I recently read a blog article that vilified folks for leaving their church for a list of reasons. Two of the reasons were well constructed straw-men (obviously bad reasons to leave a church), with the other three rather disturbingly only “bad” if viewed from a “missional”, “purpose-driven”, or “emergent” perspective. At the forefront of these “bad reasons” was “I’m not being fed”.
1. “I’m not being fed”
Do pastors have a responsibility to steward the scriptures and care for their church spiritually? You bet they do. And it can be all too easy to overlook this while trying to manage staff, build systems, meet needs, put out fires and develop leaders, all while overseeing the overall vision and direction of the church. But let’s be honest, if you own a smartphone, a personal computer or a library card, you have access to some of the best preaching and teaching in the world. You can even find teaching archives of some of the greatest preachers of all time. Christian, you have access to more “meat” than any other generation before you!
To leave a church because you’re not getting “enough” is a cop out. Your primary call in the church is to contribute, not just to consume. As a Christian, you shouldn’t require spoon-feeding for the rest of your life. Eventually you need to learn how to feed yourself so that, in time, you can actually feed others. Remember, your call is not just to be a disciple but to make disciples. [emphasis mine]
See what the author did there? Sure, he covered his “backside” with an obligatory caveat Do pastors have a responsibility to steward the scriptures and care for their church spiritually? You bet they do. Stewarding the scriptures and caring for their church spiritually are clearly laid out in Scripture as the responsibilities of Elders and Deacons.
Titus 1:5-11 (ESV) 5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.
Titus 2:1 (ESV) But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
Titus 2:7-8 (ESV) Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
John 21:15-17 (ESV) 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
1 Peter 5:1-11 (ESV) 5 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The role of the elders of the Christ’s Church is to shepherd the flock. They are stewards of God’s Word. If you are in a church where you are not being fed, then the elders of that church are not doing their primary job, period. In shepherding the flock, leaders should disciple and teach how to themselves read, study, and even preach the Gospel themselves. This is not a call to spoon-feeding (straw-man argument), this is a call to preaching the Word of God.
As for the primary call for the congregation of a church… it is to Preach the Gospel (which they cannot do if they aren’t firmly rooted in it and taught it and fed it), Make disciples (cannot be expected to make a disciple if you were never discipled in the Word of God) of all nations, and to baptize those who believe in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There are many other charges for believers that can be summarized as “contributing”, but that contribution is to the body of Christ, not specifically a building or particularly gifted “leaders”. They will often misuse the following (they will cherry-pick, so here’s the context) verses:
Ephesians 4:1-16 (ESV) 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Feed Christ’s sheep. Teach sound doctrine. Silence those who teach false doctrine. “Casting vision” is a secular (worldly) leadership concept not found in scripture. Not even in Proverbs 29:18 (ESV), “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” The vision-casters like to pretend the comma “,” is a period. Even if you accept the claim that a leader has been given a specific vision for a congregation (Prophecy is clearly one of the Gifts of the Spirit), it will always be in line with the Word of God (Scriptures/Bible). If said vision(airy) is threatened by Scripture… the problem isn’t with the one questioning the vision…
May the Lord bless and keep you,