Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"I'm Not Being Fed"

The Great Depression crippled America in the late 1920s and early 1930s. What is ironic about this is around that time, America did not lack business, farmlands, skilled workers, or hard-working families. America also did not lack railroads, road networks, ocean waterways or modern transit systems. Even the communications infrastructure at the time was the best in the world, using telephone, teletype and radio. There was no war that had ravaged the cities or the countryside. There were no great diseases or famines that weakened the population. Goods were available to be purchased and jobs waiting to be worked. But, America lacked one important thing: an adequate supply of money. During this time, bankers, the only source of new money and credit, generally refused to loan money to businesses. But, they continued to require timely payments on existing loans. Money rapidly disappeared from circulation. And, the lack of money brought the nation to a grinding halt.

The banks were taking in money but they were not lending it out. And, this is quite similar to a significant problem in many American churches today. The Church is comprised of people with so many spiritual gifts. And yet, like the banks during the Great Depression, the vast majority of Church members are taking away from the Church while giving little to nothing back. This pattern is backwards and grossly self-centered. We should all be trying to give as much if not more to the Church than we take. Far too many Christians approach the Church with primarily a consumer mentality. This is best evidenced by "consumer feedback" by way of critical comments like, “I am bored,” or “I’m not being fed.” These types of comments scream from the wrong perspective. No wonder so many churches in America are spiritually depressed.

Most things in life, especially Church, are what you make them. If you don’t find Church interesting or don’t enjoy it, that can mean many things, most of which are not good. But, if your primary approach is to take from Church more than you give, of course it is going to be found lacking because you have reduced Church to entertainment, which it was never designed to be. Instead, every part of the “Body” must do its part. Ephesians 4:16 says,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.” Can you imagine what the church would be like if we all did that? It would be a lot more like the dynamic Church we read about in Acts 2. How sad that people complain about Church but rarely do anything personally to remedy their complaints? Isn’t that a classic case of being part of the problem and not part of the solution? Does this describe you?

But, you might be saying, “Okay, what if I do serve and give? What will I get out of it?” You may not be asking those questions. But your actions (or inactions) may be. But, these are the wrong questions to ask for several reasons. First of all, if you believe Jesus is your King, you should feel a unique spiritual inspiration to give, even if you never get anything out of it? You should always unconditionally follow the one you call King! Secondly, the posture behind such questions is entirely selfish. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” And, that would include how you "do" church. But, let’s assume for a moment that the question is worth answering. There happens to be a wonderful answer. But, it does not lie here on this Earth as much as it does in eternity in Heaven. Yes, there are benefits here on Earth. But those benefits pale in comparison to the glorious benefits in our Kingdom eternity.

I boldly submit to you that if your attitude towards Church is anything like any of the following, it is probably you who needs reevaluation:
  • I often call God’s Bride boring
  • I often ignore God’s Bride and don’t recognize her beauty
  • I don’t like being around God’s Bride
  • I could make her more beautiful, but I don’t care
Instead, our attitude should be captivated by how beautiful God’s Bride truly is. We should love being around God’s Bride as often as we practically can. We should want to serve His Bride and strive to magnify her beauty. We should even go as far as being proud to boldly declare that we are the Bride of our King, Jesus Christ. After all, wouldn't you want your spouse to display that kind of attitude towards you?

In John 21:15-17, the resurrected Jesus asked three times of Peter (who previously denied him three times) “Do you love me?” Peter answered all three times with varying forms of “Yes.” And, each time Jesus followed Peter’s “Yes” by asking him to demonstrate this love by feeding or taking care of His lambs and sheep. Jesus was linking love for Him with the follow through of taking care of what is dearest to Him, His Bride, the Church. Do you love Jesus? Are you feeding or taking care of his sheep? If you are not feeding others, how can you ever be truly fed?

With that God-given inspiration, to those who say, “I’m just not being fed,” I have this immediate response, “Who are you feeding?!” If you are so critical about others not feeding you, then we must assume that you are a shining example of feeding others? If you value being fed so highly, we can only assume that your value system is being displayed by your own actions of feeding others? Or, are you being hypocritical in your criticism? Is it possible that the best way to feed one’s self is to actually feed others? The answer to that question is obviously, yes. I have lost count of how many Bible teachers and preachers who have confessed that their greatest spiritual growth and attainment of spiritual insight came from teaching and serving others, not from being taught or served. After all, Acts 20:35 quotes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And, nobody modeled that better than Jesus Himself. 

In paraphrasing the John 21 episode between Jesus and Peter, Jesus said that if you really love Him, you will feed and care for His lambs and sheep. I could stop there, but I won’t. Further, notice that Jesus did not say that if you really love Him you will make sure you are constantly fed and cared for by churches. Even further, notice that Jesus did not say that if you really love Him, you will criticize His bride for not feeding you. I think it is high time that complaining Christians repent and grow up. Stop groping around churches looking for something you can receive. Rather, invest yourself in a church body by giving of yourself to the care and feeding of others. And, for Christ’s sake, stop criticizing His Bride! If you really love Him, such criticism would never enter your mind nor exit your lips!