Pastor, I just wish the sermons would “Go Deeper” (really?)

In my lifetime, I’ve been around folks that leave churches because they claim the sermons aren’t “deep enough.”  Sometimes this is valid.  Other times, it’s a cop-out.  Valid = sermons are pop-psychology attempting to give a four point format for fixing your life.  Instead of immersing us in the story and looking for intersections to the stories of the first century world and our twenty-first century world; these sermons give us facts about felt needs and use abstracted verses to validate claims.  Invalid = A person really struggles with commitment issue to the local church.  This person needs a “holy” excuse to leave, so they point to the sermons as their cop-out.  This happens more often then many want to admit.

Alan Danielson says the following in an attempt to subvert the “I want to go deeper” syndrome by suggesting what “going deeper” out to mean.

So what does “go deeper” mean to me?  It means three things:

1. Going deeper into my commitment to God’s Church.

I can’t be committed to Jesus (the head) without being committed to the church (His body)…

2. Going deeper into my commitment to the world.

…If I am to “go deeper” I must dive deeper into the muck and mire of a broken world in order to reach people…

3. Going deeper into my commitment to being mastered by Christ.

I’m a work-in-progress, and the more God works on me, the more progress I realize I need…

What do you think “going deeper” in preaching ought to mean?

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  • Anonymous

    Going deeper, to me, would be the pastor talking candidly about his struggles, letting me know that he’s in the trenches too, not standing on the side trying to pull us all up and out.  I feel like I know less and less the older I get, and I don’t necessarily like listening to someone who’s sure they know all the answers.

    • AmyS

      A preacher who looks down on the congregation is not a pastor. I’m not so sure, though, that I’m interested in weekly reports on my pastor’s struggles. I want to hear about God.

  • AmyS

    Is this the same thing as the “I’m not being fed” reason for leaving? I have heard discontent like that over the years, but I’ve never been sure what it means. 

    Maybe a more core issue is that members aren’t being cared for pastorally, and see the pastor’s job (and the activity of the church) as primarily preaching-oriented. If pastoral care and discipleship aren’t as important to the pastor/s as preaching, no wonder folks aren’t being deeply affected by their churches. 

    • Ian

      I agree that if the leadership in a church isn’t focusing on pastoring and discipling that it’s their issue, but normally I don’t think that’s the case. To say that your leaving a church because your not “being fed” is very self-centered and implies that the only reason your going is to hear a sermon to feel encouraged by or what not and then go home. They might feel fed if they decide to become more involved in the church somewhere. Church is a place to be a part of a community. 

      • http://www.jennyraearmstrong.com Jenny Rae Armstrong

        You know, when I read Amy’s comment, I immediately thought “maybe they’re not being allowed to use and develop their gifts.” There have been times when I felt like I was STARVING, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t studying or being taught the Bible or trying to live out my walk with Christ–it was because no one was supporting the development of my gifts in any tangible way, and I had gone as far as I could on my own (and I mean that in an academic sense). And even if I *HAD* developed those gifts, whether or not my church would have recognized them is dubious, given my gender. But praise the Lord–things change!!!

        So being “fed” isn’t just about being taught–it’s about being invested in, and being allowed to invest in others.

  • JM

    I think, personally, “going deeper” should include preaching from the WHOLE of Scripture. There are only so many sermons on Ephesians or 1Corinthians or John that the Church needs to hear without also hearing from Numbers, Micah, Song of Songs or Revelation. 

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @52d277c6e69ac196829d230ef4c3a7a2:disqus … I agree with you there.

    • AmyS

      Good point. One can spend many years in church and not hear much of the Bible preached. That’s why I appreciate preaching from the lectionary.

  • Kristin

    While I agree that that could be used as a cop-out, I have often felt that way myself, and it wasn’t a cop-out. I guess I’ve said that exact phrase or something similar after listening to pastor who tells jokes and stories that hardly relate the whole time (many of which are email forwards, gag), then proof-texting from Scripture to support whatever idea s/he decided to preach on that day. So…. I guess it’s one of those ‘it depends’ situations, in my opinion. 

    • AmyS

      I’d hesitate to become a member of a church where that was the norm (or the frequent), but church membership is another topic.

      • Kristin

        true. I guess i was thinking more visiting stage instead of already being a member, but now that I think about it, it seems like Kurt’s post was more directed towards those who are members.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wackywilliams Phinneas David Israel Williams

    well personaly for me maby becuse I grew up on a pew & studyed intensly for a long time the histery & all that. for me going deeper is not only exsplaning the histerory, ritules & context of the bible but being able to bring the congergation to a more personal walk with Jesus when they leave. I am not a paster & have only done a few talks in my life. but the ones I enjoyed the most & people congragulated me on the most was the ones that were not just giving scripter & exspounding on it, but where I read a few scriptures & then one verse at a time broke it down & asked how it related to the congergation personaly? what my struggls have been with that scripter ext, I understand in large churchs a Q&A is is nearly impossible but even if you did it in small groups or had people tweet & or text there exspernces & struggls, to me thats going deeper becuse then I know I for one walk out with a better understanding of not only what the bible says but how to apply it to my life as soon as I walk out the doors.

  • Ian

    Good post. If church is a family and someone just wants to be served without having to serve then they might begin to feel like there isn’t much depth in the church. We have to remember that we aren’t gathering around a pastor and a worship team to see a show, but that we are gathering together around Jesus to fulfill a mission. This ought to be happening not only at a building every Sunday, but just about anywhere throughout the week.

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    I have observed this accusation in some cases where the complainer is a devotee of some particular Evangelical radio pastor–somebody like Piper or MacArthur or Swindoll–and has gotten swayed by the idea that unless one does what they call “expository preaching” it’s not really deep.

    Unfortunately, expository preaching is often defined to mean plodding through Romans verse-by-verse prooftexting a good Calvinist, penal-substitutionary theology like every good Evangelical should believe.  Heaven help the preacher who actually exegetes the messages Jesus preached in the gospels with anything close to the same scrutiny…he’s almost certain to be branded a heretic…

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @dwmtractor:disqus …. YES YES YES YES YES! Exactly my experience!

  • http://simuleustisetpecator.wordpress.com/ Craig Falvo

    At my last church, going deeper would mean actually getting into the Word.  Lots of talk about it, little emphasis on doing.  Lot of feel good sermons.  Yeah, I’m still jaded.  Long story…

    At my current church, we’ve kind of put aside the lectionary and are working our way through the Bible, using Zondervan’s The Story.  The emphasis from preaching bleeds over into the small groups.  It’s really neat!  The congregation is pumped up.  The trick is going to be to keep the excitement going throughout the year.

    The exceptions to all of this will be Advent and Lent, when we will go back to the lectionary.

  • http://twitter.com/jimelliott703 Jim Elliott

    I think that a request for a pastor’s sermon’s to Go deeper could be a cop-out for the congregation not going deeper themselves. “going deeper” means to me that I as a congregate should search it out… and also that you could teach rather then preach on a certain subject

  • http://twitter.com/billdaviswords Bill Davis

    Hey, Kurt,

    I think “deep” preaching should be the presentation of the Scriptures in just such a way as to challenge, encourage and facilitate the excellent “personal 1-2-3″ listed above! Grapple with issues (both internal, spiritual ones, and external as we relate to the church and the world). Ask the hard questions. Give answers. Send the congregation home with a desire to dig in and learn, and/or to go and and serve more.

    I agree that all too many entertainment-seekers use the “I want deeper sermons” excuse to church hop or float without commitment. But I’ve also heard plenty of shallow sermons. Babes in Christ need the “milky” basics. But if that’s all the flock is fed week after week, and nothing deeper is addressed (except, perhaps in Bible studies, etc.), something’s missing.

    So to men, if people just want to go, “Wow. Heavy, man!” after sermons, that’s pretty lame. But if they want the pastor to lead them on to mine the spiritual depths and to guide their growth, that’s not a bad thing.

  • Wheremyheartrests

    It really shouldn’t be about “going deeper” in the subject matter, but about “going deeper” into the truth of what the Bible says.  Sometimes this means to not take everything on the surface leve of what it appears to say, but rather to look beyond the modern-day intereretation limitations of one passage, by examining the scripture more carefully within the context of the original authors intended meanings.  I think it helps to put a cultural perspective on it as well.  We don’t live in ancient Jerusulem Culture, so we need a historical counterpart to better understand what is being said.  We also need to look at language: In the new testament there is a lot of slang of the era (idioms, commom of the time metaphors, comparisons etc.) within the text (Its important to remember that Jesus spoke in the way that could be “heard without understanding” to some people)… This is a common thing that happened during Jesus’ ministry:  For example, there is a passage (exceprts taken from Matthew 16:5-12) where Jesus’ intended meaning was lost in translation to his disciples, who were taking a literal approach to a symbolic meaning: “Jesus and his followers [disciples] went across the lake, but his followers[disciples]  forgot to bring to bread.  Jesus said to his followers[disciples] ‘Be careful!  Guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadduccees.’  The followers[disciples] discussed his meaning and they said amongst themselves ‘Did Jesus say this because we forgot to bring bread?’ Jesus knew what they were talking about, so he asked them ‘Why are you talking about not having any bread?  Your faith is small.  Do you still not understand?…. I am telling you to be careful and guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Saducess.’ Then Jesus’ followers[disciples] understood what he meant.  He was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in the bread, he was telling them to guard against the teaching of the Pharisees and the Saducees.”  Unfortunately we do the same thing today, that the disciples did on that day by the lake… if we really want to “go deeper” let us step away from thinking that “under the sun” means “high noon.”  What I am trying to get at, if we really want to understand the Bible and “go deeper” so to speak, we need to understand what they authors of the Bible were meaning, not what our twenty and twenty first century interpretation means.  I Thank the Lord that  I now have a pastor who is cautious of this human fallacy, and willing to admit his own misinterpretations.   I should also thank the Lord for walking down the wrong road, because I needed the lessons God taught me when I learned that God’s words are Truth, and man’s interpretations of them, are just that, interpretation… Likewise, we need to be cautious of false prophets; how can we know [recognize] a false prophet?: Jesus warned us that “false Christs and false prophets” will come and will attempt to deceive even God’s elect (Matthew 24:23-27; see also II Peter 3:3 and Jude 17-18). The best way to guard ourself against falsehood and false teachers, like the Pharisees and Saducees warned against in Matthew 16,  is to know the truth. To spot a counterfeit, study the real thing. Any believer who “correctly handles the word of truth” (II timothy 2:15) and who makes a careful study of the Bible can identify false doctrine. For example, a believer who has read the activities of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Matthew 3:16-17  will immediately question any doctrine that denies the Trinity. Therefore, step one is to study the Bible and judge all teaching by what the Scripture says.
    “So, son, study these sayings, but be careful about other teachings.  People are always writing books, and too much study will make you very tired… The most important thing a person can do is to respect God and obey his commands (see Matthew 22:36-40), because he knows about everything people do — even the secret things.  He knows about all the good and all the bad, and he will judge people for what (or everything) they do.”– Excerpts from Ecclesiastes 12:12-14

  • Nash

    “Going deeper” means not being satisfied with a mere “devotional” understanding and explanation of a passage of Scripture. Everyday, I read the Bible “devotionally.” I don’t need to go to church to read my Bible devotionally. I can read the Bible devotionally while sitting under some tree or by a tranquil lake or even while sitting in the john. Nobody needs to go to church for a devotional reading of the Bible. So when people make the effort to get up on a Sunday morning and go all the way to some church where someone who is supposed to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of isagogics and exegesis goes up on the pulpit to speak in behalf of God to feed the flock, and all they hear is an eisegetical exemplaristic, applicational pep talk/devotional, then yes, they are very well within their God-given rights as people of the Word to wish that the sermons would go deeper. Really.

    Next time you sit to hear a message from the pulpit, please ask yourself: Is the point of the message the same as the point that the historical author was making when he was inspired to write the passage to his original audience?

    A passage cannot mean something to us that did not mean to its inspired author and original audience. If the preacher is trying to make a point that is not the same as what the inspired author was trying to make to his original audience, then it is reasonable to conclude that most of the listeners will be missing the point of the passage, even if they fully get the point of the preacher.

    People who are satisfied with the preacher’s “point” without needing to learn the point that the Scriptural author intended to make to his original audience, simply do not need sermons which are deeper. They can just contentedly make fun of other people who do.

    Grace & Peace! Many thanks!


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