In Deep and Wide, Andy Stanley tells the story of North Point Community Church. He bares his heart, writes vulnerably, yet passionately sharing his commitment to creating a church that is about the activity of Christ. People who were nothing like Jesus, really liked Jesus. Andy Stanley thinks church is supposed to be representing Him to such people today.
I know that this creates tension. Is church supposed to be for the unchurched? Isn’t evangelism something we do “outside of church?” I think these are important questions and worth wrestling with. But I would share Andy Stanley’s concern that so many churches are functionally antagonistic to people getting saved and growing in relationship with Jesus Christ. I might agree with the idea that church is primarily for believers, but don’t we all agree that we want to be part of a church that we wouldn’t hesitate to invite a friend to attend with us?
After all, didn’t Jesus teach something about the world knowing who we are because of our relationships with each other? Actually, didn’t he pray about the world knowing about the love of the Father for the believers and the mission of the sent Son through the Godlike unity of the believers? In today’s society, I suspect we need to let people look inside the church to see the unity Jesus was praying about in John 17.
Andy Stanley knows that this book will infuriate some, perhaps most, church leaders. My opinion is that all church leaders should read this book and let it infuriate them (if that is the reaction…some will just be delighted!) Maybe we will all have issues with some of the prodding and poking that comes through this book. But if we are prayerfully conversing with God as we read, what do we have to fear?
Here is a quote from Andy in his chapter on preaching:
Okay, maybe we should end with something we can agree on. Currently, I’ve got two kids in college and one who is about to finish high school. All three of them love the local church. If by some freak of chance they should end up living in your town and attending your church, please don’t ruin it for ’em. Please don’t hide behind your tradition and your “this is how we do it here” habits and preach brown-and-serve messages to my kids. Please don’t steal their passion for the church because you are too lazy to learn. Too complacent to try something new. Too scared of the people who sign your paycheck.
Okay, so my kids probably won’t attend your church. But somebody’s kids are attending your church. If you have kids, they are attending your church. Every Sunday you are either instilling a deeper love and appreciation for the church or you are doing what most pastors do and providing them with one more reason not to attend when they no longer have to. That’s a big deal. I don’t want you to preach like me, but I do want you to be part of the solution. I want the fact that twentysomethings are leaving the church and never looking back to bother you. A lot. It bothers me. I think it bothers our heavenly Father. Do you?
So if we can’t agree about the importance of preaching to unchurched people, surely we can find some common ground around our passion to recapture the attention and imagination of a generation of kids that is growing up in church but that can’t wait to leave.