winter reflections on bird feeders and the church…

Written by HeatherWindeler

Christ follower. Wife and Momma of 3. Blogger @ www.awaken2life.blogspot.com. Speaker and Youth Worker. God has rocked my world. My life is a beautiful mess, and my heart is sold out to Christ's call for missions and evangelism. I love wacky moments, tea and coffee, dancing with my kiddos, being artsy fartsy, and loving people.

June 22, 2013

church, church pews

We have this beautiful bird feeder which is three-quarters full of bird seed.

Sounds great right?

But there are barely any birds alighting on it these days. If they do they leave in a flurry of frustration with tiny empty stomachs. This is especially rough in these cold months when precious morsels of food are hard to come by.

So why is this bountiful bird feeder still full?

These lovely little feathered friends can hungrily clear its contents in only two days, but I have been busy this past month. I only just noticed this bird feeder has sat in a perpetual stasis of being three-quarters full.

Wait a minute… I haven’t filled it in a couple of months now. So how can this still be so full?

When I glanced at it in my daily rush I only took notice that it clearly did not need to be filled, but today I noticed…

I mean I truly sat down and took note of the length of time it had been since I last filled the feeder.

I watched as the birds rarely graced its perch in the week to come. The few stragglers that did come would peck eagerly around and then leave frustrated, still hungry having found no nourishment there.

I finally wandered out to the feeder and found its openings clogged and molded over with stale wet seed… It’s truly sad how long it took me to notice this.

And then God drew a line of comparison for me that caused me to grieve.

This bird feeder is not unlike so many of our churches…

Churches that look full and healthy. They advertise songs of welcome and nourishment for all, but many are leaving its steps discouraged, heart-broken, and hungry.

Few if any of the lost and weary worn travelers ever grace its steps anymore and even when they do they leave having found nothing to truly meet their needs…

Like my poor hungry birds.

And the solution?

Are we too busy, “in the church” to notice the lost outside of the church? Or to busy to take the time and realize what the core issues are?

Do we stop and take notice in our churches that we largely in part are always full of the same people?

Do we notice that most of our church growth is merely birds from a different feeder looking for some fresh new seed instead of the lost and weary ones who truly need it?

Are we trapped in a stale molded stasis of “…But we have never done it that way before.”?

Are we more concerned about the appearance of our building instead of going out to reach the people? What are your thoughts?

29 Comments

  1. Sandra Heska King

    You know how I love that you drew lessons from the birds!

    Reply
    • Heather W

      There is so much to learn from them. 😉 My poor birds were apparently neglected this last winter season. Aye.

      Reply
  2. Stacey

    I think it’s simply hard, and I do not envy those who are leading the church these days. So many different “right” and “wrong” ways to go about things, and I know their hearts are for the people. It’s just hard.

    Reply
    • Heather W

      I believe you are right. It is hard, but I also believe that both the leaders and the lay are culpable. (I have been on both sides of the equation.) My major concern is If we do not pause to honestly evaluate these problems and seek Godly, Word driven solutions then this trend will only continue.
      I am glad you pointed out that each church will have different “right” and “wrong” ways of doing things. This is not a bad thing as they are reaching people from different cultures and areas in our nation.
      Thank you for sharing Stacey.

      Reply
  3. Nikki

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me, Heather!

    I was just listening to the Casting Crowns song “Come to the Well”…have you heard it?

    anyway… I will be chewing on this, friend, thank you!

    Reply
    • Heather W

      Great song. 🙂 It is the foundation for where we each should start.
      I pray this becomes the focus more and more again for the church body as a whole. Thank you Nikki.
      P.S. God still has me chewing on this bird feeder analogy. 😉

      Reply
    • Mandy

      I agree! It’s a beautiful song. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Pastor-John Smith

    Praise God for this post! I believe that it’s easier for the church to cater to itself, strengthen its choir, youth programs, and all the different ministries within versus seeking those that are lost. We have developed a Walmart mentality! We clean the parking lot, put a greeter in place, find out what people like, cater to their wants, assimilate them to our church, and seduce and indoctrinate them to our creeds, culture, and manner of life. The Church has developed an arrogant and rebellious mindset when it believes that its job is set the table and hope that those that are hungry will come by. Can you imagine a hospital with no ambulance? I believe that believers are called to be the ambulances for Christ! We’ve been called to check the bird feeder daily and that calls for us to go outside the house and be up close and personal with the birds…

    Reply
    • Ryan

      Another issue is trying to reach a different people than are naturally coming. Suburban church goers have different problems than urban ones. Even if the church is physically located in an urban setting if the attenders are suburban it will be nearly impossible to make one church. It is almost like being in a beach town. You can send out as many ambulances as you want but it wont help if the people are drowning in the middle of the lake. Got to send out the boats to get them.

      Reply
      • Heather W

        Ambulances, Rescue boats, and helicopters. A great point that we should be flexible to needs of those around us.

        Reply
    • Heather W

      Thank you for those passionate and convicting words friend. I especially liked, “We’ve been called to check the bird feeder daily and that calls for us to go outside the house and be up close and personal with the birds…” a good reminder for each of us.

      Reply
  5. Rachel

    I think a major point is that the church must see there is a problem with the feeder. My bird feeder is in a tree on the top of a hill and when I try to fill it alone I either tire myself out or accidentally fall down the hill. Another possibility is it could upset others who don’t understand what is going on or why. When everyone sees the problem and unite to fix it I think that not only will new “birds” come but a deeper fellowship will also occur.

    Reply
    • Heather W

      “I think a major point is that the church must see there is a problem with the feeder.” My hubby pointed this out to me the other day. This is a rough one since so many people are unaware of the problems or overwhelmed by them. Thank you for also pointing to the deeper fellowship that occurs when everyone is united and serving together. This brings on a bond that far exceeds a potluck. 😉 Amen.

      Reply
  6. Brandon Watkins

    I’ve been reading Andy Stanley’s “Deep and Wide”, which talks about creating a church atmosphere that unchurched people love to be a part of, not just feel comfortable. I highly suggest this read to people who’ve been a part of “church life” for a long time.

    Reply
    • Heather W

      I will have to check into it, thank you for the suggestion. (I am always looking for new perspectives and good reads.) Right now I am finishing, “The Barefoot Church”, by Brandon Hatmaker.

      Reply
  7. Andrew G.

    It also doesn’t help that we argue over the color and layout of the bird feeder and fill it with bad seeds.

    Reply
    • Heather W

      That can definitely be a problem.

      Reply
  8. Holly :)

    I think you are absolutely right! I believe that we become lazy. The church begins to have a mindset of “as long as there is seed, everything is fine”. It almost becomes a level of a comfort zone. Why make the extra trip to put fresh seed in, if the old stuff is still there. Once it becomes almost gone, we will find a little motivation to go replenish the seed, although it doesn’t have near the impact that replenishing it constantly would provide. The same applies to being witnesses of Christ. Sure, going out a few times a year and helping people is great, but wouldn’t it have a greater impact if we tried to make it apart of our daily routine, so that every person we encounter can “be fed”?

    Reply
    • Heather W

      This is a blog post all it’s own friend. Your point about the stale seed is great. And your point on, “Sure, going out a few times a year and helping people is great, but wouldn’t it have a greater impact if we tried to make it apart of our daily routine, so that every person we encounter can “be fed”?” Amen, this is the rough sticking point for many of us, but it is so true that we each are called to be God’s hands and feet daily. Wherever God has placed you. Love God. Love people.

      Reply
  9. Rene

    This is a great analogy. I believe one of the issues is that we, the church, refuse to see the mold on the outside. Unfortunately, those outside the church are not able to look past it. So, no matter how great the inside of the church looks….not matter how they are trying to serve others within the church, if they do not get outside the doors, the world will never know the love of the church. We’re stuck on the inside and those who need Christ are on the outside…hoping for nourishment that they have an inkling *must* be inside but think the chasm between the church and them is too wide and mold covered to cross. It’s much easier for them to then just say “only fake people are in there because they look real, but all I see is mold”. We need to take that as a calling.

    Christ didn’t have a building program…he walked everywhere and met the people. Obviously we live in a slightly different time but I still believe there is a place to BE the church and be out and about. The church should be where we get the calling, the pep talk, if you will…prior to the game. The game is never played in the locker…it’s always out in the open where others can see. No one would ever expect the game to end at the locker room before it started. That’s how we’ve begun to view church….the locker room pep talk and then go home. We’re missing the game and the joy of winning!

    Reply
    • Heather W

      Thank you for those analogies. A wake up call indeed. Your comment brought to mind, Hebrews 12:1-2. (Running the race, fixing our eyes on Christ.etc.) We need to be moving from a self-centered, “me” focus as Christians and the Church at large, to one that is Christ focused. There is a lot to unpack here.

      Reply
  10. scuba

    i’ve been feeling this for a quite a awhile,

    Reply
    • Heather W

      Good to know we are not alone.

      Reply
  11. SuperJae

    I think Christianity as we speak of it is antagonistic, not just to science, but to people. I think it rests it’s hopes in having the “correct” knowledge and tools that into an excuse to not love it’s neighbor. We give (lost) people flattering names like people groups, who are just people who haven’t heard our one line prayers to say, and if they don’t do it, we shame, guilt and fear them into saying it. And if they still don’t, we abandon them for the next person we want sell our “used car” to. We criticize “those” people who do things we detest, as we pardon ourselves for not living to the lame checklists we think we should. But the good news is that we are all on both sides of these lines, but the line doesn’t exist to the Messiah:) The sooner we see ourselves on both sides of the line, the easier it will be to build real relationships with all pepole, the way it was intended to be.

    Reply
    • Heather W

      “The sooner we see ourselves on both sides of the line, the easier it will be to build real relationships with all people, the way it was intended to be.”
      Loving others as Christ loved us. Real love. Real relationships.

      Reply
    • Meagan

      SuperJae is absolutely spot on. The “church” has become a culture. That culture is often antagonistic towards people with differing world views. It often feels like the church is out to change people’s behaviors and legislate “righteousness” instead of loving people and extending grace. We’re called to something far greater and much simpler.

      Reply
      • Heather W

        Matthew 22:36-40. It really is far greater and much simpler.

        Reply
  12. Julie Scheving

    Thought provoking article, especially as I just returned home from spending time with a group of sisters in Christ. We meet weekly and have for over a year. What do we pray for? At the root of it: Revival.

    As much as I love evangelism and reaching the lost for Christ, I believe as part of a church, it’s both. Evangelism and discipleship. And one thing I have learned personally and our group has learned individually, it requires “family” discipleship. Each of us growing on our knees before Christ. Not telling Him what we want. Asking, begging, to know what He desires! Radical! Giving up what we’ve known “church” to be.

    We are in the “on our knees” phase of spreading the church to reach our community. To be “all things to all men” that we may see some come to know Christ.

    Like I said, Heather, right question at the right time. I am hearing from all over the world the stirring of Revival. And my desire, my heart’s desire it to see and know Him. His plan. Not my plan.

    Reply
    • Heather W

      This is so encouraging to hear. Please know I am praying this with you and thank you for sharing!

      Reply

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winter reflections on bird feeders and the church…

by HeatherWindeler time to read: 2 min
29