Book Review: Going Deep by Gordon MacDonald

How can church leaders proactively develop mature followers of Christ who are well-equipped to lead the church into the future?

This is a question I spend my days and nights seeking to answer, and one Gordon MacDonald attempts to answer in this book.

He summarizes his motivation to write Going Deep in its preface:

When you think about it, we do seem to know how to get unchurched people to visit our buildings and enjoy our programs.  We even appear to know how to persuade many to acknowledge personal faith in Jesus.  But some are saying that what we do not know is how to produce the deep people who are supposed to emerge after that.  We do not produce them, at least, in the quantities that are necessary for the challenges of our times.  The result is a growing scarcity in spiritual leadership.  And the implication is that without an abundance of deep people–spiritual leaders–tomorrow’s organized church could be headed for irrelevance.

Written in the same style and from the same scenario as his Who Stole My Church?, Going Deep  is a first-person fictional narrative in which MacDonald is the pastor of a New Hampshire congregation that’s doing its best to faithfully navigate the changes and challenges of the future.

The challenge Pastor MacDonald discerns as his congregation’s most pressing is the need to, as he puts it, cultivate deep people.  He takes his inspiration from Richard Foster‘s words, “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but…for deep people.”

He, his staff and elders, and an assortment of friends and neighbors set about researching how this can best be accomplished.  They eventually decide to form a group of select “growable” church members who will gather weekly for forty weeks to learn, pray, discuss, and deepen their discipleship.

The first half of this 383-page story chronicles MacDonald’s search for how to best cultivate deep people in his church.  The second half takes the reader through the launching of the first group.

The reader learns as MacDonald learns…and together we learn a lot.

This book will be most useful to those who have a burden for developing disciples of Jesus.  I imagine that would primarily be pastors, church elders, missionaries, and ministry and small group leaders.  In this regard the title and subtitle are misleading.  This book is not about how the reader can become a person of influence.  Instead, it’s about developing others to be people of influence.

The story is well told.  One can easily begin to forget that the characters and circumstances are fictional.  However, because these lessons are delivered within a fictional story, it sometimes takes many, many words to eventually make a single point.  Overall, though, the fictional approach is the book’s strength.  How-to books for church leaders are beyond counting; this book involves the reader in the story and plants its lessons along the way.

I’m glad I read Going Deep.  I can honestly say it has already refreshed and strengthened my thinking on this important subject.

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