“I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my father who gives you the true bread from heaven…I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:32, 35.
This month, I was able to take two trips to the beach. One with my family and another with a group of pastors. I was struck by how I responded to the same statement from these two groups.
During both trips, at some point my triplet boys and these four grown men looked at me and said, “I’m hungry.”
Now, when my eight year-old children said this, I opened the fridge and began to cook up some eggs or make them a sandwich. But, when these grown men said it, I looked at them, pointed to the pantry and the toaster and told them to get to work.
As a Pastor (Shepherder), I hear the frequent complaint by church-goers that “I am not being fed.” This statement is illuminative because, to me, it says less about their church, and, instead, reveals a heart-condition of this follower of Jesus–they have a childish faith.
My 8 year-olds can say, “I’m not being fed” and I will spring into action. When grown men say it, though, we look eschew at them and point to the pantry and cooking utensils and tell them to get to work. In fact, my goal with my children is one day that they would move out on their own and start feeding themselves. So that one day they will have their own children and be able to cook for them. That is an image of what true biblical discipleship is–a follower who helps others find their way back to God. Or as Ken Schultz says, “we are all just beggars helping another beggar find food.”
However, in our consumeristic approach to church (and the church’s capitulation to this market incentivizing style of ministry) it is natural that the vast majority of American Christians will feel this insistent need to be “fed.” Like a Vegas buffet, the church is constantly putting out trays of food trying to keep the people happy and entertained so they will drop more money into the slot machines.
Hearing the desperate bleating of our hungry sheep, pastors keep trying to whip together some shoddy program to fill those hunger pains. However, in doing so, we fail to equip people to mature in their faith so they can feed themselves and their families.
So, rather than blaming your church for not feeding you, what if you looked inward and asked yourself–how am I feeding myself daily?
- The Bible
- Spiritual Friends
Are you spending time every day personally chewing on God’s Word? Are you allowing your heart to be marinated in prayer every day? Are you laughing and weeping around a table with someone else?
The role of the church is to equip you with these tools. They should model it on Sunday, so you can do it Monday through Saturday.
This is precisely what Jesus is telling his followers in John 6. They were expecting Moses (the institutionalism of the Temple) to give them bread…but Jesus says that we have a direct access to the True Bread of Life. To come to him and eat it on our own. It’s no wonder that after Jesus puts the responsibility in their hands that “from this point forward many of [Jesus’s] disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” It’s easier to let the church do for you what you need to be doing yourself.
So rather than treating the church like the buffet line at Golden Corral, why not treat it like a grocery store–where you can come in, pick up the supplies you need and then go home and start feeding yourself?