Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I'm Not Being Fed at My Church

I have heard this only once at PCC; and that by a person who was so shallow that he wouldn’t even show up to church half the time. It’s easy to connect the dots between his cause-and-effect. (More about this at the end of this blog).

Having said that, this is a universal complaint in churches and has more to do with the complainant, rather than the church or the pastor. I even heard Chuck Swindoll say once that the number one complaint he received in his church was "I'm not being fed here anymore." Chuck Swindoll is one of the greatest Bible teachers and communicators in the church today. No one could honestly question the depth and content of his teaching. He is exceptional.

You have to realize that there are many false assumptions behind that statement. When people say, “I’m not being fed here anymore,” they are ASSUMING that the purpose of the church is to DO IT ALL for them. That is, if you are spiritually empty, it is the church’s fault. Is it really? Or is YOUR RELATIONSHIP with God YOUR RESPONSIBILITY? You are assuming that to be “spiritually fed” means hearing a good sermon, or attending another good Bible lesson. While these tools can be helpful, the vitality of your spiritual growth cannot be solely dependent upon them.

Yes, churches and teaching pastors have a role to feed God’s people. For instance, Jesus told Peter to “feed my sheep/lambs” (John 21:15-18), and Peter repeated that same emphasis by saying, “Feed the flock of God” (I Peter 5:1-2). But that responsibility has limits. As any parent knows, a baby eventually grows up and learns how to feed himself. Otherwise, he will just be a spoiled brat expecting you to take care of him well into his adulthood. That is not normal.

The role of the church is to slowly help believers STAND on their OWN TWO FEET. That is, the church is responsible for helping believers GROW to a CERTAIN POINT. After that, they should FEED THEMSELVES and FOCUS on HELPING THE CHURCH with its MISSION.

The reason that seasoned believers are usually the most dissatisfied members in a church is because they STILL EXPECT the church to be feeding them. Churches are filled with people who have been followers of Christ for decades, and yet for all their knowledge are big, fat, do-nothings. They still wear a bib and expect to be spoon-fed. At some point you have to pick up the fork yourself, stab it into the meat, and put it into your mouth!

Proverbs 26:15 (NIV) “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; He is TOO LAZY to BRING IT BACK to HIS MOUTH.”

What a great description of the overfed, spiritually-stuffed believer. He shows up to church where the table has been set, the bread of life is offered, and he/she is too lazy to even lift the fork!

Your church, whether that is PCC or another, attempts to serve you each week. But if you refuse to apply what you have learned, don’t study your Bible, fail to pray during the week, don’t join a small group, or dig deeper on your own – if you refuse to lift the fork – I can’t help you. Your next church can’t help you, any more than your last church helped you.

Hebrews 5:12 (KJV) “At a time when you OUGHT TO BE TEACHERS, ye STILL HAVE NEED that one TEACH YOU AGAIN….etc” (Hebrews 5:12).

No matter how great your church is, or is not, ultimately, in the end, your spiritual nourishment is UP TO YOU.

My observation has been that when people say they want more “meat,” they are usually asking for more minutiae (minor details) – bits of trivia that tickles their fancy, new data to write down, or novel facts that have no real bearing on the Christian life.

For instance, does it really help you to grow in your relationship with Christ if someone teaches how many kilograms the Ark of the Covenant weighed? If you learn the Greek word for “donkey,” does that make you more complete as a follower of Christ?

First, you are probably not engaged in hands-on ministry.
Real “meat” in the Christian life comes from DOING MINISTRY and PUTTING INTO PRACTICE the things you have learned. Not sitting on a pew somewhere, fat, dumb, and unhappy!

Notice what Jesus said:

“I have MEAT that YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT….. My meat is to DO THE WILL of Him that sent me, and to finish His work” (St. John 4:32-33). Jesus said this just after having His encounter with the woman at the well - you know, that lady who was far from God, but found eternal life.

Did you get that? Real spiritual MEAT is DOING GOD’S WILL by getting off the pew, and getting busy with the task of reaching lost people. Please don't tell me how "deep" you are if you have never one a single person to Christ.

When believers are not growing and have plateaued, they immediately think the answer is “deeper” (minutiae) teaching, more passionate worship services, another Bible study, the next conference, or even a different church. The REAL SOLUTION is to GET INVOLVED in the ministry.

At PCC, we are trying to produce disciples WHO DO STUFF… but are not over-stuffed.

Second, you probably are not having a daily devotional time with God, or fail to spend time in your Bible.
The most important aspect to your spiritual nourishment and growth are your PERSONAL SPIRITUAL HABITS and DISCIPLINES.
  • Are you readying your Bible?
  • Do you pray?
  • Are you journaling?
  • Do you take time to be still and listen to the voice of God?
  • Do you honor and worship God with the tithe?
  • Are you giving financially to your church?
  • You in a small group?
  • Do you witness to people who are far from God?
  • Are you memorizing scripture and meditating upon it?
If you are doing these things, and are doing them consistently, you will NEVER FEEL SPIRITUALLY EMPTY. Never.

Spiritual disciplines are much like exercise. If you are obese, the doctor will prescribe some lifestyle changes for you – regular exercise, staying active, eating right, and getting plenty of rest.

Third, you are a discontented person and no one will ever make you happy.
If discontent if rooted within you, it will follow you wherever you go, no matter the church, no matter the teacher, no matter the pastor. Whenever a person has an established track record of being dissatisfied with several churches, I can always be assured that the problem lies within the individual, not the church.
Only one person in our ten year history at PCC has ever said to me, “I not being fed here” (though I'm sure there were many others who felt that way). He didn’t like my response. I told him how self-centered and self-absorbed he was for his suggestion that we forget about reaching lost people and focus more on him and his “needs.” I bluntly told him that if he showed up to church more often he might actually grow. And I pointed out how incredibly shallow he was, flitting from place to place, and never settling down and digging in. Finally, I pointed out to him that he also needed to learn what spiritual authority was.

He left. Now he attends a church that is deacon-possessed and board-stiff.

Me, I’m still cooking….