When I speak at a large event, inevitably someone in a local church will pull me aside and tell me the teaching in their church is not “deep enough.” If you have been involved in church ministry, you have surely heard the phrase. For a pastor who longs to faithfully feed people the Word of God, there are few statements that sting as deeply. For many, that statement feels like an accusation of unfaithfulness and, therefore, should not be made lightly.
When I hear the comment, I typically ask the person what they means by “not deep enough” and what would qualify as “deep teaching.” And after engaging in numerous such conversations, I have observed four possibilities surrounding the person making the statement, the church, and the teaching.
1. The teaching truly is anemic.
In some cases, the teaching in a church is a constant barrage of practical self-help sessions that leaves the soul unnourished and unchanged. The people are starving, longing for someone to stand in front of them and unpack the timeless truth of God’s Word. They aren’t being spoiled or selfish or insensitive to the new people coming to the church. They are simply thirsty for the grace of Jesus and the power of His Word.
2. The person wants a new law.
In some cases the teaching in the church is solid. The pastor teaches the Bible and continually applies the gospel to the hearts of the people. But the person wants “something new, something I have not heard before.” The person wrongly believes that they need something more than the gospel. The person may actually long for a new law, for a checklist that allows them to end each day believing they’re justified before God based on their “great day.” A new law can seem deep at first, but in the end it will frustrate and leave the person unchanged.
3. The person wrongly equates information with discipleship.
Ultimately discipleship is about transformation and not information or behavioral modification. While the Lord may use the careful explanation of a historical context or a word in the original language to melt a heart, information alone does not transform us. Teaching that is truly deep pushes me to love the Lord more deeply, to know Him more fully, and to obey Him more gladly.
4. The person has a “preacher crush.”
The apostle Paul rebuked the believers at Corinth for being unspiritual because of their loyalty to him or Apollos over their loyalty to Christ. In essence, some were saying, “I prefer when he teaches because he really helps me …” And Paul reminds them that the messenger is nothing but a servant of the One who does the transforming. In our day of podcasts, radio, and Internet messages, it is even easier for people in our churches to develop a “preacher crush” where they hold up a pastor, often one not at their church, as the standard of depth.
In another passage, the apostle Paul told the young pastor Timothy that “a time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new” (II Timothy 4:3). In some cases, pastors teach anemic messages. In other cases, people have a distorted view of depth, longing for something beyond the foundation of our faith. May God give our churches pastors who preach and teach the Word in season and out. And may we lead our people to continually stand on the foundation of our faith, the gospel of our Lord.