Sunday, April 3, 2011

Will Work for Food

One of the most common complaints I hear in the church today are those complaints against the local body in which we have been called. I began to touch on this a few months back with my thoughts in "Are You Fed Up With Your Church?" People always seem to have some complaint with their local body of worship, and threaten to leave if it doesn't suit their fancy. "There's no evangelism team here, so I'm leaving." "The worship style is not to my liking, and so I'm looking for another church." "I don't agree with the particular view that the elders have taken on the end times, so this will be my last Sunday at this fellowship." Of course, all of the people in these examples never claim that these are the sole reasons they are leaving their church. Instead, they give another reason for leaving -- one that I find entirely plausible. The number one reason that I personally have encountered as to why people leave their churches is this: "I am just not being fed here."

This reminds me of a passage in 2 Thessalonians 3:7-13. In the ESV, it reads as follows:
For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.

Normally, we encounter this scripture in a purely physical sense. We don't encourage slothfulness, and the church naturally will not be found giving a handout to those who refuse to get a job, take up their God-given responsibilities to those around them, and give back to the church. But what if this scripture was viewed in a more spiritual sense? What if there is a link between Christian service and spiritual nourishment? I think this idea is very interesting in light of 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." Perhaps the reason we feel we are not being "fed" in our churches, is because we are unwilling to work!

Ask yourself this question: what is my level of service in my current church? Am I someone who comes to church on Sunday, takes what I can get from it, and then leaves? If so, perhaps you do not feel fed because God has decided to withhold your plate until you are willing to do some work.

Perhaps you are someone who is thinking, "I am more than willing to work, but the problem is there is no place for me to serve here." In other words, there is some "pet" ministry you have a desire for, but it isn't available at your local church for one reason or another. If so, you need to be sensitive towards God's desire, as it might be different from your own.

For example, I once knew a girl who complained for several months that she was sick and tired of her church because the elders would not allow her to be a worship leader. This girl came across as extremely bitter, and eventually left her church with a very bad attitude. Several people tried to counsel her on her decision to leave the church, but she insisted that she had to go because she wasn't being "fed," and the church was "obstructing her spiritual growth." As far as I could see, the church was not, as she claimed, standing in the way of her joy, because there were three valid reasons why she couldn't be a worship leader:

1. The position she wanted was already held by someone else. If the need is being met in that area, then another person is not going to be called to serve in that area. It was wrong of this girl to demand that she be placed in a role that was already filled, when other positions of service within the church remained empty for years.

2. The position she wanted was not Biblical. The Bible is clear that a woman is not to usurp authority over a man. This usually eliminates women as being qualified for positions of leadership within the church. This girl was offered an opportunity to serve on the worship team, but that wasn't good enough. She wanted to be a worship leader. She wanted to be the person in charge of worship at that church, and the idea of serving in any other capacity was not an option for her. Therefore, she concluded she was not being fed. In actuality, she was being offered food to eat. It just wasn't good enough for her.

3. The position she wanted required skills she did not possess. When this sister first told me she wanted to be a worship leader, I was surprised, because I never witnessed her musical talent in public. Wondering why she was keeping it hidden, I asked, "How come you're not in the choir?" She replied, "Because I don't sing." I then asked, "Oh, so do you play a musical instrument?" She flatly stated, "No." Puzzled, I asked her how she concluded that she was called to be a worship leader when she did not sing or play a musical instrument. She simply said, "Because that is the desire of my heart."

As we can see from the above example, the sister in this story claimed she was not being fed, and she was right. She was not being fed because she refused to eat the food that was given to her. I wonder how many opportunities for service were missed because she insisted on getting her spiritual satisfaction from places she was not necessarily called to be.

Are there ministries that you feel are "lacking" in your church? Perhaps you are right. Perhaps those ministries aren't there. Perhaps you've talked to your pastor about having these ministries started, and he said no. So you're not being fed by your favorite foods, then ask yourself, "What else can I eat?" If we only look around us, we will see a feast of opportunities where we can serve, and feel completely satisfied.

4 comments:

Molly Underwood said...

Good article.
Let us get our minds off our own appetites and let us feast where He leads, sharing our feed with others.
May we be more concerned with sharing what has already been given than we are with attaining more for ourselves.

Charlene said...

Very interesting. Really challenged my thinking. I've never really seen it as the Pastor's/elders' job to "feed" me every week since I need to be in the Word myself every day. My time in the Word plus the fellowship with other believers and serving them and being served by them when I am in need is where I find the most "spiritual food". No church is perfect so it's a great exercise in longsuffering to learn to love and serve those who do not agree with us on non-essentials.

Elessar said...

I think you make some great points.

At the same time, I think there can be a time to leave a church when you've moved beyond the spiritual milk the leaders there give to their congregation.

Jennifer said...

Hi, Elessar. No doubt! I have been there and I've done it myself. I will also add that when we walk away from such a church, we should also be moving toward another church. We should have a sense that God is leading us there, too. Thanks for your comments!