While a lot of us pastors were pulling out our hair over the "we want to go deeper" mantra sweeping our churches of a couple of years ago, pastor Scott Chapman and his staff team set out to find out what their folks meant when they said they wanted to go deeper. What they came up with is similar to some of the conclusions I eventually came to over the last couple of years. And what was, admittedly, a frustrating thing for me to hear has become a deep desire for my own preaching. Chapman's team identified five things their members meant when they said they wanted deeper messages. Here are my personal reflections on all five.
Number One: Biblical Depth
Chapman writes: "No matter how thoughtful, passionate, or persuasive our messages may be, they are only as powerful as our ability to connect the hearer to the heart of Scripture." The REVEAL research suggests this is also essential for spiritual growth that results in life change.
So what does developing greater biblical depth look like for most people? What are they really asking for? It means the message needs to...
- Process the richness of the original context
- Lead people through nuances of the text
- Connect the passage to other parts of Scripture."
In my opinion this is best accomplished when preaching through books of the Bible. It can be done by covering a passage in depth in a topical series, but imagine how much of the Jonah story would be missed (i.e., the richness of the original context, the nuances of the text and Jonah's place in the larger story of the Bible) if we weren't spending a number of weeks covering the book. You may have noticed already, but one way my preaching has changed in recent months is that we're covering more books of the Bible and I'm doing more Bible "teaching" in the messages. In actuality, it's my favorite way to preach and suits my gifts and wiring best. And I truly believe it will have the greatest impact for life change.