Imagine that you went to the doctor for a check up and they asked you how much you ate. They were happy with the amount of calories you were consuming each week. However, there was a problem, you were consuming them all in one go with a massive Sunday lunch. You may be getting the right amount of calories and nutrients over the week, but you still have an incredibly unhealthy diet which is likely to do long term damage to your health.
Go back to churches with a Bible teaching focus, say about 40 years ago and you might expect the following pattern.
- A Sunday morning service
- A Sunday evening service
- Bible Class/adult Sunday School
- A midweek teaching event
That’s right, their assumption was that a healthy normal Christian needed 4 contact points for meaty Bible teaching during the week. Now, I am not proposing a return to that model. I think it came with its downsides. These included the risk of slipping into an intellectual relationship with Scripture, often an over reliance on one man’s ministry and the tendency to keep the church family together by keeping them together, filling their weeks with church activities so they had little time for anything else.
However, I don’t remember us ever stopping and asking “why did they think that your average Christian needed 4 lots of teaching in a normal week?” Don’t forget that on top of that would be special ministry evenings and days, a prayer meeting and of course summer holiday camps and conventions. Furthermore Christians would be encouraged to have a daily personal devotion and to be well read.
We have reduced things down to a situation where most Christians are relying on one church service each week for their Bible teaching. Some will attend a home group and hopefully there is some useful teaching input there. However, we have significantly reduced the teaching content available to believers.
Now, are we surprised when people come to us and say “I don’t feel fed.” We are frustrated because we have worked hard at producing a solid 40 minute exposition with fascinating illustrations, interesting detail and practical application. But people are still complaining that they don’t think they are being properly fed.
It is possible that our teaching isn’t that good after all. However, it is also possible that they are experiencing something else. We are in effect putting the whole weight of expectation onto the one church service where everything is meant to happen. That’s a lot of weight on one 30 -40 minute slot. We actually have a variety of teaching needs.
- We need teaching that gets us thinking and wrestling with truth
- We need teaching that gets us on our knees and praying
- We need teaching that moves us in our hearts to tears as we consider the beauty of God’s word
- We need teaching that convicts us and brings us to repentance.
- We need teaching that gets us motivated, up and running, ready to go out with the Gospel.
That’s a wide variety of needs and maybe just maybe we might stand a fighting chance of providing for them if we provided a variety of ways for people to feed on God’s Word. This also means that if those opportunities are provided for us, we need to take them up.