Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Fallacy of "Meat" and "Deep"

How many times have you heard the expression "I really want to go deep" or "I really need some meat" and wondered exactly what that meant.  I don't know how many times I have heard people say one of these and when asked what they mean they can't give an explanation.  They just want depth and solid food!!  Okay then?

I don't think people really understand what "deep" and "meat" means.  Louie and I were talking about this.  He said that some people equate these with complicated.  There are a lot of people who think you aren't a "deep" preacher "feeding" the congregation because you aren't getting into the Greek and looking at the conjugation of verbs and considering the tense in order to explain the mystery behind the meaning of....blah, blah, blah.

If one takes a look at Jesus' teaching it would be found that his teaching was not very complicated and yet it was still deep.  In fact one of the strikingly remarkable things about Jesus's teaching is that he used parables or stories; a very simplistic way of communicating a lesson.  Mark 4:33 says "With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.  He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything."  I'm not saying a parable needs no explanation, but on the other hand it is still a simplistic way of teaching. 

Paul speaks of milk as opposed to solid food.  A lot of people think simple is milk whereas complex is solid.  I have grown to understand the meaning of these in a different way.  Milk is the basics of Christianity; the Gospel message.  In fact, if you really look at it, the Christian message is not a complicated message at all.  Yes we have a big book called the Bible, but it's message is not very difficult event though there are a lot of stories. God loves us.  God is the perfect standard.  We sin.  We deserve death.  God sent his son as an atoning sacrifice (Jesus took our punishment).  Through Jesus we can have eternal life.  Through Jesus we can love God back.  Not very complicated, but somewhere along the line Christians have developed this idea that there must be more beyond the simple (milk) message of the Gospel.  There must be some solid food in that book.  Truth is, solid food isn't found in Scripture.  It is found through the living out scripture. 

People who say they need "meat" need to spend more time doing what Scripture says.  It is that simple.  I think the desire for "meat" is really an excuse to not do what God truly desires.  That is where the complication comes in.  Even though there is a simplicity to the Bible and Christianity, it is our putting it into practice that complicates it.  It is the conflict between our selfish fleshly desires and spiritual nature which desires to serve and obey God.  Some people want to go "deep" because they don't want to deal with the this conflict.  Going deep is really the easy way out.  There is a deep spiritual feeling but no real depth in one's walk with God. 

The culmination of all that God has done is Jesus working through the church to bring people to Himself.  How can there be anything deeper beyond?  This idea was a major contributor to the formation of Gnosticism.  Gnosticism taught/teaches that there is more beyond what we see.  In fact, all that is material is really evil and cannot be trusted.  To learn the truth one must be initiated into a special group of people who hold the key to unlocking the truth.  In essence, such a notion that there is something more beyond the very simple has led people away from Christ.

If your one of those people who want to go "deeper" and be fed "meat" then I challenge you to take what you know and really put it into practice.  God has called us to be doers.  He has not called us to be intellectual giants.  Put what you know into practice.    "One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much..."  "Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much."


Christopher said...

Pastor Van Dyke,

Good afternoon. I happened by your post via Louie Marsh's blog.

On the point of a pastor or teacher explaining the nuances of the Greek or Hebrew language, I agree, too much of an "academelogion" approach could very well become a spiritual distraction; if the learner is only focused on the acquisition of knowledge and theology vs focusing on Christ and the message of the cross(1st Corinthians 15:1-5).

Zero is the number of times that I've personally heard the expression "I really want to go deep" or "I really need some meat" uttered by a layperson(?). I have however heard it at least three times (Perry Noble, Steven Furtick,and here on your blog). Now neither of those instances really validates an argument as to which side of the coin is an accurate reflection of the Body of Christ. My observations are limited to the congregation I belong to while I would assume the same of your situation, along with whatever opportunities you are afforded as a pastor to mingle with others outside of your sphere of influence.

If you will bear with me, I'd like to offer a counter point for consideration.

On your premise: If one takes a look at Jesus' teaching it would be found that his teaching was not very complicated and yet it was still deep.

I have to disagree concerning the complicatedness of Jesus' teachings; as complicated can infer being difficult to analyze,understand (see Matthew 15:1-16), or explain. I would however add that I think that this was a case of the disciples not understanding Jesus' teaching due to their own preconceptions, personal motives, but most importantly unchanged hearts.

If we consider the disciples as they walked with Jesus, I ask: “Did they understand everything that Christ taught immediately ?” In Luke 6:1-3 Christ takes the time to explain the Sabbath, referencing Old Testament passages. In the parable of the Pharisee & the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) Jesus uses both parables and reference to Old Testament passages (Isaiah 2:11-12) to teach the disciples.

Some things I’ll throw out to consider:

Jesus’ Ministry was 3 years (of which I'm inclined to think that He didn't "zap" the disciples with a cosmic ray so that they just got "smart" to His words overnight.)

The disciples grew in their understanding of what Christ said through His words,His actions, and the relationship He fostered with them.

I’m not debating that parables were a simplistic form of teaching, the point is that as Jesus took the time to teach His disciples, perhaps teachers should reevaluate their approaches and perhaps lack of patience(?) with their brothers and sisters that aren't quite up to speed with where they are in their walk with Christ. I think Jesus "realized" this where He is explaining clean & unclean (Matthew 15:1-16). Peter is still confused concerning the parable to which Christ replies... “Are you still so dull?". Did Christ stop there? No, He didn't.

He continued to teach his disciple...

17"Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.' "

Finally in Luke 24:45 regarding the resurrection of Christ and Him appearing to the disciples:

45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

Just thought I'd drop in my 2 cents worth.

Grace and peace be with you.

Pastor Brian B Van Dyke said...

Christopher. Thank you for leaving a comment. I really appreciate it. I also appreciate you challenging me. Many blogs are written out of emotion, though I really try to step back and think clearly, but I was a little emotional when I wrote this. I'm glad you don't hear such things at your church. You either have a group of people who are content with what is being taught, which I hope is the case, or you have people who don't really care, which I hope is not the case.

I need to clarify what I meant by complicated teaching being confused for depth and meat. I think some people fall for the lie that teaching that sounds complex and complicated is deep. You are right in saying that Jesus had to often explain what he taught to his disciples, but I would say that once things were explained to them they got it. Jesus was know for keeping certain truths out of easy reach. I truly believe he did this because Christianity is not an easy road. Those who want it to a certain extent have to go get it. I'm not advocating a works related gospel here. Just saying that, like any gift given, you have to step forward to receive.

I also believe Jesus was a master teacher. Yes, some things were hard to understand, but what an awesome way to peek the interest of those he was teaching. He caused them to want to understand. I will still say there is a simplicity to what he taught, but the way he taught it caused people to hunger and thirst for the truth.

Thank you again for challenging me and causing me to clarify what I wrote. A man sharpens a man as iron sharpens iron. I truly believe that.