These words, whether they are meant to be or not, seem to be a jab right to the old kisser (no really more like a right upper cut or a "haymaker" that comes many times from out of left field right to the gut). There are several things that I have learned through the last 18 years of ministry. One is, someone that says this phrase has probably felt this way for some time. Someone just doesn't one day wake up and say you know I just feel like I am starving and I am going tell the pastor so today. Also, it takes a lot of "gusto" to tell the pastor that they are not "feeding" you (by the way its not all on the pastor but I will address that in a minute). As pastor we tend to overlook the tale-tale signs that will indicate to us a family is fixing to leave the church. When a person or family is preparing to exit a church then they will have an attendance-pattern change. What do I mean? I mean if they are normally a family that is faithful on Sunday morning and Wednesday night, they will draw back and only attend one of those services and then they will move to missing that one service more and more frequently! And as pastors, to avoid the inevitable we make excuses in our minds and then when someone asks about them we will say stuff like: "Oh, they have been sick a lot lately," "They have been super busy or out of town a lot lately," or "They just need to have a break." We actually see what is happening and we are playing damage control by already preparing others for their soon to be departure. AS pastors that is what we do! Why? Because as we all know whether we want to admit it or not, the pastor is seen as the one to get people to come and the pastor is the reason that people leave. So, we are trying to deflect as much of that criticism as possible (albeit wrong to begin with).
Another aspect of this idea that the "person is not being fed" has really nothing to do with the pastor (as mentioned above), most of the time! Let me tell you why I believe this. The pastor is admonished in scripture to teach, train, and minister to the flock. In other words, the pastor is to take the sheep that are in the barn (the church) and lead them to the fed trough (the sanctuary, the Word, Bible Study, small groups, Sunday School, personal study, etc.). He is to place the feed (the Word of God) before the sheep (in the through). But it is up to the sheep whether they will eat on feed (the Word) or if they will turn from it and walk away unfed and hungry! You see, to eat is not the pastor's responsibility. As a matter of fact, the pastor cannot make anybody eat. I have also seen this in my years of ministry, those that have told me that they were not being "fed" by my preaching any more were the same people that thought that they could come to the church service, feast on what was preached like a buffet (trying to eat until they were sick) and then went away from the barn to not eat again until they returned to the barn once again for another "feeding" days or weeks later. If I had an animal that only at once every week or two or even twice a week then I would have then seen by a veterinarian because they would be sick. The same is true of someone that believes that they can get all of their "Spiritual Food" from the preacher during a church service; they are running around "Spiritually Sick" and they need to get to the Great Physician to get it taken care of. But they see it as the pastor's "job" and not their responsibility so they get sicker and weaker the longer they go between feedings. Until in the end they come to the conclusion "I'm not getting fed" and they look for a new barn to stay in when what they need to do is get close to God and feast at his table throughout the week and they will be "healthy" sheep and followers of Jesus Christ.
I am not naïve enough to believe that every church member should stay in every church and should never leave! There are some church members that need to go and find a place where they can learn to grow and strive. I must also say that most church members don't leave because of Biblical issues they usually leave because of personal issue, but that is another topic for another day! I have never know a church member that wanted to be blessed, and came to church on a regular basis with mindset that they were going to be a blessing to others, and was growing in the Spiritual Walk with the Lord outside of church that left a church because "They were not Getting Fed"!
CHURCH MEMBER: So what is your responsibility as a church member? First, ask yourself, "Am I eating what the pastor and other leaders are feeding?" If not, then look at your life and ask why. Also ask yourself, "Am I eating at times other than when at church?" If not then do something about it. Secondly, if you are feeling disconnected from the church body its probably because you have chosen to distance yourself from them not them from you. Renew your commitment to the church, the church body, the leadership and the pastor and you will begin to get healthy once again and you will start growing once again!
PASTOR: So what do we do as pastors to help with this situation? First, we must always, always remind the people that the Lord has blessed us as pastors to help them grow in their personal relationship with the Lord. Second, if we see someone that seems to exhibiting the signs of "Spiritual" sickness because they have been missing more than what is normal for them then we need to do what we can to remind the church to reach out to them and draw them back in. Third, understand that there are some sheep that will never be satisfied no matter what barnyard they are in and it's never your responsibility to try and force them to eat because you can't. It is a "Spiritual Anorexia" they are choosing and you can point them to the food but if they refuse it then that is up to them. But also remember, you just have to place the Word before them and if they eat or not that is completely up to them but make sure you are doing all that God has called you to do!
I pray that this has both challenged you and helped you! If so, would you let us know by "Commenting" on this site, or if you feel lead to "Share" or "Like" it on the social media site where you have found it please do so. If you have never visited the Preacher's Corner website please do so at www.preacherscorner.weebly.com. Thank you for you time and support; God bless!!
Bro. W. Dee Daniel