Os Guinness in his book Fool’s Talk makes a helpful clarification when talking about non-Christians. There is a difference between a seeker and what he calls a “browser.” A browser is someone leisurely shopping for something they might enjoy. They are channel surfing. They are not seriously looking for truth, religion, or God. A browser has not reached a crisis point in their life. They are not concerned about the direction they are going. Their soul is not stirred up. Often we use the term “seeker” when we are really describing a browser.
A seeker is someone who is pursuing truth. For some reason, they are dissatisfied with their life. They want change. They are usually thinking about big issues, such as death, their soul, what is truth, morality, etc. This person, a seeker, will be open to discussion, looking at the facts, examining different issues, changing their course, and hopefully trusting upon Jesus Christ.
But a browser is not like this. They are bored. They don’t know what they want. These people are usually not open to change. They are not motivated by some perceived deficit, as a seeker is. They are motivated by what makes them happy at that point in time. They are not thinking about major issues, such as death and truth. They are thinking about ease and comfort.
For example, a non-Christian looking for truth because a friend has died, they lost their job, or their husband just left them is in a different state of mind than someone who is a non-Christian by default and spends their days pursuing pleasure in whatever form it comes. A Muslim who is questioning the Koran is different from a nominal Muslim student who is primarily interested in getting a degree and assumes the Koran is correct.
Of course, , there is a lot of variety. Some are close to seeking, but still browsing. Some seekers are not intensely seeking, but looking for the truth now and then. There is no one size fits all. But this difference is helpful when you are talking to non-Christians.
When you are telling others about Christ ask yourself whether the person is a browser or a seeker. If the person is a seeker then you can feel freer to discuss things with them, ask more questions of them, dig a little deeper, and be patient as they think things through. They understand their need. With a browser you will want to handle things differently. The goal is to move a browser to a seeker. This comes primarily through prayer, as you ask the Lord to open their eyes to their need. But it also comes through gently exposing their sin and bringing up the great truths with them. Most browsers do not see themselves as sinners and are not interested in death, morality, meaning, and God. They don’t need anything. Their contentedness must be broken. For a seeker the goal is to guide them rightly by answering their questions and telling them about Christ. For a browser the goal is to show them they lost.