What "I'm Not Being Fed" Really Means (Part 1)
You're convinced that your sermons provide a nourishing spiritual meal. How could anyone claim otherwise?

This article comes from our friends at PreachingToday.com. Check out more on PT blog.

I have a confession to make. I am fed up with hearing people say, "I'm not being fed." While I do not hear it often, the comment surfaces just enough about my preaching and the preaching of others to make me want to scream. Once my emotions settle down, though, I try to discern what people are really saying. In my experience, the complaint "I'm not being fed" is usually a code phrase for some other frustration that lurks below the surface.

This realization hit me a few years ago after observing a strange turn of events. First, a young couple left the church I served for another because (drumroll here) they were "not being fed." I puzzled over this because I felt like I was in a season where my preaching really was connecting Scripture well to the lives of our people. I went through a checklist of possible problems. Had I lost my passion? No. Was I short-changing my sermon preparation? No. Had I slipped into merely talking to people about the Bible rather than talking to people about themselves from the Bible? No. Was I neglecting to preach the gospel? No. Still, this young couple—whom I'll refer to as Brett and Danielle—claimed they were not being fed, and they got involved in a nearby church plant.

A year went by, and I accepted the call to a church in another region of the United States. Then, shortly after my move, I started getting emails from Brett and Danielle. Danielle, a diligent Bible student and a Bible study leader, emailed me with perceptive questions about a Bible passage she was studying. At the end of one of her emails she wrote: "We sure miss your preaching and teaching!" Huh? I thought they were not being fed.

Not long after that, Brett emailed me and said: "We hear that you're going to preach at Hope Church [in a neighboring city] when you're back here in the area for vacation. We're coming that Sunday because we want to listen to you preach. You don't know how much we miss the way that you taught us the Word."

What? I wanted to hit reply and say: "But haven't you forgotten? I'm the guy who didn't feed you!"

So what was up with this change of heart? As I reflected on the situation, I realized that the statement "I'm not being fed" was really a cover for another issue. To make a long story short, Brett and Danielle had been pulled into a small but influential group in our church that questioned the effectiveness of our church's leadership. In retrospect, some of the criticism was fair, and some of it was unfounded. I recalled how the ringleader of this group told me that I was not providing the leadership that our church needed at the time. He, too, used the statement "My family and I are not being fed." I began to see that my preaching was not the real issue.

April 26, 2010

Displaying 1–10 of 24 comments

Start Cleaning

November 25, 2011  10:52pm

Well I for one have a different interpretation and I certainly can't beg to differ upon reading your post. 4. "I do not like your style." This particular part has the deadly sin PRIDE written all over itself and sad to say that it's indeed prevalent in our society. What's saddening though is that even when several people extend to help, they are ignored.

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May 17, 2010  8:48am

What "I'm not being fed" really means to me is that I've been a born-again Christian for over 40 years and I'm tired of hearing one or two verses at the beginning of a sermon followed by funny stories and a weak application to some aspect of modern-day life. You pastors out there who don't know the Word yourself, and are scared to death to preach the hard parts that you do know, ought to be ashamed. You will stand before God and give an account of your unfaithfulness in leading the sheep. When half the congregation knows the Bible better than you do, you need to either 'put-up' or 'shut-up'. I think what bothers me most is when a convicting passage of scripture is read followed by exegesis on the one verse that is about love, all the while ignoring surrounding verses that deal with sin and rebellion. The number of pastors out there who love God more than the approval of their congregations is woefully small. If pastors were willing to preach what the whole Bible says, there would be very few mega-churches. Here is a passage that some of you pastors might want to chew on for next week's sermon: Mat 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Mat 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Mat 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Mat 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Mat 7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Mat 7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Mat 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Mat 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

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Rob Dunbar

May 06, 2010  9:18pm

Well...part of a shepherd's job IS to feed sheep (as in, "He leads me in green pastures"), so let's disperse with the "it's not my job" thing. And thank you, Steve, for pointing out that there are both legitimate and illegitimate uses of "I'm not being fed." I've given good sermons and bad, and heard both kinds as well. Some hit me harder than I liked; some missed the point. When I preach, I don't mind making folks uncomfortable; but I do mind missing the point they longed to hear.

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Tim Sokell

May 01, 2010  5:55pm

When they want to leave, the reason is rarely the reason.

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April 30, 2010  9:17am

I have hated that stupid cliche' since I was exposed to it during in college campus ministry over 20 years ago. Most of the time, it is a passive-aggressive way for someone to excuse themselves from the church/para-church ministry without trying to work out the issue or trust God to open their own hearts. A legitimate reason for complaint/concern is articulable and specific, while "I'm not being fed" is some vague, pseudo-spiritual lament that seeks to elevate the utterer ("I'm so mature/intelligent/spiritual that I need more than everyone else") and/or denigrate the pastor/church/ministry ("He/they/it just aren't capable of reaching me"). At some point, it's just best to let some sheep graze in other fields. After all, we are all God's sheep and all the pastures are His. Retention of members should not be the goal or measure of a successful ministry. Pastors, be encouraged that God's word does not return void, it achieves His purpose. You just might not see it yet.

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April 28, 2010  2:01pm

The pastor blames the congregation and the congregation blames the pastor. How convenient for everyone !!

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Rob Haskell

April 28, 2010  8:03am

WEBMASTER: FYI - I travel a lot and I note that when commenting from outside the US CAPTCHA tends to fail. Recently from Guatemala and El Salvador. Then when I get home it works fine.

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Rob Haskell

April 28, 2010  8:01am

Let's not forget that the reasons people use to evaluate the role of the pastor also fall under the purview of his teaching: What is the church? Why do we do what we do? What is good preaching? Often pastors don't talk about the rationale for what they do (maybe bc it is not clear?). Perhaps people with a negative assessment of their church haven't been sufficiently educated in the nature of the church.

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April 27, 2010  7:47pm

I was fed well at a church where the pastor preached the word both in season and out, and I always felt like he was speaking to me only. I felt the need to repent, the need to get involved, and the need for Jesus! If one out a hundred says they are not being fed, maybe there isn't a real issue. If the congregation is shrinking faster than the overall population of the area it is located in, and many are saying that, it may not hurt to do a root cause analysis. When the pastor shifts the blame on the congregation, it could be a problem in some cases. After a formal analysis determines the flock is not being fed, the pastor may need to go visit churches that are in revival, or maybe go on a mission trip and try to re-kindle the fire of the Holy Spirit. It isn't the end, but may be just burn out or another reason the pastor has become less effective in preaching. All studies I have seen support the leader as the one responsible for failure. Sometimes the leader is not the pastor, which may be another problem to analyze.

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Chip Anderson

April 27, 2010  6:32pm

At some point people need to own their own growth and development. They need to stop looking for other people to feed them and learn to feed themselves.

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