A while ago, a pastor I know posted on Facebook the following prayer request:
I found myself very agitated after reading it. Whenever I hear or read that “not being fed” is a reason someone is considering leaving a church, I get annoyed. For me, it seems to capture succinctly what is wrong with many churches today.
When did the church become about us being fed? Where in the Bible does Jesus tell his followers that they should seek out a group of believers that is going to meet their needs? No where in the Bible is the church potrayed about being about us. I realize with all the “buddy Jesus” language, as one of my pastor friends would say, prevalent in so many of our songs and hymns it is easy to start to think its about us, but the call to follow Christ is not about our wants and desires. Discipleship is about growing in relationships, not growing in accomplishments or feelings.
Michael Slaughter, the pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, breaks American into four world views. He believes a majority of United Methodists have a soft-secular worldview that is focused on materialism and possessions. When I heard him talk about this at a bishop’s retreat it resonated with my experience in the church. So I am not suprised when I hear people talking about leaving the church because they are not being fed, but it still upsets me.
As soft-secular consumers, we view the church in terms of consumption. What am I getting out of it? What am I putting into it? Does the balance come out in my favor?
I know Jesus said feed my sheep to Peter. Feed them what though? The idea that the church is about them? One of the problems in American Christianity is that we’ve made it about us.
I remember attending a trustees meeting where a trustee started complaining about changes made to the worship service. The chair let the rant go on and pretty soon others were airing similar concerns. While not relevant to the meeting at hand, I explained why we made the changes. From my point of view, we were making changes so that the worship service would be more welcoming for those outside the church,
The trustee looked at me and said we need to be more concerned about the people inside the church than outside. Without insider support, we would not have a church he claimed. A few months later, the trustee said the same thing in a congregational meeting.
I was horrified both times. Very rarely are people so blatant or honest about their perspectives, but the church often sends the signal that we care more about ourselves than those outside the church. Issues about being fed seem narcissistic to me. Perhaps the complaint is more about the person issuing it than about the church?
My questions for those who are feeling not fed are: What are you doing to love your neighbor? What are you doing to grow in love with God? How are you helping the church discern God’s mission and vision? How are you living into the Reign of God?