Monday, September 24, 2012

A Novel Approach To Discipleship--Going Deep: Becoming A Person of Influence

I saw this book while I was taking a discipleship class in my last year at seminary and thought that it might be a good source for my final paper. It would have been had I actually read it during that time, but required readings, a pinched nerve, and the birth of my first daughter cut this from my reading schedule until seminary was over. 

Going Deep is the second book of this type that Gordon MacDonald has written--a non-fiction message in novel form (the first was Who Stole My Church?, which is the same setting for this novel). In this book MacDonald (a.k.a GMac) and his wife Gail are the pastors of a mid-sized church in New England who become obsessed with a "great idea" that leads to a two-year journey in forming a fourteen person discipleship group that will reproduce itself in the coming years. The "great idea" slowly but surely becomes this pastor's all-consuming mission--his most important job in ministry is Cultivating Deep People (CDP). From the perspective of Gordon's first person narrative, readers have an inside look at how ministries like CDP come to into being, starting with conversations in parking lots, e-mails, phone calls, and board meetings. This book takes you from the inception of "the great idea" to end of the...well, you'll have to read the book for yourself to see how it ends.

The material in Going Deep is great stuff. I couldn't agree more with MacDonald's message that the Church needs to be making spiritually deepening people. The method that he presents for how to get this done is also excellent. Information-wise this book gets 4 or 5 stars in my book. When I first started this novel, I was intrigued with the style of seeing what the day-in/day-out of this type of ministry might look like; however, this is the very aspect that soon wore thin. The problem is: fiction drama really requires conflict or tension to keep it moving. Nobody wants to hear a story about Mr. A trying to get to  X and actually getting there on time with no problems...they want to read about Mr. A trying to get to point X but having to overcome between 1-10 obstacles in the process. GMac must be a idealist because everything goes smoothly for 255 pages before they hit their first snag. I've been involved in ministry long enough to know that there are plenty of opportunities for drama and conflict within the span of a year and a half, but seemingly not in the magical land of New England. Every idea meets with unanimous approval by all leaders and key members of the congregation. If you've ever worked in ministry this should seem like the Twilight Zone. The story element of the first 2/3 would get 2 stars in my rating.

Consequently, since there were no obstacles, mystery or tension, I had very little motivation to keep reading (other than writing this review). But something happened around page 255--I started to care. The characters became real. I wanted to know what happened. A bit of tension found its way into the story. So I would rate the last 125 pages 4 stars. All in all, a great message that is important and needs to be heard, but lacks in terms of the elements of fiction. Overall I would give it 3 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com [...] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

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