Out of Context: Darrin Patrick
Spoon-fed versus self-fed churches.

This excerpt is taken from "Control Tweaks" in the Spring issue of Leadership. Read the entire article.

"In my research I found that churches often lean in one of two directions. Some believe that people should be "self-feeders." The church's responsibility is to create impressive worship services with practical teaching, and maybe connect members into relational groups. From there, however, the people are expected to do the rest. Their spiritual growth is in their own hands.

"On the other side are churches who are "spoon-feeders." They place a high value on biblical teaching and exposition. The sermons are deep and these churches imply that if you just come and listen, you'll grow in your faith. "Maturity migration" happens when attenders at a "self-feeder" church desire more depth and make the shift to a "spoon-feeder" congregation.

"There are problems on both extremes."

Darrin Patrick is the pastor of The Journey in St. Louis, Missouri, and vice president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. To read the rest of his interview in context, pick up the Spring 2010 issue of Leadership journal or subscribe by clicking on the cover in the left column.

June 16, 2010

Displaying 1–10 of 13 comments

Karen

June 20, 2010  1:52pm

I guess it's understandable, since this is a vehicle of expression for Protestant variations of the Faith, that the whole sacramental aspect of ministry would be omitted in this discussion of how best to "feed" the flock. To be honest, I have appreciated both types of pastoral teaching/leadership in my 4 decades journey from Methodist roots through Willow Creek style Evangelicalism, but I have found neither was anywhere near enough, and I didn't really feel the depth of Christ's (and His ministers') personal care for me (what I experience as real spiritual nurture) until I entered the Orthodox Church and experienced for myself this biblical historic expression of Christian faith via the "Mysterion," the sacramental life of the Church. Preaching and teaching in my Evangelical experience often "fed" my need for head knowledge and helped "connect" me to others in small group relationships, but to be honest they rarely if ever fed the deepest needs of my heart–my needs for unconditional love, forgiveness, true repentance, and a real sense of the nearness and true Presence of Christ. Certainly when I was Evangelical, Christ by the Holy Spirit still met me and my needs in a personal way from time to time through a word, or through a brother or sister, and I was encouraged by the way He met others in the same way, but it was like going from tiny glass to tiny glass of water in a desert wasteland never knowing when the next glass might be found. In experiencing the sacramental life of Orthodoxy, it is like being connected at last to the water Source. All this is wholly independent of the style of the preaching (though obviously not of its doctrinal and biblical soundness) or the existence of small group structures in the Church (they typically do not exist in Orthodoxy). Who'd uv thunk it?

Report Abuse

nathan

June 20, 2010  7:09am

@Sam, fair enough. I think probably some of the reaction too is that it seems like CT and the evangelical info gatekeepers keep acting like Driscoll and his network are the second coming of ministry effectiveness. maybe people just don't like idol worship. captcha: alarms leagues

Report Abuse

sam stilley

June 20, 2010  6:00am

I thought your comments were snarky and undermining of their efforts – not what you would want said about something you were passionate about. Public figures deserve public critique, but shouldn't we error on the side of gracious? Is Acts 29 (name) really more pretentious than Converge or ARC or other names for networks? Seems clever more than cute, strategic, more than pretensious. Also, it is a mistake to use Driscoll's self-promotion as equivalent to Acts 29's. All the guys I have met in A29 are not self-promoters. Those guys don't need me to defend them, but it just gets old when people say things about others on the internet that they probably wouldn't have the courage to say face to face nor the stones to handle if said about themmaybe there and everywhere. Those guys don't need me to defend them, but it just gets old when people say things about others on the internet that they probably wouldn't have the courage to say face to face nor the stones to handle if said about them

Report Abuse

nathan

June 19, 2010  2:36pm

No one is critiquing the value of church planting, Sam. People are entitled to their opinions and making value judgements. It's part of the real life of humans. Not a cause for repentance, but a necessary component of making your way in the world. Beyond that, this is part and parcel of being a public leader. I just don't get why people who support those leaders don't understand this. Finally, just because there is a perceived (fair or not) issue with the demeanor of the leadership of any organization does not mean there is a referendum going on regarding the value of the work of the organization. Which brings us back to the initial point that the church planting efforts of Acts29 are not at issue. Since you did bring it up, you should also look at the Evangelical Covenant Church and Converge Worldwide (formerly known as the BGC). They actually are the leaders in church planting, but aren't as savvy at self-promotion. Just say'n.

Report Abuse

sam stilley

June 18, 2010  8:42pm

Acts 29 is cute. Over 300 church plants in 9 years. She is very attractive. The name Acts29 is simply a reference to the ongoing mission of the book of Acts, which has 28 chapters. Linda, I am sure if you met Darrin you would repent of your judgment that you just typed for the whole world to see

Report Abuse

nathan

June 18, 2010  9:27am

@Tim: Acts 29...cute Hilarious!!! It is kinda pretentious, but given the demeanor of its leadership not surprising.

Report Abuse

Linda Stoll

June 18, 2010  8:54am

We are responsible for our own spiritual growth. Much of it happens from Monday - Saturday in the times of solitude and silence spent in the presence of our Savior. These occasions with the Lover of our souls prepare us for what we will receive - and give - on Sundays. Expecting all spiritual inspiration and growth to happen to us between Sunday mornings from 11 - noon is simply passing the buck, allowing us to simply be idle spectators instead of active participants in the building up of our faith. And puts incredibly unrealistic expectations on the one behind the pulpit.

Report Abuse

Tim Ogilvy

June 18, 2010  8:05am

Wow! Such a tidy little synopsis. The idea of discipleship, or journeying, as my more hippie friends like to call it... does tie a string between both ends of this... but in practice it seems almost impossible. I actually like the idea that no church can ever be perfect at delivering a holistic education in faith. No matter how extreme their control may be, even to the extent of cults... there are still aspects of each individual's worldview that are lelft to chance and circumstances. Extreme fundamentalists would suggest that if my view of God differs from an exact, biblical, literalist view of God, than I am an Idolater. Friends, we are all idolaters, dependant on grace and grace alone. Who amongst us can claim to have a perfect vision of God? The nice part of that revelation, is that we realise that the main thing is finding a healthy, functional biblical interpretation of who God is, and what that means for us right now. Yep, interpretation means we get bits wrong... that's what I mean about the grace thing. It's all we've got. So to me, controlling type spoonfeeders, who insist on a particular dish being spoonfed, are just plain abusive... and if the self-feeders are without love or compassion, then they are negligent of their opportunity. All the same, I believe individual responsibility comes first, and coroporate, or community responsibility comes second. The question is not, what church are you in, but how are you functioning in it? Are you growing, are you active? Are you perpetuating ignorance and control, or openness and growth? Are you afraid of differences, or enriched by them?

Report Abuse

Jesse Wisnewski

June 17, 2010  11:10pm

I see that the Scriptures strike a lovely balance between the role and responsibilities of gifted and called elders/teachers (Eph. 4.12 and Pastoral Epistles), individual responsibility, and community living. Call me crazy, but perhaps there's not a one program that fits all? I think what Steve said above is spot on. Cheers, Jesse

Report Abuse

Tim

June 17, 2010  6:32pm

Acts 29.. cute From my observation, any church with a pulpit, pews, and hired Bible talkers is a "spoon-feeding" church. It doesn't matter if they have small groups and talk them up all the time. Only a small percentage of saints (30%) will join in the small groups, and even a smaller percent of them will realize the true dynamic of mutuality for mutual feeding. Many will merely rehash what the hired guy said or fill in blanks from a study written by someone else. Very little will flow from a self + Holy Spirit + Scripture only setting, even if they have heard 1000 Bible lectures to "equip them". American saints are largely spoon-fed only pre-digested truth. They have very little confidence that God can speak to them directly from His word such that they and other believers will be built up to full maturity. When was the last time you heard an American believer talk about deep teaching or strong teaching from their home group? It's as if God's design for the Word of Christ to dwell in them richly, with all wisdom, as they teach and admonish one another, Col. 3:16) means nothing at all. God's design is not for our growth to be in our own hands or in a hired experts hands. He made us "members of one another" in a spiritual organism for mutual, two-way feeding, spurring, building, serving, example setting, etc. Teaching that is talking only is very weak teaching no matter how much ethos, pathos, and logos is put into it in one man's study. Teaching must be both word and example for it to be strong and deep. What percentage of American believers have a mutual, two-way relationship with the man they say is "their pastor-teacher"? 5%? 2%? Less than that? Systemically it is not possible to do God's plan with the pulpit + pew routine. From my research all I see is perpetual dependency. There is no graduation, no full training of students to be like their teacher (Luke 6:40), no entrusting of anything to faithful men (2Tim. 2:2) Every time a pastor leaves, another has to be hired to do what he did because no saints can do what he did. No reproduction is even intended. It's all spoon-feeding. It's easy and comfortable but very unfulfilling of God's design. It can be changed if God's people are willing.

Report Abuse