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Deep Attraction

In football, "going deep" refers to a receiver running many yards in anticipation of catching the quarterback's long pass. The deep passes that are caught are the most spectacular and the most likely to get the crowd on its feet.

Going deep is exciting in football.

Going deep is essential in church.

Let's review some important truths about going deep that help attract and retain people in the church.

Depth and relevance are not mutually exclusive. I often hear the argument that a church can't be "cool" and deep at the same time. Teaching that is deep loses its relevance, they say, and people are turned off.

Through our research, we've found the opposite to be true. People are more likely to drop out if the teaching is watered down. While the church will always have a selection of people that come with no intentions of growing spiritually, we have found that churches with a culture of biblical depth are more likely to keep members and attract others.

Depth starts with the pastor. Pastors that excel at communicating God's Word spend much time in God's Word themselves. Pastors and church leaders must give a priority to biblical depth. Unfortunately, the demands of many church members pull pastors in so many directions that only leftover time is given to Bible study and sermon preparation.

Acts 6 tells how the Apostles were confronted with that reality. Do you remember the problem? "In those days, as the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution" (Acts 6:1-2, Holman).

Simply stated, ministry was being overlooked. And the church was complaining, murmuring just like the Israelites in the wilderness. A group of widows who depended on the church for their meals was being overlooked. They likely expected the Apostles to drop everything they were doing and take care of their needs. Pastors and church staff will undoubtedly recognize such an attitude!

But the Apostles knew that if they became personally responsible for all the ministry needs, then other areas of the church would suffer. Instead of carrying the burden of meeting almost every ministry need themselves, the Apostles selected seven lay leaders to do the ministry (Acts 6:3-4). And note what the Apostles spent their time doing: prayer and preaching. They recognized the importance of the preaching ministry, and they refused to neglect it.

The widows got fed, the Apostles got time to pray and preach, and the whole church was happy with the resolution (Acts 6:5). Imagine that. A church that is fed well with meals and God's Word is a happy church.

Depth proliferates through small groups. The healthy churches we have consulted and researched over the years all make small-group Bible study a priority. Some churches call it Sunday school, some call it small groups. Others use such nomenclature as connect groups, life groups, and home groups. The name is not the important issue. What is important is for churches to lead their members toward regular and ongoing Bible study.

Depth becomes part of the culture through personal commitment. Another component of churches that go deep is their encouragement and exhortation for all members to study the Bible on their own. Some churches, for example, suggest a weekly Bible reading for the members. Some lay out a plan where the members will read the Bible in a year. But the point is that the churches demonstrate that personal Bible study is critical in the spiritual maturity of believers. Only when the members of the body maintain a personal commitment to biblical depth will it become part of the culture of the church.

Biblical depth has a sticky quality. Christians who hear sound sermons each week, who are involved in small-group Bible study, and who study the Bible on their own rarely drop out. Biblical depth also has an attractional quality. Spiritual seekers are most drawn to churches that maintain this culture of solid preaching and encouragement to study the Word of God. Go deep. Get excited about diving into the Word. And watch God do an amazing work in Your Church.

Sam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research, and co-wrote the book, Essential Church. Join the conversation at BuildingForMinistry.com, a ministry space website by Christianity Today International and the Cornerstone Knowledge Network.

May/June
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