Review: Deep & Wide, Part 2

deep-and-wideI began reviewing Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley on this blog post. It was one of the books I began reading this year. Andy is the pastor of North Point Church near Atlanta. The book is chock full of practical ideas and Andy’s leadership team at North Point are relentless in their focus to create a church that unchurched people will love to attend. He states in his introduction to the book that they “don’t grade ourselves on size. We grade ourselves on how attractive we are to our target audience.” (15)

His disclaimer to all those who might begin decrying the creation of a purely attractional ministry and the compromises with culture that might incur is:

We are a church. Our goal isn’t to create an event unchurched people love to attend. We are creating churches.

The second half of the book begins with the section Going Deep, and it’s here that Andy zeroes in on primary goal of their church: the faith development of all those within its influence. It’s here that he lists five faith catalysts that they believe are common to everyone who has grown in their faith:

  1. Practical teaching
  2. Private disciplines
  3. Personal ministry
  4. Providential relationships
  5. Pivotal circumstances

Developing a person’s faith is intended to help a person grow a rock-solid confidence in the person and character of God. So North Point seeks to 1) make its ministries attractive to those who don’t go to church and 2) intentionally lead those who come to place all their trust and confidence in God.

This spiritual growth/faith development process they embrace is not just one of increasing people’s knowledge (which is the only primary strategy of most churches). It seeks to enhance each of the five catalysts mentioned above.

You really should read this book. Andy and his leaders have thought deeply about how all this meshes together. That doesn’t mean that you should swallow what he’s prescribing. It means you should also think deeply. What I appreciate is how he and his church are wrestling with scripture and culture, seeking to be faithful to one and loving to the other.

As I mentioned in part one of this review, I am concerned about the methodologies of our churches and ministries in America. The unquestioned and uncritical use of means can obscure, dilute or even refute the message. I said in that post:

I am earnest believer that how we do what we do deeply matters to God.

We must learn to think deeply again. We’ve become like the Modern Family sitcom in our ecclesiology – adrift and in reaction mode to what’s happening around us. We have no strategy and act like we have no mission. We’re simply in our church living rooms spouting off one-liners and have become the slapstick of society. Our youth and college students struggle to apply (or even know) scriptural principles to living and decisions. Again, form part 1:

In our zeal, we often are thoughtless about how we speak about God, theology, truth and the church. Younger Christians spout off phrases that are tweetable but not livable. We have a dearth of folks who can think biblically. What we say and how we say it matters.

Andy says in the chapter Playing My Part:

People are far more interested in what works that what’s true. I hate to burst your bubble, but virtually nobody in your church is on a truth quest. Including your spouse. They are on happiness quests… You may be spot-on theologically..but you will not be perceived as one who teaches with authority. Worse, nobody is going to want to listen to you.

While your first reaction may be resistance (if you’ve been in church leadership very long), think about it again. He’s not saying that truth isn’t important. He’s saying that why people come isn’t initially motivated by truth. Therein lies the gist of Deep & Wide. It helps you think again about how you do what you do as a church/ministry and why you do what you do. I think one thing it could improve on is a thorough discussion of the should’s rather than just the what’s.

In other words, we need to think again about whether starting with where people are is the best place to start. I know we can’t start with where we want them to be. As one example of how Jesus did this, consider his interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. He met her where she was – in physical, strategic proximity. He was at the well at an odd time, when she was at the well also. But he didn’t enter into where she was – a world of sexual immorality and cultural compromise – to bring her out. He offered her something – living water – a way out. He spoke truth in love to her. And there was something in his approach and demeanor that resulted in her bringing the whole town to meet him.

Andy would disagree with this, I think. He says:

If people are more interested in being happy, then play to that.

He compares it to a sailor knowing the direction of the wind in order to set his sail. While it does seem practical, I am still a little uncomfortable with some of the conclusions of that line of thought.

In the long run, however, Deep & Wide really does help a church go deep (spiritual development) and as a result, it becomes wide (numerical growth and influence).

One last insight from a chapter called…

Irresistible Environments

It was deeply convicting as I read and realized just how unprepared most churches (and even our church) is to receive guests. It’s vitally important, Andy says, to consider what message your building ambience is teaching. We must be more strategic about the what people experience in our gatherings.

We can’t leave this to the individual whims of our volunteers. Unless you are content to have a church for church people… But the moment a church, or even a group of leaders within a church, catches a vision for capturing the hearts and imaginations of those who consider themselves unchurched or dechurched, environments take on new significance.

We need to place more attention on the “feel” and “look” of our centers, churches and ministry facilities. When we do, we demonstrate a greater vision for visitors. Unfortunately, the longer we’re part of the “in” crowd, it becomes harder to see and remember what once bothered us. Andy says, “Time in erodes awareness of.”

Let me wrap up this lengthy review with this: read the book. It will be profitable for you as you think through its implications. There’s much to glean and gain from it. Truly.

Please let me know if this two-part review provoked you to read the book.

Jesus, humble? How?

2014 beautiful outlawFrom John Eldredge in Beautiful Outlaw:

Because of His extraordinary humility, no seems to fully grasp just who [He] is. But [at the crucifixion] nature knows, and cannot bear it – the earth convulses; the sun hides his face. It is only after the resurrection that the full reality begins to dawn on mankind. If it has even dawned on us yet.

Elsewhere, Eldredge urges us to embrace just how human Jesus became.

You must rid yourselves of the ‘Einsten doing first-grade math’ image.. If Jesus chose a genuine humanity, and drew His power from the Father as we must do, then we can live as He did.”

The apostle Paul wrote:

…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2.6-8)

Jesus lived in complete dependence on the Father, urging us to do the same. That’s humbling humility.


Jesus, a shrewd Messiah

From John Eldredge in Beautiful Outlaw:

“Oh how hard it is to rescue the human heart, to dislodge it from it’s chosen means of survival without toppling it into resignation, despair or defensiveness. Jesus won’t take the shortcut of a power play. He doesn’t force anyone to follow Him.”

The chapter called Cunning is a powerful depiction of the shrewd Messiah we typically gloss over. The thing is, He wants us to be like Him in this as well.

“Be shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10.16)

Nuff said: Noah and Tim Tebow, Repenters, Driscoll’s apology, Let it go-please, abortion speech, Urkaine, and help for those who don’t want to raise their hands in worship

Noah and Tim Tebow

Regardless of where you as a Christian fall on the Noah movie continuum, were you aware that it has sparked a huge uptick in people actually reading the Bible about Noah? Isn’t that what we want? We saw the same result when Tim Tebow would put Bible verses on his eye.

YouVersion (maker of the Bible app) reported a 300% increase of people reading the Genesis passages about Noah on opening weekend.

YouVersion reports during the opening weekend that the Noah story was read or listened to on the app 389,794 times—or about 129,931 times per day. It’s the highest number of people exploring that passage that they’ve ever experienced. (Source)

Keep in mind that YouVersion’s app is just one of many. In the article referenced above, they report that “Bible Gateway, another top online Scripture site, reports similar findings, with a 223 percent increase.”

It’s a good thing when people #ReadTheBible.

A repenter, not a Christian

Thabiti Anyabwile writes about how Christians should embrace repentance as a humble strategy for genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. We cannot approach and relate to God on our terms, without adjustment. The description “Christian” in our culture is unfortunately so bland, so non-descriptive and such an unreal, unpowerful reality today, perhaps we need to embrace what the Romanian church did last century – the of “repenter.”

There were cultural “Christians,” and then there were pocăiții – “repenters” who believed an ongoing life of repentance was essential to the Christian life… What separated our church from cultural Christianity we came into contact with was our insistence on repentance in response to God’s unmerited favor… wherever grace-driven repentance is preached and an out-of-the-mainstream lifestyle expected, people are still coming to faith. (italics mine)

He lists some beautiful declarations for those who would embrace repentance and the moniker of “repenter.”

We are repenters.

We repent of living for ourselves, and so we commit to trading our personal kingdom agendas for the kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ.

We are repenters.

We repent of making God out to be more like us, and so we ask God to change our hearts and make us more like Him.

We are repenters.

We repent of our silly attempts to justify ourselves before God and make ourselves pleasing to Him through our own efforts, and so we ask Him to save and sustain us in His unwavering grace and help us rest in Christ’s work on our behalf.

Another apology from Mark Driscoll

A few weeks ago, I wrote of two pastors creating waves in our culture by some decisions and practices that have caused great concern and even controversy among the global Christian community. Mark Driscoll posted an open letter of apology in response. Here are some excerpts:

In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father.

We are fully aware of and grieved by ways we could have done better with a more effective process and more patience, starting with me. I am deeply grieved and even depressed by the pain we have caused. Many have chosen to air their concerns online, and I apologize for any burden this may have brought on you, and I will do my best to clarify a few things without, I hope, being angry or defensive.

As one article points out, this is not the first time Driscoll has issued an apology letter. You can look at it in a number of ways, but I appreciated the tweet of Scott Duvall:

Wish all my young, hard-core Calvinist students would read Mark Driscoll’s letter.

I don’t know what it is about reformed theology and young adults these days that make so many of them come across as being a part of theological AA (Angry & Arrogant), but Driscoll is a case study in where the prevalent attitude among young reformed leaders can take you without proper boundaries, loving accountability and the active pursuit of humility in Christ.

I’d encourage you to read Driscoll’s apology in full. What does it reveal? What does it teach?

Let it go… please

You gotta watch this one dad’s parody of Frozen’s hit song.

Combatting to tendency toward self-righteousness in Lent

Trevin Wax comments in this brief article on the history of Lent and Christian’s response to it:

I hardly think the church is suffering from too much fasting. But I do think the church is suffering from too much self-righteousness (and I include myself in this indictment). Lent – being either for or against – can become a way of climbing up on to the pedestal.

What is more important than the practices we take on is the heart attitude behind them. If there’s anything we should give up this time of year, it’s our sense of superiority either to those outside the church or those inside the church who do things differently than we do.

A 12 year-old takes on abortion advocates

This speech delivered to a class by a 12 year-old girl is an example of someone making a difference. Don’t ever think you can’t.

Compare this to President Obama’s speech to Planned Parenthood in spring 2013:

So the fact is, after decades of progress, there’s still those who want to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century. And they’ve been involved in an orchestrated and historic effort to roll back basic rights when it comes to women’s health. (Source)

I reject this President’s (and his political party’s) continued efforts to deny that 98% of all abortions are less than murder. And I reject our society’s attempts to paint it as “choice” and a woman’s right.

And in another political commentary…

Remember Obama Mocking Romney With This Comment About Russia During A 2012 Debate?

Obama attempted to paint Romney as somehow out-of-touch with 21st century geo-politics, suggesting (ironically, as we now know) that al-Qaeda was a bigger threat than Russia. “You said Russia. Not al-Qaeda. You said Russia,” Obama said regarding biggest threats. Then came this snarky blast:

“The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because…the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” (Source)

On a lighter side..

Help for Christians who don’t like to raise their hands in worship

Jon Acuff nails it in this witty post:

I have the solution my hand challenged friend. I have the cure to all your appendage woes. And it is so simple. Ready?

A coffee cup.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. Next Sunday, bring a cup of coffee into church. You can’t clap with coffee in your hand, that’d be crazy! You can’t raise your hands when God is roaring like a lion, or raining down love like water or doing whatever like fire or something, it’s pretty early and I’m kind of tired.

I would love to, but look at my hand! It’s full of hot liquid that I would prefer not to spill on you or God’s carpet.