Before I had kids, I said I would never serve my children chicken nuggets or boxed mac-n-cheese. Currently, I have both in my pantry ready to be pulled out in a moment’s notice. Very often, those two foods keep my dinning room from turning into Hell’s Kitchen.
If you’ve got kids, you’ve got food battles. They are a simple fact of parenthood, no matter how much you believed your kids would be different.
To be fair, my kids mostly eat what is served to them. The hubsters and I try to be consistent in upholding our dinner table rules for one very good reason: we want our children to be healthy eaters.
Feeding vs. Feasting?
Paul, as the mentor and apostle to numerous New Testament churches, entered into many a “food battle” with his spiritual children. His letters to the early churches are replete with hunks of doctrinal meat. He expected his readers to chew thoughtfully on God’s Words and ingest them, setting aside “milk” as they matured in Christ.
Above all, Paul desired the early church to be “healthy eaters” – individuals who made wise choices in what they consumed so they might be useful to the Lord.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 1 Cor. 3:1-3
Yet, discipleship in the early church wasn’t a perpetual feast – an exclusive event characterized by the merriment of the feaster.
Often, in the church we invite our members to a feast, encouraging them to gorge themselves on the ministries we offer. And while there is a place for this type of celebration, feasting alone should not be the pattern of our church body’s eating habits.
Here’s just a few ways I’ve seen the feasting principle played out in discipleship in the church planting context:
The Heavy Eater
In evangelicalism today, there is a great call to plunge the doctrinal depths of the Scriptures through the works of heroes of the faith.
I love this! Don’t get me wrong. I like reading the works of dead guys too, but if we only sat around stuffing ourselves on the high-caloric intake of Calvin and Luther, we’re going to get really fat.
In the spiritual realm as in the physical realm, healthy “eating” habits are tempered by exercise. If we’re emphasizing doctrine and theology (and we should be!), let’s also ensure we give our church members adequate opportunities to apply what they’re reading through active service.
Discipleship that caters to heavy eaters produces lazy servants who feast while others do the ‘heavy lifting’ of ministry.
The Picky Eater
The last few decades of women’s ministry have seen a renewed emphasis on women’s Bible studies. As you can guess, I’m a fan of this too!
Bible study MUST be the core and foundational element of any women’s ministry, but we have to serve up some variety in our choice of studies.
Newsflash: if we only offer one type of Bible study led by the same author, then we are going to produce picky spiritual eaters! If I only serve my kids chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese, then they will never learn to love other foods. Similarly, in some churches, women won’t attend a Bible study unless it’s led by a specific teacher. The result? Very often, picky eaters never learn to do the hard work of feeding themselves. They will only desire to feast on the milk that is provided to them.
While all believers start their spiritual meals on the milk of God’s Word, they must learn to cut their teeth on weightier things. They must learn to feed themselves by learning how to mine the Scriptures without sustained assistance from workbooks or video-driven Bible studies.
Discipleship that caters to picky eaters produces self-absorbed servants, who come to the table only when what is served pleases them.
Although it sounds counter-intuitive, both heavy eaters and picky eaters are guilty of the same thing. They are guilty of feasting on God’s Word, although in separate measures. One feasts on only one type of food, the other on the entire contents of the table. Ultimately, feasters are selfish in nature,enjoying the lavish merriment of the table on their own terms.
But true discipleship is about training up life-long learners who seek to find ways to live out their faith.
True discipleship is about inviting someone to the table, providing a feast, and then teaching them to feed themselves so they can prepare a meal for someone else.
In the end, we want disciples who are capable of discipling someone else. We want healthy eaters.
Is your church guilty of feeding or feasting? Ask yourself these questions:
–Do we ask new people to step in and serve?
If not, we might be guilty of feasting by making perpetual guests feel comfortable so as not to scare them off. Disciples who are never expected (or asked) to serve never will!
This is a disservice both to the church body which needs all its parts exercising its gifts, and to the feaster, who never learns to put his or faith into action.
–Do we regularly call out new leaders to teach God’s Word?
If not, we might be guilty of feasting by relying on the store bought “bread” of personality-driven Bible studies. Disciples who are never expected to reproduce themselves will only eat and never lead others to eat.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a time to feast! There is time to rest from service. There is a time to step aside and let newer believers do the heavy lifting ministry often requires. But as with any good diet, balance is the key.
I’m looking forward to that day when all our kingdom work is done, and you and I will enjoy a perpetual feast with our Lord, who made a place for us around his banquet table! (Rev. 9)
But until then, there is much to do to prepare for the party. And food battles do nothing but slow us down.
“And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.’ ” Matt. 22:1-4
What do your church body’s eating habits look like? How do you win the spiritual food battles that produce heavy or picky eaters?