Admitting that “I’m just not being fed” isn’t always easy. A discontent, or even disconnect, often settles in as we feel disengaged from our church or pastor. The truth is most people have these feelings at some point in the life of their church. So how do you respond? Here are six questions to ask yourself as you navigate this journey.
1. Are My Expectations of My Pastor Unrealistic?
One of the challenges pastors face is leading the church to fulfill its God-given mission while providing appropriate care for the congregation. It’s very easy in our me-centered, consumeristic culture to believe that pastors need to “meet my needs.” While Scripture certainly addresses the importance of caring for people in the body of Christ, it also provides a pretty clear picture of a pastor’s role. Pastors are to equip people for works service (Ephesians 4:11-13). Quality equipping can only happen if pastors have the freedom to delegate perceived expectations. In Exodus 18, Moses delegated everything but teaching, leading, and developing leaders. In the book of Acts, the disciples delegated the distribution of food to the widows so they could “give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” The result was that the needs of the widows were met, God’s Word spread, and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly (Acts 6:1-7). If we expect our pastors to take care of our needs, then perhaps our expectations are unrealistic. The unintended consequence is the inability to adequately feed the sheep. Do an honest assessment of what you really expect from your pastor. Does it line up with Scripture? Then ponder this question: Who do I expect to meet my needs?
2. Am I Taking Ownership of My Spiritual Growth?
As I mentioned in my first post, pastors often respond to “I’m just not being fed” by saying, “Then feed yourself.” Pastors have to guard their hearts from becoming cynical. At the same time, all of us have to take ownership of our spiritual growth. Pastors cannot grow for you; they can only create environments conducive to growth. The Reveal Study (an extensive research effort conducted by the Willow Creek Association that includes responses from over 450,000 people, and was conducted by an expert research team using quantitative and qualitative research methods) discovered that 25% of Christ followers are “stalled” in their spiritual growth or are “dissatisfied” with their church’s role in their spiritual growth. These segments are considerably more likely to leave their church. They most commonly voice complaints about the lack of in-depth teaching, connecting opportunities, and serving options. Willow’s research discovered a clear connection between the stalled/dissatisfied and their lack of commitment to own their spiritual growth. They further discovered that the “stalled” segments reported much lower levels of personal spiritual practices. In an average congregation, 10% of the people are “dissatisfied.” If you are feeling stalled or dissatisfied, Reveal’s research encourages you to develop a spiritual growth plan, pursue higher levels of accountability, and seek out spiritual mentors or coaches. There’s a good chance that your church cannot do these things for you.
3. Am I Confusing “Life Circumstances” or “Lack of Application” With “Not Being Fed”?
Sometimes our “not being fed” response is connected to the circumstances we are facing in life. Difficult trials usually send us looking for answers. If we can’t find those answers at our church, we grow dissatisfied and begin looking elsewhere. Other times we grow dissatisfied because we haven’t recognized the gap between “hearing” and “doing.” In this scenario, we equate “being fed” with increased knowledge rather than personal application. Again, if our goal is spiritual growth, we must transition from being a hearer of God’s Word to being a doer of God’s Word (James 2). As one man said, most of us are educated far beyond our own obedience. While increasing our knowledge is extremely valuable, it’s only as valuable as our willingness to apply what we learn. Transformation (true growth) can only happen with application.