I have a pet peeve. People who say they want their church to “feed” them. We are not baby birds, people! I hear this a lot, especially when people talk about leaving one church for another. There seems to be this idea that the singing and preaching on Sunday should be directly stimulating growth. Having worked and volunteered extensively at a small church for years, what annoys me about this is that people don’t actually take responsibility for their own growth. They expect that what they hear for 45 minutes 1 day a week, along with 30 minutes of praise music a week, will magically transform their hearts and minds into conformance with God’s heart and mind. Sorry, y’all, that ain’t gonna happen. I can serve you good food and install a state of the art gym in your house, but if you don’t take advantage of it, you will not get into shape.
The church is not the gardener of our heart. Church is fertilizer, a sprinkler system, garden stakes, deer fences. We are the gardener. We must plant the seeds we are given. We must weed our hearts and lives. We are responsible for cultivating our own spiritual garden.
Churches provide help in this process. Based on my education and observation, non liturgical churches do this by providing opportunities for fellowship and education. The sermon provides education and offers practical action steps. Sunday school or small groups/ministries provide support as people engage in those action steps. The onus is on the individual to take action.
Liturgical churches are a different matter entirely. My seminary training didn’t cover any liturgy, so I can only speak based on my observations here. But from what I have observed and read, the transformation comes in part from the sermon and ministries, but also in part from the liturgy itself. Each week, as we say words that the faithful have spoken for hundreds of years, sometimes for almost 2000 years, we shape our minds and hearts. The Holy Spirit moves within us through the words and the rituals, feeding us. The responsibility is less upon the individual and more upon God.
I’m not going to say one way is better than another. I think the multiplicity of churches and denominations is both good and bad. The good is that people can find places where they are comfortable, loved, and safe. The bad is that we fight over silly things.
What I am going to say, however, is that you must take action. Don’t even think about leaving your church because it isn’t “feeding” you unless you’ve taken advantage of all their offerings. Volunteer in a ministry. Join a Sunday school or Bible study. Donate 10% of your income. Take every single action step you hear during the weekly sermon. As a new participant in a liturgical tradition, I take time to use the daily personal liturgies available to me in the Book of Common Prayer.
Churches provide tools for cultivating our spiritual maturity, and God creates the actual growth, but we cannot be passive. We must take action.