Have you ever overheard someone say something like this – “You know, I’m attending church regularly and listening intently to our Pastor’s sermons, but I’m just not being fed.” Most frequently this comment is made privately … party to party … and accompanied by a follow-up comment that they are thinking about looking for another church. Is that really the answer? What is the root cause for this supposed feeding problem? Could it be a personal spiritual problem?
I can recall a number of instances over my lifetime where a rather mature Christian has shared with me their dissatisfaction with the leadership and/or direction of their local church. In some cases, the comments have been cloaked in an excuse that they are not being spiritually fed. In my observation, more often than not, their attitude toward their church had shifted from positive to negative. The shift in attitude may have resulted from one specific incident or developed over a period of time. Often, the party was unnecessarily spreading their negativism to others in the church to bolster their personal position thus hurting the overall health of their church body. Sometimes the negativism was rooted in disagreement with what the Pastor was preaching, what the Deacons were either doing or not doing, or how someone in leadership had responded to a specific situation. Sometimes the discontent resulted from a basic disagreement on doctrine and/or biblical interpretation.
I recognize that there are certainly some situations where the Pastor and/or church leadership may be at fault because they have strayed from true Biblical teachings. However, regardless of the supposed cause, I have observed that in many cases the root of the problem likely originated internally in the heart and mind of the complainer rather than externally.
Let me get to some basics with an analogy. When a baby is born he/she is almost helpless and totally dependent on others. Among many other things, babies must be changed, bathed, dressed, carried, and fed by their parents. Over time babies mature to new levels and they do more and more for themselves. Ultimately, babies become children, and then teens, then adults and they are able and expected to provide for themselves. They are now in a position to feed not only themselves but others. They have become productive and self-sufficient. With regard to the church, it is indeed true that the church and its Pastor have a responsibility to feed (and equip) the flock. But I contend that the mature Christian also has a significant responsibility to be feeding others and not so focused on being personally fed. While not directly related to this topic, I can’t help but recall a scripture contained in one of the greatest Bible passages on Christ-like love which is contained in 1 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV) – “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” I find it rather childish for the mature Christian to expect to be continually fed by someone else other than God Almighty. God physically fed the Israelites for forty years as they traversed their path to the “promised land.” And without question, He can certainly feed the spiritually hungry today.
So why is it that some church-going believers seem to expect their spiritual side to be sufficiently fed by their church? Is it based on the false assumption that the purpose of the church is to provide members with their spiritual food? Have they just become lazy or conditioned to being spoon-fed the word of God? Have they relegated their Bible study to just attending Sunday services and listening to the preacher’s message instead of daily digging into His word for spiritual food? Have they turned over the responsibility for their relationship to God to someone else? Do they have a different agenda altogether than the leadership of their church?
I contend that spiritual growth and Christian vitality are ultimately the responsibility of individual believers … not the responsibility of the church and/or the Pastor. Most assuredly, the church and the Pastor have a responsibility to encourage members and to provide Bible based programs, studies, Sunday school classes, materials and Pastoral messages that support the walk of church members. Nevertheless, it is foolish to expect the individual Christian’s spiritual growth to result solely from the “feeding” of others.
Here’s some advice for those who may have fallen prey to the “not being fed” by my church syndrome.
- First, inspect your attitude. If it is negative, then give it over to God for a positive one. See Philippians 2:5-7 (NASB) – “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
- Put your selfish pride aside in favor of humility. See Luke 18:9-14 for a parable of Jesus contrasting the temple visit of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Click on this link for the scripture: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+18%3A9-14&version=NIV
- Next, take over the full responsibility for your relationship to God. Read your Bible faithfully and regularly … it is the “Ap” that you need to feed your spiritual void.
- Develop a consistent devotional and prayer life … don’t just depend on others to do your praying for you.
- Exercise your God-given spiritual gifts. Others can’t use your spiritual gifts for you.
- Support your church leadership even when you don’t totally agree with them. God has called your leaders to their positions and given them His direction. They need your support … not your criticism. If your church leadership is teaching false doctrine or sinfully leading the congregation to do wrong, you can rest assured that God will hold them responsible for their actions and deal directly with them.
- Faithfully, consistently, wholeheartedly and positively attend and participate in all of your church’s activities.
- Change your focus from personally being fed to “feeding” others. Feeding others is Biblical. Think about the example of Jesus and the miraculous results of the feeding of the five thousand with the two fishes and five loaves (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:5-15). God will bless your feeding activities and magnify the results using His math. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results as your ill feelings fade away and you are bathed in God’s love.