Where leadership happens.
Over a generation ago author Richard Foster wrote, "Superficiality is the curse of the age" (The Celebration of Discipline, Harper and Row, 1978). He added, "The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people." What was true then is even more the cultural norm today. These are truly times of shallowness. What is worse is the way so many churches and spiritual leaders splash around the baby pools of life with people more adept at wading than launching into the deep. Into this world the voice of King David echoes across time, a hymn of praise to the One who draws us beyond life's surfaces---
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
Psalm 42:7, ESV
The twenty-first century personality cult relishes veneers. Appearances are the value pieces in a world like this one, and that's not just a reference to looks. Dressing for success, living the lifestyle, frequenting the in places, even attending a hip church are visuals of this obsession with the look of things. In this society the media shapes our opinions of what's real, gives us glamour shots of the favored people, and hides the deeper stuff in a cloud of personal privacy sponsored by the national association of that's none of our dang business.
But, there's a hunger for depth. The things on the outer edges of reality just won't give humans what is needed to actually cut it in a world like this one. As Paul reminded the Corinthians, the outer things are transient (see 2 Corinthians 4:18). So, they have a good feel or perhaps provide a nice snapshot, but only for a moment. Even the boomers, my cohort, are finally realizing the folly of our superficial remedies and seem to be returning to church for some spiritual depth. The hang-up is that so many churches have replaced depth with lighter fare and they're all leaving week after week still hungry. Where in the world in the spiritual depth that can change people?
So, the nation is in a funk, the institutional church following the lead set by the beautiful people. And we've created our own replacements that do the appearance thing with depth but only that. It's a smoke and mirrors of performance lavishly staged to leave an impression of going deep. What are these counterfeits?
Vast numbers of younger Americans flock to churches whose leaders appear
real. The crude language, suggestive by-lines, irreverent attitudes, and spiritual
smugness give a suggestion of something deeper. But, being authentic isn't
deep. Watch some reality TV for lessons in the shallowness of being real.
They're usually profane and offer glimpses of life we're better off hiding from
the children. But, they're thin too.
Connecting to the culture is the in-thing in the wave of modern engagement.
So often this link to unchurched elements of our society is how we
acknowledge them, reach out to them, and even normalize their lifestyles and
behaviors. We talk like them, dress like them, try to think like them, mimic their
peculiarities, play their music, tell their jokes, and pattern our church life so
they'll approve of it. Resonating with the mission field down the street is an
important function of effective church ministry. But, resonance isn't
necessarily deep. I mean, the local bar knows how to resonate with its
The presence of a crowd doesn't equal depth either. Jesus warned his disciples
two thousand years ago of the deceptive lure of a multitude. He reminded
them of the two gates, the narrow one that leads to life and the wide one that
leads to destruction (see Matthew 7:13-14). Still, a culture bent on
appearances will put largess and depth on an equal footing.
So, my topic this week will be DEPTH: THE ZONE OF GENUINE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP. My aim? To keep the challenge of making disciples on my personal to-do list, and to encourage others to seek depth in their personal life and spiritual leadership as well.
How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep.
Psalms 92:5, ESV
That's where spiritual leaders should lead, the zone of leadership, depth. It's where genuine spiritual leadership happens, in the depths.
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