Would you be content with having but one good meal per week? With the unlimited availability of food in our country, should you have to? What if that one meal per week was just meat or just desserts or worse yet, just junk food? Most of us would develop ailments from malnutrition, suffer fatigue and leave our immune systems vulnerable to any infectious disease it couldn’t fend off through proper nutrition.
I was recently involved in a discussion with some church folk friends of mine about mature believers who change churches when they feel they aren’t being adequately fed by the pastor or priest. When I hear this I envision a nest of chicks with their mouths wide open waiting for the pastor to drop in a nugget of spiritual truth, then flying off to gather more food while the chicks wait in their nest for their next meal. This approach to church is wrong on many levels and deeply disturbing to me.
In too many instances the burden of spiritual nutrition is laid upon the local pastor with little or no responsibility borne by the believer. The expectations placed on the local church and its clergy do not line up with the primary function and purpose of the church as described in the New Testament. Scripture is clear that we gather together corporately to worship God and encourage each other-period. Of course a good sermon or homily aids in exhorting us on to good works and falls under the function of encouragement. We all love to hear a message that moves us to do something that enables us to more accurately reflect Christ. But just as our bodies require daily nourishment so too our spirits require daily feeding.
I reside in Las Vegas, perhaps the capital of the world’s best and biggest buffets. I admit that I love going to one place where I can choose to eat from Mexican to Italian to Asian to American cuisines with no limit on how much I eat. I can even have just desserts if I choose. But no matter how delicious the food is or how much of it I eat in one sitting, I’d be in bad physical shape if I only relied on that one weekly meal for my overall health. I had to learn how to cook for myself and provide daily meals the other 6 days of the week or I’d starve.
Church members are no different. Expecting your pastor to provide your weekly meal and complaining that you are not being fed is equivalent to eating out once a week and not knowing how to feed yourself in between. We have at our fingertips the Word, our daily bread, the exact same bread our pastor distributes on Sunday. The responsibility of our own spiritual fitness is not the pastor’s but ours. We are encouraged to “study to show thy approved”, to “rightly divide the word of truth”. We can’t do that on one meal per week by neglecting our own accountability.
The best clergy are the ones who through their weekly homilies whet the individual appetites of their parishioners for spiritual meat to the point that the parishioners can’t go a single day without personal study and devotions. And those who are taking in their daily bread will never complain about their pastor not feeding them.
There are numerous reasons for changing churches as the Lord leads, but malnutrition through personal apathy should never be one of them.