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Deep And Wide is unapologetic about the fact that one of the most important ways that people become Christians is that they are invited to church by a friend or family member, and then they are confronted with God (usually over time, often over years) and are changed because of that confrontation. Deep and Wide is both Andy's story and the story of North Point.
If you want to hear about how Andy felt called to start a church (it really was the result of being pushed into it and problems with the church he was previously working at), or you want to find out why North Point is so focused on its children's ministries, or why Andy believes that one point sermons that are not primarily exegetical (but primarily are focused on an application) are the right way to preach, then you need to read this book.
This book is not for everyone. If you are at a church and you do not want to invite anyone to come to your church (I have been a member and the chair of the deacons at a church that I did not want anyone else to come to, so I know the feeling) then you may not want to read this book. On the other hand, if you really believe that the church should exist in order to point people to Christ, then this book is for you.
I do not think the book is perfect. I really wish Andy had re-written the section about church history. He does what most evangelicals do and points to the early church, mentions Constantine and then skips to the Reformation and again skips to modern US. I think skipping over church history like that damages modern Evangelical's understanding of what church is and the importance of church history and the relationship of the church to the church Universal throughout history. But given that mis-step, I fully support the theology that comes out of the chapter that says that the church is primarily about those that are outside of the church.
If you are a lay person and do not really influence policy at your church you might think that this book is not for you. I think you are wrong. The average lay person is the one that actually moves the church. Church staff are nice, they are the ones that influence budget, get to do all the behind the scenes work at church and get paid to think about the church, but it is the average lay person that actually knows people that do not go to church.
The problem with thinking that it should be the church staff that are responsible for evangelism is that church staff often do not know anyone that is unchurched. At one point in time I worked for a denomination, attended seminary, worked as an intern at my local church and lead a small group at the church. Do you know how many people in a normal day that I had a real relationship with that were not Christians? Zero. And that still is my problem.
It is the people that work in the secular world, who are parents of children that go to public school, who are on the Rotary Board and belong to a softball league that win people for Christ. They may not preach or be comfortable sharing their faith, but many they can invite their friends to church. And those friends often will come and over time those friends will come to know Christ and be baptized and lead families to know Christ. The problem is when people that are uncomfortable sharing their faith attend churches that they would not invite their worst enemy. That is the place where most Christians in the US are at. They are not comfortable directly sharing their faith and they are ashamed of the church that they go to because if they were not a Christian already, they would not go there.
Deep and Wide does cast a wide net. It steps back to give a history for North Point, it spends time on the how to keep unchurched the focus and there are two sections that are primarily for church leaders (how to preach to unchurched and how to lead a church through a change in focus). But all of those parts are important if a church is serious about focusing on the unchurched.
In the end this book is about a vision. It is a vision I believe in and a vision that this book has encouraged me to strive after living out. Church is often a pain in the neck. It is usually made up of a bunch of people not like you. It takes time and effort to serve and attend. But that is the group of people that Christ said were to be the group that reaches the world for him. I do not care if you believe in a church model like North Point. All that I want for you is to be in a church that is reaching people for Christ. This book makes me want to do that more.
A digital copy of this book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley for purposes of review.
That brought me to Andy Stanley's book Deep& Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. If you have a good understanding of what you believe God is calling your church to be (hopefully based on a biblical understanding of ecclesiology), then I commend this book to you. If you know who you are, you will be able to eat the fish without swallowing the bones. And there is some great fish among the bones in this book. It is divided into five sections, the first of which is somewhat biographical. If you bought the book to satisfy your prurient desire to know the "dirt" about the split between Andy and his father, you will be mildly disappointed. He quickly and graciously covers the difficult time, but quickly moves on to the heart of the book. One thing I did find disturbing was the fact that Stanley never felt called to the ministry. Instead, he asked his dad if it was okay to "volunteer", which is what he did. Spit out the bones. Enjoy the fish.
The second section of the book is full of bones--almost like trying to eat carp. I was close to putting the book down at that point, but was still intrigued at how Stanley is able to maintain such laser-like focus on his vision. So I pressed on. Thankfully, there was more fish in sections three through five. Those sections contain some wonderfully insightful tips on human nature, communication dynamics, pursuing excellence and leading change. Those tips alone made me glad I kept reading.
For those who have been steeped in biblical ecclesiology and whose shelves are lined with 9Marks materials and the like, read this book. Enjoy it. You will have the discernment to recognize the bones and spit them out as necessary. The fish will help you see things from a different perspective. For everyone else, build your solid foundation first--understand the biblical purpose and mission of the local church. Then read this book.
Understand that my differences with North Point Ministries stem from disagreeing with Andy Stanley's premise. But with a biblical ecclesiology in place, we can learn from him how to be laser-focused on a biblical mission and vision for the local church.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (September 25, 2012)