My hopes for this book were fairly high, even though this is the first Gordon MacDonald book that I've read. And, to be fair, it wasn't a bad book. It just wasn't a terribly good book, either. Before I get too far, here's the main plot: a pastor is praying for a "great idea" to train future leaders and to grow some influential Christians in the church. The end result is "CDP: Cultivating Deep People." A few people from the church are selected to be a part of the CDP group, and they spend a year of discipleship with the pastor and his wife (meeting every Monday night for 40 weeks). The book follows the formulating of the plan and the first CDP group's experience.
Let me start with my criticisms so we can end on a positive note. To begin with, there were times when the conversations in the book seemed a little shallow and.... well, "cheesy" is about the best way to say it. This is merely a personal opinion and reflects my assessment of the author's writing style, so others may disagree. My second criticism involves the time frame. The book covers two years in 383 pages. Obviously, there are some pretty big gaps and jumps in time.
Third, and I hate to say this, but the characters seemed a little wooden (except for the pastor and his wife, Gordon and Gail MacDonald!). The characters are what either makes or breaks a book for me. This book was lacking in the character department.
Fourth...it was just too good to be true. There were no major conflicts (there were a couple of weak crisis points, but they were resolved). It's very hard to remain interested in a book with no climax. If you aren't building up to something, then you have the feeling that it's downhill all the way.
Fifth - and this was the biggie for me - you will read the words "CDP", "great idea", "this thing", or "deep" on average about 5 times on each page FOR ALMOST THE WHOLE BOOK. It got pretty annoying. I guess it was a necessary thing to do, but it made the book very monotonous to me.
Okay, now I can say some good things about the book! Any pastor would love to have an experience like this in his own church. I truly pray that our church will have disciples that are on fire like these disciples were.
Probably the best thing about the book was the information about Jesus as a Rabbi (from a Jewish perspective). It really opened my eyes to what Jesus was trying to accomplish with the 12 disciples. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to research how ancient Jewish rabbis selected and trained their followers. It will change the way you look at Jesus.
The "great idea" that Pastor Mac had in the book isn't a NEW idea at all. It's what Christians should have been doing for 2,000 years. But I'm glad there are 21st century pastors putting new emphasis on the Great Commission: "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19) We need more disciples of Christ. In all, I'd probably give the book 2 out of 5 stars.ï»¿
I received this book free from Thomas Nelson publishers as part of the BookSneeze bloggers program. I was not required to make a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.
This book is a life-changing experience. I have already purchased several as gifts and to loan. If you want to be inspired to make disciples...this is the book for you. A great follow-up to "Who Stole My Church?"
Have you ever encountered a book and given it more than once chance, hoping that it would get better with the passage of time?
I've given this book my on-and-off attention for over a month, and I'm crying "Uncle." I made it to page 155 of 902 tiny pages on my iPhone.
If you'd like to listen in on intimate conversations among perfect strangers and experience dozens of pages of stream-of-consciousness rambling, then you'll enjoy this book.
Unfortunately, Mr. MacDonald struggles to get to his point and loses me along the way.
What makes this experience even worse is that the author expects us to acknowledge the importance of going deep in our spiritual lives. Richard Foster is right, "The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."
The author may be deep, but I'm unwilling to watch him dig any more to get there.
Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for writing this unbiased and forthright review.
A few years ago I hopped onto an elevator with Gordon MacDonald. Many floors later, I'd heard his pitch for a "great idea" at least twenty times. While his words flowed like a preacher hitting his stride, his unquenchable desire to see his flock grow deeper (and not just wider) was contagious. I could understand, from the gleam in his eye, the hop in his step, and the quickness of his speech, just how important he thought this "great idea" was to the continued vitality of his church.
But significant changes would have to be made in his church, and he was wary of the unknown implications. Upon his exit, I gave him my email address and told him to keep me updated as to how his "great idea" played out. Over the course of a year, he sent me email updates that eventually became Going Deep.
Like the fictional church, characters, and psuedo-plot of Going Deep, none of my opening story is true.
I have never met Gordon MacDonald, though I may know a little about him since "Pastor Mac" and his wife Gail, the two central characters of the book, are modeled after their real-life equivalents. My major concern with Going Deep rests in its fictional nature. Had this story been birthed from the real-life cocoon of experience, I would have been more engaged. Instead, I kept thinking that the answers were too pat, the conversations too staid, and the conflict too contrived.
In the 383 pages of Going Deep, there is wheat to be gleaned from the chaff. The "great idea" expounded by MacDonald is that he and his wife should start a small group called Cultivating Deep People. In other words, the Senior Pastor should lessen his responsibilities in the church in order to focus more on the individual spiritual growth of a few chosen candidates. Just as Jesus chose The Twelve (when hundreds likely would have wanted to be in that group), so too will Pastor Mac choose a small group of men and women who will grow deep together so that they can then help others to do the same.
As pastors know, "There is nothing new under the sun," but in Going Deep there is a challenge to the status quo with regards to Senior Pastors taking on such an intrinsic role in the spiritual development of a select few. A central question in the book could be phrased, "What should be the major responsibility of a Senior Pastor in a modern American church?" MacDonald gets to the heart of the issue that can plague pastors: "They pay lip service to the importance of training a younger generation but end up complaining that there are too many other things to do." When coupled with the findings and stories related in David Kinnaman's You Lost Me, where mentoring relationships are extolled as the way to engage the next generation, MacDonald's insights into investing in the lives of younger leaders is timely and necessary.
MacDonald sprinkles invaluable resources for developing spiritual leaders throughout the text, which isn't surprising given that he is an editor-at-large for Leadership Journal. For instance, this gem from Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Chambers: Spiritual leadership "is the power to change the atmosphere by one's presence, the unconscious influence that makes Christ and spiritual things real to others." And this, spoken by Pastor Mac, on the importance of a lead pastor's humility and honesty: "People want to know where we've struggled . . . . They profit from knowing what the struggle taught."
While the book is long, the writing is quick. I became more engaged in the book after the halfway mark. MacDonald spends the first half espousing the greatness of the "great idea" before unleashing it on his fictional church members. It's in the second half of the book, when the members start meeting, that further insights into a "deep" spiritual group can be found.
For instance, MacDonald's group incorporates the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test so that members can learn more about themselves, others in their group, and how they relate to people in all walks of life. The life story questions on page 317 are a great starting point for getting small group members to share significant moments in their lives, which can lead to knowing each other on a much more intimate level, allowing space and safety for the group to grow deep together.
On a personal level, my favorite part occurred toward the beginning, when Pastor Mac meets with Rabbi Michael Cohen. Through pages 77-87, the rabbi reminds MacDonald of the tenets of the rabbinical contract that existed in Jesus' time, and how Jesus bucked tradition by choosing disciples instead of waiting for a disciple to choose him. Rabbis taught through instruction (teaching), imitation (living together), and examination (testing, and allowing the student to fail). Additionally, rabbis had to leave their students at some point in order to allow them to become rabbis in their own right (the Great Commission). This brief meeting sets the ground work for MacDonald's "great idea," which, while not new, has certainly worked well over the last 2,000 years.
As one who has served on a large church staff, I have no envy for the oftentimes heavy and numerous hats that a Senior Pastor must wear on a daily basis. It would be interesting to know the long-term implications of a pastor dedicating significant time toward the deepening development of only a few church members.
If I ever do meet Pastor Mac on an elevator, I'll ask him if he incorporated the "great idea" at his own church. I'll buy him lunch as well, as his elevator pitch will likely surpass more than a few floors.
[Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeÂ®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."]