‘I’m Not Being Fed at This Church’

‘I’m Not Being Fed at This Church’
January 12, 2018 Thom Schultz

by Thom Schultz

“I don’t feel we’re being fed at this church,” Bill admitted. He’s thinking about switching to another church–where he can be “fed.”

What does Bill mean? It seems that Bill, and many others who express similar feelings, go to weekend services expecting to receive encouragement, solace or inspiration. Their expectations are often unmet.

These expectations now form what many consider to be the essence of a church’s mission or purpose. It’s to satisfy the appetite of the audience. A church elder in the documentary When God Left the Building, states his church’s mission this way: “I believe it’s to keep the membership up, keep it fortified, keep everyone feeling good about being there, keep people desiring to come there and want to be there.“

Many church leaders advocate a similar consumer mindset for church involvement. They often say, “You need to go to a church where you’ll be fed.”

This whole image bothers me. There’s something very self-focused about it. I can’t help thinking of Audrey, the gluttonous flesh-eating plant in the show The Little Shop of Horrors, bellowing out, “Feed me!”

I’m all for spiritual nourishment. But I worry we’re producing a generation of pudgy pew sitters who desire nothing more than to gorge themselves on super-sized feasts of knowledge and anecdotes.  Many teachers and preachers believe it’s their job to satisfy this big appetite with ever-more-tempting platters of “deep” Bible details, soaring oratory, and five steps toward a happier life.

What’s the outcome? Are we producing healthy, productive disciples–or well-fed, complacent gluttons? We’re seeing some telling effects among the Dones, the mature Christians and life-long church members who are now leaving the institutional church. Sociologist Josh Packard reports in his book Church Refugees that these people are feeling over-stuffed. They’re tired of the same high-fat meal that’s dished out for them weekly. They want to actively exercise their faith.

A question of mission

Should people view their local church as a spiritual fast-food joint? Is the prime objective to make sure patrons amble out rubbing their stomachs, feeling well-fed? I think not. I don’t believe God intended the church to be a diner for self-absorption, even spiritual self-absorption. Rather, the church should strive to be the healthy Body of Christ, the community of believers coming together to experience and love God, and to love one another and the larger community.

For those ready for a healthier diet, some suggestions:

MEMBERS & ATTENDERS. Stop looking for a trough where you can be “fed.” Look for a Jesus-centered community where you can be the church, where you’re given full access to love one another, to experience God, and to exercise your faith.

CHURCH LEADERS. Don’t pander to those who wish to sit, gorge, and grow obese. Shift the primary focal point from a mere mass-feeding to a time for the Body to connect, love one another, experience God together, put their faith into action, and share stories with one another of God’s recent interactions.

Some churches today are doing it. They have chosen to intentionally step beyond the “feed me” mentality. One such congregation, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, even incorporated its bigger mission into its name–The Point Is to Serve. From the get-go, people understand the point is not merely to “be fed.” Instead, these Jesus-followers are known for how they feed others. Sometimes literally. Like the time they delivered 32,000 pounds of ham and bacon to the needy.

Pastor Allen Kjesbo said, “We believe service is a key (and often neglected) path of spiritual formation.” The church’s small groups, called LifeServe Groups, “not only study the Bible and pray together, they also serve together,” Kjesbo said.

This church isn’t striving to fill pews with satiated spectators. “We were challenged to consider how to measure success differently,” Kjesbo said. “It’s about transformation–not ‘nickels and noses.’”

President of Group Publishing and author of Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore and Why Nobody Wants to Be Around Christians Anymore and Director of When God Left the Building.

4 Comments

  1. Richard Love 1 year ago

    While I do not disagree with the point being made in this article, I do have a question: Is it wrong for sheep (real sheep who have a shepherd/undershepherd to have the need and the desire to be fed? Where is the balance in all this? – gluttony and need for nourishment are two different things – physically and spiritually.
    The last thing immature sheep need is to experience the burden of a guilt-trip-manipulation to “get out there and work” without being “fed” the good news about who they are in Jesus Christ and how their labor will be successful not just by their own effort but by the work of the Holy Spirit both in them and through them.

  2. Robert Williams 1 year ago

    It has been my experience that most of the people that make the comment “I am not being fed” are people that have been life long attenders. I realize that there are churches that do not teach sound biblical doctrine but after hearing this many many times I have come to believe that it is more of a heart issue than anything else. Consider for a moment if you sat down at the dinner table expecting to eat but you had done no preparation (not cooked the food, set the table including the proper utensils) or maybe the table was all set with the proper utensils and the food was cooked but you did not cut the meat or put any of the other food in your mouth and chew. Either way you would leave the table feeling as though you were not fed. The same concept holds for being spiritually fed at church. When we walk in to church have we prepared ourselves to be fed, have we prayed and asked God to prepare our hearts and minds to receive His Word and teachings, did we bring the utensils (Bible) or did we leave them lying on the floor of the car or closet. What about a note card and pen to jot down thoughts or questions for further study. If you go away hungry it is most likely because of lack of preparation and or effort on your part.

  3. Dan McGowan 1 year ago

    To me, the point of this article is obvious – you can’t get fed if you’re not hungry or never open your mouth. Thanks, Thom, for good stuff from Group. – Dan McGowan (creative contributor on some of Group’s kids content)

  4. ellis 10 months ago

    For me the issue is appetite. many times we don’t want what’s on the menu, and we can be picky eaters. we’re like children; what we have the hardest time getting them to eat, is what’s usually the most healthy. Christ tried to get His people to look past the young boy’s lunch and eat real food, but they wouldn’t eat (John 6). I’d like to think we’re better off anytime we willingly listen to the Word being proclaimed, even if I don’t like who’s saying it or what they are saying about it. At the end of this discourse only twelve out of five thousand remained, and one of them would be the betrayer. We have dethroned God, and enthroned the world which leaves us forever hungry.

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