Church’s Shallow Teachings

shallow teachingThe other day, I got a call from a dear friend who wanted my opinion on a church related issue.

“I stopped going to church,” she tells me

“Why?”

“Well, I need deeper teachings. What comes my way on Sundays is very shallow.”

I know my friend well enough to know this is not an excuse. I’ve also been around long enough to know how valid her complaint is. Let’s face it, on most Sundays, much of what we hear from the pulpits in America is rather shallow. By shallow, I mean elementary. But, how does a teaching become elementary? By hearing it over and over again. So, what many Christians are asking their pastors is, “Teach me something new!”

Did you hear about the young pastor who’d just been hired by a church?

On his first Sunday at the new church, he preached an amazing message. The church council was hi-fiving each other for having the fortitude and the wisdom to have hired such a great preacher.

The following Sunday, half way through his message, everyone who’d been at church the week before, knew the pastor was preaching exactly the same message, but the council members figured that was for the sake of some who’d not heard the original message.

However on the third Sunday, things really got tense when the young man preached the same message again. After the service was over, the council members pull the man aside and began to question him.

“Don’t you have any other messages?” they demanded.

“Of course, I do,” said the young man.

“Then, why repeat the same sermon over and over again? Preach something new!”

That’s when the young man said, “I will, as soon as, you start practicing what I’ve been teaching you these last three weeks.”

I do understand that the above story may sound like a practice in futility, or it could very well be an excellent poster story for the definition of insanity—repeating the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. Unfortunately, for years, pastors have thought that all the church needs is another good message to change the lives of all the pew occupants, thus preaching the Word has become the crown of the church service.

It’s also fair to ask, “Is the above pastor modeling what he’s preaching? Is he walking the talk?”

However, I believe for the most part, our problem isn’t with shallow teachings, but the shallow way we practice these so called, “shallow teachings” we’ve been hearing. And, by doing so, as the book of James says, we’ve simply been making fools out of ourselves. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it ways.”  James. 1:21

How many times have we heard teachings on Christ’s greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”   Luke 10:27

Would you consider another homely on the above verse a “shallow” teaching? Then, let me ask you a question—this not only goes to church members, but especially to pastors.

Are you practicing this “shallow” teaching? How many of your next-door neighbors do you know by name?

If you can’t obey this “shallow” teaching, how can you handle a “deeper” teaching?

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34 thoughts on “Church’s Shallow Teachings

    1. Greg, my friend is involved in serving God, but not within a church building confinement. However, why have more Bible studies when most participants are there, as Forshia puts it, “looking to fill their own spiritual bellies.”? We don’t need another Bible study. We need people who will finally put to action what they’ve been hearing at all these Bible studies.

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  1. Excellent, I agree. I know my hearts desire is that those who hear my messages and read my books would put the principles into practice thereby experiencing a changed life. Also, I often see that those who want a deeper message have not taken the time to ‘give out’ to others what they have learned, rather than ‘looking’ to fill their own spiritual bellies. The above suggestion to start a Bible Study is wonderful. In saying all of this, I, too, cry out to the Lord not to become stagnant myself. Stagnancy simply means that what is flowing in isn’t allowed to flow out….Great word! Pastor Forshia Ross

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    1. Recently I have become more aware that for a long time I was just a listener and not a doer. Not that I have become a doer suddenly, but the awareness is working in me to move in that direction. The result of just being a listener is coldness, loss of joy, fruitlessness, etc., etc., How we need each other’s prayers.

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  2. Shahrokh jaan,
    On a related but from a different angle approach, and after more than a decade of wrestling with the issues you refer to and 6 decades of living in an evangelistic Christian culture, I find the insight of Scot McKnight, N.T.Wright, Willard and others on Gospel very refreshing as I think they put their fingers right on the roots of the problem in our current Christian culture.
    On that, enjoying the book “The King Jesus Gospel” very much!

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  3. My thoughts are that what Jesus taught 2,000 years ago is a far cry, and perhaps completely opposite of what evangelicals teach and practice today. Some are seeking to recover what has been lost, but even this is fraught with problems. There is something dangerous about a religious environment of any brand, as it seems there is no way around the us vs. them mentality and few, if any, checks and balances.

    This was a comment I left on another discussion board:

    I was reading James Carroll’s excellent book, “Constantine’s Sword,” http://www.amazon.com/Constantines-Sword-Chur…/…/ref=sr_1_1… He discusses a familiar family story about his grandfather, an Irish patriot who died a hero fighting the British. On a trip to Ireland, following his ordination to the priesthood, he finds his grandfather’s grave, and discovers that his grandfather died a hero alright, but not in an uprising against the British. His tombstone shockingly revealed that the Irish grandfather from the old country died in WWI fighting AS a British soldier in the British army.
    That a narrative could change so drastically and so quickly, while believed so wholeheartedly and spread so convincingly, might cause us to examine our own thinking.

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  4. I find it amazing that I have heard at least 100 sermons on tithing and none on divorce. To say, “My thoughts are that what Jesus taught 2,000 years ago is a far cry, and perhaps completely opposite of what evangelicals teach and practice today. ” is a bit much. Really, opposite? Preachers are teaching to hate neighbors and earning salvation? “There is something dangerous about a religious environment of any brand..” Is this from the Richard Dawkins Blog? Was the early Church a dangerous environment? Jesus was religious. Is He dangerous?

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  5. I believe it is useful to at least listen to your opponents, because although they aren’t always right, often they offer valuable input and correction you won’t find in your religious or other community. If you do some serious research from scholarly sources, you might be surprised. There are many who have replaced teaching and living scripture with preaching the gospel of right-wing politics, and they do express vitriol, most of which is inaccurate and out of context, toward their neighbors.

    The early church was a dangerous environment, probably beginning in the early second century and sealing the deal with Constantine and the Council of Nicea. Where did Jesus ever say that his followers were to raise armies, conquer, slaughter and forcibly convert people, (especially Jews) and consider women to be morally and intellectually inferior? As far as the danger of religious environments, you only need to peruse survivor blogs, recent scandals – unless you view all these witnesses as liars out to destroy, “godly men,” and, “godly ministries.” I read a recent definition of religion, which I thought was very good. “Religion = revelation + interpretation + law + ritual.” My take is that the vast majority of those who claim to follow Jesus, with a few quite notable exceptions, are really following the son of destruction (is 200 million enough?) and the man of lawlessness.

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    1. In addition, you might be happy to hear that the New Atheists have their own sex scandal, just like religious folk. It seems Michael Shermer was displaying unwanted affections to some ladies at a conference, and Dawkins responded with a, “boys will be boys.” One difference here is the women spoke out loudly about this harassment, and others laid into both Shermer and Dawkins. We have seen things handled differently in religious environments, with cover-up, victim blaming/shaming, even shunning and threats.

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    2. chaya1957, since, as you say, “the vast majority of those who claim to follow Jesus, with a few quite notable exceptions, are really following the son of destruction you among those who follows Christ…”, I was just wondering which group YOU belonged to and why?

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      1. My quest is to seek to grasp how the original teachings, within the original language and culture were understood and practiced, prior to being co-opted for various political purposes. Many people feel the need to have or believe they have some absolute answer, but I am okay with ambiguity, and even view it as a challenge. To say I have the answer(s) would be dishonest, although, it is far easier to disprove than to prove.

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      2. You still haven’t answered my question. Since you’re so sure that, “…vast majority of those who claim to follow Jesus, with a few quite notable exceptions, are really following the son of destruction (is 200 million enough?) and the man of lawlessness.”, I’m wondering which group you belong to and why?

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  6. That comment about 100 sermons on tithing vs non on divorce is so insightful. It says so much about the state of the Church.

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  7. Do you think sermons on the evils of divorce would alter the divorce rate? Want to wager a guess as to which religious group in the US has the highest divorce rate? Evangelicals. Within that subset, Pentecostals are the highest.

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      1. I also think I misunderstood. You are speaking about listening in terms of knowing the right thing to do and not doing it, while I am referring to listening to what God and people are saying, listening empathetically and openly without putting up a barrier to hearing someone out.

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  8. To the point of shallow teachings, I am compelled to ask a question that is vital to ALL believers, new, young and mature in The Lord; Why are so many churches, including Calvary churches, teaching from the NIV? For starters, It is full of blatant deletions that completely alter The Word. Just one but major example is John 3:16 – in the NiIV it deletes “begotten” – Jesus as the only ‘begotten’ is crucial to his redemptive sacrifice…divine nature…that John 3:16 is the most widely known, even to those not (yet, hopefully…) saved to dilute its potency is to diminish its impact. There are so many deletions and errors that please engage in due diligence and see for yourself why good, accurate translations DO matter.

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    1. If you talk to Hebrew and Greek scholars, also conversant with how the original speakers and hearers would have understood the text, you will discover that there is no such thing as a, “good,” translation. All are biased from some angle; some are more seriously so. Anyone who has learned a second language knows it is often impossible to accurately translate certain ideas, and we are talking about a text removed by thousands of years, miles and worldview. If you are serious about accurate understanding, you would learn the original languages yourself. If you are looking for a translation that agrees with your doctrine, your religious leaders will direct you.

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  9. Hi Chaya, Yes, I think sermons on the evil of divorce would decrease the divorce rate among people who did not want to be evil. Amazingly marriage is the only contract that can be breached with virtually no consequences. I can hear you wailing now about binding woman and all that BS. But marriage is an agreement two people consent to. There is no compulsion to marry. Shacking up is always an option and frankly I think that the official marriage is a detriment to the relationship. Having the State recognize and then decide on the outcome if the contract is breached is a violation of natural rights. I do not remember Jerry Brown being at my wedding. And if I had to do it over again I would have not sent in my marriage license.

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  10. Hi Chaya, I could have guessed that Christians have an equal or higher divorce rate without you giving the answer. But it is also true that Christians shack up less and are therefore when they split up it is an official divorce. Not that divorce is not rampant among Christians. It is and it is sad because “God hates divorce.” My point was that with the divorce rate so high among Christians I think it would be preached on more. But unfortunately the preachers seem to have caved in and taken the popular course. I mean preaching on divorce would be really unpopular in any church in America considering half the people listening would have divorced at least once.

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  11. Hi Chaya, I have read quite a bit from the atheist regime. My brother is an atheist and we have had quite a few discussions on the subject. Judging by your responses so far I’d say my brother is at least twice as informed on the atheist position as you are. As such I have had to read a lot of books from people who have taken Dawkins and Dennett and Hitchens and Pinker on. And am quite familiar with their arguments. In fact I dare you to read Godforsaken” by Dinesh D’Souza. Surely someone who argues that we dumb Christians should research alternate views can read at least one book? Not that you will listen to his arguments because you are a close minded person, as all atheists are. Really, you hate God and have decided to pretend He does not exist. But He does. And it is fine that you do not. I mean I recognize your right to believe whatever you want. And I expect atheist to recognize my right to believe whatever I want. I see the flying spaghetti monster and I say to myself, “It is offensive but they have the right to offend. That right is a natural right. I do not have to like it but I recognize it.” Unfortunately Atheist do not recognize the right of anyone other than atheists. They want to tear down my cross but leave up their flying spaghetti monster. They only allow what they believe and anyone else’s opinion should be censored. That is the opposite of liberalism.

    Lastly, can you name one religion that has murdered more than 100,000,000 people in less than a 100 years? Atheism. Mao, Hitler, Stalin. Just those three atheist have murdered over 100,000,000 in the last 100 years. And that does not include lesser atheists like Pol Pot. Talk about a religion of hatred: Atheism.

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    1. I’m not an atheist. This is the typical response I get with Christians, they love to label, categorize and then discount or even demonize. If I criticize evangelicalism, I am an atheist. If I criticize conservative politics/politicians, I am a liberal. Blah Bah. I will support atheists/agnostics in that although communism claims atheism, it is really a cult of personality, akin to emperor worship of ancient times, and according to my son who knows everything, failed communist economic policies killed more people than their wars or purges. I have discovered that almost every evangelical social media space will delete questions and comments they cannot answer, and some will attack the poster and then block them so they can’t respond. They win when they can control the environment. So, I don’t even bother anymore with this dishonesty, as well as indoctrinated robots who can only repeat themselves and call people names, like those defending the Duggars, etc.

      So, you told me what I believed, what I hated, what I thought – and you were wrong on all counts. All this social media interaction would be an interesting research project, as I continually get the same responses.

      Interesting you follow the formula, and that is telling me what I think and feel, rather than asking me. I understand, it is self-protective. If you demonize, “the other,” you don’t need to listen to anything he/she says, and so protect yourself.

      The issue is the fraud, as Christianity claims to be a religion of love thy neighbor, while it has slaughtered, persecuted and forcibly converted its neighbor. It wasn’t atheists that were putting burning crosses on my grandparent’s lawn, keeping my relatives from colleges and jobs and beating them up and calling them names after they got out of church.

      I think D’souza is an idiot, who of course has a following among those who enjoy validation. I am sure you know he presented a woman as his fiancee while still married, although separated, and made some excuse that he was confused about this being some American custom he didn’t know about that found this problematic.

      I don’t care what a person believes, but I care about how that informs how they behave. I’ve seen very troubling things in those I have liked and respected, and I would sum it up with: fear and putting up protective barriers to people and ideas that are unfamiliar and different, and leading me into these same prejudices because a person will become like those in their social group; discouraging people from growing, experimenting and discovering their own place in the universe and the world of religion/spirituality employing fear. A patriarchal system that uses carrot and stick. I lent a book, “Guardian Angel,” by Skip Moen, to a female friend, a college educated and intelligent woman. She mentioned that red flags go up when anything seems different (from what she had been taught) and she went to the male pastor for guidance, protection from what I assume was the belief that women are weaker, more easily deceived. I think I also lent her another book I really like, “The Beast that Crouches at the Door,” by R’ David Fohrman. Now, I don’t expect anyone else will necessarily share my enthusiasm for books or anything else. But these environments that draw and keep people in with kindness and social support also prevent them from growing and expanding themselves, keeping them in a state of perpetual childhood to keep them in the fold.

      There are a lot of assumptions, but I don’t know that they are backed up by statistics. A YEC from Australia made the claim that not teaching YEC led to teen pregnancy, however, fundamental groups have a higher teen pregnancy rate. You mentioned that less church people shack up; my understanding is that premarital sex rates are about the same. In fact, I read one study that said that if you are not evangelical, but live in an area where there is a large population of evangelicals, youth have a higher chance of divorce. The reason given was early age of marriage, lack of education and lack of income. Catholics, Mormons and Jews have a lower rate of divorce than evangelicals, and also less of an attrition rate once they go off to college. Seriously, apologetics rarely convince anyone to change their mind; this exists to try to keep the ones they have.

      Rather than make assumptions, you could do an experiment. Compare two churches of relatively the same size and demographics, and in one the pastor gives many sermons on divorce, and in the other, he doesn’t. I doubt if it would work anymore than sermons on tithing, unless you have a highly uneducated and unthinking demographic, like the ones who send in money thinking they will receive their “blessing,” “miracle,” “healing,” or whatever in return.

      My take is that the best way to prevent divorce would be quality premarital counseling – not the typical, “submit wife/love husband,” mentoring from older, mature, successful couples, support and help in times of difficulty. However, studies show people follow their social group, so if there are a lot of divorces in a church, new couples will take their cue from that. Your demographic of an overabundance of single women isn’t helpful, as not only is it miserable for them, but I suspect a man is less likely to be willing to work on his marriage if he knows a replacement model is waiting in the wings, and there is no longer a stigma, even among clergy.

      I did find an actual physical group that I would be a part of if it wasn’t 40 miles away, and health issues would make this situation difficult. So, it is okay not belonging, being in the wilderness, so to speak. I’ve found places I can learn from (which I really enjoy) without the accompanying required conformity. “Who is wise? He who learns from all men.”

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      1. Chaya, I’m grateful that you’ve decided to make comments on this blog. May I ask you why you create a straw man so you can also knock it down? You said,
        “I have discovered that almost every evangelical social media space will delete questions and comments they cannot answer, and some will attack the poster and then block them so they can’t respond. They win when they can control the environment. So, I don’t even bother anymore with this dishonesty, as well as indoctrinated robots who can only repeat themselves and call people names, like those defending the Duggars, etc.”
        Well, here you are on MY blog where you basically called me a child of the devil because I AM an evangelical. Have I deleted you? Not only I haven’t, I’ve asked you questions, which means I want us to continue our conversation. Do you know why? Because, believe it or not, you and I have a lot more in common than you think. You’re more than welcome to make any statement your heart desires on this blog, but don’t be surprised if you’re asked to back them up, which brings me to the following.
        You still haven’t answered my question, and by doing so, you’re doing exactly what you accuse the evangelicals of doing to you, deleting me. So, before we go any further, please answer the question I asked you a few days ago. Now, if you’re not willing to answer me, then I recommend you quit playing a martyr acting like the whole world is against you. When you and I make unpopular statements, we should be willing to pay the consequences.
        I’m very sorry for your health issues. I’m struggling with some myself. For whatever it’s worth, I hope you give having me as a friend a chance. Waiting to hear from you.

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      2. Shah, you are my friend. I am only speaking from experience. There are exceptions, such as yourself, Phil, but you are exceptions. I do sort of know Shah, as I spent, I think a week with he and Karen back in 1981, but he doesn’t remember 🙂 A lack of self-criticism is common to many groups, not all, and I suppose a lack of reflection and questioning of one’s own group prejudices is also common. The positive thing is when people grow, develop and make changes. Some think it admirable that someone remains the same in their thinking over the course of 20-40 years, and I don’t think so. @Dennis, I suppose it appeared to me that you were acting in a formulaic, predictable manner, especially claiming I hated God. I am pretty disgusted by those who claim to speak for God, to claim to know/practice truth. I asked my skeptic (sort of) son if one could be both a skeptic and a theist, and he said no, as skepticism a priori assumes that any apparent supernatural manifestation has an easy natural explanation. I like to think in terms of testing vigorously any belief, in the same way that one would do a scientific experiment. Well, since I have worked in the world of journalism, the practice is to approach every interview and document with objectivity, neither accepting nor rejecting, but looking for verification and validation. Journalists are probably the most cynical people you have ever met, and that is because they have seen everything, as King David famously said, “All men are liars.” Yes, I know there is context there. Also, most journalists are atheists/agnostics, perhaps because they have seen what is hidden or what most choose not to see.

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      3. chaya1957, I’m sorry for this very late reply. If you’re my friend on Facebook, then I know who you are, but I don’t think I ever knew by chaya, and that’s why I didn’t know I knew you.In any case, I’m glad we’re friends.
        I’m surrounded by people who, like myself, ask questions because we are objective. You and Dennis are among those people. However, we have to realize that when we rock the boat, we also have to pay the price for it 😉 This happens with any group, left or right. Christian or atheist.

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  12. Hi Chaya, Sorry for assuming you were an atheist. From your points it seemed like you were. Generally Christians do not dog religion. Ironically you assumed I was a conservative whereas I am not. Also, I’m not an evangelical either. Just a regular Christian which means Christ died for my sins and paid my price and renewed in me a new heart that I could love Him in return. And I am acutely aware of my failure as a human and rely completely in His Grace.

    Shah, sorry for derailing your blog into all this stuff! Too bad Chaya does not know you. You’d knock his socks off with your crazy ideas!

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  13. Hope this comment is appropriate here. I think Atheism is a reaction to the way believers and churches are perceived. There is a discrepancy between our claims and our(my) conduct, hence loss of credibility. There are many other reasons one may prefer Atheism, such as getting off the hook being accountable to the Creator.

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