This is the story of Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, located twenty miles north of Atlanta. Founding pastor, Andy Stanley, shares the story of Northpoint Community Church and outlines the church’s ministry philosophy for other churches and leaders to evaluate and follow. Deep & Wide offers a balanced mix of narrative story, ministry philosophy, and practical advice for the local church.
For the first third of the book (Sections One and Two), Stanley shares the story and origins of Northpoint Community Church (Northpoint). Beginning in the days when he was a youth pastor for his well-known father, Charles, Stanley shares specific details of the situations and events that occurred leading to the founding of Northpoint. Surprising, Stanley (with the permission of his father), shares the story of his parents’ divorce that drove a temporary wedge between he and his father. Yet, God used this to begin Northpoint and bring healing to a wounded pastor.
Section Three of Deep & Wide is entitled “Going Deep.” In these chapters, Stanley outlines the approach Northpoint takes regarding spiritual formation. Northpoint seeks to engage with people in five distinct areas to promote spiritual formation: practical teaching, private disciplines, personal ministry, providential relationships, and pivotal circumstances. Over the next several chapters, Stanley outlines the philosophies of each of these areas and offers practical advice in sections titled, “Back at the Church.” Some suggestions include: a call to action at the end of every sermon, getting people involved in volunteer ministry quickly, and creating environments that foster meaningful relationships. One unique view of Northpoint is their closed Community Groups. Northpoint’s structure is to close a group to visitors once the group launches. The group then stays together for two years. Stanley believes this helps to increase the relationship building within the group structure as compared to open groups that change frequently.
Section Four is entitled “Going Wide” and discusses Northpoint’s ministry philosophy on outreach and evangelism. One key philosophy of Northpoint is to create “irresistible environments.” A key focus of Northpoint is reaching out to people that do not attend church. Stanley and Northpoint have adopted an attractional style of ministry. Northpoint evaluates the setting, the presentation, and the content being offered, in their words. Stanley firmly believes in practical preaching that offers Biblical teaching to believers and practical life advice to newcomers. Section Four ends with several templates Northpoint uses to create a service, including welcome, their approach to music, and preaching guidelines from Stanley.
Section Five is dedicated to taking the principles and philosophies Stanley outlined in the first four sections and making them practical for the local church to implement. Stanley focuses heavily on the differences between the Mission of the Church and models churches can use to reach the mission. He is open in the fact that Northpoint’s methods are just one method and discourages churches from blindly adopting their methods without due diligence. Stanley walks through a process from mission to vision to model to programming.
Deep & Wide was an interesting autobiographical case study of one of the largest churches in the country. While Northpoint has experienced tremendous success, it is difficult to connect with a church using the attractional method that runs in the tens of thousands each weekend. This sets an unrealistic goal for many churches, although it is clear Stanley is not trying to have churches match their size. Stanley offers practical advice on what can work in the local church in modern America. He is thoughtful and strategic. Therefore, Deep & Wide can be a valuable resource for church leaders who connect with Northpoint’s ministry philosophy.