Monday, October 3, 2011

Going Deep- Book Review

Gordon MacDonald has given the church a story.  This story is a reminder of the great priority that discipleship ought to have in our churches.  The story is of a fictional church in New England- the same church that MacDonald imagined in a previous book titled Who Stole My Church?  MacDonald could have written this same book as a shorter, non-fiction work- but that would have been far less enjoyable to read and might not have stimulated as much thought on the part of the reader.  Instead, MacDonald packages his message in the form of fiction, but still manages to cite his sources appropriately (by making the sources part of the story and through the bibliography at the end of the book).

The story MacDonald tells is of a two year process in which a pastor and church discover the need to train future leaders and then work through the details of training those leaders.  Conversations, meetings, events, and even correspondence figure prominently as the primary conveyors of the story.

MacDonald's thesis is that churches should be training "deep" people (a term he borrows from Richard Foster).  A deep person is a mature or maturing Christian who lives as a devoted follower of Christ and serves the church and his world.  MacDonald recognizes that people need help in order to grow to be deep.  He suggests that the primary role of a pastor is to be a trainer of deep people.

I certainly agree with MacDonald's idea that pastors ought to be in the discipleship business.  Jesus' Great Commission to the church is that we are to be making disciples.  This is not a new idea, but a good reminder of a primary purpose of the church.

One area that MacDonald mentioned several times, but did not fully develop, is that a pastor who devotes his time to training other people will need to stop doing some things in order to have the time to devote to this main task.  At portions of the book, both preaching and hospital visitation are mentioned as areas in which the pastor might have to give less time.  How these tasks are to get done is not specifically stated.  A generous interpretation might imagine that these tasks will be supplemented by the people who have been equipped by the pastor.  My only objection to this thought is that preaching should be considered one of the primary areas of a pastor's time since preaching provides the opportunity to disciple a large group of people.  In addition, preaching  (both the preparation and the delivery of a sermon) is a primary means of fulfilling the pastoral responsibility of being in the Word and in prayer. 

I recommend Going Deep as a book that is both enjoyable to read and which will also cause you to think about your life and your church.  You probably won't agree with everything.  You won't find that your church is exactly like the church in the story (no two churches are the same).  But you will probably end up thinking about how your church could do a better job in developing people to serve Christ's church.

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