This is an excellent book on reaching out to the unchurched and lost in our world. Very detailed as to what goes into reaching others who do not like church and really covers the true mission of Christ followers.
Amazing book, with real life scenarios. Each chapter challenged me more and more. Every minister and I mean ever minister needs to read this book! I have a large library, but this is my favorite book by far. Do yourself a favor and buy this book.
I've just finished the latest book by Andy Stanley. It was given to me by Zondervan for free, if I would be willing to write a review. I didn't have to be positive about the book; just honest. I jumped at the chance. Now, let me say that I've not read much by Andy Stanley. Other than one book he co-wrote which I read about 6-7 years ago, this is the first book of his I've read. Sure, I've read articles, heard his leadership podcasts and even his sermons, but I was interested in reading another book.
What grabbed me about this one, and made me want to read it, was the subtitle: "Creating churches unchurched people love to attend." This, to me, should be the call of every church as we join with Jesus searching for the lost sheep. Of course, this book does have a "deep" element to it. We should have churches which those who are following Christ grow in. But too often, that is the only point. We want to make Christians comfortable.
I could write a lot about the book. To be honest, there were a lot of things which challenged me, and I'll be spending some time over the next few weeks/months examining different things around the church I pastor to see what we can improve on.
His own story is how Stanley begins the book, challenging me with statements like "Over 83 percent of our regular attendees marked that they have invited at least one person to church in the past twelve months." That is a staggering statement, and I'm not sure how many churches can boast numbers like that. This is what happens when you have a church people feel comfortable inviting their friends to.
One of the important portions of the books, for me, was the one on preaching. I'm always looking for ways to improve the way I communicate the Word to people on Sunday, and this gave me a lot to chew on.
Whether you're a pastor or a church leader, I recommend the book. Take some time, and don't rush through it. Thanks to Andy Stanley for a great book, as well as his refreshing honesty.
I was surprised when an advanced copy of Andy Stanley's new book showed up at my office. I opened it right away and began reading! Deep & Wide is a refreshingly honest and open explanation of Stanley's (and North Point Community Church's) approach to reaching people who would not identify themselves as Christians and then helping them grow in their faith. It's a thought provoking work that is sure to give any Christian leader ideas to chew on - especially if you're leading a church that is seeing little conversion growth.
If you are trying to build a church that is effective at reaching unchurched people, this is a wonderful vision-casting book.
I found it compelling, inspiring, and easy to read. Any volunteer could understand its message and every pastor will find a gold mine of ideas that could breathe life into their leadership and ministry.
Those who tend to disagree and disapprove of Stanley's approach will, no doubt, pick apart the ideas presented with simple sound bites removed from their context. Perhaps they do this to intimidate those who have yet to read the book in an effort to keep them from reading it and to justify their own lack of effectiveness of leading people into a relationship with Christ. I've found that when I disagree with someone the best thing to do is to take my thumb and first two fingers and then stroke them over my chin while saying "Humm." I've found that I learn more that way than just rejecting what challenges my opinions and approaches.
The ideas and principles Stanley presents have the potential to sharpen your own approach to reaching people far from God ... and deepen people who are already walking with God. Especially helpful was his explanation of their approach to discipleship (pp. 101-149). As someone who was once a "discipleship pastor" in a church with 3,500 attendees, I must say that I wish I had heard this approach years ago. I was always frustrated that we saw little true growth and transformation in the lives of our people. At the end of the day I felt as if we were just communicating information that helped them know more but did little to help change them. Ugh!
The section on cultivating a culture where truth and grace permeate every part of a church was eye-opening, challenging, uncomfortable and ... strangely helpful. It still has me thinking and processing. It is frustrating when I read something that I don't agree with but can't figure out why. When I pinpointed my disagreement I didn't like what I found about myself. I have some work to do.
The section where Stanley describes (in great detail) their approach to creating irresistible environments (and Sunday services) is worth the price of the book. I've watched North Point's services online before and have always enjoyed them. Instinctively I knew they were different than our church's but couldn't put my finger on it. The chapter on "Rules of Engagement" was crystal clear and very compelling! It makes perfect sense. Also, as a pastor myself, the content on his approach to preaching was very helpful. Every week the crowds that gather at our churches have different kinds of people in them. I've always struggled to bridge the gap between the groups (Christian and non-Christian) and make the message helpful and convicting to both crowds. I have some work to do on this one.
The book is filled with helpful and challenging ideas. What may prove to be most helpful was the last section of the book where Andy walks the reader through some thoughts about how the ideas and principles in the book might be adapted/implemented by any church.
If you are a volunteer in your church and you believe in evangelism and want to see your church growing and being filled with new believers and growing believers, get this book and read it. Then get an extra copy and give it to your pastor.
If you are a pastor, elder, or other church staff member you can't afford to miss what Stanley has to say. You may not agree with everything you read, but there is plenty here to help sharpen your focus and increase your effectiveness at every level of your church. And you'll find a wealth of material that will help you cast vision to your church. It may even help your church populate heaven.
In Deep & Wide Andy Stanley is offering another how-to book on copying the North Point model. It's an apology of that model in the framework of his story and the church's. The overall thrust of the model is making church a place where the unchurched and irreligious love to attend (pp. 12-13, 16). Depending on how that's fleshed out hallelujah! More often than not as described by Stanley it was the head scratching. I will say I was impressed with Stanley's heart towards those he knows criticize his methods. He seems genuinely willing to listen and possibly learn.
My main concern with the model presented is the ethos Stanley creates around it. He seems to downplay the importance of Scripture on multiple points and readily admits this when proposing certain practices. Multiple times through out the book he made the comment that many would consider x unorthodox but we do it, we don't have any biblical explanation for this but it works, or on the rare instance any Scripture is brought to bear it's done poorly. I'll provide examples of all of the above below. Granted depending on what the topic under discussion is not having Scriptural warrant is ok (for instance, there is not command about the color of your church carpet) but when the issue is the unsaved ministering in the church, deacons (they don't have them p. 269), and divorce (p. 39). the Bible has lots to say explicitly and by good and necessary consequence we must obey what the Scripture explicitly and implicitly teaches.
Not long ago there was a controversy about Stanley's comments about a homosexual who had separated from his family but was still serving in the church. After reading this Deep and Wide, I understood clearly why for North Point there was no controversy and why the model itself is deficient. They value reaching the sinner and doing so by inviting them to serve in some capacities and also lead small groups (p. 80). The issue is a matter of ecclesiology. What does church membership entail? What does Scripture say about it? How much should unbelievers be involved in the actual ministry of the church? and what role does church discipline play in the church?
If unbelievers are welcoming people and leading small groups, how does that impact those who profess Christ and then are disciplined? What point is the discipline if there's no distinction between being a Christian in the church and an unbeliever? The bible provides a better way to love and be for unbelievers than muddying the waters (p. 92 bad explanation of Jerusalem Council for support of this church model). A few examples of the muddy waters. Stanley says,
My doctor is also one of my best friends. He's not a Christian. But it's not from a lack of conversation. In some respects he's a better "Christian" than a lot of the Christians I know. He closes his practice every Thursday to volunteer at a local hospice. He holds dying people's hands, does what he can to make them comfortable, and speaks to the concerns and expectations of family members. Basically, he's a pastor on Thursdays. But don't tell him. (p. 254)
Again he says, "Putting people in ministry environments is the quickest way to capture their hearts. So we move quickly" (p. 128 see p. 136, ); Paul says, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" (Romans 10:14).
There's a false dichotomy between being for the unsaved and being against sin (pp. 69, 73). Between Scripture and the church. For instance, he says,
I give people permission to filter out the "Jesus" parts of my messages. Consequently, Jewish attendees often bring friends. They refer to me as a good motivational speaker. I'm fine with that. A Muslim attendee tweeted that he hums through the Jesus parts of my messages. I retweeted him (p. 180)
The goal of their service is for first time visitors to return (short term) and to effect life change (long term) more so than people "crossing the line of faith" or baptism (pp. 196-98). To be fair, the life change would seem to overlap with faith and baptism but absent is any primary or even secondary focus on God.
Last, he confuses the idea of leadership and pastoring. He actually says that the original apostles were good preachers but not good leaders which is why Jesus recruited Paul (just a woeful representation of the events of the early New Testament church). According to this interpretation of the New Testament church in Acts, pastors are typically woeful leaders and we should have more business-minded leader types in the church running the show while pastors are preaching (pp. 296-97). Stanley really misses the boat here because he has failed to interact with what the Bible requires of pastors. Paul uses the word "overseer" when admonishing Timothy and also demands men be able to lead their family well. Leadership is closely intertwined with the requirement of pastoring well. The two cannot be separated.
The few helpful nuggets I took away were just not worth all the confusion and misunderstanding promulgated through Deep & Wide