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.

Faith development

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.

Think deeply

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.

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