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A photo by Luke Chesser. unsplash.com/photos/KR2mdHJ5qMgFor Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
-- 1 Corinthians 1:17

Pack a lunch.

By now, you are probably at least somewhat familiar with the firestorm resulting from NorthPoint Church pastor Andy Stanley’s teaching on the Bible and its suitability for (initial) apologetic/evangelistic engagement, most notably found in his recent teaching series but also in a conversation with Russell Moore at the most recent ERLC conference. He has been called everything from a liberal to a heretic, and not all of the criticism has reflected biblical wisdom and charity. Two of the better critical offerings came from Southern Seminary’s David Prince and Midwestern Seminary’s Rustin Umstattd. (There are many more. Google is your friend.)

Stanley has formally issued a response to the responses at Outreach Magazine. It’s this latter statement I want to spend some time interacting with, as I think his previous statements have been well-parsed and I find that--even after this attempted rebuttal and clarification--there are some glaring problems with Pastor Stanley’s approach to the Scriptures that not many are addressing. Certainly he isn’t addressing them himself. I am not certain he is even aware of them. Here, then, are three nagging problems I still have with Stanley’s use of the Bible:

1. Affirming the Bible’s inerrancy is not the same as trusting its sufficiency

I can’t speak for other critics, of course, but I for one never doubted that on paper Stanley would affirm inerrancy. Indeed, in his Outreach comments, he reaffirms his agreement with the Chicago Statement.

So for anyone out there who is still a bit suspicious, I affirm The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Heck, I studied under the man who co-authored the whole thing.

He is referring here, of course, to Norman Geisler, and I found this shared exchange between the two rather telling in a way Stanley probably doesn’t intend:

"Andy," [Geisler] said, "I understand what you are saying but not everybody does. You need to put something in print so they know you hold to inerrancy." I assured him I would. But I also assured him the they he referred to wouldn't change their opinion because I've been in this long enough to know my take on inerrancy is not really the issue. He laughed. "I know, but you need to put it in print anyway."

Stanley is right, I think. Inerrancy isn’t really the issue. At least, formal, theoretical affirmation of inerrancy is not the issue. Sure, one can quibble with his statements appearing to undermine the Old Testament accounts of the Jericho wall, and so on, but he is right that it is not his formal commitments that are problematic--it is the way he applies (or in this case, doesn’t apply) them.

As David Prince recently tweeted, “Affirming inerrancy in principle, while rejecting its sufficiency in practice, is like saying your wife’s perfect while having an affair.” This is exactly right. To put it in parlance Stanley’s tribe may be more inclined to consider: as the apostle James says, “Faith without works is dead.” If you say you have faith, but your deeds do not show faithfulness, your faith is under question. Further, affirmation of inerrancy without the practical application of sufficiency is dead. If you believe the Scriptures are totally reliable, why would you obscure them?

Further--and this is by far the biggest error of the entire attractional church enterprise--this approach to teaching/preaching presumes that the Bible is not living and active, that the gospel is not power, that the book is in fact kind of an old, crusty thing that really should be saved for after people have been softened up by our logic and understanding. In other words, Stanley believes the Bible needs our help, that his words are more effective than the Bible’s at reaching lost people. Which is just a way of saying that God’s Word isn’t good enough. A formal affirmation of inerrancy with a practical denial of sufficiency is actually an informal denial of inerrancy.

2. Sharing the gospel necessarily entails leaning on the gospel’s power.

I would be shocked if Stanley believed that anybody was ever argued into the kingdom. Surely he would agree that the best apologetic arguments and logical explanations have never been able to do what the good news of Christ’s finished work can do. Which is what makes it even more fascinating to read Stanley (and others) bending over backwards to explain that the Bible needs to come later in an evangelistic conversation. I can’t speak for all critics, but I agree with Stanley that apologetic/evangelistic conversations can take a variety of forms and begin in a variety of ways. We can ask questions, find common ground with our lost friends, and so on. But there’s never any doubt in my mind that it’s the good news of what Jesus has done that actually saves people. So it’s increasingly strange to hear people whose entire model of “doing church” is built around reaching the lost continually relegating the news of the gospel to codas at the end of sermons or only for special services altogether.

It’s beyond bizarre that in NorthPoint and other churches like it that are predicated on reaching the lost, every week you find not a steady does of gospel but a steady dose of how-to’s (law, basically) that not only can’t save anyone, but can’t even be carried out in a way that honors God unless and until someone’s heart is captured by the gospel.

Stanley spends many paragraphs hand-wringing over the new post-Christian era in America--a phenomenon, I’d argue, his mode of evangelicalism has been highly influential in producing--attempting to lay the case that his approach to preaching and ecclesiology is best-suited for turning the spiritual tide. Here is one statement from this excursus:

I'm not sitting around praying for revival. . . . I grew up in the pray for revival culture. It's a cover for a church's unwillingness to make changes conducive to real revival.

Well, it can be. But “not sitting around praying for revival”--apart from being a strawman--can also be a cover for a church’s embrace of pragmatism. Stanley goes on to say this:

Appealing to post-Christian people on the basis of the authority of Scripture has essentially the same effect as a Muslim imam appealing to you on the basis of the authority of the Quran. You may or may not already know what it says. But it doesn't matter. The Quran doesn't carry any weight with you. You don't view the Quran as authoritative.

This is really important. Don’t miss what Stanley is unintentionally revealing here. He is saying that the Bible has the same effect on the lost as the Quran. There is zero room here for the actual reality of the Bible as God’s living Word. There is zero room here for the supernatural reality that the Bible carries a weight with lost people they don’t often expect it to! But this inadvertent nod to materialism and pragmatism is certainly expected from those with a proven track record of treating the Bible like an instruction manual rather than as the record of the very breath of God. If we truly believed the Bible was the very word of God, inspired by the Spirit and still cutting through to the quick, dividing joint and marrow, we wouldn’t for a second save it for special occasions. And we certainly wouldn’t equate its potential effectiveness with the Quran’s.

Stanley says:

I stopped leveraging the authority of Scripture and began leveraging the authority and stories of the people behind the Scripture. To be clear, I don't believe "the Bible says," "Scripture teaches," and "the Word of God commands" are incorrect approaches. But they are ineffective approaches for post-Christian people.

This is a big assumption that places Scripture under the authority of “what lost people want.” Certainly Jesus and Paul did not find that “according to the Scriptures” lessened the effectiveness of God’s word for pre-Christian people. I’m not sure why we should expect God’s Word would be less effective for post-Christian people unless we believe the Holy Spirit is at some great disadvantage because people are smarter than they used to be or something.

Stanley’s approach puts the post-Christian in the driver’s seat; they are the ones with the authority, really. This doesn’t mean our preaching shouldn’t address questions and objections skeptics and doubters have. It simply means you don’t let the questions move you off reliance on the gospel’s power. (Tim Keller’s preaching is a good example of that which is undeniably gospel-rich and yet directly applicable to key concerns and challenges lost folks have.)

Later in the Outreach piece, Stanley cites Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 as a defense of using anything to reach people. But this of course is not what Paul says. He says “all possible means.” The hitch here is on what one deems possible. If we take what else Paul has said about sharing the gospel, it is quite difficult to conclude, as Stanley appears to do, that “anything goes.” This is a standard line in the attractional movement: “We’ll do anything to reach people for Jesus”--anything, it appears, but rely on the sufficiency of the Word of God.

No, when Paul says “all possible means,” he is speaking to his personal adaptability, not the gospel’s. In any event, I am not sure what point Stanley is trying to drive here, as I don’t know anybody who would deny the appropriateness of missional adaptability and contextualization. To me, this is another example of Stanley showing little understanding of his critic’s actual concerns or their own methods. Our concern is not about missional contextualization but about the place of the Word of God in the mission, and the place of God in the church (which I’ll get to in a minute).

If I may reiterate here an agreement I have with Andy Stanley (and nearly every other attractional church leader): we want lost people to know Jesus! We want the unsaved to be saved! We agree on this. And we also want to employ whatever is actually the most effective means of accomplishing this.

Stanley earlier said, simultaneously offensively and defensively, which is a neat trick:

Close to half our population does not view the Bible as authoritative either. If you're trying to reach people with an undergraduate degree or greater, over half your target audience will not be moved by the Bible says, the Bible teaches, God's Word is clear or anything along those lines. If that's the approach to preaching and teaching you grew up with and are most comfortable with, you're no doubt having a good ol' throw-down debate with me in your head about now--a debate I'm sure you're winning. But before you chapter and verse me against the wall and put me in a sovereignty-of-God headlock, would you stop and ask yourself a question: Why does this bother me so much? Why does this bother me so much--really?

Well, he’s just said we can’t use the Bible to argue that the Bible’s authority (sufficiency and potency) are “good enough,” so that’s convenient. He doesn’t want to hear “chapter and verse.” So that’s telling. But I’ll start with this: I did not grow up with the kind of gospel-centered expository preaching Stanley is denigrating here. In fact, I pretty much grew up in the kind of teaching Stanley has been part of pioneering. I was trained to preach and minister actually in the very model he’s espousing. I ate, slept, breathed this stuff and 15 years ago would have been right there alongside him saying everything he is saying. What I’ve discovered, actually, is that, contrary to Stanley’s approach to Scripture, the Bible’s words are powerful. They don’t need my help. And if we will proclaim Christ from the Bible clearly, passionately, and copiously, it will actually have the effect we all agree we want--people being saved by Jesus and growing in their walk with him.

I also submit that it is quite fascinating to discover that you will hear more good news in one of these “traditional”* churches doing gospel-centered expository preaching than you will in the attractional “5 steps to be a better whatever” churches every Sunday. I mean, let’s suppose we actually care about lost people hearing lots of good news. This leads me to my final critique here:

3. Reducing the Bible in or removing the Bible from your worship service is how you show you don’t know, biblically speaking, what a worship service is.

If I may speak to another issue I believe central to the more recent debate about the sufficiency and reliability of the Bible in worship gatherings and in evangelism and apologetic conversations with unbelievers: I think if we trace back some of these applicational missteps to the core philosophy driving them, we find in the attractional church a few misunderstandings. The whole enterprise has begun with a wrong idea of what — biblically speaking — the worship gathering is, and even what the church is.

In some of these churches where it is difficult to find the Scriptures preached clearly and faithfully as if it is reliable and authoritative and transformative as the very word of God, we find that things have effectively been turned upside down. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul uses the word "outsider" to describe unbelievers who are present in the worship gathering. He is making the case for our worship services to be intelligible, hospitable, and mindful of the unbelievers present, but his very use of the word "outsider" tells us that the Lord's Day worship gathering is not meant to be primarily focused on the unbelieving visitor but on the believing saints gathered to exalt their king. In the attractional church paradigm, this biblical understanding of the worship gathering is turned upside down--and consequently mission and evangelism are actually inverted, because Christ's command to the church to "Go and tell" has been replaced by "Come and see."

Many of these churches--philosophically--operate more like parachurches. And the result is this: it is the sheep, the very lambs of God, who basically become the outsiders.

This is by design in the attractional church. In an exchange on Twitter with a NorthPoint attendee a few weeks ago, he was making the case for treating the worship gathering like an evangelistic conversation with the lost and said to me, “Imagine you are in a coffee shop with an unbeliever…” I said to him (basically), “I don’t have to imagine that. I’ve been in that coffee shop and other places like it numerous times.” The point we agree on is that evangelistic conversations in coffee shops (or wherever) don’t need to sound like sermons. But it’s also this: the gathering of the saints for worship doesn’t need to sound like a coffee shop conversation with a lost person. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the worship service is. And of course this misunderstanding only breeds more errant practices, like the idea that you can conduct a worship gathering (or two or three) without any Bible in it. As if our very existence does not center on the power and authority of the Word of God. “Sorry, God, this morning we’re going to be ‘leveraging the power’ of stories.”

Stanley cites the example of Peter preaching to the Gentiles in Cornelius’s home, which in fact is a good example of one of one of those coffee shop-type evangelistic conversations. But it’s not a worship gathering. But in his example, Stanley still fudges a bit. He uses this exchange as proof that Peter does not appeal to the Bible’s authority, but in fact he does, just not in those words. You only need to look at the cross-references for Acts 10:34-43 to see how much Bible is present in Peter’s evangelistic presentation, and of course there aren’t much clearer demonstrations of “thus saith the Lord” than the synonymous “All the prophets bear witness” in 10:43.

Of this line (in v. 43), Stanley says, “It reads as almost an afterthought.” We’ll have to agree to disagree on that.

In any event, I note two things: Peter is not not relying on the Scriptures in his exchange, but this exchange is not an example of a Lord’s Day gathering of the church. There is not really a biblical precedent for turning the gathering of believers into a “seeker service.” (I know, because I used to think there was and I looked.)

In his last example, Stanley cites Paul’s preaching in the Areopagus. It’s a powerful scene, of course, but, again--it’s not a worship service.

Look, if all Stanley is saying that the phrase “the Bible says so” is unnecessary and sometimes unhelpful: okay. But I think he’s saying more than that. I think he’s saying that, effectively, we have biblical precedent for turning a worship service without a Bible into a gospel presentation without a gospel. And I think he’s wrong.

In his Outreach article Stanley subtly suggests that his critics don’t actually know any “post-Christians.” This is another standard self-defensive response, sort of the new “I like my way of evangelizing better than your way of not evangelizing.” Or a new take on the strawman about Calvinists, that they don’t evangelize. But it’s lame. And out of touch. Like Stanley’s strange rant about selfish parents in small churches, it demonstrates no awareness of the gospel-centered movement and its incredible commitment to church planting and multi-faceted approach to missional community. So it’s time to lay down the defensiveness. As Stanley himself notes, the spiritual state of the United States is not great. The number of professing Christians is in decline--even as the number of attractional megachurches increases. Are approaches like Stanley’s the frontlines of actual revival? No. In fact, as they continue to marginalize the Scriptures and treat the gospel like grandma’s wedding china, they are actually part of the problem.

I believe what we need in our day is not to presume the ineffectiveness of the Holy Spirit working through the preached Word but to repent of our decades of pragmatic methodology and materialist theology and to reclaim the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the power of salvation for anybody, anywhere, any time. The United States desperately needs a church recommitted to the weird, counter-cultural supernaturality of biblical Christianity. And this means a recommitment to rely on the gospel as power.

An Appeal to Andy Stanley and Others Like Him

I’ve been inside this model and was a huge advocate for it. I know what it’s like to feel criticized by “traditional” church people who “don’t get it.” So I also know that for all the innovation and relevancy we espoused, we were also closed-off to considering criticism. My appeal to the attractional church folks is this: set aside the defensiveness and the idea that you’ve got it all figured out, just for a minute. Listen and consider. Don’t write off anybody who objects to your methods as legalistic or pharisaical or stuffy or eggheads or unloving or old-fashioned. Unstop your ears. Consider the possibility that sincere motives don’t baptize bad methods. And don’t be afraid of the question, “What does the Bible say about this?” It is not irrelevant to this debate.

I would like to turn your own challenge back around:

Are you willing to take a long, hard look at everything you're currently doing…? Are you ready to be a student rather than a critic? We don't have time for tribes. We don't have time for the petty disagreements that only those inside our social media circles understand or care about. We're losing ground. The most counterproductive thing we can do is criticize and refuse to learn from one another. So come on. If you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, that's all I need to know. And in light of what's at stake, in light of who is at stake, perhaps that's all you need to know as well.

I would only offer this: When it comes to bodily resurrections, our Lord quotes in his parable this:

“If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead." -- Luke 16:31

Our worship shows whether we truly accept God’s Word as our authority and submit to it.
-- John Calvin

* Stanley and others in the attractional tribe frequently bring up the label “traditional” as a kind of scare-label, a boogeyman to use against their critics, ignoring the fact that the traditional church is really kind of gone already and most of the kinds of churches where criticism for the attractional model might come from run the gamut in worship styles, building aesthetics, and Sunday attire. But it’s easier for attractional leaders to be defensive by dismissing their critics as stuffy pharisaical institutional people.


Related:
Is Your Worship Service Upside Down?
How Your Preaching Might Increase Sin in Your Church
How to Uncheapen Grace in Your Church
8 Hallmarks of Attractional and Gospel-Centered Churches


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Comments:


32 thoughts on “3 Nagging Problems with Andy Stanley’s Approach to the Bible”

  1. Paul says:

    I agree with most of what you write here. That being said, is the
    “I know you say you believe in inerrancy but not really…”
    “I know you affirm the sufficiency of Scripture but not really…”
    approach the best one to take?

    The methodological / preaching-style-preference discussion (expository vs gospel-centered vs textual vs topical vs theological, etc) does not require those who differ from me have an inadequate view of Scripture or its sufficiency.

    I am guessing Andy would affirm that he believes Scripture is sufficient for everything for which it claims sufficiency. And there is a level that if a preacher/teacher is doing anything other than simply reading the text without adding any human decision-based content (interpretation, application, theological input), this accusation can be leveled fairly.

    I do not believe Andy wants to add anything to Scripture – he believes it is sufficient – but his method of communicating the truth of Scripture is different than what some prefer (including me). We tend to put the “if you really believe in the sufficiency of Scripture you would do ____ and not do ____.” But in reality, we can find innumerable words to put in those blanks that would cause some to question whether we believe and practice sufficiency of Scripture.

    In my opinion, the entire discussion Andy has generated once again comes down to preferred methods primarily and theology secondarily. I also believe some of his most vocal and harsh critics during this conversation who were quick to label Andy a “heretic” or “liberal” owe him an apology and should admit the issue is primarily methodological – methods upon which we agree to disagree while acknowledging God is bigger than any of our preferred methods.

  2. Nancy Green says:

    Excellent! I had to hold myself back from shouting “It doesn’t matter if people THINK that the Bible is not powerful or the word of God is not authoritative in the current culture. What matters is that the Bible IS powerful and authoritative in itself, and will accomplish that for which God intends it!” Preach the Word! Thank you, Jared.

  3. Robin says:

    It’s very sad that Andy Stanley does not believe in the authority and inerrancy of the word of God, because Jesus Christ is the LIVING Word of God, He is God. Sounds to me like a lack of faith, and a person not being led by the Holy Spirit; because if Mr. Stanley was being led by the Holy Spirit, he would realize the power, authority and inerrancy of Scripture.

  4. Thanks for addressing this one, Jared. I hope younger pastors will hear your cautions and concerns, which I thought were fair. I’m in my 4th year as a rural church pastor after 6 years in attractional churches. It’s so tempting to trust in earthly wisdom and clever arguments (and series, props, etc.).

  5. Mike Bragg says:

    Stanley’s sermon series dealt with the problem of young people leaving the church when they reached college age. He was not limiting his criticism to evangelizing the lost but saying that the reason these people left was because of being taught “the Bible says” and they are then unprepared when they learned that the Bible is allegedly untrustworthy. Some might observe that they are unprepared because they were not taught beyond the “baby food.”

    1. Janet says:

      I agree. Our christian culture/churches seem to do little to build up the minds of kids/ students in understanding the gospel or biblical literacy or reasons to trust the bible. So it’s not that our arguments fall short against our college professors, but that we didn’t have an argument to begin with. Or that we/students are looking to a quick way out of the faith so we can go live however we want. In the end it seems to me that he is adding to the problem rather than providing solutions. A solution to just “believe in the resurrection” or don’t worry about the old testament provides little assurance in my mind. Because the one who resurrected referenced and referred to the old testament scriptures, affirming that God inspired them and that He is One with God… so pretty big deal. But… if you just decide to never read the bible I guess you can go on pretending like you know God or care about what he thinks or says.

  6. Ali says:

    Thank you for this post.

    Stanley, OutreachMagazine “First, I preach without notes. In my quest for an engaging presentation, I sometimes sacrifice precision. Sometimes I’m more precise at the 11:00 a.m. service than at the 9:00 a.m. By the time the 4:30 p.m. service rolls around, I usually have my act together. Usually.

    Seems very cavalier.

    Stanley, Outreach Magazine Your preaching and teaching model is just that—a model. It may be time to break up.

    Jesus: Preach the word (2 Tim 4:1)
    From the beginning of time: For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isa 55:10-11)

  7. Joe says:

    Skipped to the end. Was a real snoozer.

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Thanks for the good word, Joe!

  8. Lindsey says:

    This was so good. I wanted to shout!! For us folks who aren’t as articulate as you are it feels freeing to hear our muddled thoughts expressed so clearly! All of this is just so well put. Thank you, thank you.

  9. Jared: I had not heard about this until I read Al Mohler’s blog. Thanks for taking this head on. After being in a church that was “attractionally attracted” i.e. a wanta be, I am preaching in a church where reaching our small town is a priority but we are not compromising our worship, preaching, or standards. (Not saying all attractional churches do). I do appreciate your straight forward approach and making me think.

  10. Chris Edwards says:

    The issue is not the inerrancy of Scripture or the sufficiency of Scripture but exclusivity of the Scripture. In other words, is God’s word, the word energized by the Holy Spirit and used by him as the occasion for spiritual transformation, limited to the biblical text? Would the Holy Spirit empower a message filled with biblical truth but that did not quote biblical texts? Is the Bible speaking or is the Holy Spirit speaking through the text, and does the Holy Spirit speak apart from (but not contrary to) the biblical text? Is all truth God’s truth; does the Holy Spirit throw his weight behind all true truth or just the biblical text? I’m guessing Andy Stanley would say that he is speaking biblical truth without quoting biblical texts.

  11. Andy says:

    I think this chart is appropriate:

    http://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/godwork2.html

    God centered vs man centered worship.

  12. Adam says:

    Jared, once again you hit the nail on the head. I was just coming into the office today to process what came out over the weekend and after seeing your article I was able to set my own pen aside.

    It appears that Stanley is dealing with a problem of his own creation and blaming it on the previous administration (so to speak). By creating an attractional Church, where people could feel like a Christian without a necessary conversion, he is creating a Church full of Simon the Sorcerers. While calling the post-Christians who left the Church to come back to the Church, he is encouraging a congregation full of apostates. Yet, it seems it’s his own approach to pragmatic Church building that has created the problem for so many young people leaving the Church. A gospel with no more power than your best life now is just holding a mirror to the world and telling them how they can be a better version of themselves. Something Ted Talks will always be better at than Stanley’s sermons.

    1. Janet says:

      “where people could feel like a Christian without a necessary conversion”
      Yes I see this in His church, and this is what scares me the most. Having a church where you can believe you are a Christian without having to repent and have a change of heart that leads to a change of life is a great way to keep a lot of lost people…. lost. Soooo Andy may want to save a lot of people… but if he thinks you just have to intellectually agree with the resurrection and believe that that happened to be saved…. that scares me.

  13. Aaron Menikoff says:

    This is excellent. Thank you!

  14. Wes Kennedy says:

    I was dumbfounded to read Stanley’s remarks on the effectiveness of the Word appealing to people as being equal to the effectiveness of the Quran’s ability to appeal to people. I do not doubt that Stanley loves Jesus and wants to reach people for Him, but that is a dangerous comparison to say the least!

    1. BruceS says:

      Wes, ironically you have just illustrated what Stanley was saying!
      Peace

      1. Wes Kennedy says:

        BruceS. Not sure I follow you on how I have illustrated what he was saying. Could you clarify for me? Not trying to be snarky…just wanted to know how you saw my comment as illustrating Stanley’s point. I agree with Jared’s assessment of those claims that to equate the effectiveness of Scripture to the effectiveness of the Quran is to leave no room for the fact that the Bible is actually alive and God-inspired! If the Bible and the Quran are both only books with stories in them then their effectiveness in persuading people certainly is equal. However, the Bible claims to be far more than just a book full of stories! It claims to be the living Word of God!

  15. Aaron Morrow says:

    First time commenter, long time reader:)

    Thoughtful article, particularly about inerrancy & sufficiency. It reminds me the winsome words of Trevin Wax during the Elephant Room 2 fiasco back in 2012 in regards to TD Jakes affirmation of the Trinity:

    It is good to celebrate an affirmation of orthodoxy, but even better to affirm the celebration of orthodoxy. At the same time we celebrate Jakes’ affirmation of truth, we should also look at what it is that he celebrates in his preaching and teaching. Surely one must ask why we have to discover Jakes’ view of the Trinity in a friendly panel discussion in Chicago instead of in the sermons he delivers to his church in Texas. In other words, the issue is not if Jakes believes in the Trinity, but to what extent Jakes’ belief in the Trinity matters to his ministry? Does the weight of this truth come out in his preaching and teaching?

    Here is a question that needs to be asked: Within the realm of orthodoxy, how much does emphasis matter? It is possible to check off the doctrines on a list, and yet not give these truths the weight they deserve, to not let these truths affect what and how we preach. To me at least, the issue at stake here is not the content of one’s theology but the importance of that theology. It’s not merely about what we affirm, but what we celebrate and proclaim.

    So yes, we can get a group of pastors in a room and ask them if they affirm the basics of the gospel. Amen and amen! Let’s celebrate those affirmations. But surely we must go beyond mere affirmation of a checklist to a more robust celebration of the gospel and how it affects what we do.

    – Trevin Wax, Kingdom People (January 2012)

  16. Rick G. says:

    “Certainly Jesus and Paul did not find that ‘according to the Scriptures’ lessened the effectiveness of God’s word for pre-Christian people.”

    This article mentioned a post-Christian country/world that we now live in. I simply challenge the church I serve to look at our country as pre-Christian. Folks it is not over yet! For the very reasons mentioned in this article I believe that God is at work around us! I’m ready to get to work and join God where He is at work in this community and country.

    Thanks for the reminders and challenges in this article!

  17. jordan says:

    Why are there assumptions that Andy never preaches out of the Bible? I go every Sunday to Browns Bridge Church which is part of the North Point community and there’s always scripture. I grew up in a southern baptist church, and can honestly say that it wasn’t for me and I didn’t like dressing up. I didn’t want to go and my friends never wanted to go if I invited them to tag along. Fast forward to my high school years, when we started going to Browns Bridge, I loved it. There’ nothing wrong with that. During worship, I loved going from a choir to a live band. It appealed more to me as a teenager than the pastor singing with a group of elderly people. God used this as a positive thing to draw me back into the church. He used the youth group at Browns Bridge to change my life completely. So before we start a war with each other (even though we’re on the same team) please don’t assume anything about the church that I go to and am proud to go to. Take a look at the weekly, multiple baptism videos of adults, high schoolers, and middle school aged kids and try and argue that it’s not a good thing. There’s a reason that I gave my life to Christ and understand that He had to die and was resurrected, and that’s because God used Andy Stanley and his ministry. There’s a reason that these churches are so big, and it’s because they are attractive. But you have to realize why it’s so attractive, and unless you come you have no way to see it. You won’t see the community that the church has. You won’t see the guys who are at the door every Sunday morning with a smile, greeting you personally, and accepting you no matter who you are or how you dress. You won’t see the high school students who actually want to volunteer and mentor middle school students or watch the toddlers in Waumba Land. You won’t hear the story about the middle school students who have literally grown up leading toddlers into their high school years. And nobody forced these students or gave them any incentive to do it. they wanted to. You won’t see the volunteers on the parking team who meet at the church hours before service. You won’t see over 600 students showing up every Sunday to give up their free time to come to church at 4:30 in the evening. And there’s so much more. All I’m saying, is that if Andy is preaching the wrong way, then God is still using him and the North Point community in an amazing way. There’s no doubt to that. I’ve been going to Browns Bridge Church for 10 years now. Since I was a freshman in high school, I’ve had the opportunity to see some of my best friends accept Christ into their lives, gone on 9 mission trips, and have led two groups of high school guys ranging from 12 to 30 students from their freshman year to senior year. Now my point for saying all of that was not to brag or make you think I’m a super Christian (what even is that), but it’s to show you all that God has provided and allowed to happen through using Andy and North Point.

    1. Kevin says:

      Nicely put Jordan. This is an angry article, that seems to want to poke at any crevice it can to make a point. I’ve watched a number of Andy’s sermons online and he uses scripture in each one. In fact, I think he exposit’s them better than many preachers I’ve heard. Just because he uses modern day language and examples, and is very good at focusing on life application, doesn’t mean he’s a heretic or a “bad” Christian. Jesus quoted scriptures but didn’t he also use parables? Aren’t we supposed to make it more understandable to it’s hearers?

      Your outrage feels almost personal. It’s certainly self-righteous. You’ve criticized Stanley, but my question to you Jared is where do you fall short? What are your flaws? Have you ever misspoke? Ever hurt someone? Ever led someone astray? I’m only asking that because you seem to have picked up the first stone here.

      You talk of “I used to but now I”. Have you arrived at the perfect place of knowing God and His thoughts so clearly as to be able to judge others for what they say and do?

      Hey guys… if we really want people to know Jesus (and we should!), let’s start by loving each other, not hating on each other. Then, maybe the Gospel will spring to life in a way that any language or “tribe” can understand!

      1. Jared C. Wilson says:

        Kevin, thanks for your response. Of course I’m not perfect, but I don’t think perfection is required to offer up public critique of public statements. You don’t think so either, I reckon, or you wouldn’t have left this comment accusing me of calling Stanley a heretic and a bad Christian — neither of which I did, actually — and suggesting my blog post is akin to “stoning” him. We apparently agree that sometimes public critique is necessary; we just probably disagree on the circumstances. Thanks again for your comment.

  18. Paul says:

    Jared … in relation to my comment above, I would like to ask whether you believe a preacher can choose a different method of preaching outside the expository umbrella model (which both of us prefer) & still believe in and practice what you would consider the sufficiency of Scripture?

  19. Janet says:

    Thanks for writing this. I have so many friends and family attending his churches who seem unaware that they are missing out on anything.

  20. I’m so tired of the attractional church style. As Charles Spurgeon pointed out the Sunday worship service is for the feeding of the sheep, not for the entertainment of the goats. While we will have unbelievers in our services, the service should never be aimed at the comfort of those who aren’t saved. The gospel is convicting and that conviction often leads to our awareness of sin and our salvation. Preaching a less offensive message doesn’t save anyone and in fact is an offense to God. I’m tired of the Andy stanleys and the playing to those who could be offended. These churches and their pastors are failing to equip their congregation for the coming persecution of Christians. The word of God is alive and never changes. It saves today as it did and will in years to come.

    1. jordan bingham says:

      JoAnne, could you please tell me in the bible where it says Sunday worship service is for the feeding of the sheep? I think Charles Spurgeon is a great man and great theologian, but could you tell me where Jesus says this? or any of the books in the Bible? And God is sovereign right? So why couldn’t He do what He wants and use a less offensive message to reach the masses? And please show me where in fact that is an offense to Him. I’m just trying to understand better and would like your help. Hopefully there is no offense to this response.

      1. Jared C. Wilson says:

        Jordan, 1 Cor. 14 is a good start, as well as the description of gathered saints in Acts 2. Jesus’ words to Peter in restoring his ministry were to “feed the sheep.”

        If you are interested in seeing in the Bible where “lessening the offense” to unbelievers is an offense to God, there are plenty of references to that, as well, but you could start in 1 Cor. 1-2.

        1. jordan bingham says:

          Jared, thank you! this was very helpful. What would you say about Colossians 4:5-6?

          1. Jared C. Wilson says:

            It’s a great passage. Paul is commending winsomeness and wisdom in the work of evangelistic mission. It is very similar to 1 Cor. 14 in that regard, although that passage is more about what happens in the worship gathering and this passage in Colossians is about mission generally.

  21. jordan bingham says:

    Janet, I am an attender of one of his churches. Please inform me of what I am missing out on.

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Jared C. Wilson


Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

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