“I get fed there” is one of the classic “Christianese” phrases that puzzle outsiders. “Are you referring to a buffet?” they might ask.
For many who use this phrase, a rough translation typically means something like: “I get my spiritual energy boost every Sunday to help get me from Monday to Saturday.”
Joining other believers each Sunday in singing, praying, and hearing teaching from God’s Word produces healthy spiritual nourishment. “As a deer pants for flowing streams,”writes the Psalmist, “so pants my soul for you, O God (Psalm 42:1).”We become spiritually parched and famished with the hardships of life in a fallen world, and the Word of God refreshes our souls.
For the most part, however, I’ve heard this phrase used in ways that are unhealthy. I’ll ask someone how church is going, and sometimes he or she will say something like: “Well I’ve been busy, but I get fed each week.” Many have used the phrase to justify church-hopping. For them, the important thing is not to commit to one church but to get themselves individually fed at any church. Others have used the phrase to excuse meager involvement at their church. As long as they recharge their battery from Sunday to Sunday, they don’t feel the need to invest their time and energy in building relationships, serving others, contributing to the church’s mission to evangelize its community, and joining hands with Christ’s people through one another’s joys and pains.
Don’t Think of the Church as a Power Bar
This mentality to treat the church like a spiritual power bar that reenergizes you is not only unbiblical but also detrimental to Christian flourishing. It promotes an individualistic and consumeristic understanding of Christianity. “How can church fulfill me?”
Of course you want a church that will benefit you as an individual. But if we make our personal fulfillment as the sole or even the ultimate purpose for attending church, we are missing the point.
The church exists for a higher purpose: to give glory to God and declare His salvation to the nations. By participating in the church’s grander mission, we find deeper and more lasting satisfaction because we rest our joy in the eternal and unchanging God rather than our fickle feelings. If you treat the church like a grocery store or a buffet—getting what you need, leaving as quickly as possible, and only returning when you need more—than you’re missing out on one of God’s greatest gifts to his people.
Instead, Think of the Church as a Body and Yourself as a Vital Member
The Apostle Paul used the image of a body to help the Corinthians understand the church rightly:
“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you. . . .’If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (1 Corinthians 12:18-27).”
When we think of the church as a body we will remember that Christ is our head, leading us in holiness and love. When we think of ourselves as members of this body, we will understand that every one of us is vital to its identity and mission. God deliberately designed the church as a body rather than a spiritual battery plug station because he wants his children to grow together in Him. He nourishes the church body as a whole, and He grows each individual member in order to serve the welfare of the rest of the body. If we fail to play our role and serve the body with the gifts that God’s given to us, the rest of the members would suffer just like a body would suffer without an eye.
Think carefully through ways that you view the church wrongly and how that damages your spiritual health. Ask others at your church about ways that you can become more involved. God has already given you skills for the purpose of serving the body. Take your scrumptious casserole to a family that just had a baby, use your plumbing skills to fix a broken sink at church, or invite a young couple over for dessert to counsel them in thinking biblically about marriage and parenting. Attend Sunday evening service, take your children with you to church clean-up day, or join a men’s or women's morning prayer group.
In these ways and more, you can shed an individualistic view of church, contribute to the welfare of the body, and advance the church’s mission to promote God’s glory.
Ryan Hoselton is married to Jaclyn and they have one daughter, Madrid. He’s pursuing doctoral studies at Universität Heidelberg, and he enjoys writing on pop culture and church history. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanhoselton