In all of the most important ways, the calling of the church today is unchanged from her calling over the centuries. Peter was given a concise summary of that calling by Jesus when He said “…feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Of course, the Bible unpacks that calling much further as it talks about the work of the church. A more detailed description of that calling includes the call to provide strength, inspiration, and equipping to accomplish the great commission, to do works of service, and grow in Christlikeness (see Eph 4). Of course, “feeding his sheep” is only one metaphor of the work of the church, but it is an important one – rich in lessons. I had cause to think about this recently after I heard a friend speak into this issue, leading to a few considerations I want to share with you. So, in the form of questions, here goes:
- Is the church today feeding the sheep appropriately? This question has several implications:
- Are we feeding the people of the church the right stuff? By this I mean are we feeding “real food” or “junk food?” Too many churches offer light, fluffy, sweet diet, or overly processed, pressed down, and refined offerings. Are we offering what is tasty, or what is nourishing?
- Secondly, are we offering a well-rounded diet, or just too much of “one selection”? My wife makes sure that I get fibre, carbs, proteins, greens, and more, in my diet – all hopefully in appropriate amounts of each. Are our churches feeding people appropriate amounts of encouragement, hope, peace, challenge, exhortation, calls to purity, righteousness, conviction, etc.?
- Additionally, I wonder if we are underfeeding, or overfeeding, the people of our churches? And connected to that, are we challenging our people to “get out and move.” Physically, we need to eat the right amount and exercise too! I have seen too many Christians whose faith and spirituality looks more overweight, lazy, complacent, and inactive than active and involved. One of my doctors told me that sugar is a fuel, and our bodies can only do two things with it – burn it or store it. And while we need to store a little, the majority of our “fuel” should be burned. Are we helping our churches burn (use) what we are feeding them?
- Who chooses what we feed our churches? Are we offering what is most appealing to people, or what they need? True shepherds feed sheep what they need, not just what they want.
- Are we creating environments of hunger for good spiritual nourishment? Or, more accurately, what are we doing to create just such environments? Are we nurturing hunger for good spiritual nourishment.
- Finally, I ask, are we teaching people to nourish and feed themselves as well? Are we equipping them to properly handle the Word of God to provide healthy spiritual growth, challenge, and encouragement? A measure of healthy independence is important in feeding our flock.
This biblical calling for the church to feed HIS sheep is as important today as ever.
In fact, our challenge in doing so may be greater than ever because there are many pedlars out there offering people diets that replace the healthy diet the church has been entrusted with. And, unfortunately, there are too many churches who compromise their own spiritual kitchens and do not spend the time or effort (or courage) to provide the healthy robust diet of God’s Word and its call on our lives, but rather opt for some fast food equivalent.
“Feed my sheep.” What will our great Shepherd say about the job we are doing as churches in feeding His sheep? We are accountable to him for doing that well. And today, more than ever, we need to caste a vision that creates a hunger in people for that robust diet, even as we provide them with as much of it as we can.
EFCC Leadership Catalyst