Element began as a ministry of Bellevue Community Church, and at that time it was somewhat positioned as being for young adults in the church who wanted to "go deeper." At one of our meetings with church leadership, someone on the team described the teaching philosophy of Element as "deep." Someone else wisely asked, "What does that even mean?"
It's a very helpful question, because what I think some people consider "going deeper" is not necessarily what we/I would consider going deeper. I think for some people who'd never visited one of our services, the assumption is that we were doing verse-by-verse expository sermons, dealing with the roots of roots (I confess that Hebrew is Greek to me! :-), piling up the theological jargon, etc.
But while it's true that we avoid prooftexting Scripture and that we frequently deal with theological concepts, I think Element's teaching actually stays quite simple. Simply focused, if you will.
A couple of weeks ago I taught on the end times and the rapture. This week I'll be teaching on angels, demons, and spiritual warfare, and the week after that I'll be tackling the whole Calvinism/Arminianism thing. I've never done that before, and I'm only doing it now because we are in a series that called for submitted questions and let people vote, and those were top vote getters. I think some people have the impression that we are dealing with that kind of thing all the time at Element, but we're not. In fact, every week, no matter the subject or topic, the answer to the question is Jesus, and the main point is the gospel of grace.
For a long stretch I felt I needed to keep reminding people that Jesus will be the answer to every question we address. I am aware that focusing each week on the gospel can strike some as not very deep at all, and in fact can seem to violate the biblical charge (in Hebrews 6) to leave elementary things behind to press on to maturity. In fact, given that logic, it is Element that is being quite basic while the teaching in churches that highlights six steps to success in _________ is the kind that's "going deeper."
But that is not what we mean by depth. I think focusing on our efforts, however spiritual or noble, is pretty shallow, because no matter how far we go in our walk, we will always be infinitely dwarfed by the enormity of the glory of God.
For us, depth is not about chasing theological rabbits or splitting exegetical hairs. For us, nobody is deeper than Jesus and nothing is deeper than his character, his love, and his atoning work.
This is the kind of depth that turns us on:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
-- Ephesians 3:16-19
And borrowing from Ray Ortlund's fine blog, I love this quote from Corrie Ten Boom:
There is no pit so deep but Christ is deeper still.
We will never outrun our need for Jesus, and Jesus is the only depth deep enough to fill us.