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I just need to be fed.

I love hearing people say this when they are very young followers of Christ. Babies need someone to feed them. My role and responsibility as a mature follower of Christ in the church (and by that, I mean the body of Christ, not an institution) is to help feed those babes in Christ.

I despise hearing people say this when they are mature followers of Christ. And yet I hear it often from many of them.

The New Testament is so clear on this. Infants need to be fed (1 Cor. 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:13). They need pure spiritual milk. But the mature need to be feeding themselves. In fact, by that time, they ought to be feeding others (Hebrews 5:12, 14; 6:1). They grow not by being fed, but by feeding themselves on the meat of God's Word and then by becoming spiritual parents who feed others.

Something's wrong!

But I'm not sure which it is. I see two possible conditions at play here:

The Peter Pan (or Michael Jackson) Syndrome
Do we have a bunch of mature believers who simply refuse to grow up? Perhaps they have never been taught along the way how to feed themselves--or that they're even supposed to. Somehow they have never put childish ways behind them and became mature (1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:13). Has the church coddled church members and enabled this kind of immature attitude? These are people who have attended church services and small groups for years. They may even be in positions of leadership, but they still expect others to teach them rather than taking on the adult responsibility of teaching others.

The Adam Sandler (or Arrested Development) Syndrome
Another possibility is that some people who we assume are mature are actually still just infants who have an emotional, mental, or spiritual condition that keeps them from growing up. (Adam Sandler has played lots of these kinds of roles, like Mr. Deeds, Billy Madison, and Bobby Boucher.) They may have been baptized 20 years ago, but their spiritual development stopped 19 years ago. They actually still do need to be fed. The question here is, How can we get them unstuck so they can grow up as they should?

I remember a man who lived up the street from me when I was growing up. When I was 10, he was about 40 but still had the maturity level of a 10 year old, living with his mom and dad. As I grew up, he grew older, but not more mature.

Truthfully, I have a lot more compassion for the latter group than the former. One is simply childish while the other is childlike. And I think that there are more Peter Pan than Adam Sandler Christians in our churches.

So ... what do we do about this? What do you think?

I'll blog later on some more of my thoughts about it.

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Comment by Dave Ellie on December 9, 2010 at 8:51pm

Michele --

Your post hits it right on the head.  I spent years praying for an intimate relationship with God.  I agree with Michael, too.  Its a matter of listening and recognizing our Master's voice realizing that He wants an intimate relationship with me as well.  Like the prodigal's father, our Father is running towards us to embrace us if we'll humble ourselves and let Him be our Father and ourselves His sons and daughters.  Over the years I can see how He pursued me and how He pursues me even to this day.  He's answered that prayer for an intimate relationship but He did it by changing me; bringing me to a point where I willingly surrender to Him each and every day.

 

Thanks for your post, Michele.  And thanks to you too, Michael for starting this whole thread off.

Comment by Michael Mack on December 9, 2010 at 6:26pm

I think that's a HUGE reason, Michele. What people need is a loving relationship with Jesus, not just more and more knowledge about him. Like you, I think listening and solitude, being in Christ's presence, are vital. So is serving, loving others, sharing our faith, etc. Reflecting/meditating on God's Word helps me tremendously, but I had to break out of the patterns of reading just for knowledge. 

 

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up!

Comment by Michele Partain on December 9, 2010 at 4:08pm
Do you think that, perhaps, part of this is because so many people are being taught knowledge, but hunger for experience? For me, at least, I spent much of my life learning about God, without ever knowing that it was possible to touch His heart. I kept going to church, because I could at least get a whiff of the banquet there, but I still ached with a hunger I didn't understand because "I've been a Christian almost all my life." It's only been in recent years that I've learned about Listening prayer, centering, and how to actually feel God's presence, rather than just believing in Him. It's just been very recently that I felt like I really had anything to share with anyone else. I wonder how many others are in that same situation of having full heads but hungry hearts.
Comment by Michael Mack on December 7, 2010 at 6:59pm
Thanks for your comments Dave and Walter! Love the passion in your keystrokes, Walter, and I agree. Our commission is to go and make disciples ... teaching them to obey ... If we do the first part and not the second, we haven't completed the mission!
Comment by Walter Merilic on December 7, 2010 at 5:34pm
I believe once you become a mature christian you must feed yourself and not rely on other people to feed you the word of God. We as mature christians must teach the babes in Christ to feed themselves.

The lack of good discipling is a problem in the church today. We're so focused on sharing the gospel and seeing people get saved that we forget to follow-up with these people afterwards to see if their staying on the narrow road.I think i heard that about 90 percent of people that come to God the first time go back to there old ways of living within a couple of weeks. It seems like alot of people want to be rock stars but no one wants to be like John the Baptist and do the so called grunt work of the Kingdom of God.

This all stems from a lack of good discipleship training. We're letting people fall by the wayside when we dont follow up and stay in contact with babes in Christ. God will hold us all accountable oneday for these things. In Matthew 25:36 Jesus says "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in"(NIV). A lot of time we interprut this literaly but we can also interprut this as people being hungry for Gods Word and needing to be fed the Word of God, and that is Jesus. As well as someone being thirsty for the Living Water which is Jesus. We're all ministers and we need to become better ministers for Christ, because the fact is that alot of confessing christians will be going to hell and we cant let that happen.
Comment by Dave Ellie on November 29, 2010 at 9:58pm
I've seen this far too much for my taste as well. I refer to it as the "baby bird syndrome". I am tempted to believe that many churches are enabling this in those it serves. I can't see a way for any church program to equip followers of Christ to learn to feed themselves, spiritually speaking. Maybe I am wrong in that assessment. I truly hope that I am. The only way I've seen followers of Christ learn to feed themselves is for another follower to model it for them over and over and over. Thats what was done for me and what I've spent the last 20 years trying to do for other believers.
Comment by Michael Mack on November 26, 2010 at 9:59pm
A big AMEN, Beth! We certainly can't force people to grow up, but we can expect it in our classes, groups, and churches, and we should model it. I wrote more in a follow-up blog called "Just Need to Be Fed? Grow Up!" here on Discipleship Network. If you like, you can also read my other blogs about this on my Small Group Leadership Blog. Thanks for your comment.

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