NOTE: A few years ago I had the privilege of writing a couple of posts for Relevant Magazine's website. Recently I've had several conversations not only about these issues, but the posts themselves. So I thought I'd repost them in hopes that they might be an encouragement to someone. This is the first. (My son is now almost 8 years old. I guess a few years means 5-6!)
Recently, I dialogued with someone who shared with me of their plan to find a new church. This person felt that he could no longer attend our church because he was not “being fed”. Due to the fact that I have heard these words countless times before, it got me wondering, “What does that actually mean? Why are there so many Christians out there leaving their churches because they are spiritually starving?” Am I missing something?
The writer of Hebrews boldly confronts the church by saying, “You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn from the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person who is living on milk isn’t very far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right.” (Hebrews 5:11-14, italics mine)
My son is 2 years old and is moving into the “I want to be a big boy” phase very rapidly. We’re working on potty training right now. What fun! But as we were teaching my son how to eat – how to chew his food, how to use a fork, why we don’t throw the green beans, we eat them – without question, the most difficult task my wife and I faced was getting him to the point where he fed himself. He would devour a mouthful of mac & cheese, but we had to put it on the fork and put it in his mouth. This wasn’t really going to help him in the long run. After all, if you can’t feed yourself, you starve.
Considering this, it makes me wonder: Could it be that so many get to this place of feeling they’re not “being fed” be due to the fact that we haven’t taught them well enough how to feed themselves? Should we have new classes in church like Feeding: 101 and Using Your Own Fork? Seriously. Should it be reduced to this? Or could it also be that there are many who never get beyond the contentment and complacency of having someone else feeding them? Doing the work for them? Surviving on milk?
Acts 2 is a description of the early church. Luke tells us that the people “…joined with other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings….” (Acts 2:42, italics mine) Somewhere very early in the journey these people went from “being fed” to doing the feeding. They may have continued to be taught, led, fed, discipled and cultivated, but they also began to teach, lead, feed, cultivate and make disciples. And I believe they also figured something else out: if I’m not serving – putting my gifts to use – then I’ll eventually wind up starving. The cup gets full and has to be poured out. Otherwise, it cannot be filled again.
Most often, it seems that those who feel they are not “being fed” are the ones who have failed to feed anyone else. After all, Jesus wrapped a towel around His waist, washed His disciples feet and told them, “This is what it looks like to follow me.”
It seems to me that if someone has “counted the costs” as Jesus tells us to in Luke 14, and we understand that we must “take up our cross” – something no one else can do for us – then there has to be a point when we begin taking responsibility for our walk. There must come a day when we pick up our own fork and begin to feed ourselves.
I am not saying that we have no need for listening to sermons, hearing God’s word taught and proclaimed, or attending bible study. These are tools that we have as the church – His Body – that assist us in our walk. In fact, these tools actually further the point. If you’re attending a church where the Word of God is being accurately proclaimed, where the Bible is being taught, where the fellowship of the believers is present, where the Body of Christ is being the church and still, somehow, you’re not being fed…could it be you just haven’t learned to use your own fork?
Paul prayed for the Ephesians, “May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand….” (Ephesians 3:17-18, italics mine) “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise.” (Colossians 3:16, italics mine) He says that the church should “equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church…until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord….” (Ephesians 4:12-13, italics mine) Paul makes references in Colossians, Philippians and elsewhere about being “mature” in our faith. Are you striving for this? Are you “straining to…receive the prize…”? Or are you still wanting someone else to feed you?
It’s like I tell my son, “If you want to be a big boy, you’ve got to pick up your fork.” If you feel like you’re not “being fed”, I encourage you to wrap a towel around your waist, wash someone else’s feet and pour your life out into someone else. I bet you’ll start feeling full real soon!