Most pastors or teachers remember the cold chill they felt when they first heard someone say, “I’m not being spiritually fed here.” People often say this as they are on the way out of the congregation and on the way to another. A pastor told me about hearing this recently as he blinked back tears. “How do you understand this person’s comment?” I asked, “What do you think you need to hear when someone says this?” We talked about it and in this post, I’d like share with you some of our thoughts.
- It may mean that they are mad at you about something else and intuit that there is no better way to take a shot at a preacher or teacher than to take a shot at her or his preaching or teaching. A friend of mine often says, “It’s never about what it’s about.” I’ve had people say critical things about my preaching when I suspected that it was really because I didn’t visit them when they thought I should or that the vote the other night at the Church Council meeting didn’t go their way. Hurt people often hurt people. Sometimes it’s not about what it’s about.
- It may mean that the teacher’s or preacher’s spiritual life is going through a dry spell and people sense it. Over time, people know when someone is sharing out of what God is teaching them in their own spiritual life – and when they are serving leftovers. Preaching (and teaching) that most connects spiritually with people is usually about what most connects spiritually with the preacher (or teacher). It is transparent and authentic. When a teacher hears, “I’m not being spiritually fed here,” that teacher needs to at least check out their own spiritual life.
- It may mean that this person has never been taught to feed his or herself spiritually. I have a grandson that is learning to use a spoon and a fork to feed himself – like the young man in this picture. It takes a lot of coaching to teach this, but it is part of growing up that he is not forever dependent upon someone spoon feeding him. While the person saying, “I’m not getting spiritually fed,” sounds like they have matured spiritually and are ready for “the meat of the Word,” they are also saying that they have yet to learn to read the Bible for themselves and hear what God is saying to them. They have never learned to feed themselves spiritually. Of course, that may not be their fault. Teaching disciples to be spiritually self-feeding doesn’t just happen; it has to be an intentional part of a congregation’s discipling process. Does your congregation’s discipling process help people learn to read Scripture and listen obediently to the Holy Spirit’s nudging?
- It may mean that sermons or lessons are aimed at teaching information more than challenging people to take the next relevant step in their spiritual walk. The point of being “spiritually fed” is not us knowing more information – even if it is relevant information -- but us growing to be more like Christ. Did the lesson answer the question: “What should I do differently as a result of this teaching?” Most of us are already educated beyond our level of obedience. We don’t need more information as much as we need to be encouraged to listen to what the Holy Spirit is nudging us to do and challenged to take our next step obediently toward being more like Christ. When all is said and done, the maturity of our discipleship is not determined by what we know, but by what we do. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) “And teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)
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JeffDr. Jeff Stiggins
The Center for Congregational Excellence