Monday, April 14, 2008

You're Supposed to Feed People

There's lots of things I could say about this but only one I will.

The premise is intriguing enough: how to keep consumers away from your church*. It's a valid concern, and I've heard pastors (like Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll, among others) handle it rather well, if bluntly. But then the way Brian Jones attacks the problem is simply to make sure the service is for a different kind of consumer. He's still providing goods and services, he just wants it to be clear they are for seeking consumers or "young Christian" consumers. It's not consumers he doesn't want; it's Christian consumers he doesn't want.

The main thing that gets me even more every time I see it is this:
I try to speak anywhere between 21 and 26 minutes max. That drives church hoppers nuts because they want to “be fed.” I’m not interested in “feeding people” unless they are in the early stages of their spiritual journey. Church hoppers as well as Christians further along their spiritual journey need to be feeding themselves.

Where did this idea that pastors/churches aren't supposed to feed people come from? It's not Scriptural. Jesus flat-out tells Peter, "If you love me, you will feed my sheep."
Now, you can say this sort of feeding is different from a sermon or a worship service, and I agree it isn't limited to that, but it's the concept I'm after here, not necessarily the particulars. Guys like Jones (and a huge number of others, because I see this mantra "I'm not here to feed you" every single week on pastor/leadership blogs) make it a point to say that their role is not to feed Christians.

That's wrong. It's just wrong.
The idea that the sheep should feed themselves while the shepherd creates an "experience" in the pasture is supremely lame. And, frankly, just as lazy as the sheep wanting to be fed are accused of being.

Aside from the "service as show for seekers" thing not being biblical, it's also not working.

I've said a lot more about this subject at a previous post: For I Was Hungry and You Told Me to Self-Feed.
And a little bit here: Feed Yourself; or, Am I My Brother's Keeper?

* Although this raises an interesting question: Should the church be in the business of keeping certain people away? Don't consumers need Jesus too?


Daniel said...

When I first went to the site (having never heard of the guy), I thought it was a parody.

Unfortunately, it's not. It's all too real.

Bill said...

What's sad to me is that, imbedded in the tone and content of comments like "That drives church hoppers nuts because they want to “be fed.” I’m not interested in “feeding people” unless they are in the early stages of their spiritual journey." is an only slightly-veiled contempt for the sheep, for Christian brothers and sisters.

I recognize it well. I've seen it many times, both with people I've ministered to and elsewhere. It's the unspoken "groan, here comes a Christian, wanting to mess up the good thing we've got going in our dynamic, relevant, kickin' ministry", or the corollary I've seen in student ministry at times (not from Stroke, btw) "groan, here comes a parent, wanting to find out more of what we're doing here on Sunday morning. They're just gonna mess it up"

Between the lines you can read: "Mature Christians should be ashamed of themselves for wanting to be fed. They obviously don't care about the lost as much as I do".

I used to feel guilty about wanting to be fed too . . .

This is all upside down and backwards.

Eric Smith said...

Thank you for this post.

What guys (like Brian Jones) seem to forget is that God has called pastors to equip and train the saints.

One of the primary ways that happens is through preaching, or feeding them the Word of God.

Sadly, in their race to become 'relevant' to sinners - they are actually becoming more irrelevant to Jesus.

Rich Johnson said...

Thanks for the link to this. I don't want to have a go at the author, but agree with others who have commented that there are serious flaws in this.

Obviously there is an imperative on certain people appointed to roles WITHIN the church (Ephesians 4) to work for the building up of the church, that it might BE the church.

And so feeding people is important.

My experience (helping lead a church full of church hoppers who've stuck around for 4-5 years now) is that it's not that they just want meal after meal... what they want is GOOD food, a nutritious diet etc.

And so the issue is (a) teach/feed really well, and (b) make sure they then go and do some exercise.

I want a church full of people hungry for gourmet food, who then take it and bless others.

Perhaps a poor diet keeps people in a place of subsistence, not thriving health.

On a related note, this applies for all people I think - i.e. "Christian" and "non-Christian". I think people come to church for an encounter with God or to see Christians doing what they do. So cut the seeker-sensitive nonsense and give them a feast every week.

And if you can't do that as an Ephesians 4 leader, learn to cook !

Eric Smith said...

I agree with Rich - my experience is that church hoppers are actually the ones who are repelled by solid gospel preaching. They, actually, are the ones who are looking for the 21 minute microwave sermons that tickle their ears....

Bill said...

Exactly! That's another thing that made me say "huh"? The near conflation of "person who wants to be fed" with "church hopper".

I want to be fed, and I've been at the same church for 15 years. We've been through the topical, 9 secrets to healthy relationships, 7 steps to better finances stuff during that time, but - thankfully! - these past few years we've gotten some great exposition.

I think church-hopping is bad too.

Jared said...


The church hoppers are the ones who want the easily digestible show.

The mature Christians who are starving for the gospel are usually the ones making your show happen, the ones "driving the church" (as Willow has recently discovered).

If you want to run those people off, you're gonna have a whole lot of people who like what you do but a whole lot less who are willing to do it.

jenn said...

If you want to run those people off, you're gonna have a whole lot of people who like what you do but a whole lot less who are willing to do it.

Wow. I think I could write a whole post on this alone. Thanks for your thoughts, Jared. You have an uncanny way of saying what I'm thinking, only much more succinctly. :o)

Jared said...

Thanks, Jenn. But it's funny that I got your comment about my succinctness mere seconds after posting a long rambling post about how to deal with christless preaching . :-)

Rich Johnson said...

All good stuff. I actually said that in our church right now, the "church hoppers" who hopped have (contrary to my expectations) stayed, and got stuck in. And I think it's because they are being well fed.

i.e. some church hoppers are looking for a decent feed, and when they get it, they start exercising.

But sure, there are tonnes of church hoppers who can't stomach a fine plate of Jesus-truth !

Matt C. said...

This is an older post - but I just had to say this: he speaks of being contextual, and then they play a Jet song at their service. Jet? That's several years removed from being contextual. Who are they trying to reach? School of Rock rejects? Jet had some cool songs from a musical stand-point, but old news!