Going All the Way: preparing for a marriage that goes the distance is an ambitious book. It is ambitious primarily because it seeks to say something that hasn’t already been said about dating and marriage from a Christian perspective. If any one could succeed in such an audacious task, it would be Craig Groeschel, who is the founding pastor of LifeChurch.tv, which has become a multi-site congregation that sees more than 20, 000 in worship at its combined weekly worship services. Groeschel is an innovator who has done some amazing things that have been noticed by the church at large. He is also one of the authors of LifeChurch.tv’s blog Swerve.
One of the requirements of a pastor who has witnessed and facilitated such dramatic growth is that he or she be an excellent, gifted communicator. In Going All the Way, Groeschel does not disappoint as he gets his point across through anecdotes that often can’t help but make you smile. He also effectively uses self-deprecating humor. Most importantly, he keeps his eyes on the “Christian” content of the book. In other words, he is mostly successful in avoiding the temptation to moralize or make commonsense statements that are not really connected to specific Christian content. He clearly encourages the reader to see their relationship with God to be the one relationship that will complete them, rather than seeking to find it in another person. According to Groeschel, it is only after we first are connected to God, that we can hope to succeed in finding our two, or the person that we hope to spend the rest of our lives with.
This book commends itself because it is very readable. After finishing one chapter, I typically wanted to keep going into the next chapter. I found myself sometimes laughing out lout, sometimes scratching my head, and I even found myself motivated to examining my marriage again to make sure that I am doing all that I can to love Melissa as I am called to love her. In short, the book was an interesting read, it made me think, and it reminded me to practice some things that I already knew.
My main criticism of the book would be that I felt that as the book went on it lost some of its momentum. In the first few chapters Groeschel was witty, sometimes even hillarious. He may have been repeating largely familiar arguments, but the way it was written was fresh and engaging. As the book continued, it felt as if Groseschel may have lost some of his enthusiasm for the project. That is purely speculation, but some of the later chapters lacked the freshness and creativity of the first several. The two main examples of this for me were the chapters “Thinking Differently About Husbands” and “Thinking Differently About Wives.” After the much of the originality and humor I had enjoyed that served to highlight the truth, in these two chapters he seemed to basically just restate the predictable male role of spiritual leader and female role of submission. For example on page 170 Groeschel writes, “Honestly, most teaching on submission makes me cringe.” But then the rest of the chapter essentially reiterates that very teaching on submission. What would make a woman feel any more comfortable with his articulation of a woman’s duty to submit?
One notable exception was a terrific biblical illustration that Groeschel uses. In Chapter 8 “Your Story Starts Again” Groeschel is discussing how to deal with past mistakes and sins. He closes the chapter by looking at “Two men who committed basically the same horrible sin – betraying Jesus” (111). The two men are Judas and Peter. He reminds us that Judas saw no hope and equated what he had done with who he was, and so he took his own life. Peter, on the other hand, after denying Jesus three times, met Jesus face to face and received forgiveness and further spiritual empowerment. Two men who denied Jesus, with two very different results.
Ultimately, since the main purpose of the book is to help people to prepare “for a marriage that goes the distance” it should be judged above all else on whether it succeeds in this task. My hope and prayer is that it will.