What does Deep & Wide (Andy Stanley, Zondervan 2012) promise?
Deep & Wide’s subtitle is Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend, which pretty much sums it up. Stanley has planted a church in Atlanta which now has 33,000 people attending a number of campuses, so something’s going on.
In five sections he provides some personal history; some theological justification; background about spiritual formation; insight into environmental factors; and thoughts about transitioning.
What I liked?
The sections dealing with spiritual formation, environmental factors and transitions are constructive.
Stanley not only lays out what he does, but, more importantly, reveals the concerns which are being addressed.
By doing this, the invitation is not to emulate him (though I gather we’re welcome if we want to try), but to think about how the reader is addressing these concerns in their local context.
Each expression of a local church is perfectly functioning to achieve exactly whatever outcomes it is presently producing.
If there are any problems about what is being presently produced by way of converts and disciples questions do need to be asked.
I think his point about tailoring the experience, but not the content, of services to the mindset of non-Christians is one of a number of helpful observations. I’m thinking through the template of discipling/active training in preference to course/class training.
What I’m not sure about?
I nearly didn’t make it past to assertion that Jesus was “constantly playing to the consumer instincts of his crowds” (pg 16). It seems to me that Jesus was pretty much at pains to downplay the tendency of people to come to him for feeding, healing and getting things, but focused on proclaiming the kingdom.
The section on theological justification raises the rapidly-becoming-entrenched-meme that the early church was fellowship in homes, meals together, everyone in a circle singing Kumbaya (not so much the last one) and that the rot set in when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity and it turned into the ossified institution we all know and mock today.
It sort of overlooks the observation that growth plus time can lead to inertia as today’s helpful practice becomes tomorrow’s dead tradition.
It doesn’t take three hundred years, all it takes is a generation.
Which is why it’ll be interesting to see what today’s new mega churches look like in fifty years.
And people who have a problem with the agenda are helpfully identified as religious or afraid of something.
But that’s probably just a playful affectation that doesn’t read so well outside of US audiences.
Deep & Wide is the sort of book that church leaders should be regularly reading, particularly if you don’t get around very much.
If you haven’t read this sort of book before, it’s a good starting point.
It’s not necessary to agree with all of Andy Stanley’s answers to think about the questions he is addressing.
If you’re interested in critically examining the mission and ministry of the church you’re involved in with a fresh focus, then Deep & Wide is a helpful conversation starter.
The review copy of Deep & Wide was provided by Zondervan Publishers’ Engaging Church Blog as part of their Deep & Wide blog tour.
Provision of the book did not require the publication of a positive review.