Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Feeding the Sheep

I remember a day when, as a young punk on staff of a seeker church start-up, I had nothing but disdain for the volunteers who left our efforts for greener pastures because "we aren't being fed." I considered them shallow, immature, selfish.

I still think Christians ought to approach their involvement in the life of the church as one of giving, not getting, but I am not nearly so dismissive of the need for feed these days.
I've been convicted of several things related to my churchy assumptions over the past couple of weeks. One was encountering some self-helpy megachurch pastor boasting of over 200 "decisions" at his church on one Sunday. I was immediately suspicious of that data, and while I still think it's fishy, I was convicted by the Spirit for my sin of wishing it wasn't true. That's just messed up. I can think the data's fishy for a variety of reasons in good conscience; but wanting it to be fishy because of my not liking the pastor or the church is sin.

Another conviction came yesterday, courtesy of John Piper. (He has a pesky habit of doing this to me.) I came across this passage in his little book The Dangerous Duty of Delight:
The true diagnosis of weak worship is not that our people are coming to get and not to give. Not a few pastors scold their people that the worship services would be lively if people came to give instead of to get. There is a better diagnosis.

People ought to come to corporate worship services to get. They ought to come starved for God. They ought to come saying, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God" (Psalm 42:1). God is profoundly honored when people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God. And it is my job as a preacher to spread a banquet for them. I must show them from Scripture what they are really starving for -- God -- and then feed them well until they say, "Ahhh." That is worship.

You know, I've been teaching the sole-satisfaction of Christ's completed work and God's complete glory for months now, but it took John Piper to connect the dots for me.

This reformational movement of the discipleship culture of the American Church calls us to feed the sheep, to call people to nail their self-sustenance and belly-gods to the cross and find eternal satiation and glorious satisfaction in the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the flesh and the blood of Jesus Christ.


Laseanda said...

Interesting post. As a church volunteer that has done it all, I once found myself discouraged by the lack of committment by volunteers, leaders, etc. You hear about ministry burnout and think it is about the same people doing all of the work. I came to the conclusion that what we do for God, is what we do for God. It has nothing to do with who comes, who goes, or who gives. As long as I am being obedient to my calling, I can count on God to do the rest. However, that doesn't really address the issue of what the church is supposed to do for its' people. I agree to half of what you are saying, but still contend that people are responsible for receiving or rejecting God's message, whether it be at church at home, or at work. The Sunday sermon is the smallest part of having an intimate relationship with God.

Jared said...

You're right that the Sunday sermon is a small part of having a relationship with God. You're also right that, as for our own responsibilities, looking more to "get fed" than to "be feeding" is a dangerous attitude.

In the context of a Sunday service, however, I believe the sermon is central, most important. And I think people ought to be able to come expecting to feast on God's Word.

Thanks for the comment!

Jen said...

Thank you for this, Jared. As one who left a church where I served in many areas but wasn't being fed, I'm grateful for the affirmation that my leaving wasn't out of mere selfishness.

It was a hard decision, bathed in prayer - prayer for my attitude, prayer for our church leadership, prayer for needed change to feed the mature, serving members that wasn't happening. I believe that God led me from that church to my current church in order to provide the spiritual sustenance that I craved in addition to service opportunities.

There have been a few instances where I was made to feel selfish and guilty for leaving even when I knew that God was telling me to leave.

Simon said...

I think Piper's comments regarding the desire for God in worship (i.e. going to be fed by him) is an essential balance to the other truth in your comment about just being involved to be fed, rather than to feed (as in I Co 14:26, "..EVERYONE has a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation etc.).

This is where I am intrigued by your comment about the sermon being central to what we do when we gather, the "most important" thing. Why the sermon over other elements of our shared life? I have experienced this in practice for the last 20 years, and I admit that I really don't know why we elevate the sermon the way that we do. What is the reason for this? Is the Sunday sermon the primary way that we are to be "fed".

Thanks for your thoughts.

Jared said...

Simon, good question. I have attempted an answer in a standalone post. You can check it out here: