Andy Stanley defends his preaching

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Darrell Post's picture

I read the article. First of all, he seems even more long-winded than Job's three friends. But he is just as wrong headed.

"The approach most of us inherited doesn’t work anymore. "

Reading the article it is clear that Stanley wishes to coddle the millennial generation to get them back into church. He despises the approach of the older generations because it didn't 'work' and yet has introduced an even worse approach, to rob Scripture of its authority.

"Shifting the conversation away from the authority of Scripture to the authority, courage and faithfulness of the men and women behind our Scriptures has not only enabled me to better connect with post-Christians, it’s done wonders for the faith of the faithful."

Hogwash. There IS no authority to the faithfulness of Abraham when the only place we can learn of him is from the very Scriptures Stanley discards as non-authoritative. Stanley is playing a shifting shell game hoping millennials will uncover the hidden ball. This sort of bait-and-switch isn't new in evangelicalism.

I recall years ago visiting Willow Creek when returning home from O'Hare airport on a Sunday morning. The seeker crowd was told that salvation amounted to a bicycle built for two, and you are struggling with the controls, and you just need to get on the back seat, put Jesus on the front seat, and then your life will be a breeze!

Then at the end, they told the crowd that there would be a gathering afterward for those interested in learning more. So I wandered by the alcove where they had these people gathered and they were giving them a salvation message that was a little closer to biblical, but different from what they heard during the sermons--a bait and switch. I could see confused looks on their faces.

Stanley hopes to reach millennials by denying the authority of Scripture because millennials deny it, and then hopes to turn this around after they are 'saved' and re-churched.

The apostle Paul would enter a community, preach Christ crucified even though it was foolishness to his hearers. Sure he avoided unnecessary distractions, but he never watered down the message just because it was foolishness to hearers.

 

 

Bert Perry's picture

I read it, and he's really slick.  But he really doesn't connect the things he's been called on to the passages he cites.  In that way, he's very similar to fundagelical preachers who do not connect their texts with the points they make, but rather use them as more or less a diving board to jump off and say what they wanted to talk about that day.

Which is, IMO, one of the biggest problems in our "orbit".  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

rpruitt's picture

Just a thought, but it is difficult for me to imagine the apostle Paul "sticking a wet finger to the wind of culture" and trying to tailor a message that was not a stumbling block to the Jews or foolishness to the Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:22-24).  I'm not saying that every preacher has to present the Scripture in exactly the same manner, but the message of the Word cannot be altered and the Word of God must be heard if faith is to be formed in the heart and mind (Rom. 10:17)

Robert P. Pruitt

Darrell Post's picture

rpruitt, that is a good verse to bring into the discussion. I suppose the ASV (Andy Stanley Version) of Romans 10:17 would read "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the courage and faithfulness of God's people." 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Where he may have something of a point is in emphasis. It's easy to sound like you're denying A when you are shifting your emphasis to B. In some ministries, there is an overemphasis on abstractions. Sounds like AS is overemphasizing the personal experience aspect of things.

I don't think I can accurately generalize about our "orbit" on the emphasis front. While some ministries are too "cerebral," others are too personal/affective. It's a shame to starve the intellectually active folks in our congregations to the point that they are driven to find food for thought elsewhere... or nowhere. It's also a shame to talk over the heads of 90% of a congregation most of the time when the personal/affective/narrative is so accessible, potentially meaty, and abundant in Scripture.

But yes, it's a huge mistake to downgrade (CH Spurgeon allusion intentional) biblical authority in any effort to bottom-shelf the cookies.

jimcarwest's picture

Stanley made it abundantly clear that he believed in the absolute authority of Scripture, but he also made it clear that, where there are people who deny the teachings of Scripture about God (as in the case of the Athenians), God is not at any disadvantage in bringing such to repentance.  Please represent Stanley honestly before you attack him.  

 

jimcarwest's picture

Is that what he said, Darrell?  I certainly did not see that in the article.  

 

jimcarwest's picture

It seems to me that churches have to consider (1) their audience, and (2) the purpose of the message.  Probably, in earlier times Christians went into the "market place," into the town square, into the arena where non-Christians gathered (such as the Areopagus) to proclaim the message.  Stanley's (and Paul's) approach would play well there, but probably the message would not rest upon Scripture quoting as much as sanctified reasoning that awakened the conscience to respond to God.  When Christians were gathered and the purpose of the meeting was instructional and designed to teach "the whole counsel of God" so that they could progress in their spiritual lives and grow in grace, there would be more appeal to Scripture as an authority already accepted by believers.  Can't those who are posting here understand that?  If not, it probably is a sign that they serve in a church where very few of the modern generation are coming to Christ.  Too many of our churches are not going where non-Christians congregate.  We wait until non-Christians have a inclination to visit our services.  Even our evangelical enticements rarely succeed in getting them into our gatherings.  And when they do come, they hear a gospel sermon designed for people and supported by people who are already convinced of the truth of Scripture.  When this happens, they teaching time is lost to believers because the speaker uses it to preach the gospel and appeal for decisions to a congregation that has already dealt with those issues.  We're in a rut, and Stanley seems to be seeking a way to resolve those issues.  One may disagree with his efforts, but one should not gloss over the problem that is facing the church of not reaching our generation for Christ.

 

Darrell Post's picture

here again is the quote from Stanley:

"Shifting the conversation away from the authority of Scripture to the authority, courage and faithfulness of the men and women behind our Scriptures has not only enabled me to better connect with post-Christians, it’s done wonders for the faith of the faithful."

I rightly called this a bait and switch. Toward the end of my comments I said this: "Stanley hopes to reach millennials by denying the authority of Scripture because millennials deny it, and then hopes to turn this around after they are 'saved' and re-churched."

What have I misrepresented? He has shifted, in the ears of his hearers, the weight of authority from the infallible Scriptures to fallible men--their courage and faithfulness.

RickyHorton's picture

Darrell, don't misrepresent him.  Keep reading after your quote.  He isn't denying the authority of Scripture.  He is simply recognizing that few people in the world today accept that Scripture is God's Word.  In the past, people were taught this from the time they were born.  It was generally accepted.  That just isn't the case today.  So when you say today that "the Bibles says...." people say, "who cares?!"  Here is what Andy Stanley said just below the sentence you quoted:

"The reason many Christians struggle with statements like these is they grew up on “The Bible says” preaching. And that’s fine as long as one first believes the Bible is inspired.  Notice I said first.  Let me state it another way.  If someone is first convinced the Bible is God’s Word, you can leverage “The Bible says” language. But let’s be honest. What do you call people who first accept the Bible as God’s Word before they’ve read the Bible? What do you call someone who takes someone’s word for something as significant as “This book is the infallible Word of God?” What kind of person would go for that?  A child."

Darrell, I've worked with youth for the past 15 plus years and have seen this trend even in that short amount of time.  You have to adapt the methods of teaching (NOTICE I DIDN'T SAY THE MESSAGE) based on the people with whom you are speaking.  Surely that can't be that difficult to understand.

Darrell Post's picture

Stanley is doing a bait and switch. I realize that many today do not recognize the authority of the Word of God. But moving the locus of authority to the "courage and faithfulness of the men and women" is a shell-game. The only place we can learn about these men and women is in the Scriptures. Paul preached Christ crucified even though his hearers did not recognize the authority in that message.

As I share my faith, someone with the objection that they don't believe the Bible will by met by my counter, well, would think with me then on this question, what if you are wrong about that, and the Bible is true after all? I wouldn't accept their premise and then try to win them with a gospel built on the platform of a non-authoritative Scripture...and then hope later to get them to come around to the authority of Scripture. That is a bait and switch, and the very thing I saw in the anecdote about Willow Creek that I shared above.

The authority of the Scriptures and the gospel message are completely linked together. It is a dangerous game to try and separate them for pragmatic reasons.

WallyMorris's picture

Stanley says he believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, but, at the same time, minimizes the authority of the Bible by other statements he makes. He seemed to cast doubt on the accuracy of several OT events. In his attempt to reach people with the gospel (admittedly a difficult job today), he is destroying the basis for the gospel. There is a role in evangelism for logic, philosophy, etc. Paul seemed to do this in Acts 17. But by far the main strategy which Acts presents is the use of Scripture to reach people, whether they believe it or not. Acts 2,7,8,18 and more all show the early Christians using Scripture to reach people, even people who were not familiar with the OT. Stanley is a symptom of a deeper problem in Evangelicalism - professing belief in inerrancy while casting doubt, even at times denying or explaining away that same Bible. Note the growing battle in ETS about accepting homosexuality. Hebrews 4:12 - God's Word is powerful. The Bible tells me so.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Bert Perry's picture

Ricky, certainly Stanley does affirm the authority of Scripture in this article, but what I think Darrell is getting at is that not only do we have many examples of him not affirming the authority of Scripture in practice (including membership for unrepentant homosexuals) , but he's also found an indication that in practice, he can and will compromise the application of the first Fundamental/Sola Scriptura.  Pretty much admitted as much in his article.

For me, that's almost as good as saying he doesn't really believe it--it's like, to use the old example, I believe the chair will hold my weight, but I will fight you tooth and nail to prevent being forced to actually sit on it.

Or, as a Sudanese friend told me, there's a proverb in Africa "Your actions are shouting so loud, I cannot hear what you are saying."  I hope that I am being at least a bit unfair to Mr. Stanley, but in writing this, he qualifies certainly as "slick" in this regard.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

jimcarwest's picture

You didn't quote where Stanley "denied" the authority of Scripture.  Stanley cited the experience of Paul when he didn't use Scripture to win the Athenians and when he did use Scripture to preach to Jews.  He plainly said throughout the article that in training and practice he held to the authority of Scripture.  Unless you are going to use every witnessing experience to do an apologetic for Scripture, you can legitimately approach the introduction of truth by appealing to natural law, common knowledge, human experience and how it accords with Scripture, etc.  Maybe you haven't had many opportunities to deal with those to whom the authority of Scripture is not a successful beginning point.

 

Dan Miller's picture

Now this is worth talking about.

Andy Stanley, in this article, asserts that God-worshippers (Jews who needed to embrace Christ) were treated ​differently from unbelievers by the apostles (Paul and Peter) in Acts. Ok - it appears they were. 

And Stanley argues from that that we may utilize each of these methods of preaching, with freedom to choose between them according to wisdom. 

Questions:

1. Is a church assembly properly to be thought of as a place filled with unbelievers or believers?

2. Andy said a few times that a particular sermon that illustrates his preferred method. Perhaps this should be discussed...

a message titled “The Bible Told Me So” that caused more than a few to question my view of Scripture and my understanding of how the canon came to be. The message was part of a six-part series titled “Who Needs God.” The target audience was the increasing number of millennials who grew up in church but outgrew their faith.

jimcarwest's picture

It would help if those who oppose Stanley would actually cite his statements or the history of his errors.  It doesn't help when accusations are made with no proof, or when someone says, "it would seem, or it seems he is saying, etc."  These are serious charges being made.  As for "including membership for unrepentant homosexuals" statement, please give proof of this.  It's one thing to accept for membership someone who has a "same-sex" attraction, but who has repented and begun the Christian life in a battle with his natural tendency,  and someone who is a practicing homosexual.  Don't you agree?  Would you accept someone into your membership who has repented of his wild lifestyle, even though he must deal with lust and sexual desire as a new Christian?  I doubt if you would require more than proof of salvation, public testimony in baptism, and evidence of desiring to be separated from the old life.  Am I correct in that assumption?  

Bert Perry's picture

jimcarwest wrote:

It would help if those who oppose Stanley would actually cite his statements or the history of his errors.  It doesn't help when accusations are made with no proof, or when someone says, "it would seem, or it seems he is saying, etc."  These are serious charges being made.  As for "including membership for unrepentant homosexuals" statement, please give proof of this.  It's one thing to accept for membership someone who has a "same-sex" attraction, but who has repented and begun the Christian life in a battle with his natural tendency,  and someone who is a practicing homosexual.  Don't you agree?  Would you accept someone into your membership who has repented of his wild lifestyle, even though he must deal with lust and sexual desire as a new Christian?  I doubt if you would require more than proof of salvation, public testimony in baptism, and evidence of desiring to be separated from the old life.  Am I correct in that assumption.  

Jim--just search by the name "Andy Stanley" here to get started.  There is actually an example of him admitting known, unrepentant homosexuals into membership, and into service at the church he serves.  Your point on not knowing all the sins of a member is well taken, of course.

I should also note that I don't consider myself an "opponent" of Andy Stanley.  I've just seen--see the link or search for yourself--some things that are very concerning regarding his theology.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

jimcarwest's picture

I have had the privilege of dealing with both types of people -- those from a Scripture-oriented background, those from the error of Roman Catholicism,  and those who were totally from a Scripture-less background.  I have found that you have to deal with them differently.  It does little good to quote Scripture to an atheist, I have found.  My first experience with this occurred in Spain as I led a study with a group of radio/TV artists and employees who all claimed to be either atheist or agnostic.  Following the Francis Shaeffer example, I approached the search for truth for several weeks without quoting Scripture but by using natural law, logic, and human experience, which brought us to the point where Scripture could be introduced as a reliable arbiter of truth.  Once this was established, it was relatively easy to apply all of Scripture, especially the NT, to argue for and present the claims of Christ and the truth of salvation.  The result was that most of the group confessed Christ, and became His followers.  

jimcarwest's picture

I did Google Stanley and found a lot about the homosexuality issue.  I agree with you and others that he is certainly trying to walk a tight rope on this issue, and in doing do, he is making some serious blunders from a Scriptural standpoint.  If this were the main topic about Stanley on this blog, I don't think any of us would disagree.  This topic, however, has emerged from the primary topic having to do with Scriptural authority.  These are in essence two different topics, although I can see how one can lead to the other.  I thought the discussion had to do with whether convincing sinners of the authority of Scripture was essential to bring them to salvation.  The Stanley article that was cited showed he does not believe this to be so, and I do agree with him, and have cited my own experience, and I believe there are plenty of examples exist, not only in Scripture, of people being saved without being clear on Scriptural infallibility, inspiration, and authority.

rpruitt's picture

There is a God who created the universe and all that is in it.  This God is holy, and we must all answer to Him.  Any sin, i.e., a failure to live up to His holy standard of perfection, damns a soul to hell.  All men, women, and children fail to live up to that standard and thus all stand condemned before God, and this includes you.  God, in His grace, sent Jesus Christ into the world to die as a substitute, paying the price of sin.  If you will repent of your sin and trust in Him for forgiveness of your sin, the Lord will forgive you.  You will no longer face eternal damnation, but can know that you will be with Christ in heaven for all eternity.  Will you repent and trust Christ?

I know that there may be more may need to be said to a lost man or woman, but I'm intentionally being as brief as possible.  I didn't quote directly from the Bible once, but I think most here would say that this gets across most of what is necessary for a gospel witness.  But then there is this, where did this message really come from if not the Bible.  What other source reveals this message to us?  We can deal with natural law, etc., but eventually the message of the gospel as revealed in the Bible must be proclaimed or there is no salvation.  The lost sinner can be saved without knowing that the message is from the Bible, but it is the Word that the Spirit uses to bring lost sinners to faith.  Our message must accurately express the Word of God or else no one will be saved.  Just because I do not give chapter and verse references doesn't mean that the Bible is not the source of our message.  Again, we don't have to tell people what the source of our message is, but the Bible is and must remain our source.

Robert P. Pruitt

rpruitt's picture

Stanley claims that his target audience is people who grew up in or around the church and have left the church.  It would be interesting to know what kind of church they grew up in and left if they do not know that the message of Christ comes from the Bible, or that those Stanley references when he speaks of the reliable, eyewitnesses like John are biblical figures and authors.

Robert P. Pruitt

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think nobody is trying to misrepresent AS, but he does have a history of putting things in a way that is easily misunderstood (some widely publicized statements about sexual ethics come to mind)... or perhaps understood. My point is that he seems to be least clear on points where clarity should not be difficult. So it's puzzling. In this case, there is no trade off whatsoever between the authority of Scripture and the personal dimension of the lives of godly we find in Scripture... nor is there any need to downplay authority in reaching what he id's as the target audience. If anything, bad previous experiences in churches are often healed by a return to the authority of the Word rather than the authority of men.

Isn't it just about always the authority of men in some form that messes churches up?

So (a) the strategy is really not a very good one and (b) he's definitely not saying it well (if his intent is not to diminish the authority of Scripture in ministry practice).