A common complaint I hear from pastors is that the problem with Christians today is they lack depth in God’s word. From my own experience, this is certainly true of some people. But when I look at the landscape of American Christianity, I don’t think depth is really our problem. From blogs, to podcasts, to seemingly endless Bible study resources, we have more access to the Bible and excellent teaching than any other generation in history.I think a kind of corollary to his point is the refrain, "I'm just not being fed." Christians sing this chorus frequently, and it's a fairly useful excuse to be discontent or leave a church. And, while there are undoubtedly churches and preachers (including myself) that can improve their content and beef up their teaching ministry, 99 percent of the time that's really beside the point.
The greatest problem of American Christians when it comes to the Bible is not that we are not deep in God’s Word. The problem is that we are not active in God’s Word. We have a lot more revelation than our current level of active application. And revelation without application leads to stagnation.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is “living and active.” The Bible was never meant to simply be a source of passive theological epiphanies that we gain as we delve deeper into it. It was meant to be a force that penetrates and delves deep into us and activates action.
I wonder if what we need is to gain a true understanding of what “depth” actually means. Deep teaching and preaching is not when I give my people insights they have never heard of before that will never be seen again when they disappear into the vacuum of their minds or a drawer that holds all of their sermon notes. Deep teaching is teaching that enables, equips, and empowers people to live in light of the deep truths they are encountering.
The point of the study of the Bible is not to learn things you’ve never heard of before but to begin living in a way nobody has seen before. And this can only be the result of active engagement with God’s Word, not merely increased depth in God’s Word.
In my experience, "I'm just not being fed" exposes a few unbiblical assumptions:
Assumption: "It's the church or pastor's job to feed me." This is true for infants. But I've never known a new Christian to make this complaint. Long story short, even if your pastor's preaching stinks, there are so many available aids to growth (and depth) that if you're not being fed, you should learn to pick up a spoon. Maybe even learn to cook.
Assumption: "It's all about me." Sometimes I despair of ever getting to the point in our American culture where the church realizes that church isn't all about me, about my wants and needs and preferences. We are such consumers that we take our consumer approach to church with us. But it's not about me. I need to bring to worship an attitude that it is all about God. I need to be a GIVER in worship, not a TAKER. I need to GIVE God my worship and GIVE others "the right hand of fellowship" (Gal. 2:9) instead of focusing on GETTING.
Assumption: "It's not my responsibility to help the church fulfill its mission." Again, this goes to our consumer mindset. Please God, let there come a time when a man or woman who sincerely believes the ministry of a church is inadequate will see his or her oppportunity--and responsibility--to play a part in making things better. Not by agitating, but by volunteering, helping, supporting, encouraging, and even sometimes becoming the answer to his or her own prayers! The church is not here to serve me, but to help me serve!
Assumption: "I am primarily a student." Jesus is our rabbi, and we are his talmudim. But our relationship goes far beyond that of teacher and student. Jesus didn't say, "If you love me, you will be fed." He said, "If you love me, you will do what I say" (John 14:15). We do not learn in order to have knowledge, we learn in order to obey more, do better, and take action.
That last point, of course, indicts me and many other preachers. Because if people are saying "I'm not being fed," it is certainly and at least partly because we have not taught in a way "that enables, equips, and empowers people to live in light of the deep truths they are encountering," to come back to Furtick's words. We have not discipled people to the point where they are DEEP enough to understand that they are not ACTIVE enough. We have not taught the things I've just written...or if we have, we have not done it in a way that people will hear.