by Dr. Bob Paul :: Several months ago, a congregational survey of Bel Air Church was conducted by the Barna company. Among other things, the survey identified a significant hunger among our members (and some former members, who were included in the survey) for greater depth in our preaching/teaching ministry.
This is a good thing to know because hunger, after all, is a sign of life.
When I wake up in the morning, I want something to get me going — a cup of coffee, a bowl of cereal, or maybe a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast.
Hunger motivates us, and lets us know our body needs nourishment. The extreme hunger of starvation is a terrible form of suffering, but even then the sensation means that people are alive and craving what they need to live.
Spiritual hunger serves a similar purpose. When the Holy Spirit draws people towards Christ they often feel an inner sense of hunger. It signals their desire to live spiritually. As Blaise Pascal, the brilliant Frenchman of the 1600s, said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known in Jesus Christ.”
The pastors and staff at Bel Air, with our elders and lay leaders, are working every day to create opportunities where people can receive substantial spiritual food. You could liken the effort to a large culinary team that creates wonderful dishes for people to enjoy. Considering the abundant “feeding” opportunities Bel Air makes available on a regular basis, I sometimes wonder how it is that people could possibly feel hungry?
One possibility, of course, is that our “culinary team” isn’t very skilled. Okay. There’s always room for improvement. But it’s also possible that some people just want “fast food”, and don’t have a clue how to appreciate (much less prepare) a real meal.
There’s a proverbial saying that goes like this: “Give a hungry man a fish and feed him for a day; teach him to fish, and feed him for a lifetime.” A good question for the future of Bel Air, in regard to the kind of spiritual nourishment we offer, is whether we want to be a fast-food franchise or a training center that teaches people how to fish — how to develop the attitudes and skills and practices that will keep them well-nourished and satisfied for a lifetime.
If it were up to you, what would you aim to do?
Dr. Bob Paul
Pastor of Discipleship