In Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend, Andy Stanley asks the questions the led him and his team to create North Point Community Church. This book is his story of how they began the church and the tests and inquiries that they make every week to stay true to their mission of leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Stanley, with his engaging style, personal illustrations, and constant questioning, challenges church leaders to understand and articulate their own vision and mission, then see if the church they lead matches up to what they have said.
The book is divided into 5 sections covering varying aspects of the formation of North Point. The first section is the story of how Stanley had grown up in Church, went to college, landed his dream job and then found himself unemployed, at odds with his family, and looking for the next step. As a man who was just recently let go from a ministry, I understand the exact feeling of lost-ness, questioning, and disillusionment that he felt at the time. His relationship, however, was restored with his father, when his church acted as a sending agent for North Point. As Section 2 begins, Stanley draws you into his tinking and questioning about what the church is and what it could be. After a little historical study, he dives into the church as a place where the grace of the gospel meets with the truth of the Gospel. The question is asked if a church can do both, to which Andy responds with a most resounding “Yes!” So North Point became a destination for lost people and a training ground for believers; the church being what the church was meant to be.
The next two sections, Going Deep and Going Wide, Stanley gives a behind the scene tour of the ministry, mission, purpose, and brainstorming conversations that make the ministry at North Point what it is. In the third section, Going Deep, the focus is placed on how the church moves people from visitors to maturing believers. He highlights the 5 catalysts that make up spiritual formation and discipleship, that are taken from everyone’s story. Practical teaching, private disciplines, personal ministry, providential relationships, and pivitol circumstances are the key movements in everyone’s faith journey. When someone is baptized at North Point, they must tell their journey to faith on video, and everytime these 5 things are highlighted. North Point is committed to putting these things and creating a culture where these are shown, in the lives of their people. The fourth section, Going Wide, is devoted to creating a place, culture, or his word “environment” that is “irresistible” (his word as well) for the non-churched. I was in awe of the devotion and effort put forth by him and his team as they search out the unchurched.
Section 5 is not so much a challenge to change, but a query as to whether change is desired? Stanley makes not qualms about many churches saying they want to change but in action refusing to do so. In this section, Stanley lays out the questions that need to be studied, discussed, and brainstormed. He offers up many questions and litmus tests for an environment of change, if a church is willing to discuss them.
This was a frustrating book to read. I struggled with this book because for years I brought up many of the questions in the book to a leadership that was resistant to change. When vision was discussed, the answer “I hope Jesus comes back by then” was always the answer. When problems with environment, excellence, and model were broached, the resounding answer was that it was none of my business. So when Stanley discusses purpose, vision, teamwork, leadership, and environment…I found myself angry a lot. To the local church it doesn’t matter if staff shows up on time, with a purpose and plan for ministry, an expectation of excellence, or a vision for the future, because the person who brings these things up is forced to resign. For 4 years, I attempted to ask the questions that Stanley asked in this book, only to be met with anger, hostility, exasperation, an finally a pink slip. I believe that the church that asked me to leave is on the right track. They now have a vision, a mission and purpose…and it kills me that I’m not there to do ministry with the people I love. That is what Stanley’s book is about, partnering with the church to do his will, to changes lives, to connect people with a God who loves them. After I was asked to leave, everything I had been asking for, pleading for, and needing is being done…and I am upset, saddened, and depressed about it now. My heart aches for that body, and I am shamed that perhaps it was me holding them back. This was a tough book to read.
This book was both awful and great…but raised more questions than answers.
Here are the questions from the book and every question is a challenge for the Church to answer! Questions from Deep and Wide