Weighing In On “Being Fed”
On Friday, my friend Mike reposted a blog entry that our mutual friend James posted in June on his blog.
Mikey said, ” These are great insights from a good friend and shine a bright light on our need for maturity.” They do, indeed.
I won’t quibble with the main points James makes, either. The gist of it is that James had been hearing some Christians leaving one church or another and using the phrase, “I just wasn’t being fed” to explain their move to another local body. James rightly points out the importance of defining what is meant by the phrase…because that is paramount to the discussion. He also points out that maturity should be the goal, that growing will involve more than sitting in a church service once a week, and hints that there is some responsibility on the learner to make decisions that will help the individual grow in their faith in Christ. His article is good food for thought and I’d encourage you to read it for yourselves.
So, now that I’m three degrees removed from the discussion, the mental gears have been turning for a few days and I’d like to sort of share where my mind went as I read my friends’ posts–
–and note that they come from the position of a teacher, not the position of learner.
There are numerous examples of Jesus saying things like, “He who ears to hear, let him hear.” Or asking the disciples such things as “What about you, are you leaving, too?” Or “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” All these put a responsibility on the hearer of the message to make choices to follow, or respond in some way, or make a decision when times get tough in the growth process. In fact, I’ve taught my Sunday School class these very things in the last two weeks.
One thing I noticed in many of those situations is that the learner evaluates the teacher’s “right to platform.” In other words, they have the right to ask how it is that a carpenter they saw grow up in the community has the right to say He came down from heaven. They have the right to question his educational background. They even had the gall to ask if He was demon possessed. There’s no question the hearers were evaluating the life of the teacher to see if it validated the message He was teaching.
And, so should people in the suburbs of the USA. If their small group leader is a phony, or if the guy in the pulpit has shady business dealings, or if the elders don’t measure up to the standards of 1 Timothy and Titus, well, you get the idea. So, when someone wants to grow, they have the right to evaluate the people they choose to submit to in their learning process. If it doesn’t measure up, who can blame them for moving on?
They also have the right to take a look at the content of the message the leader is giving. Scripture is full of admonitions for those who do have a platform…
Like in 2 Timothy 2:15, where those in leadership are to be an accurate handler of the Word of God. The implication is that here is an accurate way to handle the Word of God, as well as an inaccurate way. There’s much to say about this…but the leadership should be clear on such things as doctrine and philosophy regarding how they will teach the living of the spiritual life. Usually, with denominations, this is pretty easy to do. I mean, there is a reason denominations exist and people who believe the same way need to worship together in unity (yes, I’m saying that denominations actually cause unity in the Body). So, it’s incumbent o the church leadership to clarify a position and once that’s done, the learner should choose to join a church that aligns with what they believe.
As a teacher, I feel a responsibility to give my students the best food. I mean, when Jesus was forgiving Peter in John 21 he used the phrase, “Feed My Sheep” and “Shepherd My Lambs.” If you love Me, Peter, you will. I want my students to know the Truth of the Word. I want to handle it accurately. I want to be a good communicator both through life and doctrine and Truth. I want them to know that I love Him. I want them to know that I love them. I want them to know that I’ll do my best to get them to water, to food, to rest in green pastures, that I’ll try to protect them from the predators that are out to kill them, that if one gets lost I’ll do whatever I can to bring them back to safety, that I’ll use the crook or stick if need be to help them keep moving. All that stuff.
And if I’m not doing that stuff to their satisfaction…well, I’m kind of okay if they move to another good church in our area (and there are many) to a shepherd that does do those things (and there are many) and meets whatever expectation they have. In the last 2 decades I’ve learned that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea when it comes to discipleship or teaching or whatever else somebody’s looking for in a youth pastor.
So, I see both sides of it. It can be very selfish of a person to say “I’m not being fed” as they head out the door of a local church and into another church’s doors. I have no doubt that this happens a lot.
But I also see that if I am not feeding His sheep…with the MEAT of His Word and the Living Water He provides…
or if I’m not shepherding His lambs with true love…
or if I’m not following Him (re-read the end of John 21, man)…
…and if that’s what they mean when folks say, “I’m not being fed,”
…well, I can’t blame them for making other choices.