truly be called an "axiom" because while it is typical, it is an aberration of what is true. But because it is so overwhelmingly the "norm" I'll treat it as such.
1. None of us who know Christ as Savior have always been believers. No one comes into this world trusting Jesus and on the road to eternal life. The Bible is clear that we are all born with a sinful nature that separates us from God and the life He possesses. Whenever I hear someone say, "I've always believed" I have to ask them, "Really?". Because that contradicts Scripture.
Since I was very little I understood there was God and His Son Jesus. I didn't doubt that as a child because people I trusted (parents, Sunday school teachers) told me so. As I heard of His love and my own inability to achieve everlasting life and His provision of grace I became a "seeker". I distinctly remember asking my mother, who at the time was very religious, but was herself an unbeliever, "How do you get to heaven?". Her answer, by the way, was typical of mainline religion - "Do your best" - and was wrong. But it wasn't until I was nearly eleven years old that I understood my personal need for faith in Him that I experienced new birth.
Every child of God was first a "seeker" in some fashion. But there is also a most confounding pattern I've noticed in my 40 plus years as a believer.
2. We tend to forget who we were and lose our passion for those who are seeking. Here's how it works. We don't plan it this way and never really see it coming. But in the vast majority of Christians this is how life plays out unless we allow God to help us see the world through His eyes. Here's the scenario.
Our seeking results in finding. Whether you see it as you found Him or He found you isn't the issue here. From your perspective, you found Him and received His gift of eternal life. From His perspective He "found" you. Jesus is the ultimate "seeker". And the changes begin in your life. You connect with a local church and God brings a whole new family and group of friends into your life. You hunger to know Him and love it whenever you discover new treasure in His word. You find a place of ministry in the church, serving His family. Life is better than ever...and it's supposed to be.
Your excitement over your new life is uncontainable and you want all of your family and friends to discover what you've found. So you invite them to church. You talk to them about your faith. Some go with you. Some even believe. And those who do become part of your inner circle of friends now that they, too, share this faith.
But as time goes by - maybe a year or two - you gradually begin to lose contact with those old non-believing friends. You don't hang out with them as much, if at all because your Christian friends and family not only get your priority, they get your everything. It's been a long time since you talked with a non-believer about Jesus. You can't remember the last time you invited someone who is unchurched to church with you. Even when the church has bridging events for the community, you don't invite anyone to come. Rather than talk to someone who needs Him, you retreat into a "holy huddle" of other believers and talk to them about Him, whether that be a Sunday school class, a Bible study or a small group. And within the safety of that family you convince yourself you are content.
Suddenly you look around your life and you've lost contact with the world Jesus came to save. As you've grown older in the faith you've also grown distant from the "seekers" and from being a "seeker" like Jesus.
What's happened? In my next post I'll talk about the need in our lives for balance. Real Christian maturity, like Jesus, must be balanced with a passion for growing in the faith and going out to reach the yet faithless.