Deep.” “Depth.” These are words I have used a lot —A LOT—to describe ideas at varying levels over the course of my life. They are terms that, for the most part, require no additional explanation … right? We all know what we’re talking about and we agreed about what we mean when we use words like “deep” a long time ago.

But I wonder.

I wonder if what people really mean by “depth” is information; facts. Maybe even words on a page or even the size of the words. Maybe we refer to knowledge that can be wielded like a sharp instrument in times of need. I wonder if knowledge—even good knowledge—is not so much about growth as it is about one’s default–my defaults, your defaults. That is, to prove I am a person of substance, of some relevance to the world around me, I have been conditioned to believe that I need to be armed with certain facts and special knowledge. I find comfort in fact; find comfort in things that are absolute and can be quantified with certainty. With facts I am not open to examination and, a nice by-product, I can keep people at a safe distance. Fact is commensurate with formula.

But what is knowledge without the intrinsic mediation of the heart?

I almost always try to talk movies during a haircut. Call it my “safe place.” I can’t explain it, but something about the scissors whirring around my ears drives me to a place of would-be and hopeful safety. (Or maybe I want to avoid a meaningful conversation while captive in the stylist’s chair.) Magnolia. No. There Will Be Blood. No. Hotel Rwanda. No. The stylist and I recently found common ground in that we had both seen The Dark Knight. Upon mention of the recent Batman movie, she issued a cease-cutting order that went out to her extremities. Pausing momentarily, she looked at me now instead of my reflection in order to capture the gravity of the moment, and said in a way any Southerner would recognize, “Now that’ll make you think.”

During group time we need more “That’ll make you think” moments and less “Wow I didn’t know that” moments. Facts are comfortable and safe. They are predictable. Not wrong or unimportant, mind you, but not the pinnacle of group time either. Proposition is neither transformational nor redemptive. Allowing group time to become a dazzling array of facts robs us of story, heart, and meaning. As group leaders and small-group pastors, encourage members to go beyond rote and pat answers and look for the story behind the text. Challenge them to know their own stories and the ways God wants to redeem them. We need to look deep inside who we are and who we are becoming. To find true redemptive community a group should relegate facts and special knowledge to a percentage—a small percentage—of the group experience.

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