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Depth change

Why I feel we need to go deeper in our sermons, so people can grow and grasp the upside down nature of the Kingdom of God. By Michael Shaw 


A few years ago a couple in the church approached me. He had been in the leadership (before I became the minister), she helped with the pastoral team. They wanted deeper teaching, telling me they needed "meat". Another church leader advised approached me to “go deeper” in my sermons in response, so I did. However, within a few month they left, moving to a different church where, ironically, the teaching was less deep. They didn’t tell me that was the reason, instead giving me lots of “good” reasons why it was time for them to leave our small church community to go to the bigger church up the road.

A few weeks ago the teenage son of a church member said that his church, a big church near the city centre, was great at presenting the Gospel simply, but thinks our church was far better at allowing people to be discipled. Sometimes young people are far wiser than we give them credit for! I believe that is the case: I can understand why young people his age go to the church he does, but what I can’t understand is mature Christians who still find a home there.

You see most Christians don’t want to be stuck on milk. Most want to grow and develop to mature, or they want to be seen to be mature. Yet many don’t want to be too challenged on the average Sunday.

The first Sunday in Advent I preached on the pain and difficulties of infertility using the first chapter of Luke. someone who was new to our congregation was stunned, firstly because my story was their story, and secondly because I don’t think they expected a church to touch on an issue like that! As a church we are happy to explore deeper issues, and regularly include issues such as social justice or creation care in our services, and how they impact our world.

I was once told by a church member that I preached too much about poverty. Funnily enough he has also left!

Surely the main task is to preach the Gospel? Well for me the Gospel is about liberation, and social justice issues and sentimental issues are about liberation, whether that is liberation from poverty or bigotry, or liberation for the whole Earth from the damaging impacts of climate change. I am happy to go deeper than just the superficial ideas of what the Gospel is.

Jesus’ parables are simple stories, but are often his deepest form of teaching. They often talk not of the Gospel but of what the upside down Kingdom of God looks like. One time, in response to the question who is my neighbour?, Jesus tells a story that we know as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. At the heart of the story is that your neighbour is the alien you hate who lives in your country. It is a deep story of social justice.

Going deeper does not mean going more academic. One of the best things someone new said to me a few weeks back is “you say complicated things so simply”. The art of going deeper is not making things more confusing, but making complicated ideas simple.

All churches should be wanting to take their church members deeper, but sadly, in order to attract new people, I believe some go to the lowest common denominator and sermons become extended platitudes, sounding nice on the surface, but lacking depth. With Christianity on decline in the United Kingdom we think we need to make the sermon simpler for people to understand, but I feel we need to go deeper, so people can grow. When they grow, then the church will grow! 

Image | Trevin Rudy | Unsplash


Michael Shaw is minister of Devonport Community Baptist Church in Plymouth



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Baptist Times, 03/12/2020
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