Why the Church needs deep teaching

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A while back, I was listening to a pastor who started talking about how he’d been criticized for not supplying “deep teaching” in his messages. He then went on to poo-poo those comments, likening such instruction to speaking about unnecessarily lofty topics and using theological verbiage that goes over people’s heads.

“Is that what you want?”, he asked.

How to study the Bible

The pastor’s reductio ad absurdum fallacy aside, I agree that technical theological discourse without biblical application isn’t what the church needs today. But then, that’s not what the science of Bible interpretation (called hermeneutics) recommends.

Hermeneutics involves observation (what do I see in the text?), interpretation (what does it mean?), and then application (how does it apply to me?) Such a method allows for a three-pronged progression when we engage in Bible study: Scripture first convicts us, then convinces us, then converts us.

There’s no doubt that the application and acceptance of God’s Word in a believer’s life are critical, which is something A. W. Tozer emphasizes when he writes: “No man is better for knowing that God in the beginning created the Heaven and the earth. The devil knows that, and so did Ahab and Judas Iscariot. No man is better for knowing that God so loved the world of men that He gave His only begotten Son to die for their redemption. In Hell there are millions who know that. Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action.”

But does an emphasis on moral application negate the need for intense intellectual, in-depth study of the Scriptures? Heck no.

Reasons for in-depth teaching

Let me give you four quick reasons why I believe the Church needs to consistently provide the opportunity for deeper Bible teaching, both from the pulpit during the general church service and in church-enabled ancillary studies:

Reason Number One: On the back of John Hannah’s church history book, Our Legacy, is the question: “How can you live out your faith without truly understanding it?”

Answer: you can’t. A full and robust understanding of the Christian faith and doctrine is essential for a Christian’s life. And you won’t get that without being deeply immersed in key subjects that comprise the faith.   

Reason Number Two: An unschooled Christian is perfect prey for the cults and false religions.

It’s a sad but true fact that an average Jehovah’s Witness can shred a typical Christian on the topic of Christ’s divinity in a matter of minutes.

Unfortunately, many believers fit the portrait painted by the author of Hebrews who wrote: 

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:12-14).

When you receive proper spiritual education, you can discern good and evil. But without it? You’re just asking to be deceived.

Reason Number Three: Christians want to be taught in a more in-depth manner.

Years ago, a large megachurch conducted a survey of its members and found that, while new members were being added, many were also exiting the church.  The reason?  The respondents said they were “not being fed” and wanted “more of the meat of the Word of God”.

The fact is, the new person inside every Christian wants to be served real food and there is a rejoicing inside their spirit when they get it. If they don’t, they either starve and stay immature or go in search of the spiritual diet they need.

Reason Number Four: It equips the believer to be more intimate with God.

Francis Schaeffer was sometimes criticized by other church leaders for being too intellectual and distant. Yet, his L’Abri ministry cared for and saved countless people.

In his biography of Schaeffer, Truth With Love, author Bryan Follis documents an encounter Schaeffer had after one of his lectures with a pastor who had many intellectual and complex questions about God. One by one, Schaeffer in his typical style handsomely dealt with each question and gave the troubled pastor the answers he was seeking. Once satisfied, the pastor looked at Schaeffer and said, “Thank you so much. Now I can worship God much better.”

This is something good marriage counselors hammer home to every couple to which they minister: the more you understand your mate, the better your relationship will be.

This example and countless others show that growing intellectually as a Christian is not about using words that nobody understands or trying to sound smart so you’ll be admired.  Paul warns that knowledge in that sense just makes one arrogant (1 Cor. 8:1). 

Instead, it’s about really knowing God and understanding His ways, which is something He tells us to pursue: “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me” (Jer. 9:23-24, my emphasis).

Some may argue that Jesus tells us to come to Him as a little child (Luke 18:15-17) and that a toddler certainly does not have deep teaching under their belt. But they misunderstand the point Christ was making.

Just as a little child whole-heartily puts their faith in their earthly father to care for them, believers come to their Heavenly Father and, without reservation, trust him with their eternal lives. But they do so for good reasons.   

As C. S. Lewis so well said: “Christ wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head.”  

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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