My mom is a great cook who would make three delicious meals a day for my brothers and me. I wish I could say I inherited my mom’s love for cooking, but I never did. She tried and tried to teach me how to cook, but I never wanted to learn. Now my wife is away for a few weeks and I’m counting down the days until the lasagna she made and so lovingly stored in the freezer is gone. As this terrible deadline approaches, I have several options: 1) I can starve; 2) I can eat out; 3) I can ask for handouts; or 4) I can cook for myself.
I don’t want to give up food for the next three weeks even though I could potentially fast for some of that time. I don’t have the money to eat out daily and although I do have several friends who are going to invite me over for meals, begging for food just doesn’t seem like the grown-up option. The last option is the hardest one, but that one has the most benefits. If I learn to cook while my wife is away, imagine how I could surprise and bless her when she returns. I could make her a date-night meal and maybe cook one-night a week. I could even invite friends over and be the one to prepare the meal. The benefits of learning to cook for myself are pretty much endless.
Why Do It Yourself?
I don’t know many pastors who are good at cooking, at least, in the literal sense. However, I do know many pastors and teachers who are great at cooking spiritually-filling meals. They can prepare a great Bible lesson or sermon that provides you something to meditate on for the week. They’re so good in fact, and you get such great nutritional value from what they’re teaching, that you’re a bit wary of your own cooking. Why study the Bible for yourself when your pastor can do it so much better?As a pastor, I’m here to encourage you that nothing brings me more joy than seeing people learn to “cook spiritually” for themselves then nourish others. In other words, I love it when you learn to love and know God for yourself through the Bible and when you share that love with those around you.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14 ESV)
The book of Hebrews is written to early Christians who aren’t maturing in their faith as they should. All they want is to be fed and not even with food that meets their spiritual need. The author of Hebrews has a double challenge for them: hunger for spiritual food and become cooks (“teachers” v. 12). Notice that those who are mature and feeding on solid Christian teaching are themselves responsible to duplicate the task. They should be “trained” so that they can understand what is “good.”
Spiritually filling food is for those who have “powers of discernment” and are “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (v. 14). Christians need to get involved in the cooking process. We are to take ownership for what we’re learning. Other passages also encourage believers to prepare themselves to receive real food (1 Cor. 3:2) and to desire good food to grow strong (1 Pt. 2:1-3). So not only should we desire good teaching, we need it to mature, and we should desire to share what we are learning with others.
Ingredients for Spiritual Meal-Making
What are some practical ways we can learn to cook?
1. Study the Bible individually and in a small group;
2. Use outside resources to double check your recipe (i.e., use reference tools and commentaries like your pastor does);
3. Pray and meditate on what you’re learning;
4. Take what you’re learning to your pastor and teachers so they can help you; and
5. Finally, share what God has taught you with friends, family members, and fellow pilgrims.
This doesn’t mean we should stop learning from pastors, teachers, and others, but we should become less dependent on them even though we value and honor their teachings. We come under their authority but not passively. A strong faith produces active discipleship. We don’t desert the church for our own personal devotion, but we realize both personal and corporate learning together make the most nutritionally healthy Christians. Good shepherds should always feed their flock, but the goal is not to just eat another good meal, but to feed the starving and teach the full how to cook.
While my wife was away I went to the store, purchased chicken thighs, and spent around 45 minutes baking them when they probably should have only taken around 20-25 minutes. I couldn’t get the chicken to cook like I wanted and when I did eat them, I was very much suspicious that I was poisoning myself. I don’t enjoy cooking but I’m willing to try again. I want to help my wife and grow as a person. You’re first time cooking “a spiritual meal” will probably go something like mine. Nobody ever learned to cook the first time they tried. Try again and see how you grow in Christ and mature as a follower of Jesus. The best cooks all started by making one meal.
Jonathan Romig (M.Div., Gordon-Conwell, 2013) is the Associate Pastor of Immanuel Church in Chelmsford MA (CCCC) and the Church Planting Pastor of Cornerstone Congregational Church in the neighboring town of Westford MA. He has taught New City Catechism as a year-long adult Sunday school class and recently self-published his first e-book, How To Give A Christian Wedding Toast.