My Pastor Isn’t Feeding Me? (by Jovan Barrington)

My Pastor Isn’t Feeding Me? (by Jovan Barrington) February 24, 2016

“I’m not getting fed spiritually.” (By Jovan Barrington, Senior Minister at Littleton Church of Christ, Denver, CO, who can be followed @JovanBarrington)

“My pastor isn’t feeding me.”

Maybe you have heard this before from someone who has left one church and is “shopping” for another or at the very least they are considering it. Maybe you have said this yourself. I believe that there can be some precedent for a comment such as this.  I also believe that if you were to ask someone else from the “spiritually malnourished” person’s church whether they were getting fed you may receive a different answer. There may be many reasons as to why two people from a congregation with the same pastor may answer differently but for the purpose of this article I will choose to focus on one.

In college I started attending a church service with some newly found friends. The service was much different than what I experienced in my religious heritage. For one thing, I had no idea what the casually dressed (shirt and tie but no robe!) “Minister” was monologuing about. Trust me when I say that it had nothing to do with his preparedness or logical flow of thought. He was well prepared and his delivery was polished. It was just way over my head. I really can’t say with certainty that I thought it was altogether his fault. I had yet to gain an informed opinion on how a preacher should craft his sermon to appeal to a broad audience with varying degrees of spiritual aptitude. He made some assumptions about the Biblical literacy of his audience and I fell way short of his assumptions. The tradition I was used to would have looked very strange and confusing to someone who was a first time guest and there wouldn’t have been much of an explanation as to why things were done the way they were. You just had to “catch-up” or “fake it till you make it.” I think I had some of an understanding of that dynamic.

There was one thing that I noticed rather quickly from observing the parish, no, congregants, wait, better yet – the brethren. Many of them engaged his preaching with their open Bibles. So that week I went out to Barnes and Noble and purchased a $6 gift Bible. This was a game changer.

The preacher was serving a delicious and fullfilling meal from God’s word each Sunday. There was no lack of food being delivered. If I didn’t get fed. He wasn’t the one to blame.

My youngest daughter is two years old and once a week I make breakfast. When I put those delicious pancakes in front of her she picks up her fork and she eats. When I started reading the word of God on my own it was like I showed up on Sunday with my eating utensils in hand and one of those lobster bibs – Mmmm, mmm. Do you know what happened next? His sermons started to make more sense. I could now reach the cookie jar on the top shelf and wanted more.

Your ability to be fed is not solely dependent on your pastor’s sermon content. This is an unfair expectation, “feed me pastor.” That just doesn’t sound quite right. Say that to your dinner host when you’re invited over. “Feed me.” Try it out on your server at Chili’s. “Feed me.”

Pick up your fork and feed yourself.

In actuality the pastor is breaking open the “bread of life.” Jesus is the Word and his food is spiritual food. God is the one who provides the ingredients for spiritual nourishment. Jesus is the host of the proverbial meal. Is your critique of your pastor really a lack of faith in God’s ability to fill you with his Spirit through the proclamation of his word?

God has an endless supply of bread.

When Jesus and his disciples fed thousands of hungry followers with bread and fish they distributed to the people “as much as they wanted.” AS MUCH AS THEY WANTED. There were even leftovers. Jesus, The Bread of Life, is still handing out bread and there are still plenty of leftovers.

Instead of saying, “I’m not getting spiritually fed. My pastor is not feeding me.” Ask yourself this question, “How much of Jesus’ bread am I wasting?”

Before the miraculous feeding Jesus twice gave thanks to the Father for the bread.

  • Give thanks for God’s provision and begin to engage your pastor’s sermons with a daily open Bible (this may require you to power up your tablet).
  • As you engage God’s word pray that it may fill you from the inside out and that Christ may be formed in your heart.
  • Listen to the word of God on your smart phone with YouVersion.
  • Subscribe to podcasts of your favorite preachers.

There is no shortage of food. How much do you want to eat?

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  • Alex Dalton

    I think we’d more often be better “served” by pastors simply reading from the Word, or doing expository preaching, than all of the elaborate sermons. Jesus gave plenty of sermons and teachings, and the Gospel authors arranged them very intentionally already. So often in churches I hear a whole sermon expounding on the pastor’s personal life and experiences, with a few scriptures quoted here and there. I can honestly say, as a person who reads a lot in NT studies, and has been to almost every church in my city, I have rarely ever heard a preacher revealing anything profound from the pulpit. I tend to think the real gems are hidden in the work of biblical scholars who have devoted their lives to the understanding of the Word, and who I consider the real modern day “teachers” of the church. I think pastors neglect to familiarize themselves with, and popularize the work being done there, to the detriment of the flock.

    The whole model of a pastor and his preaching just seems wrong. One guy, up there yapping away on the podium, with the microphone, living his dream of being a preacher. I think this model of “church” hurts everyone, including the pastor. He has way too much

  • Alex Dalton

    Another aspect that is neglected due to today’s overly hierarchical/corporate “one man” show of church, is the communal aspect of studying the Word. The whole model of a pastor and his preaching just seems wrong. You primarily get one guy, up there yapping away on the podium, with the microphone, living his dream of being a preacher. I think this hurts everyone, including the pastor. He has way too much pressure on himself to “feed the flock” every week, in addition to all of his other duties.

    I feel the Word should be read and discussed communally. I encourage this in the midweek gatherings of my own church and we’ve started practicing it. We open up the Bible, read together, and everyone shares their thoughts. I have read the most critical commentaries, and am still amazed at how much I learn from the insights of others in the group. We gather communally to break bread, to worship, to fellowship – why should we not study the Word communally? We all have the Spirit of God, don’t we? Perhaps we hinder the Spirit, in only consistently hearing what one of its vessels has to say about the Bible. Personal bible study is often something neglected in the church, probably because not too many people find it fun, hiding away for an hour in their home, to read in isolation. Many do not even like to read. The communal dynamic helps with all of that. Further, we should not learn in isolation, but as a community because, in this information age, people are researching online and coming up with all sorts of different views that go unchecked. If someone is going down a wrong path in their theology, that community aspect can allow us to really assist. The wisdom and experience of others can help in so many ways when it comes to reflecting on Scripture. When you read communally, people come prepared to use the gifts God has given them and contribute. When you do the one-man show, people come prepared to be passively sit and watch the show. Church members should be feeding one another, using their God-given gifts, and getting to know one another in the process, not sitting passively and waiting to be fed.

  • Basement Berean

    Alex — well, you’re one of the few Christians I’ve stumbled upon that understands how far our assemblies really are from the church I (and I assume you) read about in scripture, and you understand the age in which we live.

    An acquaintance of mine put it this way: we are to each be farming God in our lives day to day, and then come together to share the harvest. People learn to feed themselves, and they feed others.

    Churches today are like competing fast food chains each with one item on the menu. You pay, you get fed something, and if it tastes good you are supposed to get addicted to the treat whether you know the nutritional content or not. Don’t try to make the food on your own. The recipe is a secret.

  • Frank

    “I’m not getting spiritually fed. My pastor is not feeding me.” Equals “I don’t want to take responsibility for my own spiritual growth.”

  • Alex Dalton

    The Church in Corinth had so much Spirit-led communal activity, Paul’s input was about how to order it. What did that church look like?

    “When you come together, EACH of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything MUST be done so that the church may be built up.” (1 Cor. 14:26)

    Bracketing the matter of gifts of the Spirit, this is a church where everyone contributes. How do our churches look today? Everyone just goes into the theater to hear a monologue, with some audience participation during communion, and the worship portion.

    The church should be a family – a family that transcends even our own experience of familial love. What type of family is all about one man’s personality, ideas, knowledge, etc.? If the church were a family, every member should be encouraged and nurtured into being active participants. Not as ushers, or greeters, or other infrastructure, but as members of the body of Christ, who house the Spirit of the living God – a Spirit that speaks through them all to inspire and build up the church as a whole.

  • muzjik

    Perhaps a better way to phrase it is “am I being ministered to” by my pastor and church? Spiritual “nutrition”, as noted by the author, should involve much more than one man handing out “food” from the pulpit….both lessening the responsibility and the sense of importance.

  • Alex Dalton

    “When Jesus and his disciples fed thousands of hungry followers with bread and fish they distributed to the people “as much as they wanted.” .”

    The problem with using the Gospels as a manual for ministry is that the modern-day pastor becomes the stand-in for Jesus feeding his flock. We all just need to be better disciples of the pastor – better students of the ambitious confident man who made his way to the microphone on the high podium.

    Yes, Jesus fed the disciples and the wider flock with bread while he was on earth. Then he ascended and sent the Spirit into all believers. We all partake of the one loaf of the bread of life now. We all drink of the living water and have our own wellspring inside of us. Jesus is present among us, and within us, in the form of the Spirit, which has much to teach us all, through us all. We need ministries modeled around this new paradigm – not Jesus’ earthly ministry.

  • Alex Dalton

    I don’t disagree in a lot of cases with this, but the current church model promotes this kind of behavior.

    Further, we are all responsible for the growth of the church as a body, not just personal/individualistic spirituality. Christians want to have purpose, they want to contribute, be used by and for God for the reason the Spirit was given to them – to edify and build up the church in love. The current church model largely restricts their purpose to their own personal lives – unless they go to seminary to become pastors.

  • Frank

    I don’t disagree that some churches limit the work of Gods people but most do not. People also abdicate their responsibility. It’s not the churches fault. Everyone must make a choice.

  • “… we are to each be farming God in our lives day to day, and then come together to share the harvest…”

    Cool. “Fellowship”?

  • ccgal

    1 John 2:27: But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true–it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.

  • Steve

    ‘I think we’d more often be better “served” by pastors simply reading from the Word, or doing expository preaching, than all of the elaborate sermons.’
    Your comment reminded me of a preacher who shared with me a remark made by a young person (below high school). The preacher had spent multiple weeks expositing the Sermon on the Mount. The last sermon in the series was simply him reading the Mt 5-7 text. At the end of the sermon, he overheard the young person say, “Now that was the best sermon in the whole series–I cold understand that one!” :-0

  • jim

    Ha, two year old actually using the fork for pancakes? This article is clearly not to be trusted as factual.

  • Jovan Barrington

    I didn’t say it wasn’t messy. Also, she just turned three. Does this help? =)

  • Nimblewill

    Makes me wonder what the number one reason for new church plants is? Don’t most church plants come as a result of church splits. And aren’t most church splits the results of not being fed? Or maybe its carpet?

  • sanctusivo

    Hate to be the bad sport here, but much of what gets served out of the pulpit is not spiritual bread but more like religious Cheez-Wiz. Feeding may be more effective in finding something else to engage while the preacher drones on. At best, it’s 25 minutes or so that one can spend in meditation or contemplation.