Stop Waiting for Your Church to ‘Feed’ You

Discover the real purpose of church.

We’ve all had the conversation. We meet someone new to our church and somewhere in that initial greeting, they inform us they left their last church because they “weren’t being fed.”

It’s not an uncommon reason. It’s also not usually a biblical one. Most of the time, if we are being honest, the people who leave churches for this reason aren’t leaving because there isn’t spiritual food on the table but because their agendas, desires and expectations aren’t being met by the leadership. Unfortunately, a lot of Christians are consumed by their own selfishness to such a degree that submission and willingness to grow under a spiritual authority is rarely even a consideration.

True, there are some churches that do not challenge people to grow, press toward discipleship or preach the Word of God. There are situations in which a church can play a role in stunting or even crippling a person’s spiritual growth. On occasion, there is validity to leaving a church because you “weren’t being fed.”

The problem is, the excuse is used far more often than it is valid. We have taken a legitimate reason to leave a dying/dead/destructive church and used it as a blanket excuse to justify leaving any church for any reason.

Feeding Yourself

A church community can and should provide resources to help you pursue spiritual growth, but it’s your responsibility to actively take advantage of those resources.

We have taken a legitimate reason to leave a dying/dead/destructive church and used it as a blanket excuse to justify leaving any church for any reason.

I don’t disown my parents and change my name because my mom stopped making me dinners. I don’t let myself starve if my wife doesn’t cook. I’m a grown man. There is only one person responsible for me not eating and not growing. It’s not a family member. It’s not the church. It’s me.

There is a difference between leaving a church because they actually aren’t teaching the Gospel and leaving a church because you “aren’t being fed.”

In many cases, what we are really saying when we use that excuse is that we are too lazy to take care of ourselves and the church isn’t catering to our desires the way we would like them to. We often want a church that will serve us and meet our needs, instead of expecting us to do the difficult and often uncomfortable work of serving.

The Purpose of the Church

In our consumer-based, market-driven society, it’s easy to forget that churches are supposed to care more about pleasing God than about pleasing people. Ironically, the very things we often search for when we look for a church (a place that teaches what we agree with, plays our favorite style of music, offers us the kind of groups or classes we want, and in general makes us feel good) can be red flags.

The church isn’t about you or me. It’s not about getting what we want or our personal preferences. When we shop until we find a church that fits with what we want, what we are often doing is searching for a place that will not challenge us to grow or step outside of our comfort zones.

The role of a church is not to tell us what we want to hear or to offer all the programs we like. The role of the church is to make disciples of Jesus. When we get whatever we want from church, it becomes about us. Not about our growth. Not about our God. Sometimes, the churches that grow us the most are the ones that don’t always do things the way we would, don’t cater to our ever whim and desire but in fact challenge us.

Look at the Old Testament. How many times did the people of God ask for things that weren’t good for them? How many times did they beg God to give them a king only to end up suffering under his leadership? It is in the nature of man to desire things that are not for our good. God, like a loving parent, refuses to give us chocolate cake for dinner, not to be cruel but because He is good. Sometimes, He denies our requests because what we want is actually the worst thing for us.

The Danger of Church Shopping

You wouldn’t eat one big meal on Sunday morning and expect to stay full for the rest of the week.

This culture of “church shopping” has wrecked the ability of the church to effectively and efficiently carry out the ministry of the Gospel and the mission of Jesus. As church people hop from one building to another, churches find themselves unconsciously battling for the saved instead of seeking the lost.

When we bounce around to new places because we got told “no” or were offended by this or that, what we ensure is that we never learn conflict resolution. We don’t practice forgiveness or reconciliation. We don’t see iron sharpening iron. If we’re in a church community that is preaching and living out the Gospel, we need to be willing to stick around through the conflict and struggle, which will actually lead to maturity.

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Instead of seeking out teachers who say what we want them to say, we should seek teaching that convicts us of where we need to change. Jesus constantly shocked, challenged and even offended the crowds with what He said. He shook them to the core of their beliefs, because we have all accepted certain lies as truth. It takes confrontation, challenge and courage to speak the truth. That’s what it takes to grow.

A Well-Balanced Spiritual Diet

Of course, you can be in a wonderful, Bible-believing church and still not be growing. Simply showing up for church for a few hours on Sunday mornings will not keep you spiritually fed if you’re not engaging with God individually and in community throughout the week. You wouldn’t eat one big meal on Sunday morning and expect to stay full for the rest of the week.

So before you say you’re “not being fed” next time you have an issue with a church, take a look at what they’re actually offering. Are they really not offering solid teaching and resources for spiritual growth, or do you just not prefer the food they’re putting on the table?

Along with practicing spiritual disciplines on our own, a well-balanced spiritual diet often includes embracing diversity and staying with a church family even when it doesn’t spoon feed you or meet all your expectations. Sometimes the best thing for us is to get offended, called out and told no. There's not much left in our culture that will remind us that this life isn't about us.

Top Comments

Sal

13

Sal commented…

This is actually a great article, and I absolutely agree that we shouldn't expect a church to "feed" us the only meal we eat each week. I believe in, and practice, "feeding" myself. But the title did hit a bit of a sore spot because I HAVE left a church because it wasn't feeding me - not because it was feeding me something good that wasn't to my taste, but because it wasn't feeding me at all. The sermons were the equivalent of white bread week in and week out. The leadership used this very thought to defend themselves when challenged to provide more "nutritious meals" - that it isn't their responsibility to feed us. That's why the title hit a sore spot.

Like I said, I believe that we all need to feed ourselves spiritually, but if the sermons preached aren't feeding anyone then what is the point of having a sermon at all? Let's just cut that out of a service and worship, fellowship, help the poor, or whatever instead. I get that this article is challenging people to stick it out in a church that might not be exactly their style, to serve and be committed despite the shortcomings that every church has, and to not rely solely on church for their spiritual sustenance, but it's also important for pastors and leaders to take responsibility for providing good teaching.

J Michael Cunningham

1

J Michael Cunningham commented…

Good post. I might add that the purpose of the church is to equip the saints, Ephesians 4:11 - 16. I might also add that not many are doing a very good job at that.

4 Comments

Mathew Werner

1

Mathew Werner commented…

Hey, great article thanks for writing it.

Sal

13

Sal commented…

This is actually a great article, and I absolutely agree that we shouldn't expect a church to "feed" us the only meal we eat each week. I believe in, and practice, "feeding" myself. But the title did hit a bit of a sore spot because I HAVE left a church because it wasn't feeding me - not because it was feeding me something good that wasn't to my taste, but because it wasn't feeding me at all. The sermons were the equivalent of white bread week in and week out. The leadership used this very thought to defend themselves when challenged to provide more "nutritious meals" - that it isn't their responsibility to feed us. That's why the title hit a sore spot.

Like I said, I believe that we all need to feed ourselves spiritually, but if the sermons preached aren't feeding anyone then what is the point of having a sermon at all? Let's just cut that out of a service and worship, fellowship, help the poor, or whatever instead. I get that this article is challenging people to stick it out in a church that might not be exactly their style, to serve and be committed despite the shortcomings that every church has, and to not rely solely on church for their spiritual sustenance, but it's also important for pastors and leaders to take responsibility for providing good teaching.

Joseph Marsh

4

Joseph Marsh commented…

As Sal commented, I understand the point of this article is to encourage believers to stick it out with a church body, but the overall tone of this article seemed like a lecture to the body. I agree with the point of being mature and responsible to take ownership of your own spiritual health and feeding, so much so that one really shouldn't *need* a pastor to have relationship with God, be able to read and understand His Word with wisdom and maturity, interact with other believers, and lead others towards salvation.

"Unfortunately, a lot of Christians are consumed by their own selfishness to such a degree that submission and willingness to grow under a spiritual authority is rarely even a consideration."

- First of all, who's authority are we to submit to? And who gave said authority the permission to be an authority over someone else? In my experience pastors don't deserve to have "authority" over other believers simply because they wear the title. I've had several pastors who had been embezzling from their body, having extra marital affairs, and generally using the church and it's resources to build their own kingdom. This is not behavior that warrants submission in my opinion. A pastor and church leader/elder must prove their trustworthiness and even then God and not man is our authority, aren't we all on the same playing field as far as salvation is concerned?

"This culture of “church shopping” has wrecked the ability of the church to effectively and efficiently carry out the ministry of the Gospel and the mission of Jesus."

- This is a sad statement, partially because these churches and their leadership are the one's that created a market for church shopping culture in the first place. In the midst of a culture that demanded entertainment and the best of the best the church listened and responded in kind. I don't think it was the congregation demanding flashy graphics on the overhead screen, or the most dynamic rock- excuse me- I mean worship team, churches felt this pull of culture to be "relevant" (haha the irony of where I'm reading this article is not lost on me) and it's destroyed community within the body. When I can sit and stare at a large screen of the worship team or pastor and not directly look at them and be within spitting distance (literally haha) there is a level of subconscious separation and disconnection from these people I am experiencing as a congregant.

"So before you say you’re “not being fed” next time you have an issue with a church, take a look at what they’re actually offering. Are they really not offering solid teaching and resources for spiritual growth, or do you just not prefer the food they’re putting on the table?"

- And if what they're actually offering is milk? Milk makes my stomach sick anymore, I want meat. Too often I find pastors only offering milk...sorry (not sorry) but you won't find me at a supper table where the offerings are only going to make me sick to my stomach. Before pastors and church leaders start criticizing the body for church shopping I would challenge them to look at how they are actually leading and living their lives. Are they exemplifying the maturity they are expecting or demanding from their congregation?

J Michael Cunningham

1

J Michael Cunningham commented…

Good post. I might add that the purpose of the church is to equip the saints, Ephesians 4:11 - 16. I might also add that not many are doing a very good job at that.

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