Going Deep by Gordon MacDonald

Going Deep (Book review)

Gordan MacDonald

Thomas Nelson Publishers

Gordan, affectionately known as GMAC, and his wife Gail are nearing the end of their pastoral ministry in the northeast. With their church body aging and young people fleeing Gordan has a hunch that something has to change to stem the tide. Gordon, assisted by those within and without the church, realizes that his role must change in order to foster an environment of cross generational training. What Gail and GMAC must do is figure out how to have the body “go deep”. What good things will they give up to cultivate people? What must they use their time to engage in without apology?  How will they get their church to go deep in their Christian walk?

The story was suspenseful as you move through the life of a pastor and his wife seeking to develop people who will continue the ministry of Christ long after they are gone. It was suspenseful as you waited to see how each character was developed throughout the book. It was neat to observe that MacDonald discovered that the life of the church was going to grow through depth of  study in Scripture and richness in relationship with others.

One will be motivated to be intentional with their life. You will also be encouraged to think strategically about God-designed relationships, especially relationships with neighbors.

This was not a theological book so I will refrain from making any comments about theological disagreements though there were a few.

I would recommend this book to small group leaders.

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.”

A Subtle Attack on the Gospel

Paul and Peter were ministering in Antioch together. No doubt some incredible times of storytelling and memories of Jesus while on earth. Then from out of nowhere a party from James and the church of Jerusalem shows up and begins to alter Peter and Barnabas’ conduct. How is my conduct altered by who is around me? How does that impact the gospel? How do I let others impact the gospel by impacting me? It is chilling to hear Paul say, “But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel.” This party had arrived and now Peter along with the other Jews are attempting to add things to the gospel in particular Jewish works. Paul is infuriated by this distortion of the gospel and immediately goes to providing a proper view of the gospel. Our strict obedience to the law is an attempt to win God’s approval and it’s a perilous attempt because faith in Jesus is only acceptable. Paul gives a theological smack down to Peter & Co. for willfully misrepresenting the good news of Jesus and making it void. If Jews were able to come to God through the law then the death of Christ was for no purpose. We are now in Christ not the law and we live by faith in Christ not by attempted obedience to the law.


How do parties attempt to add to the gospel? I’ve certainly watched people try to add translations to the gospel. I’ve seen individuals attempt to add dress styles to the gospel. I’ve seen people try and attach attendance to church events and service in those events to the gospel rather than a response to the good news of Jesus. Unfortunately, in some cases I altered my behavior as Peter and allowed these things to distort the gospel. It should be unacceptable to allow cultural milieu define the gospel. This can also be altered in the opposite direction when individuals attempt to dress cool and establish a style somehow attempting to connect it to the gospel.

Theological Vagueness

I thoroughly enjoyed Mike Reeves keen insights in his post “Fear and Loathing in Las Vagueness

The dark temptation

“Perhaps, though, underneath it all, there is a more sinister reason for our dislike of theology. Quite simply, we do not like to admit to ourselves that God has spoken to us, and spoken clearly. For then we would have to confess that we have not obeyed him. And so we fear and loathe gospel-theology, with its blunt talk of God and his ways. Instead we naturally prefer theological vagueness. There in the shadows, undisturbed by the harsh light of divine revelation, we are free to fashion our gods to our hearts’ content; we can make a religion that is no more than comforting experience, moralism, or whatever we choose.

And, we go on, doesn’t such doctrine-free Christianity give less for people to fight over? Doesn’t it help unite the church? This was exactly the argument used by Erasmus, the prince of the humanists. ‘The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity,’ he once said, ‘but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible’. But what, then, would people be uniting around?

As Erasmus showed, the temptation to sideline theology is subtle and strong. But the story of the humanists makes it quite clear: without theology, without the doctrines of the gospel, there can be no true unity, and no substantial reformation.

What Luther saw was that Christianity is a matter of theology first and foremost. God reveals his truth; we believe, confess and press in to know it. Only with that dynamic could reformation sweep through the church. May God make us all such theologians!”



Meeting of the Minds

So Paul argues from personal experience with the Galatians why his gospel is unadulterated and only from God. Second Paul argues from his meeting with the minds in Jerusalem.

After Paul had been teaching for 14 years he ventured to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus to meet with influential leaders. Paul wanted to confirm the content he had been speaking throughout Asia Minor. Paul willfully put the content of his teaching at the disposal of other leaders. Servant leaders will always make themselves vulnerable to other leaders in order to confirm the accuracy of what they are preaching/teaching. Paul wanted to confirm freedom from circumcision through Christ, because Jewish leaders in distant lands were attempting to add circumcision to the gospel. Paul was courageous enough to have nothing to do with those who attempted to change the gospel. James, John, and Cephas vocally acknowledged God’s grace on the ministry of Paul and Barnabas adding that they only be eager to remember the poor. Circumcision was irrelevant to saving faith through Christ. This decision by the leaders of Jerusalem, the apparent pillars of the church, to support Paul’s work to the Gentiles was ginormous then and throughout church history.

Change of Plans

The good news brought by Paul was not from a man sitting in a home coming up with a good story. The eternal story was horrible for the lead character, Jesus, who was  grossly mistreated and beaten by people with appetites for cruelty. Our human minds are attracted to short term gratification, which meant most never realized in the merciless beating they were simply fulfilling an eternal plan of my sovereign God. Through the demise Christ, the Son of God, would surprise all to burst through victorious. How can it be so normal to know Christ? It can’t. For Paul it was a cataclysmic event where God intervened and revealed Himself to Paul. Salvation is nothing short of me being consciously aware of God’s transformation of my life. Fortunately, salvation is blind to corrupt deeds; meaning in spite of Paul’s wistful destruction of the followers of Christ saving faith pierced through Paul’s corruptness. My testimony is nothing short of Jesus Christ revealing Himself to a corrupt guy wasting far to much time entertaining the pleasures of my world. Wow – the gospel is not from humanity it is from God. To have the gospel revealed is to have God make Himself known to me through salvation. Salvation is a God thing. May I sit at God’s feet and learn from Him. May I give constant attention to His venture.