Remember this guy? It was one of Bill Cosbyâ€™s characters called Fat Albert. He was hilarious.
For about 4 months of my oldest son’s life, he lost the ability to stop eating. There was no shut-off mechanism. He could not ever feel full. He was never satisfied. We had to pry food out of his fists or he would eat til he puked. It was funny and cute for a while. Then it became frightening. The most evil thing I could have done as a dad would have been to continue feeding him without realizing, as the mature adult, that continually feeding him would eventually cause him great harm.
The same is true with adults. A person must limit their intake of calories, proteins and carbohydrates as well as turning these into energy through exercise. No matter how much or little you eat, or how healthy your food intake, if you do not exercise, you will NEVER be healthy. This is how I see the church. If we only EAT (sing, meet, study, debate, fellowship) but never EXERCISE (serve, witness, reach out, tithe, give, invite) we will be plagued by spiritual obesity.
In 20 years of itinerate (traveling) ministry, I have noticed numerous trends. One of them is this: if a person is constantly complaining about the teaching being too shallow, their need for deeper truth, or the influx of “new” methods and people into “the way things have always been at the church”, it is an outer sign of an inner, systemic immaturity. It is a delayed spiritual adolescence.
What people really mean, whether they know it or not, when they complain about not being fed, is that they are offended or upset that they are not being catered to as the “target group” for the church. When a congregation decides to pursue reaching the unchurched, there will be, by default, groups that will not only feel left out, but also DISPLACED on the totem pole of importance. They see a pecking order in the church and want to be at the top, even when there is no pecking order to begin with.
And if there WAS a pecking order, no human being who had been redeemed from their sins would ever want to be at the top of it! By virtue of their salvation, they would want THE LOST to be the priority of the church.
It is ironic that when a church focuses on the GOSPEL and making that gospel real and authentic to others, discipleship and spiritual formation begin to take shape in that community as it sets out to serve the lost and grow the saved. We must NEVER sacrifice discipleship for evangelism. Who says we have to? We do not.
I could be wrong, and maybe we should just all sit around in small huddles for 8 hours talking about the multiple meanings of one verse in Amos or dialogging about the 5 tenets of Calvinism, what the scrolls and bowls in Revelation mean, or how long Noah’s ark was and how that symbolically predicts the rapture.
Nevermind. Let’s reach the lost with those who are willing, and for the rest, there are more than enough churches to feed them til they are fat.