Seeker Services — Team Arequipa Style

I plugged in our 220V waffle-maker and waited for the green light to turn on to indicate that it was at the right temperature to scoop in a ladle-full of delicious, pre-waffle perfection, batter into the collection of metal squares below me…

I’m getting ahead of myself. 

The best churches I know in the US are “seeker-friendly.” That is, while it’s likely the majority sit in the same pew Sunday after Sunday, they never let themselves get so comfortable that they forget to notice who might be new around them. Not only that, but there are specific people there whose gift it is to welcome, show hospitality, seek out. There’s generally a culture of hospitality engrained in the church and acted out by those who are up front, so that even the words they use are chosen specifically to make a guest feel more welcome. Less insider language, more open, inviting, hospitable language. 

For months now we and the Blairs have been reading the Bible and sharing food and community with neighbors and friends. Many of you pray often for Renso and Paola (and fam), Alfredo and Melania (and son), Cris and Milagros. They are the definition of “seekers”—people who are searching for God and purpose in community, even in a place that professes to have God front and center. 

As missionaries, it’s in our job description to be seeker-friendly. Our constant prayer is that God would lead us to real relationships with people who are seeking God, and live with our eyes open to sharing (including receiving) hospitality. What we do not (and cannot) do is “invite people to church.” Why not? A huge part of our purpose here is to invite people to be the church. Starting with an invitation “to church,” as if it’s some static, geographic location, or a meeting to be enjoyed (endured?) is starting off on the wrong foot yet again. So we don’t invite people to worship with us on Sundays, but we’re deeply invested in connecting people to Jesus and to each other in a way that we will eventually be able to point to it and say: “See, this is church.”

All that said, we are constantly asked about “our church,” what is its name? What does it look like? What do we do? Where do we meet? So we decided, with our friend and fellow Jesus-follower Chari, to do a “seeker service.” The idea was to show what a time together as church could look like and invite our friends in as guests to sing with us, pray with us, take communion with us, and to think out loud about what it means to be the church.   

So I plugged in the waffle-maker and waited for the green light to turn on…and then I made a bunch of waffles. Because if you’re going to have a “seeker-service”, you might as well break bread over waffles, right? 

We invited Cris and Milagros for breakfast and a time of worship one Sunday morning several weeks ago. We sat down to breakfast around our table, and served waffles, scrambled eggs, milk and juice to the congregation (which consisted of Jake and Jaclyn, Cris and Milagros, Chari, and two of our interns). As soon as Katie and I sat down, we took a moment to give thanks and to talk about Eucharist. Each person had a chance to share what they were thankful for, after which I took bread, gave thanks, broke it and shared it with everyone around the table. We reflected on Jesus’s body, broken for us, resurrected, and now acting as host at our table. After the meal, I took the cup (several little cups, actually), gave thanks, and passed it, and we reflected on the blood of Jesus, poured out for the world’s healing and reconciliation, the forgiveness of sins. We then cleared the table, passed out a few song books, and sang. While it was a first for Cris and Milagros to sing around the table in this way, they recognized a good number of the songs and were able to sing along! Toward the end of our time together, we shared a passage from the end of Acts 2, and used a pattern of reflection attributed to Martin Luther’s A Simple Way to Pray. We read the passage four times, and after each successive reading we shared something that stuck out to us from the passage, something we were thankful for, something we needed to confess, and then prayed, respectively.

That was it. All in all we were together for about three hours. What struck me was how natural it felt to share together, even though it was the first time to do so as church, with singing, praying, etc. We accomplished our goal: giving Cris and Milagros a better idea of what we mean by church, what it can look like to be together when you’re in a home and have a strong relationship. It also gave us lots to talk about as we continue reading the Bible together week in and week out and invite them into a life-changing relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. 

What is church? What’s the difference between the church and a group of people who come together to experience God and share community? The latter is what we already have. The former is what we aim for. 

Could it have something to do with discipleship? 

I’m convinced that the church is something like a group of followers of Jesus who are committed to each other as they experience God and share community.

That’s what we want more of. We plan to do more of these seeker services in the coming months, not because we’re trying to “get more people to church,” but because we believe that a new vision of church is possible and has enormous potential. I believe this, despite the division and competition here among churches. I believe this, despite the complicated Peruvian catholic cultural milieu punctuated with Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on doors every Saturday. We want to influence more Peruvians to be followers of Jesus, being committed to each other as they experience God and share community. 

Spirit, fill your church.