A Theology of Meat vs Fruit

I've been wanting to write on this topic for some time... I've been studying this topic more and more... and I figured now would be as good of a time as any to start looking at this.

As church leaders and as Christians we need a good Theology of Meat vs Fruit.

Why?  Because of what the Apostle Paul wrote to church leaders in his letter to his son in the faith, Timothy:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Tim. 4:3)
Now... most of the time we attribute this verse to people outside of the church who are looking for whatever spiritual leader will tickle their fancy.  But Paul is writing this to a church leader about people in the church.  The church will be a place where people will turn away from listening to truth and will find teachers to suit their own passions.

Theology, as a simple definition, is the study of God and his interactions with humanity.  That is what Paul is addressing in this passage... how we as followers of Jesus interact with the Word of God, the nature of God, and the works of God.  So I believe it's very important to look at how we study the idea of "meat" because it has a direct impact on how we live as Christians.

At some point in your leadership of a church, if it hasn't happened already, you will come face to face with the issue of meat.  In the ten years I've been in pastoral ministry this topic comes up multiple times a year!  Every year.  No exception.  It comes through comments like:

  • That church doesn’t preach meat.
  • That preacher only preaches watered down messages.  He doesn't give meat.
  • I’m not being fed.
  • I only get milk here.
  • I need more meat.

Quite recently I had a conversation with a Christian couple who were considering attending our church…  they came to me after the service and only had one question for me about our church.  My answer would allow them to decide whether to make this their home church or not.  "Only one question?" I replied.  "Our church is pretty dynamic and there a large number of reasons as to why someone would chose Greenbelt as their church."

Only one thing mattered to them… and this was the question: “WHAT KIND OF MEAT CAN WE EXPECT TO RECEIVE FROM YOUR SERMONS IF WE ATTEND HERE?”

This is why all of us, preachers, LifeGroup leaders, Youth leaders, Kid Ministry leaders, and every day Christians, we need a good theology on MEAT vs FRUIT.  Because people are looking for teachers who will suit their own passions...

It's important to look closely at what the New Testament says about "meat" or "solid food" as some translations of the Bible puts it.

In 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 we read this:
Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people.  I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ.  I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger.  And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature.  You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other.  Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature?  Aren’t you living like people of the world?  When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?

And in Hebrews 5:11-14 (NLT) we read:
There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.  You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others.  Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.  You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.  For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.  Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
Who are these writers talking to?  Are they talking to the church leaders, and preachers, and Youth workers, and Bible study leaders?  Are the writers criticizing the church for not providing the people meat?  The answer is pretty clear!  NO!  They are talking to the congregation.

Just look at the language... you are living like people of the world; you are controlled by your sinful nature; you ought to be teaching others; you don't know how to do what is right; you are jealous; you quarrel...

Lack of solid food or meat is NOT an ACCUSATION against the LEADER… it’s a correction to the CONGREGATION for not living out their FAITH!

Now, let me say this... if a church or a preacher is not using the Bible as their authority, if they are not preaching from the Word of God, if their sermons sound like something that you could have easily read in the latest issue of Oprah Magazine then, YES, this is a big issue that needs to be addressed... and leaders should be the first to want to address it.  But not because of the "meat" passages but what we read in James 3:1:
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
If the Bible is being preached, if small groups, youth ministry, sermons and everything we do is centered on the powerful, living Word of God, then we must, with confidence as leaders, address the meat accusations of church members through what Scripture teaches us... are they living out their faith?  Why are they not growing?  Is there sin in their lives?  Are they obedient to the Word of God?  Are they living a life of faith?

It's really interesting that Jesus didn't seem all that concerned with meat.  The ministry of Jesus was to see his followers bear much FRUIT!

Look at the words of Jesus in John 15:1-8:
“… If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
In Matthew 12:33 we learn that a tree can be determined to be bad or good by evaluating the fruit.  And if the tree is producing bad fruit it will be cut down.  The texts we looked at above show us that those who should be eating meat are in fact living lives that are not bearing fruit.

Preaching and teaching the Word of God is all about bearing fruit in the lives of those who hear it.  Whether that's accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, repenting of sin in our life, growing in our love and understand of God, determining His call on our lives, loving our neighbours as ourselves, or developing our spiritual gifts for the blessing of others, we need to be focused on transformation!

Our ministries are not about simply providing INFORMATION but TRANSFORMATION!

How did I respond to the question I was asked from that couple?  This was my response.  "If you make this church your home every week I will work really hard to make sure my sermon is completely biblical and directly from the Word of God.  I will preach in such a way that you will recognize the sins in your life and give you the chance to repent of those sins.  I will challenge you with the Word of God so that you will bear much fruit in this world.  I will use the Word of God to equip you for ministry to reach lost people, to minister to hurting people, to love broken people, to be generous with your resources, and to make a impact in our city that will last for eternity!"

I never saw that couple again.

We need a good theology of meat vs fruit.  We can waste the best years of our ministry trying to cater and appease congregations who are only about their passions... and never see them bear MUCH fruit in their lives!  I believe THAT'S why James says we as teachers will be judged more strictly... did we call them to repentance of sins and build them up to become more like Jesus?

Or did we provide tons of great information and, in the end, see little transformation?

Would love your thoughts on this... I'm far from an expert... but this is where my studies bring me and why I'm more and more passionate about seeing the church filled with people being transformed by the power of God!


Unknown said…
For me I have to ask what is the foundation of good fruit and where you quoted in Jn 15, the answer is in being filled with Christs "words". I would think all His words would be considered sound doctrine. Ephesians 4:14 admoninshes us not to be like children tossed back and forth by every wind of doctrine. So what I get out of that for myself is that there is sound doctrine that will keep me from being deceived. I don't think you have much sound doctrine (Christ's word) abiding in you if you show little fruit. And...I think it takes sound doctrine as part of a foundation (good soil) to produce great fruit. Can't have one without the other. It keeps us balanced.
Pte. Ryan said…
Great word Kev. Thanks for posting.

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