You have probably heard it said that someone left a church because “they were not being fed.” Is this a legitimate reason to leave a church? Well, yes and no. But before I tell you why let me suggest to you the twofold purpose of the church.
The apostles go fishing
In John 21 we find several of the Apostles turning back to fishing. Fishing all night they caught nothing but in the morning a voice from the shore commanded them to cast their night on the right side of the boat. Immediately someone recognized it was the Lord.
As usual, Peter responded right away. He plunged into the water and began racing to the shore. When he arrived, and the disciples after him, they found a warm fire burning with fresh bread and cooked fish on it.
The Lord Jesus said only three words: “come and dine” (John 21:12, KJV)
Be fed and feed
It was in this context, of having dined with the Lord Jesus, that the Apostles received the divine commission to feed His sheep (John 21:16). From this story, I conclude that the purpose of going to church is twofold: to feed on Christ and to feed Christ to others.
Church in not just a place where we go to be fed; it is also a place we go to feed others. But note the order: first we are to feed on Christ and then we will be able to feed others.
Christ comes first
The order of our services in the assemblies reflects this truth. At the first meeting, during the breaking of bread, we feed on Christ. At 10:30 am, when we go to a fellowship room to have our coffee, this is when we begin to feed others.
Is there someone we can encourage during coffee time? Is there someone who can cry on our shoulder? Is there someone we can meet or connect with in a more intimate way, besides “Hi, how are you?” The purpose of church is to be fed, yes, but it is also to have an opportunity to feed others.
New believers need to be fed
So should someone leave a church where they are not being fed? Depending on the person, the answer is yes. If the person is a new believer, desperately in need of nourishing foundational food, then a person should be directed to a church that is giving it.
If a church is going through hard times, or for some reason is not providing Christ-centered Bible based teaching, then a person should be directed to a church that is, so that they can grow.
Failure to thrive is a real problem with some new believers and can hinder growth for a lifetime. Hungry for the Word and deeply affected by first impressions, the new believer needs to be incubated in an environment where they can grow, grow, grow.
So, yes, a person who is a new believer should go where they are being fed – through discipleship, preaching, fellowship or otherwise.
Mature believers need to feed
On the other hand, a person who is not a new believer, but mature in the faith, should not leave when they are not “being fed.” They should go where they can feed. Mature believers can withstand churches that are going through difficulties and that have major needs which are not being met.
A mature believer can meet those needs and heal the breaches that sins have made. Having learned how to feed himself, a mature believer does not need to go where he or she is fed. The food of Christ shall sustain him.
For him, the church is a place where he can feed and minister to others, a place where he can feed the sheep and tend His lambs (John 21:15-17).