“I'm not being fed.”
If you've been a part of a church for any length of time you have likely either uttered these words or heard these words spoken. Those who find themselves saying these words can feel like their faith journey is in a state of crisis. They are not sure what to do. Up to this point, they have loved their church and have experienced learning, growth and excitement every week. But now they feel like something is lacking. They are no longer experiencing those things like they once did. They’re not quite sure why this is so, or even how to explain it, so the common response is:
“I’m not being fed.”
What are you supposed to do when you reach this point?
What are you supposed to tell your loved ones when they reach this point?
While every situation is unique and is best addressed in the context of your local church community, these general principles can hopefully help provide some guidance as you do so:
Step #1: Define Your Terms
The very first thing you should do in this situation is ask the following question:
What does it mean that you are not being fed?
Are you not being fed the truth of the Scripture? Are you not being fed the truth of the Gospel? If so, this truly is an urgent situation that you must address. Apart from very rare circumstances, God does not call his people to be members of churches where His Word and His Gospel are not proclaimed.
Yet, if you cannot say that your church is not teaching the Bible and the Gospel then your answer to the I'm-not-being-fed question is likely something important, but far less urgent. For example, your answer might be either:
1) “I'm not learning about the issues that are of special concern to me," or,
2) “I’m not learning new things.”
Either of these things can be very uncomfortable, but neither is necessarily a sign that something is wrong with your current church. If this is the case, consider going to step two.
Step #2: Address the Cause
If the cause of your lack of new learning, growth and excitement is that your church is not teaching the Bible, then you should consider talking with the pastor(s) about this concern. If they are unwilling or unable to teach the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, it may be time to transfer your membership to a Bible-teaching church in the most loving and humble way possible. Yet, this should be done in the context of Christian community, in order that you might be certain you are rightly discerning the church's teaching, as well as the course of action which God would have you to take.
If the cause of your lack of learning, growth and excitement is due to your church failing to address the issues that are of special concern to you, I recommend two actions:
First, I recommend you talk with your pastor about the specific areas in which you feel you need to grow. As a pastor myself, I have often been pleased when people tell me they are hoping to grow in a particular area of faith or ministry and would benefit from more focused teaching on the topic. This helps me better know and better serve my congregation. It is likely to do the same for your pastor.
Second, I recommend that you don't depend on your pastors to provide all the information you need or have interest in. It is impossible for a preacher to cover every area of interest and passion in his congregation. Instead, his job is to faithfully teach the Scriptures and equip the congregation with the tools to study, learn, and apply more on their own. If you have certain interests or passions that you feel are not being adequately covered from the pulpit, this is not an opportunity for you to condemn your pastors for not sharing the same priorities. It is, instead, an opportunity for you to feed yourself. Perhaps your pastor can point you to books, videos, podcasts or human beings who can serve as resources on your journey toward growing in your particular area of interest.
If the cause of your lack of learning, growth and excitement is that you are “no longer learning new things,” I recommend you consider seeing this as a sign of your church's strength, rather than a sign of your church’s weakness. Perhaps the reason you feel you are no longer learning new things is because your church has done such a fine job of teaching you the Bible. With each passing sermon, you have added more and more information to your foundation of biblical knowledge. After a certain number of years, your foundation is likely to include all of the key Christian doctrines. There are certainly new insights that remain to be learned, but the more you know about God’s Word, the less frequently you will encounter exciting new teachings. This should not come as a surprise. After all, the emphasis of both the Old and New Testaments is on remembering and being reminded of what God has already said and done, more than it is on learning more information. If your church is faithful in reminding you of the most central truths of the Bible, your church is doing its job.
Step #3: Change Your Focus
Another reason that you may be dissatisfied is that God wants you to redirect your focus away from learning and toward doing.
First, He may want you to focus on faithfully enacting what you've already learned, rather than on learning new things. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have probably already learned the importance of forgiveness, generosity, patience, evangelism and the like. But how well are you obeying in these and other areas? Sure, we'd all love to learn new things, but why would God fill our minds with new things when we're not even consistently obeying the things we've already learned? Before complaining about what you are not learning in your church, I urge you to consider whether or not you are faithfully obeying what you've already learned in your church. If you find that you are not, you will grow more as a Christian by redirecting your focus on obeying the old things, rather than focusing on learning new things.
Second, He may be calling you to transition from the primary role of learner to the primary role of teacher. If it is true that you are no longer learning at your church, it is likely that you are now well-equipped to help non-Christians meet Christ and help Christians grow in their faith. Rather than looking for new ways to learn from your pastors, perhaps your new focus should be on looking for new ways to help your pastors by serving your church. Giving yourself to ministry will provide you with new opportunities for “on-the-job learning” that can never be taught from a pulpit, and will energize you and excite you in ways that passively listening to sermons no longer does.
If you or someone you love feel like you're no longer “being fed,” it may be because your church is failing you, or it may be because your church has served you more faithfully than you even realize. Be sure to define your terms so you can appropriately address the cause and change the focus.