Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus started a movement that has grown like wildfire throughout the past 20 centuries. Author and pastor Andy Stanley brings to life from Scripture and over 25 years of pastoral experience the irresistible nature of this movement known as the Church. Stanley identifies some of the key decisions and strategies that helped the church begin by the power of the Holy Spirit many centuries ago and continues to flourish today. He tells many stories of how God is working today to continue the movement of the church through the examples of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA. If you want to know how you can create a movement in your local community that can impact the entire world, Stanley points the way to create irresistible leadership, irresistible environments and an irresistible culture with in your church.
- The church should be about the people outside its walls
If there is one thing that Andy Stanley is passionate about (and writes well about) it is the fact that most churches need to do everything they can to reach people that are not in church.
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.