Andy Stanley pastors the second largest church in America, North Point Community Church, just outside of Atlanta. I have learned much from Andy’s books and podcasts on leadership, as well as his book on preaching – Communicating for a Change. I’ve gone and seen North Point first hand – it is certainly impressive. His commitment to excellence in all that happens at the church and beyond is commendable. The vision of getting people from a megachurch plugged into community groups to do life together is excellent (I once read that nearly 80% of the more than 24,000 members of North Point are regularly involved in community groups. As I’ve said, I have learned a lot about ministry and leadership from Andy Stanley. This book, Deep and Wide, seems to be a compilation of all of the other books and leadership principles Andy has given us in the past.
Andy Stanley and the North Point model of church is certainly not without its detractors. Growing a church that size opens one up to a lot of criticism along the way. For the most part, I think Andy does a good job of addressing many of these criticisms. I certainly have my own criticisms and concerns (more on this later).
In Deep and Wide, Andy lays out the history and ministry philosophy of North Point Community Church. He gets personal by revealing the unconventional path they took to get where they are today (including a somewhat bitter split from Andy’s father, Charles Stanley, and his church in Atlanta). Throughout the book, Andy’s tone is humble and only a little defensive when addressing his critics. Along the way, Andy lays out his plan for being a church that reaches both a wide audience and still takes followers of Christ deeper in their spiritual walk. Along the way, it seemed evident to me that Andy genuinely desires to see the people in his city and beyond come to know, experience and love Jesus. He and his team have been relentless in pursuing ways to rethink how and why we do church.
As I mentioned, I certainly don’t agree with everything Andy says about church practices and leadership. My biggest concern and criticism of this book comes from the fundamental premise of the book, which is often repeated and championed, and is the subtitle of the book: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. For Andy this is the ultimate reason for any church to exist. For North Point this has been their driving vision and passion throughout their existence. But we must ask the question, is this the ultimate goal for the church? I don’t think so. Should our churches be places that are welcoming and loving toward outsiders? Yes, I think so, but it’s not the ultimate goal. Should all people involved in a church worship service strive toward excellence in all they do? Yes, I think this honors the Lord. But again, this isn’t the reason the church exists.
The church exists for the glory of God. He should be the center and focus of all we do. We gather corporately to worship Him and build one another up in Christ. Andy’s vision is too short-sighted, it’s too man-centered. Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is worthy of all of our praise. He is the Creator and Sovereign of the universe. We should come together to behold Him! Our worship should fuel our outreach, evangelism, and our sacrifice to the ends of the earth to make His name great among the nations!
I have a tremendous respect for Andy Stanley and his leadership, but oh that he would aim higher!