One of the mantras that I hear from time-to-time among pastors and teachers of the Bible is that we need to spoon feed our congregations because they can’t handle any of the meat of the word. I’ve always despised this attitude for several reasons. First, the one taking this position assumes that those being taught are not able to handle the truth that is presented in the text. In other words, the rich truths of the Bible are just too much for the audience to handle.
This was the attitude of those in leadership at the church in Dallas where I was an intern. What was remarkable about that is that the congregation was made up of some of the most educated entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen in the entire city. But for some reason, they were considered not intellectually capable of handling spiritual truth.
The other problem I have with that is that when it comes to spiritual truth, it’s not for pastors to determine what the congregation can handle and not handle. Paul labored to teach the full counsel of God to the Ephesians and that should be the role of the pastor and teacher in the body of Christ. It’s the Spirit’s job to convince people of the truth. It’s the pastor’s job to preach it. Therefore, as responsible pastors, we should not hold back. The Apostle Paul didn’t.
Even when Paul was rebuking the Corinthians for his need to give them milk, he gave them meat.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
Please note, Paul gets onto the Corinthians, not because of their inability to think or their lack of spiritual maturity, but because they were being carnal. Are we saying to our congregations when we give them milk that we are doing so because they are carnal? That would be the only reason to spoon feed them milk.
And yet, even when Paul rebukes the Corinthians for being carnal, he goes on with the rest of the his epistle, which can hardly be seen as milk. Every single epistle of the New Testament was written to spiritual babes. Not once are pastors told to feed them as spiritual babes. We are instructed to teach the full counsel of God’s word, that it is is all god breathed, and therefore profitable to the body of Christ.
Yet, in our day, there are too many pastors trying to hide what the Bible actually says under the arrogant assumption that our congregations cannot handle it. They have bought into the lie that we need to feed them milk. Did Christ feed the people milk? Did Paul? Did Peter? Then why do we think we know better than these men? Have we fully succumbed to the arrogance of modernity?
Did Luther hold back when he preached? What about Calvin? I’ve read many of his sermons and don’t sense any reservation in his preaching of the word. The same is true of Charles H. Spurgeon. He held nothing back. It’s amazing how so many of the great preachers held nothing back. Mediocre men seem to be the ones who hold back, who craft the sermon to be meatless. Yet, of the countless who have gone before us who did so, who de we remember? The great men of the faith were great because they didn’t hold back. They preached the full-counsel of God’s word. They fed their congregations meat. We should do the same today.
The only other reason that I think men may say this is also troublesome. Might it be that they are too lazy to do the work to give the meat of the word? I hope not.