Feeding a baby or toddler can be a challenge. They still need to be fed much of the time but their self-will is in full bloom.
They can close their mouth and refuse to eat and they're often distracted by more interesting things. Most young toddlers want to feed themselves even though they haven't developed the dexterity to do it well.
It can be a challenging and messy process and it's only the beginning. Children are often finicky and picky eaters and hormonally challenged teens have odd eating habits.
Pastors and leaders also face challenges in feeding their flock, which can also get messy at times.
I shared about leading with a shepherd’s love in a previous post—the love we see in Jesus—our Good Shepherd.
This week we'll look at the second of the three words related to what I call grassroots leadership—love, feed, and lead. Again, we'll look at this word as an acrostic—F-E-E-D.
Keeping God's people well-fed
Just opening up the Bible and letting-it-rip (preach) isn't going to keep the people of God well-fed. There's more to it than that.
It's not just about preparation and presentation although they're important. Certain priorities need to impact our preparation for any ministry with God's Word and however we present it.
Let's look at four important priorities needed to keep God's people—His sheep, or anyone we lead or disciple—well-fed.
"F" stands for focus
What's the number one priority? Focus. Our focus always needs to be on Jesus in whatever ministry we do, and whatever capacity we lead (as a believer).
How do we do this?
First, each leader needs to be focused on Jesus not the people we lead nor on any ministry task. He is our Good Shepherd and we are His under-shepherds.
All ministry, even teaching in whatever form, is relational. It always needs to be connected to our relationship with Jesus.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14 NIV)
Our ministry and leadership also need to point to Jesus, in all we do. We are to follow His example, so others will follow our example of following Him.
Our ministry and leadership need to point to Jesus in all we do
"E" speaks of the need to examine God's Word
If we want to feed people with the truth, we need to understand it. We need to examine it well before we teach, preach, or share it in some other way.
We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is. Would you be surprised if I told you it's Jesus? It is!
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)
Many different methods are used for studying the Scriptures. I've used the inductive study process for more than forty years. It is a simple, systematic, and self-contained approach to Bible study, which is why it works well in any place in the world, within any culture or language.
Whatever method you use, be diligent in it. Keep examining the Scriptures so that your understanding moves from your mind to your heart. Then it will flow out of you in a natural way in whatever setting or circumstance you share the truth.
We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is—it's Jesus!
"E" also speaks of the need to explain well
Thankfully, I learned early in my call to the ministry the value of teaching the truth in a simple way. My general premise is this—if a child can understand and grasp what is taught, then it will be understandable for anyone.
This is an oversimplification but it's essentially true. If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone.
How can people feed on the truth of God if they don't understand it? This is obvious, but I find many preachers, teachers, bloggers, and others who don't make things simple for the average person.
Here are two simple ways to make God's Word hear-able and easy to grasp.
First, use stories and parables but learn to tell them rather than just read them.
The second way to make things simple works with stories—put the truth in your own words (IYOW). Telling stories and parables IYOW helps people connect well with the truth.
Sound heretical? Not hardly. Remember, the original version of the Bible was oral not written. The process of putting things IYOW requires processing the truth. It takes some practice but it's very doable and makes the truth more understandable.
If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone
"D" is for disciple
The Lord Jesus said we are to "make disciples... teaching them...." (Matt 28:19, 20). This was not a suggestion but a command. It's called the Great Commission.
Discipleship has become more popular over the past several years. Of course, as with other things, several approaches and methods are used but discipleship isn't just teaching and training.
Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational—a pouring into the lives of others what God has poured into you. Discipleship is a way of life and ought to be embedded in how we feed the Lord’s people.
Feeding God's people needs to go further than dispensing biblical knowledge. Lecture style teaching may be the most common form of Bible teaching but it's the least effective. It's unidirectional and can be dull and difficult to understand for many people.
Like feeding a toddler, you can try pushing the food into their mouth but they can close their mouth or spit it out. There's a big difference between feeding people and equipping them to feed themselves.
Feeding God's people needs to go further than dispensing biblical knowledge
Jesus—as always—is our example.
His primary method for establishing the church was to disciple twelve men. This included teaching, but much, much more. Eleven of those twelve, and thousands who followed them, were well-fed.
They continued in what Jesus began with them.
Here are some related posts you might find helpful—
I developed a simple guide for Inductive Bible Study along with a companion study journal set up for studying inductively and for tracking prayer requests and answers or personal journaling.