I am the king of hyper-focus. I latch on to something the intrigues me, that concerns me, and I cannot let go. Eventually though, I will bury a certain bone in the backyard of my mind, pick up a new bone and gnaw on it for awhile, but eventually something will happen or something will be said that draws me back to that long buried bone.
The bone I am going to dig up is a particularly odious one. It is an attitude found in the written and spoken thoughts of the luminaries of the church growth movement, and their influence is found in those lesser lights that seek to mirror the attitudes and methodologies of these success-driven church growth experts. You hear it in the ubiquitous leadership conferences, you read it in blogs, you hear it in ‘sermons.’
This metaphorical bone is the conceit that it is not the post-modern, seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven pastors job to feed the sheep. I have written on this subject ad nausea in the past, but in the last couple of weeks, I have heard sermons that absolutely infuriated and grieved me.
Before I continue, let me give you a bit of a back-story, more of which can be found here. I used to attend Perry Nobles gigachurch, NewSpring Community Church, and over the three of four years I spent there, it seems that Perry often mentioned, in an often sarcastic and demeaning fashion, that sheep complaining of not being fed are lazy and contemptible. I initially did did not give the aforementioned attitude much thought, other than thinking that he was a bit snarky and perhaps unique in his attitude, but I came to see the fruit of this attitude in a more personal way. I was becoming a bit hungry for something above and beyond the constant rotation of sermons on financial stewardship and tithing, on dating, marriage and relationships, and finding my purpose and plan in life. There were other issues as well, and in wanting to meet with someone from the leadership of the church to discuss my desires and concerns, I was grudgingly allowed a phone conversation with an associate pastor.
In naively mentioning that I wanted to hear more about the Jesus that the first Jewish and Gentiles were willing to die for rather than recant their faith as contrasted to the life coaching I was used to hearing (and I was gracious in my request and concern), I was politely told that essentially I was just being selfish in wanting to be fed more than the ‘meals’ that were being served. Quite frankly, to be told by a church that I had poured myself into that I was selfish for wanting to be taught more about Jesus absolutely crushed me. So, you see I have a first hand experience and vested interest in not letting this bone remain buried.
Now, I understand the need for Christians to read the Bible. I also understand Paul’s admonition found in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2. What is interesting with the text is that Paul is not saying that it is not his job to feed his charges meat, indeed he wants to, but that they are developmentally delayed and not yet ready for the spiritual meat that he desires to serve to them.
What is most striking in these declarations of pastoral abdication of Christ-appointed responsibility to feed the sheep is the sheer arrogance, sneering meanness, and demeaning caricatures in their portrait of starving sheep.
Here is one example featuring Steven Furtick, friend and I suppose ‘student’ of Perry Noble :
If you go to this Fighting for The Faith podcast, from 53 minutes to about 1:07 hours in the podcast, you will here similar attitudes and content from Mark Beeson, lead pastor a Granger Community Church, one the the flagships of the seeker-driven ecclesiastical methodology. What is so sad is the laughter of the audience in both Steven and Mark’s tirade.
The question I have to ask of such ‘pastors’ is this: if it is your Christ-ordained responsibility to be the under-shepherd to the flock, to feed them, and starving sheep come to you for meat as they tire of cotton candy and milk, is it your job to mock them or to feed them something more substantive? I suspect that most of these pastors harbor such an attitude towards starving sheep because they may be incapable of serving a rich, Christ-centric, Word-focused meal. It takes them out of their comfort zone of ‘vision-casting’ and serving their rotation of topical bait-and-switch life-coaching pablum and exposes their weakness and inabilities to deeply, carefully, and contextually exposit the text of the Bible. It exposes the lack of understanding or care for the deeper things of Christ as they often serve a graceless, legalism-lite Moses dressed in a Jesus costume. More could be said on this sad subject, but for now, let me leave you with the following verses:
1 Cor 3:1-2
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able.
“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?
(Thinking about all those aforementioned and ubiquitous leadership conferences where the leaders feed leaders meals of secular business methods on how to use the sheep most efficiently)
15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
5Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 7Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. 8They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.