I have lame Christiany-sounding excuse fatigue. Here is the latest: “I am leaving this church because it just doesn’t feed me.” Pardon me but your church is not supposed to “feed” you. It probably isn’t your fault, though. You were probably sold this bill of goods by the church that talked you into coming their way the last time you were feeling spiritually bored.
Consider the “feedlot” model: We pick a church, like we pick a restaurant…one that dishes up what we like and are in the mood for on a steaming plate set before us. Then we sit in judgment. “That was good this week.” Or perhaps, “That sermon was a little mushy, and cold…like overcooked broccoli, pastor.” We tip if the service was good and expect to go home full.
Yes, I do know the term “pastor” is the Greek word for “shepherd,” but shepherds protect sheep. Sheep eat for themselves. Besides, the Lord is our shepherd, not your pastor. Your pastor is a human not the Holy Spirit.
There is a legitimate role for pastors. It is found in Ephesians 4. Pastors have been given their gifts “ to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”
Consider God’s purpose in the giving of all of these gifted “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers”: It was EQUIPPING YOU “for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Rather than being passive recipients of a meal, this is a picture of a community sharing its gifts with one another as it engages in mission.
The early Christians had a love that “compelled” them into the world in invitation and self-emptying service (2 Cor. 5:13-15). Please don’t bail out on your church because it doesn’t passively “feed” you. The church isn’t supposed to be a restaurant with waiters that pre-chew our food and dribble it into us like the SNL soft-teeth skit. It is supposed to be culinary school. Think about what culinary school gives someone: tools, knowledge, practice, confidence and helps you find a job cooking in the real world. Both visions of the church will change you: One will make you fat and passive. The other will change both you and the world as you serve it, adding flavor and taste to those around you.
So before you put a grotesque and distorted burden on your church, ask yourself how discipleship happened historically. Hint, it wasn’t sitting in a class memorizing gospel presentations or Bible verses on overcoming temptation. It was life on life: walking with Jesus. The disciples hung out around the fire with the Master for three years as he prayed, taught, modeled, questioned, healed, demonstrated, prayed some more and finally sent them to…”go make disciples” and to “obey all I have commanded.” Every bit of this was active.
This is possibly a very different model from your church. If your church is using you as a passive recipient of the staff’s teaching, doing all of the evangelism themselves and merely using you as an “inviter” and the sanctuary as an evangelism platform, then perhaps you might want to ask them to STOP feeding you! Ask them instead to start equipping YOU and the rest of the church to “do the work of ministry.”
So stop asking your church to feed you. Ask them to equip you.
If you like this you might like: The Church is Christ’s bride. Not his baby mama.
65 thoughts on “Your church isn’t supposed to “feed” you”
This is a very true blog post. We pew-dwellers do need to have our own sense of responsibility for our own feeding. But I think there is a legitimacy about “not being fed,” and that is what you sense that you’re “not being fed ENOUGH” or what you’re being fed is dreck or just plain not right or true. Christians who clamor for good spiritual nutrition will know when the body is lacking, and, if they’re unable to help effect change they will move on. I have had to do that, sadly, but namby-pamby equipping; non-stringent, uninformed, bored teaching; and pollyannish preaching will do that to some folks. And about that matter of preaching: It’s not about equipping, really, but about proclaiming — or perhaps feeding, since it is a means of grace — law and gospel. It, along with the Sacrament of the Altar, really is the most important feeding of all. So I think there is some small truth to be heard when someone says, “I wasn’t being fed.” Maybe it was more than an excuse. It was for me. My humble $0.03.
And a very good $0.03 it is! I changed churches on more than one occasion. That is a post to myself as much as anyone else. 🙂
It is difficult, especially if one is sitting under the teaching of one who has lost their faith. On one hand it is the Donatist matter all over again. On the other, there is the travesty of moralism and partisan politics in the pulpit.
Thanks for putting in your 2 cents + 1.
I don’t think “church hopping” was an option for the early Jew and their temple. We can read the issues of not so on fire priests and it wasn’t every other service fire came down from Heaven.. For me it comes down to more prayer, and more stillness before the Lord. A dry place to enter when you’re spent; but discipline, insight, and answered prayer are the fruit of waiting and a layperson’s calling. Church, or life; begins on the inside.
Great thoughts! Thank you. We all need more stillness before the Lord, don’t we?
Excellent! Good photo to illustrate the point!
In my historical and theological studies, there is nothing to say that first and second century believers didn’t gather to be fed, spiritually and physically, or that they tried out other gatherings. Yes, yes, they were also out in the world (according to the canonical epistles and the extra-biblical accounts), but they were encouraged to meet together often to love one another and learn about God the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit from the Apostles (and later their pupils, the Church Fathers). While I appreciate the sentiment that you are going for in the article, I am afraid that you have pushed the concept beyond the evidence. The first century church was more balanced than today’s church culture, that is for sure, but the people that gathered in the first days of Christianity, often did so for protection and reparative reasons–evil, satanic society too often was trying to destroy the Way. So, yes, be in the world but not of the world, don’t treat church like a supermarket or fast-food diner, but as David states in the Bible in Psalm 16,
‘Protect me, Lord God! I run to you for safety, and I have said, “Only you are my Lord! Every good thing I have is a gift from you.” Your people are wonderful, and they make me happy, but worshipers of other gods will have much sorrow. I refuse to offer sacrifices of blood to those gods or worship in their name. You, Lord, are all I want! You are my choice, and you keep me safe. You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright. I praise you, Lord, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind. I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear. With all my heart, I will celebrate, and I can safely rest. I am your chosen one. You won’t leave me in the grave or let my body decay. You have shown me the path to life, and you make me glad by being near to me. Sitting at your right side, I will always be joyful.’
Amen to the good Doctor! Or, in the words of Blazing Saddles, “Hurrumphs all around!”
Wouldn’t you agree though that the model in the early church (both canonically and in the Fathers) does seem to be much more participatory and Eucharistic? Feeding was through Sacrament, and teaching and mentoring for equipping for service. The church seemed to be walking together in life-on-life mentoring relationships-the book of Acts is a potpourri of examples of Christians together in the world doing evangelism “daily.”
Great post, thanks…. sharing it around
Thanks, Lynn! Blessings to you this fine day.
Great post, Matt! Hope this semester is going well for you.
Life is great. Hope the same for you, brutha.
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Yes, definitely I’d agree that we shouldn’t leave a church because it’s not ‘feeding me.’ But if it’s not equipping, challenging, helping you grow in faith, then either help the church change or change churches. And more, if it’s a spiritually deadening place, where you are more pushed away from than drawn into the Holy Fire, then run as fast as you can.
Indeed! Thank you, Becky. Well said.
Hey Matt, I’ve thought about this a bit and think I should follow your lead in my response: My friend Matt Marino, who has many helpful things to say, is wrong.about this one. Very wrong. Few things are clearer in the story than our responsibility to feed the sheep (I know, the metaphor is not complimentary). The question is not whether we are to feed our members, but rather why, what, and how. If we feed them on consumerism, we get the fruits of that. If we feed them on discipleship, we get the fruits of that. Remember Mr. Miagi’s dictum, “No bad student, Danielson, only bad teacher.” This is a complex topic with many layers, whys and wherefores. Nonetheless, in the end we ARE the servants called to teach, preach, disciple, and mentor, i.e. “feed.” I think we do better by looking up and saying something like, “Wow, we’ve mentored a generation of consumers rather than disciples and servants.” We’ve taught them (“fed” them) to think they’re supposed to grade us rather than join us as servants … etc. It’s a matter of leadership not followership. There’s no escape. We all need leaders, servants, mentors, disciplers. Those of us to whom these roles have been entrusted need to look at the fruit of our feeding.
Great thoughts, Jim. Thank you for adding your voice to this.
Your “feed” sounds (and since I know you I can say “looks”) a lot like what I called “life on life mentoring” rather than the passive consumerism of the current model. I am making a turn of the corner into a challenge for discipleship by the church that looks like what Jesus did (walk with people) rather than merely running entertaining programs and having people show up for informational seminars…and I say that as one whose go to gift set is the informational seminar. 🙂
You know I’m with you in this Matt. The thing is, our Episcopal ethos has ways of doing life-on-life and not ways of doing it. What we do will look nothing like what Jesus did with his disciples. We cannot mimic him. So what can we really, actually do with the various ages and stages of life in our modern Episcopal context? This is a crucial value and vision for our tradition and its future. Thus, how we talk about it, what we say, what images we use and how those images invite people to imagine it, and especially to imagine the possibilities, are all crucial to the change we both want to effect. Seeing that something is wrong and dreaming a new future are comparatively easy. Building the strategy to the new future is the critical and very hard and very fun work. How we talk about it now will limit or expand the possibilities of that strategy. I am boldly excited and enthusiastic about our future. I think we have a great one. Let’s dream and language carefully in ways that will make it easy for our people to see it, to be encouraged by it, and to say yes to the strategy.
I absolutely know that we are in this together! I am thankful to Jesus for that.
You have some ideas in mind of what we cannot do that I know not. My thought is that we could each have a group of people that we are walking with who can each have groups they are walking with. Is there something in our ethos and tradition in which that won’t work?
I actually think that the Anglican tradition of Morning/Evening prayer in which we read, pray and do the Bible together as a community. My thought is that we can find ways to do that (both together physically and online). A friend and I actually spoke on the phone today about this. We are creating a 4 part webpage: Prayers (a link to an out loud, pray along with site), a Read the scripture plan, a series of short snippets on “Living the story” (the story through the Christian year), and 4: an online way to engage with others around the readings of the day.
Sounds good, Matt. Simple. Brief. Accessible. Interactive. Following the MP/EP pattern without overwhelming. A good start, it seems to me.
We shall see how it goes. I suspect the key will be how well executed it ends up.
Spot on! Many in the congregation would live gearing this from a voice other than mine. Now, we clergy types need to buckle down on the equipping! Thanks for this.
The hard work on this will have to be done by us. It involves learning a whole new…a more biblical and beneficial way of leading.
Lies from the pit of hell!
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.(Jn21)
All this skubalon about how sheep need to learn to “self-feed” is straight from the devil’s backside!
Hello Angry, thank you for taking the time to respond.
I appreciate that you are quoting Jesus, but Jesus never “fed” the way we are doing it today…Line up in cars and come hear the pablum. Go home and not think about it again.
Think about what a shepherd did in Jesus’ day. Did a shepherd invite hold grass up to their mouths or lead them to pasture and let them eat?
When we say today, “I want my church to feed me” it means “give me what I want to hear, what reinforces my already held beliefs.” I am arguing for doing more of what you just did, let people be exposed to Jesus’ actual teaching, in a way that Jesus actually did it: Life-on-life, in the real world.
So I disagree with you about the devils backside. And I suspect you don’t really think that either, since my rationale is straight from Paul who got it from the Holy Spirit.
Thanks again. I look forward to continuing dialogue. And I like your tongue in cheek online moniker.
If you are feeding your sheep pablum, then your sheep ought to find a church that is faithful.
This “self-feeder” garbage is originating from false teachers that hate the role of pastor. The sheep come to receive Christ, and it is the church’s commission to give him to them.
STOP BEATING THE SHEEP FOR ASKING TO BE FED! STOP PRETENDING THEY WANT YOU TO CHEW THEIR FOOD, WHEN THEY ARE ASKING FOR MORE SUBSTANCE, MORE JESUS! They ought to flee from your attitude in droves.
These days, many false teachers are propagating the idea that Christians coming to church to be fed are overweight, gluttonous, immature (like the baby picture), or otherwise woefully lacking in restraint and maturity. Usually this is so they can preach insipid Christless pep-talks that are incapable of feeding anyone.
INSTEAD FEED THEM! IF YOU FEED THEM THEY WILL BE EQUIPPED TO DO DO DO ALL THE THINGS YOU’RE TRYING TO BEAT THEM INTO DOING!
YOUR SHEEP SOUND SKELETAL, ARE THEY ARE IN SPIRITUAL AUSCHWITZ WITH THEIR HIP-BONES SHOWING THROUGH?!?! WHAT THEY NEED ISN’T TO GO BE MORE OBEDIENT, ITS MORE OF GOD’S WORD!
Instead of playing that you’re the Auschwitz culinary directory, teaching skeletons to prepare their own elaborate feasts, BRING THE FEAST THAT JESUS COMMANDED YOU TO! YOU BE MORE OBEDIENT FIRST. Feed his sheep.
Hmmn “Angry.” You are apparently committed to achieving your name. CAPITALS ARE SHOUTING AND RUDE. You are welcome to engage, but please engage politely.
I am not sure what has provoked you so. You have evidently not read my blog before, as I blog long and loud on silly antics from pulpits and pastors preaching pablum and moralistic “how to” sermons, rather than teaching the Bible.
Blessings to you, as you seek Christ.
You are echoing the satanic lie that has been making its rounds for the last 5 years that Christians should not expect to be fed God’s word at church. My hostility is because your anti-Biblical advice needs to be shot down before some hapless pastor falls for it.
You actually had the gall to to tell your parishioners not to ask or expect to be fed. You sound strikingly similar to these men who should not be pastors, because they don’t want to shepherd:
“If you want to be fed God’s word or have the Bible explained to you then you are a fat lazy Christian and you need to shut up and get to work” – Stephen Furtick
And while you can feign that you’re above the fray of harsh words, your picture of baby food and comments about “chewing” your congregation’s food for them is character assassination of those faithful Christians that are holding pastors accountable to their office by insisting that pastors fulfill Christ’s command to feed the sheep. Shepherds are not called to assassinate the sheep that are asking for the shepherd to perform his vocation.
Leaving a church that doesn’t feed you is the right thing to do. Leaving a church (or removing the pastor) where the pastor defiantly maintains that its not the pastor’s job to feed the sheep is probably the right the right thing to do as well. Because if that’s the case, the pastor either doesn’t know God’s word, or he knows it, but despises it, and the office he’s been given.
If you want to equip people, then FEED them. If you don’t want open angry rebuke, then don’t assassinate the character of Christ’s own lambs, asking to be fed as you were called to do.
You have obviously never read my blog before. You might check: https://thegospelside.com/2013/08/21/when-did-evangelicals-get-popes/ in which I critique the same things you are.
You might read more closely. I have not said anywhere that pastors shouldn’t teach the Word of God. I am saying that people’s expectations should be that they become active disciples not passive recipients. I am actively arguing against moralistic preaching and for exposition of the scriptural texts.
If you want to disagree with me and others that is fine. Just do it politely or I will block you. You can exercise the gift of “be angry and do not sin.” (Eph 4:26)
Jesus is the bread of life. You should Hunger and thirst for Christ. Anyone who is not getting “fed” in church should start to rethink somethings. The truth is you are fed through the intimate relationship with Christ. With that said, I also think you have to take a step back and reassess the church to. Every church I stopped getting fed in I ended up leaving because I discovered they weren’t teaching proper doctrine and were not caring for the poor and the widows. The church can’t feed its flock if its not its self hungering and thirsting for God. False prophets will seem to offer food that is seems filling ands by leave because they want that, so that’s another thought to consider. It’s good to be convicted but let us never stop also being aware of false doctrine and false teaching or lack of caring for the poor and the widows.
I am sitting here reading a fantastic textbook on preaching by Calvin Miller. Interestingly, your comments very closely mirror the outline of the intro and first chapter.
Blessings to you and thank you for writing.
What about the references to “spiritual food” in the “Our Father” and our Eucharistic Prayers?
“Take them in remembrance that Christ died for
you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith,
“Eternal God, heavenly Father,
you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,
and you have fed us with spiritual food
in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.
Send us now into the world in peace,
and grant us strength and courage
to love and serve you
with gladness and singleness of heart;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Hi Laura, Sacrament is true spiritual food, is it not? The feeding the modern church thinks of is moralistic “how to” sermons.
Jesus told Peter to “feed his sheep.” I still think that what we mean by “feeding” (passive and spoon fed) and what a shepherd did in Jesus’ day were very, very different. For example Peter was told, “Feed my sheep.” (I’m about to be disgusting so read past this point well after lunch, please.) A shepherd led sheep to food and protected the flock while they ate. He didn’t pluck the food, pre-chew the food and then dribble it into their mouths like a robin mother with it’s chicks.
I keep seeing articles like these and wonder what the church and priest are supposed to do. I see my role as a parishioner to assess my talents and use them as a gift to my church, my community or where ever I am called. There was a time when I went to church I felt inspired, uplifted, challenged or called. Lately most of things I no longer feel. I do continue to feel called to do things and follow through with those things.
I remember talking with our current priest and telling her how important that I believed just being with some during a difficult time is. She seemed to not really understand. Several months later she went to funeral of one of the parishioners parents and came back very excited. She said, “that ministry of presence really works. The church member told me how much it meant that I was there.” She was really excited but I really don’t see her transferring that learning to other things.
Sermons and homilies are read………poorly. Frequently cannot pronounce words that she has written.
Taking Eucharist to the homebound rarely happens.
These are just a few of things. Please tell me what I should expect because I just don’t know anymore. I feel this church is where I am supposed to be. There are good people there but somehow I don’t see the saints being equipped.
I know this sounds really negative and normally I am not a negative person. I am just really frustrated.
God bless you for sticking that out! How is someone not able to pronounce their own words? …And not seeing the Eucharist taken to the homebound is pretty bad.
I would be quite frustrated if I were you, Kay. All I can say is that you are a gift to your parish and to your priest. I am glad that she saw the power of presence. Perhaps your presence is equipping the priest?
Blessings to you. You sound like someone who is a gift to their parish.
Hello Fr. Marino! This was a great post and a message I think many college students (especially) need to hear with clarity. I hear the “I’m just not being fed” complaint from time to time, and it really boils down to what they think is appropriate food. I notice the assumption is often that the best “meal” for Sunday morning is in-depth theology on secondary matters. We’ve forgotten the substantive nature of the simple Gospel message applied to all of life along participation in the Sacramental life.
Thank you. You squeezed a ton in a few words: a) secondary issues are not the primary ones. b) the simple Good News of Jesus. And c) Our feeding is Word and Sacrament.
Thanks for adding your voice!
I said something about self-feeding, so I feel obliged to not only explain myself further but to say that the meaning of the original post was plain to me. Perhaps the mistake was to use the image of “feeding,” but that was unavoidable since the whole case was against people who complain they are not being “fed” and who are demanding, “Feed me!” (Shades of Audrey II.)
I think it’s clear that the pastor is not freed from the charge to feed his sheep. Also, the Scriptures from beginning to end are replete with feasts and with feasting images and metaphors. The fact that the sheep need to be and must be fed is inescapable. It’s not up for debate. I don’t see the writer denying his call as a pastor. It disturbs me when a called and ordained servant of the Word is accused of shirking his responsibilities as such a servant when it’s plain that he’s not proposing that.
I stand by my statement that we pew-dwellers need to have more responsibility for our own (spiritual) feeding. By that I mean that we hear the demands of the law and the sweet call of the gospel and see our continuing need to feed on Christ. And so we go to worship with fellow sheep and we are fed with the proclaimed Word and the Word in Body and Blood.
Now to equipping. I question more and more whether “equipping” and “discipling” are even legitimate functions of Christian worship. I certainly think they are secondary to proclamation of the gospel (from the Scriptures as well as the sermon), praise, prayer, confession of sin, absolution and confession of faith. I’m content to all but leave moralizing and “application” out. But I agree that in the overall plan, the pastor is indeed an equipper because he is the assembly’s prime visionary, the seer of the whole picture, the leader who pushes the program. But not the deliverer of pablum.
Being no theologian but only a pew-sitter who has heard more than his share of sappy, Chatty Kathy, moralizing, self-congratulatory, aren’t-we-really-neat? sermons, I hope this helps.
Thanks for the well written and thoughtful response. I sit in pews several times a week and preach in one once a week: so I know this from both sides of the pulpit.
I would question whether or not the purpose of the church building – the worship of the true and living God, I am not seeing evangelism as that being purpose of the church on Sunday morning in Scripture. The body of Christ gathered (for instance in Luke 2:42-47), was for equipping purposes (Apostle’s teaching, fellowship, Breaking of bread and the prayers) in order to equip the ENTIRE (sorry for the caps, I don’t have italics here) body to do evangelism the other 6 1/2 days a week.
blessings to you as you follow Christ.
If I understand correctly, I’m with you and can “accept” (very humbly) that definition of “equipping.” No evangelism, no-seeker services (and no communing the unbaptized, let alone any other confessional strictures). “Proclamation” means speaking and hearing law and gospel. In that setting it’s primarily for members of the church/fellowship/assembly/community of believers, but by all means let unbelievers and “seekers” come and listen and perhaps hear. I have to compliment my own pastor here, whose sermons are always directed straight to the members of the congregation. And our “altar call”? Each time we approach the Body and Blood with opens hands, confessing, “I need you.” Thanks for letting me spout. ‘Nuff said.
No apologies, your “spouting” is really excellent, solid stuff!
I’m pretty sure I am 100% with you on everything you wrote.
I, for one, think that most churches are “feeding” their people.
But it is a steady diet of poison (the law – what we should, ought, or must be doing)…and hardly any meat, the gospel of the forgiveness of sins for real live sinners of the highest order.
Great comment! The creeping moralism is not helpful. It brings to mind the old Richard Niebuhr quote: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”
Boy that sure is sadly true.
Or, to throw a cultural reference, as Chris Farley said in the Livin’ in a van down by the river skit, “on a steady diet of government cheese.”
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I think it’s clear what your point is in this post, but that may just be because I’ve heard too many people use this as an excuse for hopping from one church to another. I’m not saying that it’s never a good idea to move churches (for instance, when relocating across the country, or when beginning a ministry within a church that needs your gifting [applies to lay persons as well as clergy]), or that you shouldn’t be fed truth from God’s Word… but then, I don’t think you’re saying those things either.
What I’ve noticed is that often the ones who constantly move from one church to another because they’re “not being fed” are likely not actively engaging in the church community, and using their gifts to help the church as a whole… it may not be intentional, they may just be so focused on what they’re not receiving that they forget that as part of the body, they have something to give, too. The issue may be that people are looking to receive from people what they ought to be accepting from God – their acceptance, self-worth, and purpose, etc. When they show up and people don’t recognize their talents and gifts right away, or notice them enough, or perhaps even stroke their ego, they begin to find fault and decide to move on from a “dead” church, that’s not “feeding” them.
Which appetite are people trying to feed at church? The appetite for more of God and His Word? Or the appetite for recognition and self-worth? Jesus taught that if we want to gain our life, we ought to lose it, and that the most important ought to be the servant of all. He gives us our worth in what He did for us when He died and rose again, so we shouldn’t need other people to give us our worth.
The real question is has God called us to be a part of His body? The answer of course is yes. We cannot be constantly disconnecting ourselves from the body and expect to suffer no ill effects. My thought is, if my church is “dead”, what can I do to bring life? If “people” aren’t doing what I think the church should be doing, maybe I’m supposed to plug in, start doing it and encouraging others to. If my pastor doesn’t recognize what a great person I am, maybe my focus needs to be on how great Jesus is instead… my pastor can’t add to or take away from the great worth that Jesus inherently placed in me, so I have to get past that point.
That being said, I have a great pastor who preaches the truth from God’s Word, and I believe I’m being fed… I think the point I’m trying to make overall is that in a body, in order for a part of the body to receive nutrients, it has to be connected to the rest of the body.
I hope my long-winded response ended up making sense. I watched a great video on youtube recently of a sermon by Todd White… one thing I really thought hit the nail on the head was when he said, “Sometimes we’re looking to gain something from people that we can only gain from God. ….and if you live in a place to get honor from people you’ll go from church to church to church to try to be loved, not realizing that you’re supposed to just become love, and plug in!”
Anyway, I hope that helps, rather than hinders, the conversation – I really appreciated your post.
Thanks for the great comments! In this blog I am often preaching to myself. I suspect that I may have been frustrated at some of the things I have said before and been equally frustrated at my unwillingness to be part of the solution.
Do you have a title of Todd White’s sermon? I’ll try to check it out.
Thanks for commenting.
The video’s title is ‘Wisconsin Power & Love Friday Morning Todd White’. And I think anyone who’s honest has to preach to themselves first. God bless you!
Thanks, Andrew. Blessings back-atcha.
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Hello, I’m currently having growing pains within my church. I have been praying, fasting, meditating on God’s word and I respectfully disagree with “your church isn’t supposed to feed you” based on God’s words:
It is the duty of all Christ’s ministers to feed his lambs and sheep.
Thank you for your blog.
Hi standing strong. I saw your comment come in and said to the clergy I was eating lunch with and said, “Darn, a comment just came in on the worst blog post I think I have written.” So, I agree with you.
Thank you for taking time away from your lunch and your company to respond. During this growth process I’m wondering if the ministry is supposed to be more of a side dish of feeding and self-feeding is more the main meal? I also wonder how many in ministry believe the sheep cannot feed themselves, since this is what I was told at my church. I’m in the process of looking for a church to call home as the current one obviously isn’t working out on many levels.
It is a great question. I think a more helpful post from me was the “the church isn’t a restaurant, it is culinary school” post. I think the idea is to equip you the body to do the work of the ministry. That leaves the pastor as equipped for a body that takes the food and chews for them self and then exercises ministry gifts in the world.
God’s blessings as you discern where you are to be.
…I would be insulted to be told that sheep cannot chew for themselves. Advanced biblical languages and exegesis may be the realm of the seminary, but the scriptures were written to be read and understood aloud in community.
Thanks for stopping by here and adding your voice.
What do you think about Jeremiah 3:15? Churches use that all the time in relation to pastors feeding the flock.
Hi Frank. Thanks for taking the time to add your voice.
That post was a bit hyperbolic. In biblical days a shepherd led sheep (rather than followed), took them to still waters and safe pastures, and protected them from predators. Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Ps 23 and John 10 all describe these functions well, and are the scriptural and appropriate uses of the metaphor. I wrote that post awhile ago. As I recall, I was reacting against a common parishioner expectation that the pastor chew the food for them-like in the Saturday Night Live Soft Teeth/Bird Family skit. I did a post after that which might have been more helpful “the church isn’t a restaurant, it’s culinary school” – that the role of disciplers is to “equip the saints” to disciple others.
That post was coming on the heals of pastors saying I had been pretty rough on them and was giving flakey parishioners a free pass to be church hopping consumerists. I think I was trying to make a case for being faithful to your local church – rather than expecting the pastor to be a super hero.
Interesting. My whole Christian life I’ve been commenting on the experience I’ve had with the “talk-speak” that many people of faith use. It shows in all of the posts here as well. It literally made me a bit nuts when I heard it as a young and zealot learner and makes me equally nuts to continue to hear the same stuff told to others. So my comments here echo the same concerns. What do you think a young, new or slow-growth Christian hears when you say things like this:
“Just put it under the blood.” That one creaped me out for years and then one day I recognized what some really meant. Some meant to, in whatever way you know how, give it to the Lord for Him to work out while others meant, “Sweep it under the rug.”
Does, “Don’t expect your church to feed you.” actually mean “People’s expectations should be that they become active disciples not passive recipients. I am actively arguing against moralistic preaching and for exposition of the scriptural texts.” Not entirely, no. There’s more to it and yet your little one liner “Don’t expect your church to feed you.” is somehow supposed to convey the small portion of what you meant by that. Say what you mean each and every time.
You say, “Consider God’s purpose in the giving of all of these gifted “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers”: It was EQUIPPING YOU “for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Well, that doesn’t free the church from the obligation to feed. Don’t you think that you continue to breast-feed small babies as they are born and at the same time, feed beef to the ones that have been in your care for years? It’s not that you stop feeding them, you CHANGE what you are feeding them.Then the ones who are eating beef should not be sitting around wanting milk so talk to them about their expectations being wrong. And, BTW, my caps do not mean I am yelling or rude. It is also a way of drawing stronger attention to certain words that I really want you to see. Some of the unsavory words the other author used were not necessary and were indeed rude.
So, let’s all quit making so many negative assumptions, quit putting each other in a “bad light” when we have the opportunity to view each other in a good light and try to simply be open to learning something new and helpful from each other.
Hi Linda. That was probably my least helpful post ever.
Your idea of switching to solid food is a helpful one.
The post after it (the church is culinary school not a restaurant) is a more balanced take on the same idea. The “feeding” post is actively unscriptural as well, since the biblical essence of shepherding was to feed.
Thank you for calling me to task in a kind manner. 🙂
Addressing this (not so) new fad that some pastors have that they don’t want fat sheep or it is not their job to feed the sheep… Please read the whole chapter Ezekiel 34. Here are some highlights:
Ezekiel 34:20 20“ ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.
Ezekiel 34:7 “ ‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been PLUNDERED and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
The Lord told Peter 3 times to feed his sheep (lambs, goats, sheep).
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Katherine. You are right. In hindsight I think that post is the most unscriptural thing I have written. I leave it up for humility. 🙂
A short time later I did another post that I think captured what I was going after in a way that was, at least not contrary to a plain reading of Ezekiel: https://thegospelside.com/2013/09/30/the-church-isnt-a-restaurant-its-culinary-school/
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LOL, well if your church is not to “feed you” then we have no need of church to begin with because inside of church is supposed to be manna – food. It’s either meat or it’s pablum and the Lord knows that there are sure a lot of pablum churches out there and I was in three of them. If church is not there to feed the flock, then church is just a country club or lodge then. I guess restaurants are off limits too and we should just go into those places not to order the food but to just converse with the other patrons. To many churches I say this: “Grow a pair and claim responsibility for once and let’s have the churches just admit that they aren’t doing the job anymore. The leaders are giving it at half the mass – half the weight. They are lukewarm with new age spins and pastors who posture themselves over the pulpit, while prancing around on stage like fairy god mothers – telling people what they want to hear, so they can feel good for an hour and not even think about their sins because ‘grace protects them’. I have bad news. Such an attitude is a blatant abuse of grace, but many pastors don’t have the courage to call it out for fear of offending some of their cold & starchy high paying tithe members.”
And as far as equipping the flock is concerned? You’ll be hard pressed to find a church these days that does such a thing because many pastors of today, in their so-called churches, have no spine and are afraid of offending someone. Hate to say it, but these men are in the wrong business if that’s the case. The latest church I was in (of the three over the past 9 years) was an ear tickling/lip service church for the most part. It had the pastor – a generic showman who tells you what you want to hear and what you want to hear is nothing about Sin, Hell, vigilance and awareness. He didn’t preach the whole counsel of God because he was ‘scared’, he obsessed about tithes to the point of mentioning it in every sermons, he sugar coated his sermons, he did not talk about complex topics in Scripture, did not talk about Sin or Hell and also twisted the meanings of words into something else than what they really meant. And if you approached him with concerns in how he does things, he turned a blind eye to you and at the end of the day it’s about how “he does things” aka “my way or the highway”. Well it’s going to have to be the highway because he feeds his flock pablum and doesn’t equip anyone in the thorough way a preacher is supposed to equip his flock.
What’s worse is that many pastors will either avoid their challengers outright, those who call them out, or they will actually come up with cheap excuses to have the audacity to back up their erroneous and egregious decisions. Such is the case especially in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Numbers of their churches are this way. When I tried confronting them on these topics, three times through messages, they didn’t respond. I don’t expect you to understand and it’s fine if you don’t because hey, I take it you’re one of those people who believes that those of us who leave are always thrown under the bus, right? We are the ones who are always at fault and are the ones with the problems, right? That stops now. It is time for some of these churches to start admitting to themselves and others that maybe it is they who have the problem – not always the ones who leave.
When churches say, “That’s a bad reason to leave if the reason is that you aren’t getting fed.” That is a pompous statement and indicative of churches who refuse to claim responsibility for doing a poor job and who are doing a better job at sending people away than keeping them in. I know of church leaders who have driven more people out of their churches than the number they brought in. But they refuse responsibility due to their bloated egos. It’s very simply. Just because every pastor claims he or she has been ‘called by God to be preach’ doesn’t necessarily mean the actually are. If anything, numbers of them weren’t called by God’s Will to preach, they were only called by their own.
Hi C.B. Thank you. That post was the dumbest thing I have ever written. I leave it up for humility’s sake and to remind me to give others a break since they too will be embarrassed later about the regrettable things they say.
I did modify that post a week later with “the church is supposed to be culinary school not a Luby’s pick and choose cafeteria (which is a point you were making):
And then I called it dumb again last year with this post on the media misquoting the Bible: https://thegospelside.com/category/relevant-church/
All to say, thank you, CB. I agree largely with your critique of my article.
Leaving churches is complicated. Maybe pastors are “tickling ears.” Maybe they are preaching the Gospel and people are not in a place to hear it. I do think, in general, we in Western culture are far too willing to quit things that are difficult – both clergy and parishioners. As Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams says, “Everything you want is on the other side of hard.” We often will not do the difficult work of staying in relationship with one another. This isn’t just in churches. It is in families, in marriages, etc. Ask a college instructor what their greatest frustration is. For most of them it is people not finishing their course, and for most administrators it is folks not finishing a degree. Perhaps what I was really arguing for was staying in relationship.
Thank you for taking the time to craft a thoughtful, articulate response to my silly article.
Yeah we all say good things and not so good things. I have said smart and dumb statements and will continue to do so as well are a work in progress. Molded by the day by day.
You’re right in that it’s difficult to leave a church. It’s one thing if a person leaves because they don’t like the music or don’t like the pastor’s haircut. Those are trivial reasons. But people, like myself, didn’t just up and leave like we did in the distant past when we were younger. We stuck it out as best as we could and the pastor’s preaching as well as how he did things with the church wasn’t getting any better. It was either stagnating with the same old humdrum format, year after year without any growth, or it was simply getting worse. People leaving every year, to the point where 70% of the church is empty and the pastor just smiles behind the pulpit like a deer in the headlights – – without any discernment. Personally I think he fills that empty portion of that church with his ego, to be honest. Sure, I grew a tiny amount by 1% only at that place, but that was it – – in a 5 year period. Not good. And believe me when I said I did lots of Scripture reading, fellowship in church groups and did lots of praying.
I soon realized that the problem wasn’t entirely with me, it was mostly the pastor that was the problem. And when a pastor gives the condition where if you don’t agree with his “vision” for the church which, from what I observed is more ‘word’s than action, then you should just go to another church, that sounds more like a cult – not a church. Especially when you’re told to just accept the pastor as is. don’t question nor object and just let God deal with it. Sorry, but I won’t work that way.