When I served as a pastor – and in almost every church I served – one of the complaints I occasionally heard was that someone wasn’t being spiritually fed. Apparently, that’s not a new problem. Paul addressed the issue with the Corinthians and the writer of Hebrews addressed it as well. Apparently, those who complained felt it was my job to either bottle feed them or spoon feed them like an infant. Somehow, I never found the scriptural mandate that it was my job to “feed” them or to change their spiritual diapers either. In fact, the metaphor of a congregational shepherd suggests my responsibility for “feeding them” ends when I lead the sheep to green pastures. From there, it’s their responsibility to eat. In other words, pastor, your job is to prepare a feast and it’s the members’ job to step up to the trough and eat. So long as you’re providing relevant and valuable instruction from the Word, then you’re doing your part.
Now, to be honest, their complaint generally stemmed from feelings of frustration and disappointment with changes in the worship service or else from a lack of control they had over any number of issues in the church and/or the worship service (“Do we really have to stream worship? COVID’s Over!”). However, when someone drops this type of complaint on you, it’s almost always groundless and reflects deeper issues within the individual.
1. Worship Style
Sometimes, these folks are looking for a specific type of worship experience, one that may not align with the values and beliefs of the church they’re attending. They may be focused on the style of music, the length of the sermons, the technology involved, or the format of the service itself. But let’s be clear – worship isn’t about personal preferences but about submitting to God and coming together as a congregation to lift up His name.
It’s important to understand that your role as the pastor is to lead the congregation in worship and to bring the Word of God to the people for the sake of transforming lives. That includes helping your members become better disciples as well as inviting guests to become disciples for the first time. This kind of worship service demands making changes and taking risks – risks that may not be comfortable for everyone. The pastor is responsible for guiding the church into a deeper understanding of God’s will and purpose, and this almost always means making changes to the worship service that challenge the congregation to grow in their faith so that the church can grow.
2. Control Issues
There’s another issue why you hear this complaint – someone has a desire for control. Some want the worship service to be exactly as they envision it, with no room to update anything for the sake of communicating in a changing culture. “Why do we have to change our vocabulary? Everyone here knows what a narthex is.” This type of behavior is self-serving and it stifles the growth and development of the church. The worship service shouldn’t be about one person’s desires but about the collective body coming together to glorify God.
3. Spiritual Immaturity
But there’s a third factor that contributes to these complaint: a serious lack of spiritual growth. When someone isn’t growing in their faith, they often become disillusioned and dissatisfied with the worship service. This is a sign that they’re not participating in other ministries of the church, such as small groups, Bible studies, or serving in the community. A lack of spiritual growth and engagement within the congregation leads to feelings of boredom and disconnection.
Never forget that it’s not the pastor’s job to FEED anyone. It’s their job to provide the food. Too often lazy members will complain that they’re not being fed. Only infants need to be fed … and as I suggested earlier, they need their diapers changed too! Pastor, I suspect you provide a feast every week. If someone chooses not to eat, then it’s probably time for them to find someplace else where they can be blessed and be a blessing.
When you hear a complaint that “I’m not being spiritually fed,” an appropriate reply is, “I’m so sorry you’re not being blessed here. I know that if you’re not being blessed, then it’s impossible to be a blessing. Are you free on Tuesday afternoon to meet with me in my office? We’ll have a conversation and I’ll make some suggestions about what other churches in the area would be a better match for your gift so you can be both blessed AND a blessing.”
In other words, they need to find a church where their spiritual needs can be met and where they can contribute to the growth and development of the congregation. This means leaving their current church and finding one that aligns with their values and beliefs . (Presuming they’re not just complaining for the sake of complaining!)
Your members need to understand that the worship service isn’t just about them. It’s about coming together as a congregation to lift up the name of Jesus and to glorify God. The pastor’s role is to lead the congregation in the fulfillment of its mission and that role generally includes presiding over a meaningful worship service and sharing the Word in ways that challenge the hearers. On the other hand, the pastor’s role isn’t to satisfy the personal preferences of each individual. In fact, it’s not only not your job, it’s not even possible!
So, the next time someone complains about not being fed, then consider the source. It may well be time to have that Tuesday afternoon conversation as you call their bluff about what’s really the issue at hand.