I just need to be fed.

I love hearing people say this when they are very young followers of Christ. Babies need someone to feed them. My role and responsibility as a mature follower of Christ in the church (and by that, I mean the body of Christ, not an institution) is to help feed those babes in Christ.

I despise hearing people say this when they are mature followers of Christ. And yet I hear it often from many of them.

The New Testament is so clear on this. Infants need to be fed (1 Cor. 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:13). They need pure spiritual milk. But the mature need to be feeding themselves. In fact, by that time, they ought to be feeding others (Hebrews 5:12, 14; 6:1). They grow not by being fed, but by feeding themselves on the meat of God’s Word and then by becoming spiritual parents who feed others.

Something’s wrong!

But I’m not sure which it is. I see two possible conditions at play here:

The Peter Pan (or Michael Jackson) Syndrome
Do we have a bunch of mature believers who simply refuse to grow up? Perhaps they have never been taught along the way how to feed themselves–or that they’re even supposed to. Somehow they have never put childish ways behind them and became mature (1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:13). Has the church coddled church members and enabled this kind of immature attitude? These are people who have attended church services and small groups for years. They may even be in positions of leadership, but they still expect others to teach them rather than taking on the adult responsibility of teaching others.

The Adam Sandler (or Arrested Development) Syndrome
Another possibility is that some people who we assume are mature are actually still just infants who have an emotional, mental, or spiritual condition that keeps them from growing up. (Adam Sandler has played lots of these kinds of roles, like Mr. Deeds, Billy Madison, and Bobby Boucher.) They may have been baptized 20 years ago, but their spiritual development stopped 19 years ago. They actually still do need to be fed. The question here is, How can we get them unstuck so they can grow up as they should?

I remember a man who lived up the street from me when I was growing up. When I was 10, he was about 40 but still had the maturity level of a 10 year old, living with his mom and dad. As I grew up, he grew older, but not more mature.

Truthfully, I have a lot more compassion for the latter group than the former. One is simply childish while the other is childlike. And I think that there are more Peter Pan than Adam Sandler Christians in our churches.

So … what do we do about this? What do you think?

I’ll blog later on some more of my thoughts about it.

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Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded SmallGroups.com in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

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