Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: Going Deep

Title:  Going Deep
Author:  Gordon MacDonald
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
General Subject Matter:  Christian Living, Spiritual Growth 
First Copyright:  2011
Type:  Paperback
Price:  $15.99
ISBN: 978-0-7852-2608-6

The purpose of the author, Gordon MacDonald, utilizing an imaginary church in New England is to identify the danger of an immediate shortage of "deep people" who will carry on the mission and vision of this local church. MacDonald through the use of fiction and this imaginary church takes the reader through the process of developing what he calls "deep people" to be a future crop of spiritual leaders.

The theme of Going Deep is becoming a person of influence. The thesis of Going Deep is that in order to ensure the survival or continuation of a local church, people of true depth must be cultivated into lives of spiritual maturity in an intentional manner.

MacDonald uses narration to develop his thesis. MacDonald takes the reader from the discovery or the identification of what he calls a "serious shortage" through the entire process of developing the means and mechanics of the process of developing deep people to its final stage of actually producing deep people. MacDonald develops his thesis in a chronological order in this fictional story. MacDonald begins each chapter with a memo, a journal entry, a voice-mail, or email entry of these fictional events.

Going Deep is a very interesting book. MacDonald is a very talented writer and is able to draw the reader into the story using conversation, questions, discussions, and events to hold the attention of the reader. Although Going Deep is a fictional story about people and events in a fictional church, the theme and thesis proves to be extremely objective and accurate. Churches, church leadership, and even laypeople will benefit greatly from this book. 

The main argument of MacDonald is that there is a shortage of leaders and that most churches are not developing future leaders. MacDonald sets forth the idea that most churches are great at preaching but not so great at teaching or discipling converts and seeing them grow in to potential leaders. I agree with MacDonald. I think very few churches truly disciple converts, at least in the manner in which Jesus discipled his twelve followers. I also agree that most churches are not preparing leaders for future leadership. Whether the "old guard" is jealous and insecure or simply due to a lack of vision, most churches are not prepared for the departure of their current leader. Therefore churches are usually damaged during the transitional period of no leadership. I also feel that churches should never have to look outside of their congregation for their leadership. The next or succeeding pastor should be developed and grown right in the church and the transition then becomes very smooth.

I didn't like some of the examples of so called "successful" leaders or churches MacDonald used in his book. I think some are not necessarily biblical in doctrine or practice. I was very surprised to find that I enjoyed this book and agreed with much of MacDonald's premises.

This book raises the issue the greatest weakness in most churches. It raises the issue of what happens when this weakness is undiagnosed and untreated. It raises the issue of challenging churches to intentionally develop both godly disciples and future leadership. It also explores the issue of rearranging the teaching pastors duties and responsibilities in order to be a true teaching pastor.

Going Deep is similar in its primary thesis and answer to other books of true discipleship, such as real disciples by Jim Putman. It is not a reworking of these other works since it is "original" in its use of a fictional setting. I found it to be very spell-binding when it came to delineating the steps MacDonald's fictional pastor and church used to identify the need, implement the process, and work through the steps. 

MacDonald is a highly respected pastor, author and Seminary professor. He is currently the chancellor at Denver Seminary. MacDonald serves as editor-at-large for Leadership Journal. He is a highly sought after speaker at numerous leadership conferences. 

MacDonald has written several books including, Ordering Your Private World, Building below the Waterline, Who Stole My Church?, and A Resilient Life.
There are no footnotes or indexes in Going Deep. There is a short one page bibliography. MacDonald did not include footnotes or end notes so the bibliography is simply a listing of books from which he drew inspiration or ideas.

In summary I was surprised to have enjoyed this book and to have profited from it. I hesitantly selected it from Thomas Nelson to review because it had been a very long time since they had offered anything remotely worthy of a review. I thought I would take a chance on this book since I was familiar with the author. I enjoyed the content of Going Deep. My general conclusions are as follows:

  • it was well written and holds one's attention 
  • it identifies a major problem in the church today
  • it provides a very viable means of solving this major problem
  • it is a valuable tool (even though it is fictional) for church leadership
  • it is a needed read by pastor, elders, and lay-leaders in today's churches
The author's concluding chapter is somewhat gratuitous and self-congratulatory. MacDonald summarizes the theme and thesis by having the "characters" give their evaluation of the process of going deep. Naturally it is all positive and forms a nice bow ties around a great package.
I received a complimentary copy of Going Deep for this evaluation. I was not required to give either a positive or negative evaluation. I received nothing else for this evaluation. It is strictly my own opinion.


John Patrick Donovan said...

sounds like a good book that needs carfull reading.

kc bob said...

Interesting to use fiction to teach something like that. Thanks for the review Gregg!