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Churches Going ‘Deep’

There’s a popular children’s Vacation Bible School song called “Deep and Wide.” To make singing it more fun, a brief “hmnnn” can substituted for either the word “deep” or “wide” at the appropriate point in the song.

Applying that analogy to the last decade of congregational emphases, the “hmnnn” was more often substituted for deep than wide. With people shopping around for congregations and programs, more and more churches offered a wider array of special activities for the critical consumer. Congregations emphasized “wide” over “deep.” <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 
Lately, however, “deep” is making a comeback. “Go deeper” is a theme that is beginning to reverberate among congregations. Dig down to the roots. Get more grounded. Secure your foundation. Dig to find longer lasting answers to your questions. Put in the effort and realize the rewards of a profound search. Go cavernous.

A subtle shift among congregational leaders and seekers is taking them deeper rather than wider in their faith. The next generation of potential worshipers is more concerned about authenticity and experience than programs and plans. Leaders who espouse the importance of vision are discovering that congregational visions, while absolutely necessary, are absolutely useless if they do not propel congregational members deeper into involvement with Jesus Christ.  
In a recent church leadership conference, Rev. Walt Kallested, pastor of the Community of Joy Church in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Arizona, revealed the four components of his congregation’s “Go Deeper” theme this year: simplicity, silence, serenity and surrender

Psalms and other reflective passages are rising in popularity as they are quoted and exegeted more frequently from pulpits, in seminary classrooms and around denominational offices.  
Following an era of extraverted church-growth principles, introverts are welcoming with jubilation the call to go deeper. As the world searches for meaning, inquirers are finding that the more helpful answers require more work, greater attentiveness and increased resiliency. The efforts are paying off. Deepening one’s relationship with Jesus Christ enhances every aspect of one’s life.

Part of the reason for the switch from wide to deep is that people want to know that something of substance is at the core of the foundation. As more CEO’s, sports figures, and clergypersons reveal less than stellar decision-making principles, people want to know that the church can still offer something that matters to them.  
With the recent New York Times editor resignations, the Martha Stewart indictment, the Sammy Sosa corked bat episode, people need of authenticity somewhere. Perhaps it can be found in the church as people discover that at the bottom of our well is the living presence of Jesus Christ.

Jeff Woods is executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Ohio