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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 mean 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.  

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, Eric served local churches, most recently investing eight years as the executive pastor of Christ Fellowship Miami. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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Joseph William Rhoads

commented on Oct 1, 2013

Eric, I believe you are spot on with your analysis. One of things I've been thinking about is having a one-on-one discipleship program in our church, and as a part of that mentoring relationship is helping those being mentored to apply the truth(s) that the sermon bears out. Would also work in an accountability relationship as well. People forget that even the simplest of our doctrines is a deep, deep mine that cannot be exhaustively mined. Even "Jesus loves me" can yield a lifetime of application. Drink deeply from that (yes, I know I'm mixing my metaphors), and you not quickly grow weary.

Paul Zeron

commented on Oct 1, 2013

This article should evoke a great many responses with additional insights. Of course (with the exception of truly anemic preaching) we try to have beefy sermons. I suspect that people who complain about shallow preaching don't know how to receive a sermon. ---1. Sunday School and Bible classes are more appropriate for in depth analysis. ---2. The morning sermon is more geared for an average audience where the preacher also has to consider visitor/seekers, the new convert, the immature Christian. ---3. People looking for more depth should consider that maybe they should be inviting such people in 2 to church. ---4. People should be listening with an ear to be able to repeat the sermon to those they come in contact with, the sermon time could be considered to be training time for them. ---5. They should help pay the probably underpaid pastor to attend conferences and seminars so he can learn more. ---6. Perhaps they could give feedback on what they enjoyed hearing. Too many times pastors are shooting in the dark and can't tell that something actually is helpful, I will work harder at what I know has been successful. --- I am continually looking at how to get the message to hit home and stick. Preachers should study harder. But I also appreciate you identifying the part of the listener in the sermon.

Bill Williams

commented on Oct 1, 2013

My thoughts from a layman's perspective...if the sermon is the primary exposure to God's word a person has during the week (and I know many for whom it is), no sermon is going to be deep enough to be of any value to that person. On the other hand, a person who daily feeds on the Bible every day will gain a blessing even if the preaching is simple enough to be understood by a child. There is so much richness and depth in God's Word. It is the privilege of ALL believers, not just the preacher, to mine those depths and share it with the congregation gathered in worship.

Joseph William Rhoads

commented on Oct 1, 2013

You are right that is the privilege of all believers to mine the depths of God's Word. From a pastor's perspective, it is the pastor's/elders'/spiritual mature's responsibility to help those of the church who don't know how to study the bible for themselves to give them the skills necessary for that privilege.

Bill Williams

commented on Oct 1, 2013

I agree! It's wonderful to hear that as well from a pastor's perspective. Our pastor is a good preacher, but it is the work he has done with us one-on-one and in small group settings teaching us how to study the Bible for ourselves that has truly enriched our congregation. That work has accomplished so much more than simply a weekly "deep" sermon.

Daniel Israel

commented on Oct 1, 2013

Thanks Eric for bringing out this important topic. We tend to underestimate the ability of our brain to understand. Instead of challenging the congregation to equip them further, we shy away from deep topics. It reminds me of a Math teacher who struggles to bring everyone in the class to the same level of understanding. Yes, some of us may need some special, personal coaching in this area. But we cannot receive any if we do not ask questions about things we do not understand. We must not only preach, but encourage our people to email if they need any further clarification. If you have a huge congregation, you could have a group of scholars around you to help out those people who want more clarification. Tuning out someone's preaching because it is hard to understand is not at all a good idea. Encourage such people to have a snack break with the preacher, and have a question/answer session. Let us not preach and run!!

Henry Bruce-Thompson

commented on Oct 1, 2013

thanks for your points,its been my passion to really teach the word and not the insight .

Carlos Gonzales

commented on Oct 1, 2013

This article is a God send! I'm dealing with this right now in my congregation. I can see how many of our members developed the "preacher crush" to one of our ministers and now that he is serving as a missionary somewhere else, it is making it very hard for me to teach. That other minister taught them for almost 20 years with hardly a break and I can now see that it is hard for them to realize that he will not be teaching any time soon, but it truly frightens me that they will not even give another person a chance. When I taught my first class I mentioned that I was looking forward to learning together and from them and each other. They were offended at the idea that a an "ordinary" member might be able to teach a "professional preacher". It is a challenge, but aside from that, our congregation is having some wonderful growth both in attendance and in spirituality. Thank you for this article.

John W. Hull

commented on Oct 1, 2013

I appreciate this article for its timeliness. I recently was told, "I'm not being fed!" The first time in all my pastoral ministry anyone has ever said this to me, or about me. I have offered much prayer over this, and finally came to the conclusion this past Sunday morning, I am not preaching to satisfy this person. I am called to preach Christ and Him crucified. I am to honor and glorify the Father, and the Son, Jesus, and the Holy spirit! Thank you for this article and the way the Lord spoke to me through it.

Michael Constantine

commented on Oct 2, 2013

I recall a story about a well-known pastor of a large church who was nationally known for his excellent preaching and teaching ministry. At a conference he was talking with another well-known and godly pastor. "How's your church doing? the second pastor asked. "Well, we've been losing some people." "Really? Why would they leave a strong church like yours?" "They said they weren't being fed." Moral: if it can happen to a man whose books you have read and whose life you would gladly emulate, it can happen to you.

Keith Giacoma

commented on Oct 2, 2013

I would say the article reflects more of a defensive posture. I think there are more than one legitimate reason for such a statement. Such as over simplistic explanations and to many examples to stress a point.

Dilseng M. Sangma

commented on Oct 10, 2013

Personally I believe, preaching is faithfully and passionately exposition of the Bible, God's word. I have come across people, believers who is not at all satisfied with simple exposition of God's Word. They always look for something extra biblical stories or revelation. I am convinced we need to make our stand clear that we trust fully in God's Word and nothing else could be added to it.

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