Preparation: It Is For The Kitchen. It Is Not The Dinner
John Ortberg reports what is the number one complaint of church members.
Let’s begin with the transcript and audio clip . . . .
(Audio clip — A message titled, “Next Steps: The Gap,” by John Ortberg)
As some of you know, I grew up in a Baptist church. And in a Baptist church, there was always a number one complaint – whichever one I was involved in.
The number one complaint from folk who would attend a Baptist church — would be to say . . . . “You know, we’re just not being fed.” — was the complaint — “just not being fed.”
And what was striking is sometimes people would say this – who had been around the church for 10, or 15, or 20, or 30 years.
“I’m just not being fed.”
Now, when you don’t anything about the Bible
Early on in your spiritual life
Absolutely, you need to be fed by someone else — there needs to be somebody who understands something about the Bible to come and help you – to be able to understand it.
But at a certain point in spiritual life
— it’s time to take off the bib
— get out of the high chair
— pick up a fork –
— and feed yourself ——- at a certain point
You may read and/or hear this clip and respond on several different levels . . . .
- “I have heard that complaint as well! It is one of the most common ones in church life.”
- “This complaint usually precedes a person or family moving to a different church.”
- “I agree with John Ortberg (and the people who applauded)! It is an unfair criticism, and people need to feel responsible for their own spiritual growth — at a point in time.”
- “As a layman, and not a pastor, I think the criticism is fair! I have felt that way a number of times over the years.”
- “While it sounds good, but I’m not sure I agree!”
- “Pastors might agree, but I’m not clapping!”
If you are in level 4, 5, or 6 — I am there along with you.
More accurately, I am in level 6!
Let me initially frame my thinking with different statements, which singularly, no less collectively, explain where I am in my response . . . .
What do you think you are there for as a pastor?
Why do you think I attend a local church?
I don’t “visit” restaurants, no less “visit” for an hour or two!
I do not go to a restaurant so I can walk in and walk out, and not get a meal!
What does a pastor believe he has been called to?
One of the qualifications of a pastor is “apt to teach.”
One of the reasons I financially support a local church and its pastors is because I believe that they have the God-given calling and ability to feed and challenge God’s people.
Is the Bible teacher or preacher more adept and qualified at understanding, preparing, and presenting biblical truth than laymen-women?
While laymen-women should, can, do “feed” themselves, does that mean at a point in time, they no longer need a “fairly consistent good meal” on a regular basis?
With that kind of thinking says, “at a certain point in time . . . feed yourself.” I might as well check out of preaching and teaching services in the local church since I can feed myself.
Not even the world has this attitude towards growth and development. No matter what field one is in, there are those who can help and strengthen people in the field they are in! They understand that learning is life-long and requires professionals.
And lastly . . . .
As a layman, I am immersed in the world around me — day after day — and when I come to church, I need the best meal on the menu. In fact, can I get a couple great meals during the week to help and strengthen me?
While I can “understand” what is being said by Ortberg, I candidly believe his words are excusatory, defensive, and unhelpful to pastors and teachers.
While it is biblically accurate that men and women have a responsibility to expose themselves daily to the Word — to read it, meditate on it, memorize it, implement it, let it work on them through their day, etc., it does not negate the absolute truth that . . . .
“Pastor-teacher” is a local church office for a reason.
“Apt to teach” is a pastoral qualification for a reason.
“Feed my sheep” is communicated to Peter, by Jesus, for a reason.
“Feed the flock of God” is repeated by Peter for a reason.
“Feed the church of God” is stated by Paul for a reason.
“I have not shunned to declare to you all the counsel of God” is what gives lay people the balance needed in their lives, and is one of the responsibilities of and reasons for a pastor-teacher.
God’s people, no matter how consistent in personal Bible study, need a regular and consistent local church experience which feeds them a good-to-great meal!
Let me close with an analogy which accurately reflects the responsibility of a pastor-preacher-teacher.
While the average person has some knowledge of cooking and/or baking, that knowledge is on a different level than the professionals.
As a child grows up, he or she learns a lot from mom and dad about the elements of cooking — planning, food preparation, cooking, safety, dietary considerations, plating, and serving. Over a period of years, he or she will “graduate” to operating his-her’s own kitchen, for his-her’s family.
Some of our children will become really adept at the various elements of cooking. Some will develop great skills in preparation, but not in serving, or in safety but not in planning (No one has ever gotten sick!), or in cooking but not in baking, or in baking, but not in safety (Some people have become a little wary.), etc.
However, there are times when the best of home cooks still want to experience a meal prepared by a professional! Perhaps because of that professional’s . . . .
ability to blend spices
use of spices previous unknown or untasted
knowledge in selecting a cut of meat
skill in trimming and preparing that cut of meat
ability to select “sides” which go so well with this-or-that selected main dish
unique and singular expertness to make a dish like no one else
proficiency in a particular genre of food
gift of presentation — It is always so appetizing!
aptitude to provide such a balanced meal
understanding of all the elements — planning, foods, safety, preparation, presentation
or even because . . . .
it is so nice to have someone else prepare a meal which can be enjoyed and not “slaved over” — It doesn’t require our time, preparation, or “fork.”
The role of a “professional chef” is not just knowledge — the nature of the various spices, how to butcher, the cuts of meat, the variety of vegetables available, the effects of doing this-or-that, the proper measurements, etc.
Rather, it is to serve a great meal to those who have chosen to come and spend an hour or more, with others, over a meal that they could probably get no where else or better.
God’s people need a “professional”!
Let’s not unconsciously or unwittingly “applaud away” the . . . .
- properly expected
- and necessary place
. . . . of a preacher-teacher.
No, I’m not clapping when I hear . . . .
“At a certain point in spiritual life, it’s time to take off the bib. Get out of the high chair. Pick up a fork and feed yourself.”
It may sound good, but God’s people have a right to expect a good-to-great meal when they go to church.
It may sound good, but it is a fair criticism to say — “We are not being fed!”
It may sound good, but I am not there to hear about what the “professional chef” knows when it comes to food, safety, preparation, selection, etc. I am glad he has all that knowledge, but much of that is for the “kitchen,” not for the dinner being provided. I need a good-to-great dinner for my spirit and soul!
It may sound good, but God’s people still need a local church and a pastor-teacher which provide a good meal!
Keep working in the “kitchen.”
Separate the “kitchen” from the “dining room.”
Let’s make the meal a “great” meal!