There’s a word that I used to hear a lot growing up in Scottish churches, but I don’t hear much of it today. That word is “seeker.” Maybe it’s because there are less seekers around. Or perhaps it’s because it’s too commonly assumed that people brought up in the church are already found and don’t have any seeking to do. Or have we made conversion so quick and easy that there’s never any struggle, search, pursuit, or seeking – just quick and easy finding as soon as anyone shows any interest?

Whatever the reason, it would help “seekers” if we acknowledged they exist and that there are many different kinds of them with many different and challenging needs. Here are a few I’ve come across in ministry.

1. Convicted seeker: This seeker is experiencing conviction of sin but does not know what to do. There is a deep sense of guilt but little knowledge of the Gospel or of grace.

2. Fearful seeker: This seeker is afraid of dying and of judgment. He is seeking relief from that fear but maybe not deliverance from sin.

3. Frustrated seeker: Someone who has been seeking Christ but cannot find Him. May be angry that all her effort has not produced any result. May have a sense that God owes her.

4. Confused seeker: Often a child or a young person who is uncertain about their spiritual state. Or may be an adult believer who is lacking assurance. She may be saved but lack of assurance makes her think she isn’t and needs to be.

5. Unwilling seeker: This person is seeking but does not realize it or does not want to recognize it. God is sovereignly at work in his life, seeking him out. The person may be responding by seeking out sin to quieten God’s voice and conscience pangs, but it is still a God-given seeking.

6. Skeptical seeker: Perhaps a disillusioned ex-cult member or just someone who has tried a few other religions without success. Still looking for something but doubts he or she will find.

7. Hopeless seeker: Someone who has been seeking for a long time and has never “found.” She feels she will never be saved, that the Lord will never show her mercy, but she doesn’t give up on the means of grace in public or in private. She may feel that she had committed the unpardonable sin.

8. Half-hearted seeker: He is seeking in some ways and at some times but not in all ways and not all the time. Remember: And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13.

9. Sinful seeker: Wants Christ but isn’t prepared to give up a favorite sin.

10. Dramatic conversion seeker: Will only be satisfied with a radical and spectacular divine intervention or voice.

11. The “distant” seeker: This person is seeking but doesn’t really want you to know about it. Frames questions objectively and impersonally.

12. Ignorant seeker: He is seeking but has no idea what for. Interested in religion and spirituality but perhaps little conviction of sin.

13. Happy feelings seeker: Looking for joy, peace, happiness, but not God.

14. Passive seeker: Says she is seeking but it’s really more a passive waiting than an active pursuing. May be based on a false view of the sovereignty of God.

What other kinds of seeker have you come across?

  • moonius

    David, I love your writings but what do you do with Romans 3:11? “…there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.”

    • MJD

      Or Romans 10:20?

      • David Murray

        See reply above. However, I believe Romans 10:20 is speaking more of the Gentiles than of individuals. It’s teaching that God sovereignly and mercifully communicated his grace to Gentiles who had no knowledge of Jehovah and no desire for Him in contrast to the Jews who had unique spiritual privileges.

    • David Murray

      Thanks for your question. In addition to Romans 3:11 there are other verses where sinners are commanded to seek God and massive promises are given to these seekers (e.g. Isa. 55:6 and Matthew 7:7). So here’s how I would try to put these verses together.

      Firstly, no one naturally seeks the God of the Bible for salvation from sin. That’s what Romans 3:11 clearly teaches.

      Second, we are commanded to seek God and promises of finding God are given to those who do. That’s our responsibility.

      Third, it’s only at God’s sovereign instigation that anyone seeks and finds God.

      Fourth, there are many “seekers” who are not seeking the God of the Bible, who are not seeking for the right reasons, and who are no seeking in the right way.

      Fifth, it’s often very difficult for pastors to discern who are true seekers and those who are not. It’s usually only time that tells the difference. In the meantime, we must work with all sorts of “seekers” and prayerfully seek to discern how to minister to them with encouragements and warnings.

      Last, anyone who seeks and finds God eventually looks back and sees that for all their seeking, it was God’s seeking that explained their seeking.

      • moonius

        Thanks for your reply

  • Steven McCarthy

    Dr Murray, thank you for thinking through this list, which helps me to think about various interactions I have encounters, and will, Lord willing, encounter in the future. This is not an answer to your closing question, but as someone who grew up in American, rather than Scottish, evangelicalism, I found it interesting what you left out of your introduction when you hypothesized about why we don’t use the term “seeker”. Some have objected to the term because unbiblical practices have been justified on the basis of being calculated to “draw” those described as “seekers”. Those objecting in this way will usually cite the text also mentioned by the previous commenter. However, Paul also says that God has so ordered providence “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” (Acts 17:27) May we all grow in meeting people where they have been brought by the secret workings of our gracious God.