A pastor’s rant about spiritual depth

Every Pastor, including me, hears this comment once in a while: “Pastor, what I want are meatier, deeper sermons. I just want to grow deeper in my faith.”

spiritual-depthI get it. I love to learn, and I don’t like thin, superficial sermons either. And I’m concerned about a growing biblical illiteracy among believers. But I’ve learned that if you want to grow spiritually as a follower of Jesus, then you have to be willing to get humble, face pain, and apply what you already know.

Christian depth is not attained by the acquisition of more information about the Bible. The number of details I know about the bible in no way corresponds to my actual maturity. Depth is a byproduct of character formation. And Christian character formation very often happens through the crucible of suffering, a posture of humility before God, and by applying what you already know about God and scripture.

That pathway toward depth is hard. It’s easier to ask for depth through meaty sermons than it is to deal with one own suffering, pride and hardness of heart.

Ok that sounds harsh. But read about what Jesus said to the Pharisees (white washed tombs?). Jesus approach is instructive: On one hand, Jesus never showed anger to a sinner. Not once. On the other hand, he did get angry at self-righteous religious people who knew a lot about the Bible, but who were blind to matters that matter, like love for God, love for neighbor, compassion and justice.

A blog is a dangerous place for a pastor to rant. The possibilities for misinterpretation are many. But here’s what I’m trying to say about spiritual depth: Ten thousand heavy, meaty, verse-by-verse sermons will never accomplish depth–not without receptivity born from hardship, humility, and a real intention to apply.

Show me that, and I’ll show you depth.


About chris breuninger

I love life, my family, and Jesus. I enjoy live music, rigorous exercise, thoughtful movies, and strong coffee. I study scripture, wine, and people. I get frustrated with narrow minds, Christian stereotypes, and gardening. My vocation is pastor, but I’m hesitant to admit that, and I’m happy when people are surprised by that.
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8 Responses to A pastor’s rant about spiritual depth

  1. Marcia Butchart says:

    Chris, I could not agree more. The scriptures say that even Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered. It’s the hardship that works the humility into our lives, if we let it. In fact, through my life and struggles, I’ve concluded that humility, not perfection, is the thing that God is most interested in working into our lives. The Bible I read as a teenager had a central small column that gave alternate readings to the text. Micah 6:8 had an alternate reading for the last phrase: “Humble yourself to walk with your God.” I’ve been chewing on that for 50 years and have become convinced He’s a humble God (See Jesus washing His disciples feet.), and we don’t walk very well with him if we’re not (Hear Peter saying, “You’re not going to wash my feet.”). Also, we aren’t very good at loving and being loved, if we’re not humble. “If I understand all mysteries and all knowledge…and have not love, I am nothing.” To prove your point, Chris, knowing what I have just written hasn’t exactly made me humble or loving. That humility is something I have to keep choosing to embrace in the abrasions of life, which is where “For everything give thanks” comes in and turning to God with my failures to receive the grace and mercy He offers to imperfect people. Well, I’d better stop before I preach a sermon. We’ve never stopped missing you in the Methow, Chris and Amy. Now we have Jeff and Tami Palmberg to love and we’re finding that’s real easy, too.

  2. Joan says:

    Wow! So true! Choosing to face ones own sins and hardened heart can be painful and extremely difficult. But the result of doing so draws us closer to the One who heals and brings growth and restoration. I love how you brought up the fact that Jesus never showed anger to the sinner — I am so thankful for that! It has been during times of great pain that I’ve felt that compassion and am so grateful for His breaking down of my own pride.

    Blessings, Joan

  3. Randy Jones says:


  4. Kathylou says:

    Very well put. This is why the huddles are so important to me. It gives a person tools needed to see where they need growth and how to make the needed changes to grow more Christ like. It is a shame that society believes it is the pastor’s role to hand feed them the meat. You usually need to wrestle with God for it. I have become a person who looks for the fruit in people. If you really look, you find it in amazing places. Huddles are a awesome tool to have available where getting to the meat can happen.

  5. Patrick Donohue says:

    Hi Chris, I totally get that Blogs could be misinterpreted, so take my comment with a grain of salt too.

    I realize that meaty sermons don’t necessarily results in spiritual depth (there’s no causative relationship). In fact, I’ve been a member at churches in my youth that were super biblical literate and yet cold and devoid of the spirit-filled/driven life.

    At the same time, those who desire more of the bible (so called “verse-by-verse” sermons) aren’t necessarily white washed tombs (the Pharisees).

    Either way, isn’t the combination of those the best available approach, where the Spirit speaks the Word into a humble and receptive heart?

    Reading between the lines, I feel your pain that there are people who prefer a certain type of preaching and will readily complain to the pastor when they’re not getting it. But, it also concerns me that today’s church–especially in unchurched areas like Northern California–are filled with people who don’t even bring a bible with them. They don’t realize, and I’m not sure anyone is telling them, that God’s very voice is in those pages.

    Let me be provocative here:

    How will believers begin to value the scripture, if there’s so little of the text of the bible in the only sermon they hear each week?

    I’m coming from a point of curiosity on this question, not with a specific agenda. I’m aware that many seeker-driven churches offer mid-week meetings, sunday school, or other bible studies for this. At the same time, Mr. Hybels was very open and honest with the world that their model didn’t bring about real spiritual formation over a 20 year period (there’s a great video where he lays out what’s worked and not worked).

    Thanks for sharing this rant Chris. You’re my pastor. I respect you and thank God for you every Sunday I sit under your teaching.

  6. JMB says:

    Excellent! I’M supposed to be the one working out my salvation (maturing)! Key word: WORK I’m not supposed to make YOU work for my salvation/maturity! It’s MY job to read, study, chew, digest, apply, live the Scriptures! Otherwise, it’s like an athlete who wants to be buff and strong, but only watches his trainer or coach do all the exercising!! Not going to happen! Thanks Chris!! : )

  7. Victor Nalywaiko Matthews dad says:

    Right on ….. All the camps, meetings,sermons don’t do a thing to develope a deep understanding of being a follower of Jesus …. Until you apply his teachings to your life.

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