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preaching article Milk, Meat and the Malnourished Church

Milk, Meat and the Malnourished Church

based on 12 ratings
Sep 1, 2011

One of the greatest critiques of the American Church today is that it’s malnourished. Some would even say it’s our most pressing problem.

When most people voice this complaint, the focus is on the worship experience. From people who leave these churches, you hear, “I wasn’t getting fed.” Or, “I just want some deeper teaching.” From people outside these churches, you hear, “Too much milk, not enough meat.”

In some cases, I’m sure this is true. But I really don’t think that’s the real problem. Yes, American Christians are malnourished. But I don’t believe it has anything to do with milk or meat.

Most American Christians aren’t malnourished because of what they’re getting fed on Sunday. They’re malnourished because they don’t feed themselves Monday through Saturday.

So you had filet mignon on Sunday and learned about the mystical union of Christ and the church as it relates to the rapture and the design of the tabernacle in relation to Levitical dietary laws as understood by the Council of Trent. Good for you. Have fun starving yourself the rest of the week and letting your pastor read the Bible so you don’t have to.

So you had some milk on Sunday and learned 37 ways to ________. Have fun having 37 new ways to not obey God during the coming week.

The crisis facing the church today isn’t what people are getting fed on Sundays. It’s what they’re not feeding themselves the rest of the days. Who really cares whether you consume meat or milk on Sunday if it’s the only meal you have all week?

I’m not saying this to get pastors and churches off the hook. It is the shepherd’s job to feed the sheep (John 21). And feed them well based on their needs and faith development. But it’s also the sheep’s job to eat:

13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:13-14

Here’s the point. Churches: we have a responsibility. We should serve up the Word, hot and fresh, every single Sunday. As church leaders, it is our job to create and sustain processes and systems that responsibly enable people to grow in their faith after receiving Christ. 

People in our churches: you also have a responsibility. If you refuse to study the Word, apply it, pray some during the week, join a small group and dig deeper with others, there’s not much we can do to help you. Your malnourishment won’t be cured by anything we give you on Sunday.

So are you an infant and need milk? Drink it for now, but the only way you will mature and be ready for meat is by training yourself. Constantly. Do you want meat? From these verses, it seems like meat is doing the milk. On your own. Constantly.

Not getting it served to you once a week.

Pastor Steven Furtick is the lead pastor of Elevation Church. He and his wife, Holly, founded Elevation in 2006 with seven other families. The church has been listed by Outreach Magazine as one of the fastest growing and largest churches in America. 

Pastor Steven holds a Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the New York Times Best Selling author of Crash the ChatterboxGreater, and Sun Stand Still.

Pastor Steven and Holly live in the Charlotte area with their two sons, Elijah and Graham, and daughter, Abbey.

Talk about it...

Jeff Van Ryswyk avatar
Jeff Van Ryswyk
0 days ago
Amen. It doesn't let pastors off the hook but should encourage them to be even more intentional about creation of small groups in appropriate settings.
Keith  B avatar
Keith B
0 days ago
Furtick has publicly stated that Sunday mornings in his church are for the unbelievers, not the believers. As a result, the sheep are starving while the goats are loving it. He needs to worry about feeding the sheep first. Yes, that includes small groups...but we need to make sure they're fed enough to get to the point where they're ready to go to a small group.
Fernando Villegas avatar
Fernando Villegas
0 days ago
This article hit the nail on the head. The question over whether worship services should be directed for believers or unbelievers is one that has been debated, and will continue to be debated. But the reality is that in every worship service, there will be (or there should be!) unbelievers present. While I tend to fall on the side that worship services are for believers, we can't go to the extreme of dismissing the unbelievers present as completely irrelevant to anything that is going to happen, including the preaching. And even within the believers, there are going to be many different levels of spiritual maturity. There will always be some in the congregation who think the message is too deep, as well as others in the same congregation listening to same sermon who think it is too shallow. The truth is that if the sheep are starving, it's not because Mr. Furtick orients Sunday mornings for unbelievers. That the debate is important, but not for this topic. The reason sheep are starving is because we as pastors have neglected our primary responsibility of equipping the saints. We haven't taught them how to read, study and interpret the Bible for themselves; and we haven't provided them with an environment, such as in small groups, where they can discuss with each other and teach each other what God has been teaching them. If we as pastors implement these two basic practices, our sheep will not starve, regardless of the level of depth in our preaching. Like others have stated, this does not let preachers off the hook (and I say "preachers" intentionally, because there is nothing in the Bible that says only pastors can preach!). On the contrary, it puts us pastors back ON the hook for doing our primary responsibility, which is NOT preaching, but teaching and equipping.
B Oliver avatar
B Oliver
0 days ago
I totally agree, I think this is something that a lot of Shephards and sheep should read. Although the shephard is feeding the flock it is still the sheep responsibility to eat. It made me look closer at myself and my eating habits. Praise God!!! I know that word was for me and I will share the message thank you Mr Furtick. I having been spiritually starving myself to death and didn't even realize it. May God continue to bless you.
Keith  B avatar
Keith B
0 days ago
Little Stevie needs to grow up and start being a responsible adult instead of trying to be a rock star. Listen to a few of his sermons. All he talks about is himself. Start feeding the sheep, Steven.
Fernando Villegas avatar
Fernando Villegas
0 days ago
k b, do you remember the text in John where Jesus tells Peter, "Feed my sheep," and then goes on to tell him that eventually he would die as a martyr? Peter tries to deflect the issue by asking about John: "What about him, Lord?" Jesus' answer, in essence, is, "Don't worry about him. You follow me!" I think this is wise counsel. You seem to have a problem with Mr. Furtick, for whatever reason. Of course, you're free to disagree with him, either with regard to the content of this article in particular or the overall context of his ministry. But if you do so, I would suggest that it would be more constructive to do so by means of substantive arguments rather than petty, juvenile putdowns. Don't worry about Mr. Furtick. You can't do anything about him. Let God deal with him. Instead, focus on yourself and on following your own advise: You start growing up and being a responsible adult. If you are a pastor, you start teaching your congregation how to study the Bible for themselves so that they don't depend on a sermon once a week to be fed. The fact is that, whether you agree with Mr. Furtick's overall ministry or not, the message of the article is correct. It doesn't matter how deep your sermon may be, if that's ALL the feeding that your sheep are doing, if they are not studying the Bible for themselves during the week, they will be malnourished. So, focus more on the ministry that God has given you and less on who talks about themselves and who's trying to be a rock star.
Steven Farless avatar
Steven Farless
0 days ago
i have learned that those who are not getting fed are those who are not living out what they have already learned; they want to learn 'some new thing', but never do any simple 'old things.' in contrast, even the most simple and repetitive truths of scripture are a delight to those who are living out what they are learning. for some reason, those who actually put the word into practice seem to experience fresh revelation at the same time; I wonder why:-0
Steven Farless avatar
Steven Farless
0 days ago
i have learned that those who are not getting fed are those who are not living out what they have already learned; they want to learn 'some new thing', but never do any simple 'old things.' in contrast, even the most simple and repetitive truths of scripture are a delight to those who are living out what they are learning. for some reason, those who actually put the word into practice seem to experience fresh revelation at the same time; I wonder why:-0
Keith  B avatar
Keith B
0 days ago
So, Fernando, I shouldn't judge him and should instead worry about myself? Are you judging me? Look....Furtick has said that if you don't like rock music in church you're stupid. I know because I heard him say it in a sermon. This guy just has no business being a pastor.
Fernando Villegas avatar
Fernando Villegas
0 days ago
j b, I don't know Mr. Furtick, and I have no contact with him. But I do have contact here with you. We're in a conversation together. It's not my intention to judge you, but none of your posts so far have either engaged with the topic of the post or contributed anything substantive to the conversation. Calling him "Little Stevie" and saying he has to grow up and be responsible and stop acting like a rock star--all of this actually just makes you look like the immature one. You can keep behaving this way if you want, but you need to know that it's going to be hard for some of us to take you seriously if all you offer is childish taunting. As for your assertion that he has no business being a pastor: fine. So what? Can you do anything about it? No. Is he your pastor? No. Is your complaining going to do anybody any good? No. So get over it. Focus on the things you CAN do something about. Mr. Furtick will be held accountable to God, not you or me. I hear a lot of complaining these days about our culture of celebrity pastors. But we're the ones to blame for that culture. They are celebrities because we pay more attention to them than they deserve, whether it is because we support them or we oppose them. Sure, it can be helpful to read some of their materials or listen to their sermons, just to get a different perpective on things. But when we start obsessing on things like if they're rock stars, or whatever, we're actually contributing to the culture of celebrity pastors. That's why I say, hear them out, decide if there's anything useful for you, and then get back to worrying about your own flock.
Keith  B avatar
Keith B
0 days ago
I call him "little Stevie" because he honestly looks like a little boy playing pastor. I'd like to see him act like a grown-up. Have you listened to him preach? I have. He talks more about himself than Jesus, and insults those that don't believe the same as him. He has publicly said that he is more about increasing numbers than discipleship. Say what you want about me, but I find him incredibly lacking as a pastor and I have no idea why people are going so nuts over him. I find it sad that sermoncentral prints his articles, and that people give him love as if he's some great theological mind.
Fernando Villegas avatar
Fernando Villegas
0 days ago
k b (I just noticed I addressed you as "j b" in my previous post, for which I apologize--honest typo!), I, too, have no idea why YOU'RE going nuts over him. You mentioned in an earlier post that he has no business being a pastor. Well, that very well may be. But guess what? I would imagine there are MANY pastors in this country who have no business being pastors. Why aren't you complaining about all of them? Why don't you tell them to grow up? Why are you singling out Mr. Furtick? Simple--the vast majority of them aren't celebrities. You and I have never heard of them. They don't write articles on SermonCentral.com. Their sermons aren't available to be downloaded on the internet. So, you single out Mr. Furtick, and maybe others you disagree with, BECAUSE he's a celebrity. You listen to him preach, even though apparently you don't like him, BECAUSE he's a celebrity. You call him nicknames as if you were in junior high BECAUSE he's a celebrity. In short, you're paying much more attention to him than he's worth, BECAUSE he's a celebrity. I mean, listen to yourself. Really, honestly listen to yourself!! You wrote the following: "I find it sad that sermoncentral prints his articles..." Really? That makes you sad? I visited a church member earlier today who had to go to the emergency room because she had some heart problems. THAT made me sad. I buried an 18-year old only child who died in a car accident several years ago. This kid was so loved and respected in his church and community that at his funeral, it took over three hours for everyone to pass by the casket. We had to conduct the funeral while people were still passing by the casket. It was the hardest funeral I've ever had to do. THAT made me sad. But the fact that a website which I have nothing to do with published an article by a pastor I've never met and probably will never meet or have any influence over him--quite frankly, that doesn't really have any effect on me emotionally at all. Looking at this from another angle, though, would you be happy if SermonCentral.com only publised articles YOU agree with, written by pastors that YOU approve of? Well, if that's what it's going to take to make you happy, then I would suggest that you try to get on their editorial board, because THEN you'd be able to do something about this other than just complain. Otherwise, my point is simple: if you don't like the guy, fine. You've said your piece. Now quit treating him like a celebrity and put that engery back into caring for the people that God has placed in your care!
Fernando Villegas avatar
Fernando Villegas
0 days ago
k b, on a related note: I'm well aware of your opinion concerning Mr. Furtick's overall ministry. But I'm curious, since you haven't really addressed this, as to exactly what it is in this specific article that you disagree with? I would really like to hear you respond, as I'm sure it would move the conversation in a much more productive direction.
Misaele Temo Fokilau avatar
Misaele Temo Fokilau
0 days ago
This is very true even to our churches here in Fiji. I pray that the Lord will help our churches.
Misaele Temo Fokilau avatar
Misaele Temo Fokilau
0 days ago
This is very true even to our churches here in Fiji. I pray that the Lord will help our churches.
Prescott Jay Erwin avatar
Prescott Jay Erwin
0 days ago
Well, you knnow I can't stay out of a good discussion. It's a good article and, speaking from experience -- on both sides -- painfully true. As a person in the pew, I often starved myself during the week, binged on Sunday, and paid the price for it, so I can sympathize with members of my flock. But I did learn from that experience and try to be transparent about it with my folks without letting them off the hook. But here's a question brothers. kb says that Steve's Sunday morning worship services are for non-believers, when they really should be for feeding the sheep. I wonder, aren't WORSHIP services for God? Wouldn't that focus resolve most of these kinds of issues? Creeping pragmatism has led us to exchange worship of God for feeding the flock because, "If we don't feed them on Sunday mornings, when will they get fed?" What we're practicing is spiritual codependency, enabling members of our flock in their spiritual anorexia/bulemia, and starving God in the process -- which ultimately means we're starving ourselves, too. I'm convicted...

So, what did you think?


Thank you.