“We’re just not being fed anymore.”
Having spent my entire life in and around pastoral ministry (I was born into a pastor’s family and now I’ve planted and led The RESCUE Church for the past 9 years), I have heard numerous people give that worn out line as they make their final exit from a family of Christ-followers they had previously called “their church” more times than I can count.
And don’t misunderstand me. I DO believe there are times when a Christian should walk away from a church. For instance, if you’re attending a church where Jesus Christ and the gospel message are not at the heart of the preaching…a church that hasn’t seen anyone come to a saving knowledge of Jesus in years…a church that no longer preaches the truth of God’s Word with conviction and authority…you are attending a church that Jesus doesn’t…and you need to find a better church! (I hope I wasn’t unclear on that!)
But for the sake of this series of blog posts, I’m not talking about that kind of a church.
I’m talking about when a Christian has been committed to a healthy, growing church for years and all of a sudden disconnects and throws out the pathetic phrase, “We’re just not being fed anymore.”
Over the next four blog posts, I want to unpack what I believe are the real reasons “mature” believers walk away from a healthy church family by sharing four direct statements they would say if they were to actually be honest about why they’re leaving:
- “We’ve stopped taking responsibility for our own spiritual growth.”
Who ever told you it is the church’s job to see to it that you are growing spiritually? What the Bible does teach us is that when we’re brand new Christians we are like newborn infants (1 Peter 2:2). Obviously an infant is in need of constant care and nurture and will only be able to eat milk, which he will be completely helpless in getting. But as that infant grows into a toddler, he will begin to learn how to put food into his own mouth and feed himself. The same holds true for a “spiritual infant”. There will be a period of time in which he will need to be spoon-fed and will need more mature believers assisting him in the early days of his walk with Jesus. But according to the Bible, the goal is to see that newborn spiritual babe grow into a mature disciple of Jesus Christ who is able to “feed himself”.
In Scripture we see the writer of Hebrews scold a group of believers who were failing to grow up and feed themselves:
“…you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14
When our children were babies they would cry, indicating that they were hungry, and we (I use the term “we” rather loosely!) would stop whatever we were doing to feed them. But now, if our almost 14-year old son bleats out from the couch that he’s hungry, I can assure you there isn’t any rush from the parents to get him food. Essentially the message is, “You’re a big boy! You know where the kitchen is. You know how to prepare food. Go get yourself something to eat!”
In my preaching I often say that if this (the weekend worship experience) is the only spiritual food you’re getting in a week, then you are spiritually underfed and malnourished. If you claim to be a maturing follower of Jesus Christ then it is YOUR responsibility to see to it that you are being fed and growing spiritually.
Let me list some ways this should be happening in your life:
- Spend time in God’s Word every day! Too busy to read? Listen to the Bible on CD or mp3 or use a tool like the Daily Audio Bible while you’re driving to work or running errands in the car.
- Spend time in prayer every day!
- Get involved in a small group or Bible study with other believers. If your church isn’t offering that option at the moment, start one yourself!
- Listen to sermon podcasts. (Some of today’s greatest Bible-teachers and communicators make their resources available for free online.)
- Read or listen to an audio book that deals with an area that you’re struggling with in your life, or challenges you in your spiritual growth.
In today’s technology-saturated world, there is no excuse for a believer to not have access to abundant resources and tools that they can use to spiritually feed themselves.
So I believe when a “mature” believer all of a sudden decides to walk away from their local church family using the excuse that “we’re not being fed anymore”, it often says much more about that believer, and their own failure to take responsibility for their spiritual growth, than it says about their (former) church.
Over the next few days I will post the other three (real) reasons I believe “mature” believers walk away from otherwise healthy churches, but for now I’d like to challenge you with the following question:
Have you owned the responsibility for your own spiritual growth? Or are you (spiritually speaking) more like a lazy teenager, sitting on the couch yelling for someone to feed you? Go get yourself something to eat!