One of the main responsibilities of the shepherds of a local church is to feed the flock. What does this involve?
1. A biblical diet, not a provision of pastoral personality – Some pulpits have degenerated into a weekly opportunity for the flock to enjoy the pastor’s eloquence or humour. He may be a godly man, an inspiring man, a kind man, or whatever, but his job is to point the flock to the Word of God, not his own brand of pious oratory.
2. A consistent diet, not a sporadic scattering of random teaching – Some churches receive an incredibly inconsistent diet – some from the same preacher who shifts and changes with the wind, others from multiple speakers who visit to preach but can never lead. It is good for a preacher to include variety and to keep learning. It is good for guest speakers to be used judiciously by a church leadership. But if the net effect of either approach is an inconsistent diet, then the flock will not be properly fed (and the flock will also not trust the church to be a safe place for bringing guests – an important side effect of inconsistency!)
3. A cumulative diet, not a hodge-podge of unordered repetition – Some churches get to digest a diet that has no cumulative structure. That is, each Sunday the pastor or varied speakers offer whatever they feel led to bring on that Sunday. Again, there is place for space in the schedule – buffer weeks to allow for teaching that was unplanned months before but is on target in the moment. However, when churches lean too much into this approach what they end up getting is not a balanced diet, but an overload of certain favourite subjects and passages. Repetition can become the name of the game.
4. A healthy diet, not a toxic overload of fast food entertainment – Listeners love to have itching ears scratched with entertainment, experience and surface level applicational teaching. The shepherds of a church need to recognize that the sheep may not know what is best for their diet. Too much sugar will poison a person, and too little healthy teaching will do profound damage to a church.
5. A Christ-focused diet, not a pseudo-Christian selection of self-help nibbles – Building on the previous point, people love to nibble on self-help top-tips wrapped in Bible stories and garnished with proof texts. However, if the preacher is pointing listeners to themselves, to their efforts, to their application, to their discipline, then that preacher is not primarily pointing people to Christ. The preaching may feel very churchy, but is it actually Christian?
Feeding the flock is an important responsibility. Let’s look at our own preaching, as well as the preaching plan for our churches. Let’s prayerfully consider whether we are offering health to our listeners. Like a good parent you won’t be able to serve up a feast at every meal, but you will look to offer health at every opportunity.