It’s been a long time since I learned to feed myself solid food. I’m really glad that I’m now a self feeder. If you saw my wife and I eating dinner at a table across the room from you at a local restaurant, and my wife was cutting my food in bite-sized pieces, you might think it was a little odd for her to be doing that. Then, if you saw her begin to take my fork and place the food in my mouth, you would know that something is wrong with me. Your first thought might be – “He’s immature!”
It’s not normal or natural for someone who is no longer a baby to not be feeding themselves! Everyone knows this from the perspective of eating physical food. But what about feeding oneself spiritually?
It’s not normal or natural for a Christian who is no longer a new believer to not be feeding themselves spiritually!
Darrin Patrick writes the following in Control Tweaks, an article in Leadership Journal (June 2010):
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. We should not expect the church to do everything, but we cannot undervalue the role of the church either. Gospel preaching and Bible exposition are vital, but equipping believers to take responsibility for their own growth is also important.
How do you take responsibility for your own spiritual growth?
You have to become a self feeder. Every believer has to be able to feed themselves spiritually from the Word of God. Remaining dependent only on the pre-digested meals that are regurgitated once a week in a worship gathering will lead to immaturity and a deficiency of spiritual strength.
As a former church planter and pastor, I believe that the church must gather together weekly to worship God corporately. The preaching of God’s Word is a high priority when the church gathers! Yet listening to excellent biblical teaching once each week on Sunday will not sustain your spiritual strength.
This is a Both/And proposition – not Either/Or. Christians need to be fed excellent teaching AND they need to feed themselves spiritually!
Infantilism is a series problem:
Infantilism is…the inability of a Christian to spiritually feed oneself, resulting in an unhealthy dependence on supplemental nourishment from pre-digested food (sermons, books, study guides, etc.).
Instead of becoming Self Feeders, lots of Christians become dependent on good Bible teachers to feed them. Now when you are a spiritual infant, that’s great. But you don’t want to stay an infant. You don’t want to keep eating pre-digested meals. You don’t want to become dependent on pastors and commentaries to study the Bible for you and tell you what it means. You need to learn to feed yourself. (read more here)
What is a Self Feeder?
Jim Mackinga, one of my pastor friends in Southern California, has developed a helpful study book called The Self Feeder. It’s produced with the hope that every man woman and child will one day come to study and love God’s Word.
A “self feeder” is a person who has learned how to have a daily time with God through the Bible, the Word of God. Because of the time invested, he/she has learned to be fed and nourished by God without the help of others.
In other words, a “self feeder.”
Being a self feeder answers the age-old adage: “Give a man a fish and he has food for a day. Teach a man to fish and he has food for a lifetime.” A self feeder is not only nourished by spending time with God but, as one grows, becomes emotionally closer to God Himself.
The benefits are endless. They produce a growing sense of satisfaction and contentment in life regardless of circumstances. They bring about a deeper level of security in this life and the next.
Here are the key questions that are asked daily as you become a self feeder:
- Write out the key verse: Literally write out the verse you have chosen.
- What does it mean to me? To the best of your ability write out what the verse means to you, how it speaks into your life.
- What is the breakthrough thought? This is the big idea – the major thought.
- How can I apply it to my life? Write down how you practically put this into practice in your life!
- What do I need to tell God today? Write down what you want to pray about or thank God about.
I want to encourage you to start SOAP Journaling – or to use the questions above to feed on God’s Word every day! I guarantee it will sustain your spiritual strength!