Deep and Wide, by Andy Stanley
Blessed is the man who gets the opportunity to devote his life to something bigger than himself and who finds himself surrounded by friends who share his passion. In this way, I have been disproportionately blessed.
This is a book about creating churches that unchurched men, women, and children love to attend. Specifically, this is a book about how some friends and I have gone about creating those kinds of churches. This isn’t all there is to know on the subject.
This is just all we know. As leaders, we are never responsible for filling anyone else’s cup. Our responsibility is to empty ours. I’m going to pour out every drop on the subject of creating churches unchurched people love to attend.
Before we dive into the content, however, there is something you should know about me. I’m not enamored with big. I’ve always attended and worked in big churches. In elementary school our family attended a large church in Miami, Florida.
During middle school and high school, I attended the largest church in Atlanta. During graduate school, I interned at one of the largest churches in Texas. Texas! Besides that, I’m a preacher’s kid (PK). It takes a lot to impress us preachers’ kids. If you are a PK, you know exactly what I mean.
Preachers’ kids who gravitate toward ministry are commodities. I hire all I can. We see church differently than everybody else. We see it all from the inside out. We know that when people say they “felt the Spirit moving,” it probably means the room was full and the music was good.
We know that what goes on at home is the litmus test of a man or woman’s walk with God, not how well he or she does once a microphone is strapped on.
We know the difference between giftedness and godliness. We know the two can be mutually exclusive.
We know that the best performers usually build the biggest churches but not necessarily the healthiest ones.
We aren’t impressed with moving lights, slick presentations, “God told me,” “the Spirit led me,” or long prayers. Heck, all the men I’ve known who impressed everybody with their long, animated, public prayers had moral problems.
That’s why I pray short prayers. I’m afraid there might be a correlation. Actually, I think Jesus said something about that. So this isn’t a book about how to make your church bigger.
You don’t need me for that. If bigger is your goal, just start promising things in Jesus’ name. Religious people love that stuff.
This is a book about how to make your church more appealing to the people who are put off by all the shenanigans that give church, big churches in particular, a bad name — people who know there’s more to life than this life but who can’t imagine that the church holds any clues.
And in case you are wondering, yes, I think every church should be a church irreligious people love to attend. Why? Because the church is the local expression of the presence of Jesus.
We are his body. And since people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus, people who are nothing like Jesus should like us as well. There should be something about us that causes them to gather at the periphery and stare.
I’m often asked if I’m surprised at how big North Point has grown. When it’s church leaders who ask, I assure them I’m not. Here’s why. When we launched North Point, every other church in Atlanta was competing for the churched people market. We decided to get into the unchurched people market.
That’s a much larger market and we didn’t have any competition at the time. If somebody liked our brand, we were the only option. If somebody wanted to bring an unchurched friend or family member to church, we were the logical destination.
We weren’t any better than the other churches in town. We were just the only church designed from the ground up to capture the imaginations of unchurched people.
Let’s face it, if you have the only hot dog stand in town, your hot dogs don’t have to be that good.
Our ongoing challenge is to make sure we stay in the unchurched people market. That’s not easy. Now that we’re so big, it’s not even necessary.
Who would know? Who would care? Truth is, only our core would know. But we would all quit if we thought that staying meant spending the rest of our productive lives running a big church rather than making a big difference.