I’ve just finished reading Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend (by Andy Stanley). I’ve been eagerly awaiting this one—especially after (finally) reading Communicating for a Change.
I’ll begin this review with a few sentences from the book’s introduction. Stanley explains the meaning behind the title:
Local churches should be characterized by deep roots and wide reaches. Churches should be theologically sound and culturally relevant.
The first two sections of the book are a summary of Andy’s personal/family history and the events that led to the creation of Northpoint church. The rest of the book is an explanation of how they have approached ministry. In other words, you (the reader) are given a “behind the scenes” look at a church that effectively engages the unchurched.
This book appealed to me for many reasons. As I’ve mentioned before, I spent countless hours listening to sermon tapes from In Touch Ministries (messages by Charles Stanley, Andy’s father) back when I was a teenager. I remember the divorce that sent shockwaves through the Christian community.* I greatly appreciate Andy’s honest account of what happened. It reminded me of the way God uses less-than-ideal circumstances to create something beautiful.
But the introductory sections were not nearly as important as what followed. I’ll share some of my own story and how it relates to this book:
Like Andy, I grew up attending a traditional (Southern Baptist) church. At first I attended because I had no choice (my parents made me). But I eventually embraced the faith as my own—to the point of surrendering my life to vocational ministry. I’m eternally grateful to both my biological family and my church family.
But growing up in a Christian environment does have one potential disadvantage: people like me sometimes have a hard time relating to those who didn’t grow up attending church. Perhaps I didn’t state that in strong enough terms, so I’ll try again: people like me are often clueless when it comes to relating to those outside the Body of Christ.
Being a missionary has brought this to my attention as never before. I’ve spent the past ten years or so trying to reach out to the unchurched here in the Philippines. Like America, this country has a fairly long history of Christian churches. Some of them are very effective in reaching their communities for Christ. Others are bogged down in tradition and outdated ministry models.
In other words, my time here in the Philippines has caused me to look at everything from an “outsider’s” perspective. I’m haunted by questions like this:
*Are people rejecting the gospel or are they rejecting all the man-made “baggage” I/we’ve attached to it?
*Why are we/they doing this? Does it really serve any purpose here and now?
*Am I, like Jesus, doing everything I can to make the message understandable to my audience?
*Would I want to be a part of this church/ministry if I wasn’t a member of this staff/team?
That’s why I love this book. Andy is deeply concerned (if not obsessed) with answering questions like these. More importantly, he’s had the courage to ask them out loud and share his journey with us. I’m not sure if I agree with everything he says (still thinking it through), but I appreciated his thoughts about ministry.
I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes from this book:
“I want God to be free to work through our model, not in spite of it.”
I’d recommend Deep and Wide if this is what you want.
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