… healthy local churches can be, and should be, both deep and wide. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. Local churches should be characterized by deep roots and wide reaches. Churches should be theologically sound and culturally relevant. We should be bold in our proclamation and winsome in our approach. In the Gospels we find in Jesus the embodiment of both. As his body, we should be as well.
(Andy Stanley, “Deep and Wide: creating churches unchurched people love to attend”)
I am not a great fan of American mega-churches. The “corporate church” with slick marketing and a CEO for a pastor leaves me cold. And the idea that we can somehow save the church in Europe from decline by copying the Americans seems hopelessly naive – and indeed seems largely to have gone our of fashion (now we all want to be Hillsong, instead…). Andy Stanley does come from that tradition – but has a rather different and perhaps more humble take on it. He doesn’t think we should all do what he has done, in the way he has done it. He does suggest we should be asking some of the same questions he has asked. Like, for example, “Why are we doing this? Who are we doing it for? Have we got a plan?” His “Measurable ministry wins” have a lot in common with a “Balanced Scorecard” management approach – which may put some people off straight away – but in the end they just boil down to setting some concrete goals and trying to meet them. The goals are mostly simple and obvious – eg the first ministry goal for the pre-school programme: “Kids attend”. But sometimes reminding ourselves of the obvious might be a good thing. If children are not attending our children’s programmes, then they cannot succeed in any other goals (like “To make a first impression of the heavenly father”). And the same goes for adult worship. So even if the corporate strategy might seem off-putting, it does seem to have worked: Stanley claims that roughly 10 percent of his attendees are newcomers, and roughly 40 percent have not been regular attenders at any other church before they came to North Point. In other words, it seems he’s not just picking up the disaffected from other churches, but actually reaching a new audience. So he’s certainly wide. Whether North Point is also deep I cannot say. I’m not even sure how that could be measured.
Years ago, when people talked about church strategy, I used to protest that “the church is not a business”. I didn’t think we had anything to learn from management theory or any other secular strategy. I was wrong. Which is to say: I was right, the church is not a business, but a fellowship. But our fellowship still has aims and goals. And perhaps if we were a little more businesslike in assessing our activites and a little more goal-oriented in the way we plan – then we might be more effective in fulfilling our mission. At the very least – it’s a question worth asking.