I have to admit: Unless your name’s John Bunyan, fictional accounts of God’s hypothetical real-life work in the church has never really done it for me. (I have to wonder how I’d feel if I were to read In His Steps again, for that matter, being now 25+ years removed from being a brand-new Christian.) Thus, while the intentions here are good, the results…. well, not so much.
Plus, you’d read that title and buy it, never suspecting it was actually a work of fiction. Boo.
But again, let’s be fair: The intentions here are good. Gordon MacDonald wants to give us a picture of a church that’s embraced the importance of discipleship—of becoming “deep people,” to borrow his quote from Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline—and is willing to face the changes and challenges that come with that. So it’s coming from a good place.
The problem, for me, comes with the fact that it’s a fictional work, and a fairly predictable one at that. People throughout the church get the idea, challenges and speed bumps arrive and are of course ultimately overcome. Plus, there are two real-life characters here—MacDonald and his wife Gail. I didn’t read his last book, Who Stole My Church?, but I understand he uses the same device there. But again, the church itself is fictional. My gut cries out, why?
Not that it’s impossible that this book might inspire anyone to “go deeper,” but there are enough books out there based on real-life experience, with far less tidy plots—and, I hasten to add, more of that desired depth—that would ultimately prove more useful for anyone who really wants to see their church embrace a life of discipleship. At least a couple of them have been reviewed here, in fact. Thus, as I like to say: Go—fetch.