Back in 2012, I was not too familiar with pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. I was, however, familiar with his father, pastor Charles Stanley of FBC Atlanta. In fact, I had bought several of the elder Stanley’s books. Some minor disagreements aside, I have always viewed him as a faithful teacher and preacher. I mistakenly expected the same faithfulness to God’s Word from his son. It took me by surprise when in April 2012, Andy Stanley delivered his “When Gracie Met Truthy” sermon. From the Christian Post:
“While preaching on the tension between grace and truth (‘the truth is ‘you’re a sinner,’ and the grace is ‘I don’t condemn you”), Stanley told the story of a divorced couple who formerly attended North Point together. They separated after the woman’s husband began a same-sex relationship with another man, who was still married to a woman.
The man and his partner wanted to serve as volunteers at the church, but Stanley explained that the two men were committing adultery since one of them did not finalize his divorce yet and thus could not serve as volunteers.
The ‘messy’ story, as Stanley described it, ends with the gay couple, the first man’s ex-wife and their child, as well as her new boyfriend and his child from another relationship, all coming together to worship together at a big service at North Point Church. The pastor refers to them as an example of a modern-day family. Christians, he said, are called not only to hold on to the truth, but also to grace which includes forgiveness and love.”1
Well-respected theologian and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President, Dr. Albert Mohler, offered this anlysis:2:
“The most puzzling and shocking part of the message was the illustration and the account of the homosexual couple, however. The inescapable impression left by the account was that the sin of concern was adultery, but not homosexuality. Stanley clearly and repeatedly stressed the sin of adultery, but then left the reality of the homosexual relationship between the two men unaddressed as sin. To the contrary, he seemed to normalize their relationship. They would be allowed to serve on the host team if both were divorced. The moral status of their relationship seemed to be questioned only in terms of adultery, with no moral judgment on their homosexuality.”
Dr. Mohler then went on to ask:
“Does this signal the normalization of homosexuality at North Point Community Church? This hardly seems possible, but it appeared to be the implication of the message. Given the volatility of this issue, ambiguity will be replaced by clarity one way or the other, and likely sooner than later.”
What hardly seemed possible in 2012 is now, it seems, likely. Last month, in January 2015, Andy Stanley gave an interview regarding his new book, The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating. When asked why he wrote the book without addressing the “LGBT community”, he said:
“When I taught this content to our churches, I met with about 13 of our attenders who are apart of the LGBT community. I met with them to ask lots of questions, including their response to the series because I did not address the LGBT community directly. It was unanimous that they thought it was helpful and shared some of the stuff they learned.”3
Like most Evangelical congregations, especially those the size of North Point, there are people attending who identify as a part of the LGBT community. The issue is that Stanley is not calling those folks to repentance. Instead, based on his comments, he seems overtly sensitive to possibly offending them. Whether we want to admit it or not, this position is a small step shy of “gay-affirming”. Over at the Sola Sisters website, they too weighed in back in 2012 and it’s worth taking the time to read that article before finishing this one.
On February 1, 2015, Stanley delivered a sermon in which he declared that the church has become “unnecessarily resistible” to unbelievers. Take a look4:
“The Church really should be… nothing more than a community of people who follow the teaching of a man sent from God to explain God and to clear the path to God. You don’t have to agree but you shouldn’t dislike it unless there’s more to it.”
“How is it there are things that people say about us [Christians], the reasons they don’t like us have nothing to do with the fact that Jesus is ultimately our ultimate authority?” Stanley asked. “How did we become so resistible? [Jesus’] three top commandments [were] to love God, love one another, love your enemy. What is there to resist about that? There should be nothing resistible about the church except our loyalty to Jesus Christ.”
There is just so much wrong with these statements (for an in-depth analysis of this actual sermon, please listen to this episode of Fighting for the Faith). “You don’t have to agree…“? On key doctrine, oh yes, we do. Philippians 2:2 tells us we are to be “…of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”
“How is it there are things that people say about us, the reasons they don’t like us have nothing to do with the fact that Jesus is ultimately our ultimate authority?” Would you please provide some specifics? I’m not sure to what he’s referring, but all the reasons I ever see for unbelievers not liking Christians are indeed relating to the truth of Jesus and the Bible. The world loves those “so-called” Christians that never speak the truth of scripture and never call unbelievers to repentance.
Stanley also stated:
“‘We are going to figure it out,’ he told North Point attendees. ‘We are going to let go of the things that have been holding us back. We are going to do our best to re-embrace what Jesus had in mind when he said this is something new.’
‘By God’s grace, perhaps in our generation, we will be used to strip away everything that makes the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ unnecessarily resistible.'”
As I said, what makes the church “resistible” is the truth of Jesus Christ as King and the necessity to turn from sin and turn to Christ in faith. The unregenerate love their sin and the only “church” they will attend is one which accepts, or even applauds, their lifestyle.
I hold out hope that Stanley’s church will resist capitulating and become “gay-affirming”, but to any objective person, it certainly appears headed in that direction. Sadly, Andy Stanley’s North Point would not be the first “gay-affirming” evangelical mega-church in the country and certainly wouldn’t be the last. It would, at the time of this writing, be the third, following Seattle’s EastLake Community Church and GracePointe of the greater Nashville area.
- Zaimov, Stoyan. “Pastor Andy Stanley Responds to Questions Over Homosexuality Stance.” Christian Post. 2 May 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2015. ↩
- Mohler, Albert. “Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?” AlbertMohler.com. 1 May 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2015. ↩
- Merritt, Jonathan. “Andy Stanley Gets Surprisingly Real about Love, Sex, and Dating.” On Faith Culture. 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2015. ↩
- “Andy Stanley: The Church Is Too “Resistible,” Needs Rebranding.” ChurchLeaders.com. 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2015. ↩