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.
-- John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight
Bob's recent post, I Thirst, really resonates with me. An excerpt:
I realized after last Sunday that I am hungering and thirsting to hear the Gospel message (rather than fervent pep-talks about being a person of character, or something).
It is, after all, by means of Gospel preaching that the Kingdom of God is advanced. It is my means of Gospel preaching that men and women are effectively "revived," and it is in Gospel preaching that the Christian church fulfills its essential calling. And by "Gospel preaching" I do not simply mean the repetition of the Easter story, but I do mean the careful and disciplined application of the Calvary truths to our lives today. Or, in other words, the provision of New Testament answers to this simple question: What is the significance to me here and now that Jesus was nailed to a cross 2000 years ago? Preacher, that is not a subject you are going to exhaust in a 4-week sermon series. That is, as a matter of fact, a river of living water!
Can you hear the frustration in my blogging tone? Desperation, even?
Yes. Not only can I hear it, I feel it.
(This is going to be somewhat disjointed, as (a) it's sort of a ranty subject for me, and (b) I haven't had coffee yet.)
I've come full circle on the "I'm not being fed" thing.
Some thoughts . . .
1) There are some lazy, consumerist, adultolescent Christians whose "I'm not being fed" is nothing more than a whiny excuse for growing bored with their church's programs and not serving.
2) There are some mature, self-sacrificing, wise Christians whose "I'm not being fed" is a sign a church has gone off the rails.
3) We need more pastors/preachers who can tell the difference.
4) The renewal of the idea that "Christians should self-feed" is trailing the appraisal of Willow's REVEAL survey. Plenty of pastorpreneur bloggers are repeating the line, which seems to me to clearly miss exactly what the survey results appear to be saying -- people aren't growing.
5) Taking a survey that aims to gauge customer satisfaction with the church, with the alleged intention to fix it, finding results that say customers aren't satisfied with the menu, and then saying those people should eat at home seems . . . weird.
6) When so many churches are failing at cultivating authentic Christian community these days, and when individualistic, consumerist Christianity is threatening the endurance of evangelicalism, it seems a really dumb idea for churches to be urging more individualism.
7) The truth is we are responsible for each other, we do have the obligation to bear each other's burdens. This means, at the very least, that the Church, which is made up of Christians, has an obligation to feed and care for Christians. The impression is that many churches prefer to leave Christians on their own.
8) This appears to be a great irony to me: Seeker-centered churches will say that because their worship services are for seekers or newer Christians, the sermons cannot engage in as much biblical depth as would be appropriate for more mature Christians, yet what is preached in such services is typically not the milk of the gospel but a meat-and-potatoes sort of "application of the Bible." Stuff to do. Why would we expect nonChristians and new Christians to have the framework from which to really apply the Bible?
What I mean is, what benefit is a series on "How to Win at Work" if the people expected to carry out the principles therein don't really understand the point of the Christian life is Jesus? It seems to be a feeding of meat to people who aren't ready for it anyway.
9) Jesus is enough to feed everybody. Preach with Jesus as the center, and everyone will get fed.
10) The idea that churches don't exist to feed Christians is just a lie. And the preachers/pastors who ridicule the notion are being ignorant. Jesus flat-out told Peter that if he loved Him, he would feed his sheep.
11) Self-feeding is overrated. It is the whiny excuse of lazy, consumerist, adultolescent churches.
We must preach the gospel to each other, all the time. Without fail. We need to hear it, we need to ponder it, reflect on it, be moved by it to worship Christ. Pastors and preachers, why are you failing to give it to us, to all of us? It is the one thing we need. Call it milk, call it meat, call it whatever you want, but it is the cure for cancer you are telling us to research on our own when you've got it in your back pocket. It's in that Bible you use like it's Bartlett's.
Immature Christians, new Christians, old Christians, mature Christians, nonChristians, unChristians, preChristians, postChristians -- whatever! The one thing that feeds us all is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please don't withhold it from us. And if you will give it to us each week, and shepherd us in ways that equip us to give it to others ("preaching with words when necessary"), nobody can ever say "I'm not being fed" with any integrity ever again. You will finally get to scoff at someone's claim to not being fed. Deal?