Deep and wide, deep and wide,
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide…
I remember singing this chorus over and over as a child at Okoboji Camp in Iowa. We would ensue with all the hand motions to fit and often sang it in a round. Who knew it would surface in my soul almost 30 years later as a prophetic truth for the American Church.
As a Pastor, often I’m drawn into conversation over the local church. Sometimes it is with our own church family, other times with a pastor of a different local church expression and once in a while with someone completely out of my context. With growing frequency, the conversations turn to questions like, “Is your church growing?” “How do you measure success?” and the like.
With increasing volume, the song Deep and Wide has been rising up within me during these conversations. It got to the point of being deafening, so I set out to explore it rather than ignore it and thus was born this article.
Not too many churches boast about their depth. Seriously think about it. When is the last time you were talking with another pastor or someone from another church and the conversation started with “How spiritual are your people?” Maybe this is a good thing. A local church where God is doing a deep work is going to be made up of people who aren’t too concerned about what is or isn’t happening elsewhere. They’re probably focused intently on Jesus, their relationship with Him and those who don’t have one.
We love to talk about the work God is doing that is “wide” in our churches. We’ve grown 18%…our giving is up 7%…someone just gave us 20 acres…we’re going to build a $100 million dollar building…we baptized 300 people this year!
Thus the mega-church spawned and has now returned to its breeding grounds to lay eggs within all of us.
I want my writing to be “wide” so I can convince publishers to pay me. I’m not sure they care if it is deep. But honestly, before God…can I get to the place where I would say I want six people to read this and see the Spirit use it for transformation. Or would I rather see the bar graph shoot toward the sky as hundreds or thousands of people hit this page.
You can’t forget the most important word in the song, “and.” God works in the deep AND in the wide. For the most part we’ve spent too much time talking and reflecting and looking for the “wide” work of God while neglecting the deep. However, the reverse can be true and is possibly a future danger for the church as the pendulum is picking up pace on it’s way from the “wide” work of God to the “deep” work in the American Church.
So what is your responsibility? What is mine? We are called to celebrate and seek both the Deep and Wide work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the life of our church. May we see the growth AND the fruit, the numbers AND the stories, the steeple AND the people as we seek God with all we do and all he would have us become.
(Note: Andy Stanley recently wrote a book of the same title addressing some of these issues.)