Church, Preaching, Theology

Go Deeper!

Ed Stetzer recently wrote in Facts and Trends that the “Elephant in the Church” is the lack of robust disciple-making. He writes:

Many churches are now rediscovering ways to push more depth from the Sunday morning stage, better ways to assimilate the crowds into small groups and discipling relationships, more organic ways to nurture spiritual formation, and stronger ways to create missional expansion in their communities and around the world.

I have to say, I balk at the term “push more depth” because you can’t push depth. You can only explore it. Depth is not something to be possessed or controlled. You can’t “push” it.

Think of a kid in a swimming pool. If that child is not comfortable diving under the water and going down to the bottom, then it does not matter if the pool is 4′ deep or 20′ deep. The depth is present, but that does not mean the kid is going to explore it.

If you ask me (and I know no one is), the problem with the church today is not that we are not pushing depth but rather that we are out of our depth. The Bible teachers in most churches do not have the knowledge of the Scriptures necessary to take people on a “deep” journey through the Scriptures.

After growing up in a home where original languages were dinner table topics and discussing theological vagaries was just what my dad and I did, what most people consider “deep”, I consider elementary. This is not to sound condescending, but more often than not I find myself listening to a peer asking a question and thinking, “How did you not already learn this?”

But the reality is that for the most part, pastors are told that their job is to preach a good sermon and build a big congregation. They are given a basic, one-dimensional education on the Scriptures and then told to go out and get people to confess Christ.

You can’t “push” depth, especially if you’ve never seen the depths yourself.

What the church needs more than people “pushing depth” is people with true knowledge of the Scriptures. We need people who can do more than read the newest, most popular book and then teach it to congregations. We need people who can do more than design snazzy logos and preach entertaining messages.

Depth is not pushed. It is has to be explored. You have to get into it, get used to it and then go deeper. You have to train and think, then learn to present the dive in such a way that others go with you. You have to study theology, explore exposition. You have to spend more time studying the Scriptures than you do planning your organization.

Most sermons I hear are from the wading side of the pool. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy hearing the messages that come from a 20′ dive.

2 thoughts on “Go Deeper!”

  1. Can’t agree more. I think the problem stems from a long tradition of people getting complacent on Sunday morning and wanting thinner and thinner milk from the pulpit on Sunday morning, let alone meat. How else would you get a Joel O? I’ve heard too many times in the last couple years as my church has gone through many changes, that on Sunday morning the sermons are too long (more than 20-30 minutes) and that they sound like a seminary class, not a sermon. Every time I hear this my jaw drops. I don’t understand. Are you in the pew to learn or to get patted on the head and told to feel ok ’cause it will be alright?
    The thing that gets me is that I hear this from people who I know, by their fruit, that they are strong believers, but there still seems to be that lack of discipleship. And that has to start from the pulpit. Yes small groups of various flavors are necessary for discipleship, but the preaching and pastoring has to come from a place of discipleship as well.

    1. I have long been critical of the “professional clergy” who say nothing but sound good doing it. I am blessed that the core leaders of our congregation appreciate and value solid Bible teaching, and they encourage the depth and intensity that have become a hallmark of our worship. (We do our best to steer clear of shallowness in all areas: preaching, music, prayer, etc.)

      On a side note, our congregation celebrated the Sunday that I managed to preach for under 45 minutes. For years, it was not uncommon for me preach for an hour. I hover around 35 minutes per week now, but I got down to that by changing my approach and going from three or four big ideas to one per week.

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