Andy Stanley’s Perplexing Silence Far From Golden

Silence is golden.”

Perhaps Andy Stanley’s defenders (and there are many) would do well to remember the above maxim. It seems that the longer Stanley remains silent in the face of questions regarding his use of a confusing sermon illustration during his April 15, 2012 message, “When Gracie Met Truthy,” (click here and then hit Part 5 of the “Christian” Series) the more his defenders speak out on his behalf. However, instead of putting this story to bed, the convoluted defenses only raise more questions about how Andy Stanley and North Point approach the issue of homosexuality. In response to my original post, “Andy Stanley’s Soft Landing On Homosexuality,” and in response to subsequent posts by Dr. Albert Mohler (here), President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Denny Burk (here), Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Southern’s Boyce College, some have argued that we have “misunderstood” Andy and have missed the point he was trying to make with his story meant to illustrate the tension between grace and truth. A typical response can be seen in the comment stream of Scot McKnight’s post, “Andy Stanley, Right and Good,” at his blog, Patheos:

This has been an exercise in missing the point. The point of the illustration is that we are called to love people that are difficult to love. Can you think of a better example of loving a difficult person than inviting your ex-husband and his current boyfriend to your home regularly for meals and family celebrations and to church?  The dust up over the details miss entirely the point of the story and in fact confirm the need for the whole series.

This defense, or a variation of this defense, has been offered up as a way to shield Andy from questions arising from his confusing illustration. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Andy Stanley’s illustration was misunderstood and that he was trying to make one point (either about the ex-wife’s reconciliation with her ex-husband and his partner or about adultery being sin), but that his failure to mention the sin of homosexuality was not some intentional shift in his beliefs on the matter. Let’s also give Andy Stanley the benefit of the doubt and assume that his illustration was not meant to be some sort of trial balloon which he clearly and creatively floated to see whether or not a shift in theology and/or methodology on the homosexual issue would get off the ground.

Viewing the illustration in the best possible light, it’s still hard to avoid the rather obvious conclusion that the telling of the well-illustrated story, even if unintentional, has caused confusion and consternation, not only with folks like Drs. Mohler and Burk (not to mention myself), but also with some members of NPCC. For Andy’s defenders to try to argue that no one could have been confused by the illustration is simply not credible. I will admit that I can be easily confused, but when prominent Evangelical leaders are flummoxed and when the story gets picked up by Christianity Today (here), The Christian Post (here), and Baptist Press (here), it becomes harder to argue that the illustration was crystal clear.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have used a story to illustrate a point within my sermon and the illustration came up short. Perhaps I didn’t think through the story and how it would be perceived. Maybe I didn’t finish the story before moving on to another point in my message (it’s happened on more than one occasion). Whatever the reason, when I have spoken or written in such a way that my words were misunderstood, I usually go out of my way to clarify what I meant. That seems like the right thing to do. Why would I intentionally leave people in a state of confusion when I could easily remedy the situation? Wouldn’t it be an act of love and grace to help people better understand the message that God had for folks instead of leaving them hanging with uncertainty. After all, God is not a God of confusion.

That begs the question:  Wouldn’t it be fairly easy for Andy Stanley to issue some type of clarification as to how he and NPCC practice grace and truth when it comes to the volatile issue of homosexuality? Wouldn’t it be the right thing to do for Andy Stanley to issue a clarifcation to alleviate the obvious confusion that arose out of his illustration? Would it be better to leave people — including some of his own members — in a state of uncertainty or instead extricate folks from uncertainty and confusion? Perhaps Andy Stanley has not yet decided (at least publicly) how he will extricate himself from the horns of this very delicate dilemma.

I will only reiterate that I hope that I misunderstood what I thought I heard (or perhaps didn’t hear) in Andy Stanley’s illustration. I know which direction that I would like for Andy to go when he comes off the horns that he finds himeslf periously close to being impaled on. I am not a member of NPCC. I do not think that Andy Stanley owes me or any other non-member any explanation of what was, to many people (both members and non-members), a confusing illustration.  However, Andy Stanley and NPCC can’t have it both ways on this issue. It is hard to argue that no one outside of NPCC has any right to “question” what Andy said, particularly when his sermons are not only available on the internet, but he makes a point to address those who are watching online and on television. His ministry is public and influential. Andy Stanley opens the door for folks to at least ask questions, even if he doesn’t want to answer. I won’t say that I am “troubled” by Andy Stanley’s continued refusal to offer any clarification. However, his silence is perplexing and far from golden!

 

 


Comments

Andy Stanley’s Perplexing Silence Far From Golden — 128 Comments

  1. Howell,

    Thanks for keeping this issue before us. It doesn’t sound like answers are likely to come forward unless we continue to press the issue. Specifically, I believe these are the questions Andy should answer:

    1. Would a practicing homosexual couple be permitted to join NPCC as members in good standing?

    2. Would they be permitted to serve in leadership positions?

    Everything else is just vague, smoke and mirrors, “truth versus grace” philosophical rhetoric. I don’t think many people fail to appreciate the tension between truth and grace. I just think the illustration itself raised issues concerning church discipline that deserve answers.

    • Why don’t you call the church office in Alpharetta GA and find out these questions?
      If you are a member at this church you would know the answers right?
      Or could find out easily. If you are not a member why care? There are probably more than 100k churches in the United States. Why ask Andy
      what his church believes? I belong to one of the strategic partner churches of NPCC and was a member at Buckhead Church for more than 5 years and a member at Andy’s dads church for 7 years.
      Andy has never condoned sin of any kind. He has taught that marriage is between a man and a woman. He has taught that sex outside of marriage is wrong. He has taught that beating someone over the head with your theology is wrong. His choice of how he presents the message may not be
      tradional but he doesn’t turn people off nor turn people away.
      I think of all of those who have come to the church and have heard that Jesus is the way to God. That is repeated over and over again.
      On one sermon he (doesn’t say somthing) on purpose. Then refuses
      to feed into the critics (who all claim to be Christians) about
      being loving Christians and they are mad. Go watch the whole series
      even though it was for those in his church and not preached at your church. Maybe it would do you some good. Watch every sermon he has ever preached there then come back with comments.

  2. @Rick:

    As someone who considered membership at NPCC late last year, I can answer both of your questions. At the time the answers are/were:

    1. No.
    2. No.

    After this Sunday’s message and the message which Howell referenced, I’m not so sure those will be the policies in the near future which is why my family has started the process of looking for a new church in the Atlanta area.

    I also want to say Thank You to you, Howell, for keeping this issue on the forefront as I’ve contacted North Point a few times over the last couple weeks for clarification, and they have simply pointed me to their volunteer guidelines (which I already knew as I have served at North Point for almost 5 years as a youth small group leader). I’ve requested that Andy actually issue a clarifying statement, and I have been told that it may or may not happen which is extremely disheartening to say the least as I’ve read most of Andy’s books, listened to nearly every sermon for 7+ years, and have donated considerable time and money to NPCC.

    Final thought: I’m not one for who believes in coincidences and far from politics is usually where I land, but it is very interesting that there is suddenly a groundswell of conversation on homosexuality … and now there is significant talk that President Obama is considering putting together an initiative to potentially re-define marriage to include “gay marriage/civil unions”. Last year when Michelle Obama spoke at North Point, there were many who threw a fit (I was not one of them simply don’t care about politics that much), but a friend who follows these things pointed out the coincidences of all the homosexual conversation among Rick Warren, Joel Olsteen, and now Andy Stanley … and all of the gay marriage initiatives (Prop. 1 in North Carolina) and now Joe Biden speaking out advocating for gay marriage …

    Dr. Al Mohler suggested in his article that the megachurch may be the “new liberalism” … and he might be more right than most people will ever understand if a national gay marriage initiative is driven by megachurch acceptance of homosexual members. Just a thought … again, it is just an ironic sequence of coincidences …

    • I totally agree. Our family is looking for a new church too. The message was actually quite clear that homosexuality was not a sin to keep people from serving but that adultery was. I feel like the tremendous amount of money and the time that my wife and I have spent as volunteers at NPCC was wasted. You sold out Andy. At least be a man and step up to defend your view either way. Our pastor is a coward.

      • Steve, you probably won’t see this. But before you charge Andy with being a coward, have you tried to talk to anyone? I know that if you are a member or attender, you can get an appointment and you can talk to someone about this. If you are unaffiliated, then you get the standard email. But I know that staff are trying to talk to people.

        This is not directed at Steve, but I do think that a weakness of the megachurch model is that in general many people do not make any attempt to talk to staff about issues, they just leave. This is in large part because people do not know staff. To know staff, you have to volunteer in some area or you have to make a specific effort.

        • Adam,

          Northpoint does not address questions like this. I’ve had past experiences where in inquired about this so-called “church” and its stances on certain moral and theological issues. They dance around them and feel they have no obligation to answer anyone, even a member, as I was).

          People think Andy is some kind of modest, humble, Godly man when in reality he is arrogant and cowardice. He refuses to address “controversial” topics and refuses to discipline or even convict certain individuals.

          • Doug,

            I’m afraid you’ve got absolutely no clue what you’re talking about, and (having been in church leadership, and having a career related to Human Resources) just because you haven’t seen someone “disciplined” doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened. As for “convicting”, IIRC, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict, not man.

  3. Howell,

    I am sad to see that you continue to mislead your readers and cover up the fact that you did not contact NPCC to ask for clarification before making public assumptions about what Andy meant by this illustration.

    Your excuse that NPCC would not have responded to you is just that, an excuse–and a poor one at that. You need to come clean to your readers and acknowledge that you did Andy Stanley and NPCC a disservice by not exercising due diligence in researching this matter before making assumptions. That’s gossip, plain and simple.

    I hope for your own sake and the sake of the people you are misleading that you acknowledge your error and do away with this feigned innocence.

    In Christ,

    Daniel

    • Daniel,

      Let me be clear. I did not contact NP or Andy Stanley before writing a post on a public sermon that I viewed on North Point’s website. You may continue to make excuses for why Andy Stanley has not offered any clarification to even members (see Dennis) who have asked. That is your right. As to misleading my readers, I will let them decide for themselves whether what I wrote was misleading. Asking questions is generally not considered misleading, unless the person (or his defenders) don’t like the questions being asked. Just because you or any number of folks continue to trot out talking points that try to deflect away from the issue at hand, namely why won’t Andy Stanley issue even a short clarification to help those who were confused by his illustration, I won’t be intimidated by your charges of “gossip.” It may shock you to know, but outside of the megachurches, folks are encouraged to think for themselves. It’s really refreshing. I encourage everyone to try it at least once. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

      • Good response Howell. It is a public sermon with a very confusing illustration on a clear Biblical sin. Any theologian would know that with the cultural climate, there would be a clear statement by being silent. If Stanely intended to say that these guys are living wrong, but a believer can forgive and reach out to someone who hurt you to draw them back into the fold, he could have said that. But he didn’t and has not even tried to clarify. I believe he is waiting for the dust to settle and will readdress the issue when the wind is blowing in the direction he wants to sail.

  4. Howell,

    I am not making excuses for Andy’s behavior–I’m pointing out that you didn’t do your homework (and still haven’t done so).

    I’m not sure why Dennis thinks NPCC is going to change their policies–the response he received indicates that they are not. If you’ve attended NPCC for that long, then you should know that NPCC is quite conservative when it comes to their theology. That is evidenced by their policies, and has been hashed out through various sermon series (two in the past year have even covered the topic Mohler et al. are so worried about!).

    If you truly wanted clarification, you would have asked NPCC directly. Hiding behind the old mantra “it’s a public sermon so I can say whatever I want” is no different than telling the teacher “my dog ate my homework” to cover for the fact that you didn’t actually do it.

    What’s even more ridiculous is your snide comment that people “outside the megachurches” are “encouraged to think for themselves”. You need to resolve whatever chip you have on your shoulder and dispense with whatever is causing you to hold a grudge.

    You keep saying that you “hope you misunderstood”–but since you refuse to ask the person/people that are best equipped to help you understand, you are guilty of willfully engaging in gossip.

    In Christ,

    Daniel

    • Daniel,

      While you may not understand what I am about to say, I am going to show you grace. I apologize for the snide remark. When someone accuses me of misleading people (which is a form of lying, is it not?), I sometimes respond with a snarkiness and sarcasm that I shouldn’t. My responses are on me, just as your responses are on you. I would encourage you to go back and re-read my previous posts because you are misunderstanding what I am saying. Therefore, I will try to help clarify what it is that I wrote so that you will not be confused. It’s not my intent to confuse you or anyone else. As much as it is in my power to help you understand where I am coming from, I am more than happy to do it. However (and this is where the thinking comes in), you simply must step back from your vantage point and try to look at this situation objectively. If you can’t (or won’t) do that, then there’s nothing that I can say that will help you understand why I wrote what I did.

      That being said, I did not say nor did I imply that since “it’s a public sermon so I can say whatever I want.” That’s simply not true. If I would have definitively concluded or stated that Andy Stanley and NPCC have changed their position on homosexuality, then your charge would be valid. As to me having to ask for a quote from Andy Stanley before critiqing one of his public sermons, that is not only unwarranted by this situation but it makes about as much sense as me or Denny Burk or Al Mohler having to ask Vice President Biden what he meant when he stated that he was comfortable with men marrying men prior to us writing a blog post about it. This argument is a non-starter.

      Finally, as you and I have never met (although we exchanged emails), I would be curious to know what chip I have on my shoulder and what grudge I hold. I have no ill-will toward Andy Stanley or North Point. On the contrary, until two weeks ago, I had no reason to question anything that he was doing, even if I didn’t always agree with his methodology. I have benefitted from Andy Stanley’s books and from some of his sermons. I would have identified myself as someone who liked Andy Stanley, although I am no fan boy of any preacher or pastor. Whether you choose to believe me or not, I really do hope that I misunderstood the message he was trying to convey in his illustration. There are certain Evangelical church pastors who I believe have strayed far from the Gospel and whose teaching/preaching should be avoided by all those who do not want to be led astray and/or have their itching ears tickled. As far as I was (and still am today) concerned, Andy Stanley was not among that group. Does his lack of clarification concern me? Yes. Do those, like you, who respond in a personal and strident way, give me more pause for concern as to what is taking place at North Point? It sure doesn’t help. Will I be more discerning in how I view Andy Stanley’s ministry if he never issues a clarification? Absolutely.

      Be that as it may, you are certainly entitled to think whatever you wish about what I have written. As a reader, you are free to draw your own conclusions just as my other readers are free to draw their own conclusions which may or may not agree with yours. Please know that I did not approach this from a hostile position. I do not think that Drs. Burk or Mohler approached this from a hostile position toward Andy personally. In fact, this post assumes that Andy Stanley’s position has not changed on the issue of homosexuality. However, I think I am entitled to still be perplexed about Andy Stanley’s continued silence in the face of such confusion. Thanks for your perspective. God bless,

      Howell

      • Howell, I really do understand where you are coming from (or I think I do.)

        And while I don’t think that clarification is necessary because even Dennis who has been quite strong against Andy admits that there is a clear policy (although he seems to think that this is a prep to change it), I hope for people like you that seem to be trying to give Andy the benefit of the doubt, but have real questions he has some statement. (I don’t think he will.)

        But your last statement concerns me a little bit. What is it about people that are sure about the positions of their church and their pastor gives you pause?

        I haven’t engaged on this post because I don’t have anything new to add. But I do want to gently push about what you really want. Is the only thing that will make you confortable a statement from Andy? Would an official statement from the church be ok? Someone from the board?

        I really do think you are just trying to be clear about what Andy meant, but it is easy (I know it at least is easy for me) to dig my heals and defend my position, even when it is past the point of either being useful or defensible.

        I would be happy for Andy to have a statement for people like you, as long as it could be done in a way that does not harm current ministry outreach. This next statement may or not be helpful. But I have heard from a few friends (and seen several blog posts) from visitors or people that want to invite gay friends that they now feel they can come (or invite their gay friends.) I am sure at least some of these feel that the church is accepting of their lifestyle. But others know that homosexuality will be treated as sin, but treated gently. I think this was at least part of the purpose of the illustration. But of course, that is from a person that has no insight into the leadership.

        • Adam,

          I appreciate your response and am glad that you are understanding (I think) where I am coming from. You yourself ended your last comment by saying that your perspective was “from a person that has no insight into the leadership.” Daniel and others are likewise writing from a perspective of those who are not in leadership (at least not elders/pastors of NP). That being the case, wouldn’t it be hard for anyone outside of Andy Stanley and the top leadership of North Point to actually KNOW whether or not there has been any change — subtle or otherwise — in North Point’s view on this issue? The reason that I am “just trying to be clear about what Andy meant” is that there are other large and influential churches and megachurch pastors who are intentionally unclear on this issue. I could name a few of those, but you could probably guess which ones I am referring to. What I truly do not want to see happen is that Andy Stanley and North Point take a position whereby there is a lack of clarity when it comes to whether homosexual conduct is a sin or not.

          This really gets to the point of your last paragraph about accepting the lifestyle (of homosexuality) vs. “treating it as sin, but treated gently.” Just to be clear: If Andy Stanley and North Point navigate this rough waters by adhering to a “treating it as sin, but treated gently” approach to homosexuality, then this would not be an issue for me. That is admittedly a tight rope to walk, but one that can be done with clear boundaries. However, if in theology and practice Andy Stanley and North Point are seen to be accepting the gay lifestyle without treating it as sin (like adultery, which was the centerpiece of his illustration), then I think there would be a major problem in theology and methodology. Because this is an issue which has profound ramifications for the Church (not just NP), that is why a clarification, even a “gentle one,” is needed. Thanks again for stopping by and for the dialogue. God bless,

          Howell

      • Howell,

        I appreciate your willingness to engage on this issue with me. The reason I felt you indicated that you had free license to critique Andy’s sermon is because you emphasized the fact that you had seen it online and that it was publicly available. I guess I just don’t quite understand why, if you were confused about the sermon, you wouldn’t have simply asked NPCC. This is exercising due diligence to make sure that you don’t misunderstand what has been said, and hopefully you receive clarification as a result.

        I feel that in skipping this step, you missed an opportunity to extend grace. The reason this is so dangerous is because NP does have a wide influence and if it caters to Christians who have neglected to extend a bit of grace and who demand a public declaration of a position that could have been clarified by simply asking, it is doing exactly what we shouldn’t be doing: trying to resolve the tension between grace and truth by favoring one (truth) over the other (grace). We should try to strike a balance between the two, and it’s going to be messy sometimes.

        Regardless, North Point’s position has not changed. If you do not believe me, ask NPCC yourself. There is no need to wonder or “hope” that you simply misunderstood and post a blog that encourages others to doubt a fellow brother in Christ as well as an entire ministry.

        • Daniel,

          Without repeating my response to Adam, I would just say that there is a vital need for Andy Stanley and NP to issue some type of clarification on this issue. Whether or not I or anyone else asked them for that clarification in advance of writing a public blog post is irrelevant at this point. If their position has not changed, then why not say that it has not changed, particularly in light of the confusion that has been caused by Andy Stanley’s illustration? Why even a “gentle” clarification has not been issued continues to be perplexing.

          As to grace and truth being in tension, they are only in tension from our human vantage point. These two concepts, which Jesus Christ fully embodied, were never in tension or conflict with Him. We may not get it perfectly and it maybe messy at times, but we are simply not asked to sacrifice one or the other. There are issues in Scripture which maybe unclear. In those cases, I think that we can err on the side of grace. However, when issues are clear (and I think that homosexuality, just like all sexual relations outide of marriage between one man and one woman, is clear), then we cannot sacrifice truth for grace. To minimize or ignore truth, while extending what we believe is grace, is to redefine grace and to cheapen it. We are commanded to speak the truth in love and for our speech to “always be gracious, seasoned with salt (i.e., truth), so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:6).” If the latter is what Andy Stanley truly meant when addressing the homosexuality issue, then you would get no further argument from me. However, if it is the former, then we will have to agree to disagree. But, please know that my post was not intended to engender doubt, but rather to encourage clarity. Thanks and God bless,

          Howell

  5. “I would be happy for Andy to have a statement for people like you, as long as it could be done in a way that does not harm current ministry outreach.”

    This example isn’t perfect, but would a statement taking responsibility for the confusion caused by the example, acknowledging homosexuality is a sin just like any other sexual immorality, and reminding everyone that their mission is to lead people into growing relationships with Jesus Christ, harm current outreach?

    If a homosexual leaves, so be it. I’m sure plenty of people have left North Point because of sermons on adultery, pride, greed, etc. Why do we act like we have to tiptoe around the specific issue at hand?

  6. I just listened to the sermon. It gave the impression that the church should accomodate acting homosexuals (as long as their not still married). He says “there it is” about the 6 people coming to church together, “grace and truth…in all of it’s healing power.” That hardly seems to be the healing power of grace and truth. What is troubling to me is that the bible speaks of grace and truth as complimentary ideas and never uses words like “messy” or “tension” to define the relationship. If I were a visitor to that church knew nothing of Stanley, I would have taken away the distinct impression that while divorce and adultery are wrong, homoesxuality is not based upon the idea that it would be great it gay men and their partners could worship side-by-side with their ex-wives. At the end he said Jesus loved by calling sin “sin” but then Stanley never does such with homosexuality, which has played prominently in the sermon. At the end, he talks about how God doesn’t condemn people who reject Jesus. Sorry, but there is nothing but condemnation for those who are NOT in Christ Jesus. Where does it ever say in scripture that we must be confortable with sin (i.e. the “mess”)? Dissapointing sermon. Lots of stories and illustrations but very little sense of the text of scripture.

    • Adam, We are all condemned by our sin. But what he is saying isn’t that we are not condemned by sin, but that being condemned by Christians is something different. Christ did not condemn sinners (he did sometimes, but not universally at all times.) The woman who came and washed his feet was not immediately condemned. The woman caught in adultery was not immediately condemned. Jesus was gracious toward them. He did tell them to sin no more, but that is after being gracious first.

      No where that I remember did Andy say that we should be comfortable with sin (although there is some scriptural support that Jesus was comfortable with Sinners and Paul says that we should not remove ourself from non-Christian sinners or else we would have to remove ourselves from the earth.)

  7. Adam, I appreciate the comments. I certainly agree with what *you’v*e said. Had Andy said “look, homosexuality is a sin but we should act kindly and lovingly towards sinners and share the Gospel” I would be in agreement. I did not get the nuanced differce between being condemned by God and being condemned by man. Nor did I remember him saying anything close to “hate the sin love the sinner”. I have to believe Andy is a solid guy and believes homosexuality is wrong. I’m just saying that this was a confusing message on it’s own. His use of the terms messy and tension in regard to grace and truth gave the impression, however, that the balance of the two is exemplified in the illustration. But of course, grace and truth lead us to repentence. I just wish he would have made that as clear as John does in John 10 or in all of 1 John, for instance, or Paul in Titus 2, etc etc.

  8. I am sure lots & lots of folks have heard Rev Stanley’s sermon, and have concluded that he is soft on homosexuality. I don’t know why they would broadcast it if that weren’t their hope.

    If he takes the Biblical view that 1 Corinthians 5 applies today, and that what God refers to as an abomination would disqualify folks from service and even membership in the church, it could all be put away with a simple statement something like “I sure blew that”. But continued silence certainly cannot be expected to convey that message. It says something quite different.

    The logical conclusion is that he doesn’t hold that view.

    As to contacting him first, he broadcast the statement and said it in front of a whole lot of people. It never was a private matter between the two of you. I think your original post was quite in line.

    And it’s good to remember he wasn’t merely offering an illustration. He was telling of real people and his experience with them. And, by inference, the standards for service at Northpoint.

    • Bob – when you have a moment, can you please post your church’s application for vounteers who wish to help people park their cars, hand out programs, or greet people at the door?

      I promise that I will evaluate it with the same amount of grace by which you judge your brother whom you do not know. If you do not have anything in your application that ensures that only members in good standing, with no sexual sin in their lives, can hold the door for me when I walk into your church on Sunday morning, I will (in Christian love) hold the “logical” conclusion that you don’t care if abominations to God serve in your church.

      Mathew 7:2 (See! I have a verse for that!)

  9. Howell,

    While I appreciate the tone of your post, when compared to some of the other “demanding” posts I have read. Even so, I honestly hope Andy never gives a public response to the barbarians at his gate.

    Why? Answering busybodies and gossips never satisfies them, it only intensifies their demands.

    (In full disclosure, I have family at NPCC and my own church has numerous ties to NPCC, 950 miles away from us).

    A very large church in my region of the country has never had a sermon on the topic of homosexuality. In a public venue, the pastor of this church refused to give an explicit answer on the topic to a questioner, but instead said the person should contact the church if he was struggling with this issue.

    Behind the scenes, I happen to know that the church does consider homosexual practice to be a sin, and that the church works with those struggling with this particular sin in a very discreet fashion. When people call the church to inquire about its “stance” on homosexuality, the inquirer is asked “Are you, or someone you love, struggling with this issue?” If so, they are instructed to come in and meet with a staff member to discuss it. If not, then they are asked “then why does it matter to you?” – a brilliant response, in light of the American Christian church’s reputation for its treatment of this sin when compared to its treatment of sins in which its members engage in far greater numbers.

    I’ve been listening to Stanley’s sermons for years, and I am very familiar with NPCC’s internal policies and workings. Nothing has changed and nothing will change.

    Also, I would not be at all surprised if Stanley’s comments (and “omission”) were not on purpose, from the standpoint that anyone who would demand an answer would also be, quite obviously, demonstrating that they completely missed the point of the sermon (and sermon series).

    So, contrary to your assertion, I believe Andy’s silence is Golden, and I hope he continues to ignore the Mohlers, Silvas and Burkes, allowing them to demonstrate how disputatious they are and what a poor reputation they have reflected upon Christ in this world.

    • Chris,

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts, including your own experience with the very large church in your area. We will perhaps have to “agree to disagree” as to whether or not Andy should clarify his confusing (at least to some) illustration that is at the center of this kerfuffle. While NPCC’s internal policies and workings regarding the homosexuality issue may not change, that does not negate the fact that Stanley’s illustration caused confusion. Now, he is under no obligation to clear up that confusion, but I continue to find it perplexing that has not. Others have made the argument that those of us who have questioned the meaning behind the illustration (which, as Bob Cleveland pointed out above, was a story about real people) somehow missed the point of either the individual sermon or the series as a whole. Some people may have indeed missed the point. However, I think it is a stretch to believe that everyone who “misunderstood” Andy’s illustration also missed the point of the sermon. And, rightly or wrongly, misunderstanding an influential pastor and a leading church within the greater Evangelical world on a topic like homosexuality is not something to be taken lightly.

      We continue to witness throughout the Evangelical world — from moderate/liberal Baptists in the CBF to popular television preachers to young Evangelicals (think Jay Bakker and, to a lesser extent, Jonathan Merritt) — a softening on this issue. It’s one thing to be soft in the sense that you describe the large church in your region. It’s quite another to be soft in a Joel Osteen kind of way. I don’t doubt that some Evangelical leaders and bloggers can become disputatious (you get points for working that into your comment :-) ) on this and other issues and are coming at Andy Stanley in a hostile way. As I have tried to share with other commenters, that is not my intent. There are some other public pastors in our nation that I have been and will continue to be disputatious with because I think their teaching/preaching is unBiblical and will lead many people astray. I simply do not believe that about Andy Stanley. I would like a clarification (even a “gentle one”) from Andy Stanley and North Point, particularly in light of his confusing illustration, but I don’t expect it. If he never issues a clarification, I can’t say that I would use this one issue to “write off” Stanley and NPCC. However, how he handles this issue certainly will affect his credibility with me going forward. I will have to be more discerning in how I listen to or read Stanley. Even though I may have disagreed with some of his methodology, that has never been a thought for me before this controversy. That’s why I think that Stanley’s continued silence is not golden. Hope that helps to clarify where I’m coming from. Thanks again for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

  10. Thank you, Howell.

    When I first listened to this particular sermon, I thought it was pretty obvious that he signaled early on that NPCC considers homosexual practice to be a sin (in his comment about some gays leaving gay-friendly churches and attending NPCC weekend services because the churches they left just affirmed their lifestyle, but they wanted to go somewhere that “preached the Bible” (these two seemed pretty obviously set up as opposites from one another: affirming homosexuality vs. “preaching the Bible”).

    At multiple points in the sermon, even prior to the illustration, Andy indicated that showing grace to people might give the mistaken impression that you are affirming their lifestyle. He mentioned that there were people who saw Jesus eating with tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes and mistook his grace toward them as condoning their sin. He mentioned the Samaritan woman, and the woman caught in adultery, giving them grace “I do not condemn you” and then turning around and giving truth “go and sin no more”.

    The next week, Andy camped out on the Parable of the Two Lost Sons, and spent a good deal of time talking about the attitude of the older brother (who, like Jesus’ audience, was all about law and light on the grace).

    The week after this, Stanley preached on “Loopholes”, and how Christians always look for theological loopholes that allow them to engage in sins they like, while condemning those who engage in sins they disapprove of. (When I heard this sermon, which was several days prior to Al Mohler’s demands being issued, it seemed like Andy was referring back to the discussion on grace vs. truth and the way the church has typically treated homosexuality.)

    I’ve now listened to the whole series once and most of it twice, and I’m not finding a reason to question Stanley on this, as it was very clear to me that he wasn’t affirming a gay lifestyle. One thing I noticed in the video of the sermon (#5) that I didn’t remember in the podcast is that it sounded like Andy had prepared three illustrations, but was running short of time and only gave the one. As such, if those would have made what he was saying more clear, then that might be where he could give some sort of an answer (though I’m still all in favor of him ignoring the ODM shrillness.)

    In some ways, I believe the predisposition of the listener often determines whether or not he/she spots heresy in a pastor. I have learned – sometimes the hard way – that when I assume the worst about someone, I am most often the one in the wrong, simply because I don’t walk in the shoes of the person I’m criticizing. Part of the way Paul describes love in Corinthians 13 is that it hopes for the best and assumes the best, until proven wrong. In this case, why should I assume that Andy Stanley affirms homosexual lifestyles when he has never spoken in favor of them, and his church’s policies and procedures prevent people living in open sexual sin (homo- or hetero-) from serving? In the sermon in question, he never affirmed it, and – in fact – he stated quite explicitly that when we extend grace to people in our personal relationships it might appear, incorrectly, what we are endorsing their sin (which should have been a big clue to “he who has ears”). It all seemed pretty clear to me, though I can be a pretty nuanced guy who reads (accurately) between the lines, when the more literal-minded might be confused.

    Grace and peace to you,

    Chris

    • “It all seemed pretty clear to me, though I can be a pretty nuanced guy who reads (accurately) between the lines, when the more literal-minded might be confused.”

      Chris,

      Your ending statement perhaps helps to explain why there has been a difference of opinion on this issue. While I still have questions about Andy’s intent in using the illustration and his reluctance to issue any type of clarification, your reasoning has been the most persuasive argument that I have read for why Andy Stanley should not be taken to the woodshed for the illustration. I find myself much like King Agrippa when responding to the Apostle Paul, “You ALMOST persuade me.” :-) Perhaps the other two illustrations which he did not use in this particular sermon would have added much needed context and clarity to the overall message. In the end, what we are left with is an illustration that was confusing to some, clear to others, and a pastor who, for whatever reason, has not issued a clarification. Unlike other pastors who have given ample proof of their less than Biblical approaches to the issue of homosexuality, there simply is not enough proof with this one illustration to conclude that Andy Stanley has changed his position on homosexuality within the church. At this point, I (and others) must either choose to err on the side of showing grace to Andy or err on the side of making definitive judgments based on limited information. If this were anyone other than Andy Stanley, I would probably find myself making some definitive judgments. However, I think for now, in the absence of more evidence, that I shall err on the side of grace.

      That being said, I will continued to be perplexed by Andy’s lack of response, but I shall have to live with that perplexity for the time being. Because he has allowed the confusion to stand, I do think that Andy Stanley’s future sermons will be more scrutinized, particularly when the issue of homosexuality comes up. That is the trade-off for not clarifying this sermon now. I do appreciate your perspective and the thoughtfulness with which you have dialogued on this issue. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

      • Howell,
        .
        Thank you, again, for your graciousness. If I might, give you a little bit more reason to extend Pastor Stanley some grace here, and to give a little more background as to why I think this sermon (including the illustration) covered what it needed to, and why his answer to critics (to listen to all of the series) is probably all the answer that is needed.
        .
        First, just to examine the issue of homosexuality, one of the current “hot button issues” in American Christianity: The way the church has handled this topic has been, shall we say, less than stellar. There seem to be two general, and polar, reactions. One reaction to this particular sin is to treat it as different/worse/special, when compared to other sins – which serves to drive people living in, or even tempted by, this sin away from the church. The other, opposite, reaction occurs in more liberal churches, where they try to explain it away as “misunderstanding Paul” or some other nonsense to say that “committed, loving relationships” between members of the same sex is approved by God.
        .
        Neither of these reactions is at all commendable, and I would argue that those who are currently criticizing Pastor Stanley for his sermon illustration are, in some degree, well within the first camp, no matter how much they bloviate about “taking the whole measure of Scripture” into account (or, as I read in one ‘Christian’ blog, “Stanley needs to share the whole gospel with homosexuals by letting them know they are living in sin”, somehow elevating the classification of homosexual practice as sin to be somehow synonymous with or integral to the Gospel.)
        .
        Before you protest this characterization (if you would), I believe my Exhibit A would make my case: What if, instead of disciplining the ex-husband for adultery (while not commenting in the illustration about homosexuality), Andy had disciplined the ex-husband for homosexuality (while not commenting in the illustration about the adultery)? Honestly, would Al Mohler have demanded an answer from Andy whether or not he considers adultery to be a sin? Would the rest of the ODM chorus have clanged in, with similar demands? Would you have felt the need to write a blog post, wondering if Andy’s silence was golden?
        .
        When we consider silence about a sin in a sermon illustration to be affirmation of that sin – or, at best, “unclarity” on that sin, are we not elevating the importance of that sin above that of other sins?
        .
        With this sin, and others, it seems fairly clear to me that Andy is saying that disciples of Christ need to find a way to navigate the waters between (A) singling out specific sins (which always seem to be the ones we don’t struggle with) and choosing to not act lovingly toward someone who does exhibit that sin; and (B) not only extending grace for the sin(s) in question, but trying to define away the sin via loopholes of some sort. He describes this third way, that Jesus exhibited, “Option C” if you will, as the “tension” between grace and truth.
        .
        [Side note: I absolutely love the stereotypical legalist's response to this dilemma, because I used to say the exact same thing: "I am acting lovingly, because it would not be loving for me to allow them to continue to sin without me convicting them of their sin and telling them to repent!" (aka "I get to be a jerk for Jesus, and I've got a verse to back me up".) The problem with this particular response is that is only seeks to make a point ("I need you to know that you are a sinner! Repent or you will go to hell."), but not to actually make a difference ("In my heart, I know that if a relative stranger came up to me and called me a sinner and told me I was going to hell - for whatever reason - the chances of him convicting me of my sin are somewhere between zero and none.").]
        .
        While I would encourage you to listen to the entire “Christian” series, another snippet you might look at is from the sermon a couple of weeks later, “Loopholes”, starting at about the 23-minute mark, through just a little past the 30-minute mark.
        .
        Now, if you want to understand why I (and many of North Point’s defenders) believe that Andy won’t (or shouldn’t) give a public response, I would suggest his one-sermon-series from last summer that is incredibly good, and underlies how North Point engages the culture around them – “The Separation of Church and Hate”. If you listen to this, I think his silence will make perfect sense to you.

  11. Just as a coda: I’d also note that many of the critics are propagating the rush to judgment by either providing an abridged clip of just the illustration in question, or giving the “minute mark” to skip to to see/hear it. Without the context of the whole sermon, there is no way to put the illustration in the proper context (that it is about the woman and her reaction to pain inflicted on her, not about her ex-husband or about church policy). It is like the ODM’s who pull a couple of sentences from a book to declare the author a heretic without the full context of the work in question.

  12. “I guess I just don’t quite understand why, if you were confused about the sermon, you wouldn’t have simply asked NPCC. This is exercising due diligence to make sure that you don’t misunderstand what has been said, and hopefully you receive clarification as a result.

    I feel that in skipping this step, you missed an opportunity to extend grace. The reason this is so dangerous is because NP does have a wide influence and if it caters to Christians who have neglected to extend a bit of grace and who demand a public declaration of a position that could have been clarified by simply asking, it is doing exactly what we shouldn’t be doing: trying to resolve the tension between grace and truth by favoring one (truth) over the other (grace). We should try to strike a balance between the two, and it’s going to be messy sometimes. ”

    Welcome to the hall of mirrors within the mega maze. Totalitarian niceness using the grace card. I am having flashbacks.

    Here is the irony. Howell is basically being shown the same lack of grace by the Andy Stanley defenders who claim Howell is not showing Grace to Andy. The old switcheroo. I know, I used it a ton of times to shut up the critics. See it is ok when we, the mega,do it. We have “good intentions”.

    But here is MORE irony. Anyone can come here and question Howell on his words and receive a detailed answer from Howell who wrote the words being questioned or critisized! Andy will not even issue a clarifying statement but his “people” will direct you to a policy. (I remember those days. Nevermind the cognative dissonance within)

    Sorry I am not nicer it is just that I lived in this mega madness world for far too long. I would prefer people who say what they mean EXACTLY and also mean what they say….and have policies that line up exactly. But that is just me.

    Public celebrity preachers really need to grow up into a thicker skin and get out of their mega bubbles. When they market themselves to the world as they have in being a “brand”, they should expect their very public words to be analyzed and critisized. They have a mic, camera, stage and much public adoration to correct any misunderstandings.

    The problem NP has it that ALOT of people are misunderstanding ONE guy.

    Oh well. Celeb Christianity. Where we can redefine Grace/Truth.

    Less celebrity Christians, more Jesus Christ, please.

  13. “Without the context of the whole sermon, there is no way to put the illustration in the proper context (that it is about the woman and her reaction to pain inflicted on her, not about her ex-husband or about church policy). It is like the ODM’s who pull a couple of sentences from a book to declare the author a heretic without the full context of the work in question”

    Chris, That is like asking Mrs Lincoln, “Well besides the thing that happened, how did you like the play?”

    • Chris, That is like asking Mrs Lincoln, “Well besides the thing that happened, how did you like the play?”
      No Lydia, it is not, by any stretch of the imagination. We church people talk about it all the time, when referring to how some people take Biblical verses out of context, or when we notice during the political silly season how attack ads frequently state “truth” that is really a falsehood when examined in full context.

      In this particular case, in the context of the sermon, the illustration was about how to hold grace and truth in tension by focusing on the woman in the relationship. The purpose was not to discuss church policy, but to examine it from the view of the woman, where the sin committed against her (and the one she was bitter about) was adultery, not homosexuality. It didn’t matter whether her husband left her for a man, a woman or anything in between, adultery was the sin committed against her. She was the one who alerted Andy to the situation in which he intervened (first by stepping in, himself, and then – when it was pointed out that he was not the Buckhead campus pastor – the campus pastor), and it was the ongoing adultery that she identified to him. The illustration was from her standpoint, and her journey from hatred and bitterness to one of love, where she still didn’t condone/affirm the sin.

  14. “It all seemed pretty clear to me, though I can be a pretty nuanced guy who reads (accurately) between the lines, when the more literal-minded might be confused.”

    Chris, as someone who was an active member of North Point for several years and still lives in the Atlanta area, when you have a “church for the unchurched,” isn’t it dangerous to expect the unchurched to read between the lines?

    • I don’t think so. Unchurched are not concerned about this. Christians are concerned about sin. But I doubt seriously that someone that is a potential unchurched person would consider a lack of statement or their confusion over an illustration a serious issue. This is a concern theologically among Christians. I think a statement, especially given rhetoric around NC vote will alienate non Christians more to alleviate any fears

    • Mike,
      .
      Do we convict sinners of their sin, or does the Holy Spirit?
      .
      Do we stir the hearts of the unchurched to become the churched, or does the Holy Spirit?
      .
      Are we called to make a point or to make a difference?
      .
      Most unchurched people I know (and I know a lot of them) understand quite clearly that churches – unless they’re very up-front and blatant that they affirm homosexuality – believe homosexuality is a sin. Other than Creationism, if you ask the guy on the street about Christians, one of the first things they will mentions is that they “hate gays” (or something to that effect). To the unchurched, “silence is not acceptance” when it comes to homosexuality.
      .
      On the flip side, long-time church people, wary of the culture wars and the actions of the militant LGBT community in the political realm (and liberal Christianity’s surrender to it), seem to consider “silence is acceptance” and elevate “homosexuality = sin” to the plane of being integral to the Gospel. This is a siege mentality.
      .
      There is a time for everything, as Solomon observed. The time for confrontation of specific sins in someone’s life is often personal, and – if we actually want them to repent, not just check the box that we “did our duty” and made our point – it is alongside someone who loves them and cares for them as a friend.

  15. Howell,

    I appreciate your patience and graciousness and am happy to “agree to disagree” on the clarity of Andy’s message. I think you missed an opportunity to extend grace (by contacting NPCC), but hindsight is 20/20.

    Mike,

    I’m guessing (based on my own experience) the “unchurched” are the ones that would probably be less hung up on the details. In my small groups, the people who are most caught up in the details are the ones most well-versed in scripture.

  16. While the “unchurched” might not be concerned with sin, don’t they need to be confronted with, or understand the realities of, sin in order to realize their need for a Savior?

    Since Jesus explained his parables to His disciples, I don’t understand why the “churched” should have to read between the lines either. And since Andy makes points all of the time, PLEASE stop using this “Are we called to make a point or make a difference?” as if all we (those of us in the “truth” camp) are concerned about is making a point. Yes, it’s easier to make a point than it is to make a difference, but if making a difference is “grace” and making a point is “truth,” aren’t we called to both?

    And Daniel, I’m not sure I understand your comment.

    • A lot of this comes down to ecclesiology and method. While I don’t think Northpoint’s method should be reproduced at every church they are working on a method that has worked for them. And most of the complaints seem to be from people that disagree with the method and/or Northpoint’s ecclesiology.

      Northpoint is about getting people in the doors to here the sermon and get into small groups. That is not quite the same (but it is similar) to seeker sensitive method of the past. Listening to baptism stories (which liturgically are the center piece of almost every service), I hear over and over and over again. Someone invited me to church. I joined a small group, I was confronted with the gospel, either in a sermon or in a small group, usually over a period of 1 to 3 years.

      So no, I don’t think that it is important for people outside the church that have not yet come to be confronted with Northpoint’s position on homosexuality. Because it is different from many non-christians, to force the church to take a strong and public stance will alientate many that might come to church, whether they are gay or not.

      I know there are many that disagree with this method. I know that there are many that think that this can only produce weak Christians that are primarily concerned about feeling good. But while there are people that fall into this group, there are hundreds and thousands of Christians that are attending Northpoint and related churches that are pouring into non-Christians in a way that very few other churches are.

      I want other models of church, because we need them to reach everyone. Northpoint can’t and should not stive to reach out to everyone. We need the whole church and a wide variety of church methods. When one Sarah who is called to do one things tells Julie (who is called to do something else) to follow her and do what she is doing, it is not kingdom building.

      In the end, I think Mohler’s point about mega-churches is more about method and ecclisiology than substance and I think that is a distraction to everyone involved.

    • Mike,
      .
      While the “unchurched” might not be concerned with sin, don’t they need to be confronted with, or understand the realities of, sin in order to realize their need for a Savior?
      Again, I would say that there is a time for everything, and when it comes to judgment calls (like – “when is the right time for me to make a specific point to my congregation?”), I assume we must have some level of faith that the Holy Spirit is, and will be, guiding the Christian leaders in their churches to know when those times fit best.
      .
      Most of the unchurched folks I have talked to, who have later come to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior did so, not because a preacher preached a sermon that confronted them or made them understand the realities of their sin. The ones I know were fully aware of how messed up their lives were by their sin, and – through their relationships with Christians who were friends with them, walked with them, and talked to them personally – journeyed down the path all of us believers have, from sin to grace. Certainly sermons may spark thoughts or beliefs or conversations, but it is more often, in my experience, the believers in the lives of the unchurched who have made the difference.
      .
      Since Jesus explained his parables to His disciples, I don’t understand why the “churched” should have to read between the lines either.
      .
      If you listened to the “Christian” series (even just up to the point in question), it was fairly obvious that he was not condoning a gay lifestyle. I mean, he said – literally – ‘people may misunderstand your grace towards sinners as somehow condoning their sin, but that is not the case’. That sounds pretty clear to me.
      .
      As for Jesus’ parables, there were times that he had to sit down with the disciples, alone, and explain them more explicitly. He may do that in the future (or he may have already done so at an all-staff meeting last week, for all we know).
      .
      Andy has an accountability structure, and the last time I checked, it didn’t include Al Mohler, Denny Burk, Ken Silva – or you. If Andy has erred in this, surely his elders would confront him and deal with this as the Holy Spirit leads them to. They don’t need the busybodies of the internet playing “Gotcha!” Police for them.
      .
      And since Andy makes points all of the time, PLEASE stop using this “Are we called to make a point or make a difference?” as if all we (those of us in the “truth” camp) are concerned about is making a point.
      Sorry, I won’t stop, because you miss the key point of that particular phrase: It is applied to the way we deal with the world and the unchurched. They haven’t signed up to be in submission to Christ and his commands, so it’s not our place to hold them up to his standards. Certainly, when you are a pastor and you are speaking to those you are pastoring, you have a role in making points to your flock.
      .
      But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
      .
      As I noted above, there is absolutely no way we would be having this conversation if, in his example, Andy had confronted the ex-husband about homosexuality and remained silent (in the retelling) on the adultery.
      .
      None at all.
      .
      In light of this, why don’t you just be honest. You want Andy to tell them that being gay is a sin. You are concern-trolling for the unwashed masses. They (not you) might think, by his absence of comment is somehow condoning a sin.
      .
      You certainly already believe that it is a sin. Everyone complaining about his illustration certainly believe it is a sin. NOBODY demanding an answer from Andy has a shred of doubt that the list of sinful practices in the Bible includes homosexuality.
      .
      NOBODY.
      .
      So let’s drop all of this concern-trolling about Andy’s “lack of clarity”, when you are all quite clear that homosexual practice is a sin.
      .
      What you apparently aren’t clear about is whether or not Andy will state to the world that homosexual practice is a sin. In your calls, you are demanding that Andy make a point. Not to you, not to a friend of yours in a private counseling session, not to your UMC buddy who wants to argue over the Greek word for male prostitute, No. You want him to state to the world that homosexual practice is a sin. It is ALL ABOUT making a point.
      .
      Period.
      .
      Yes, it’s easier to make a point than it is to make a difference, but if making a difference is “grace” and making a point is “truth,” aren’t we called to both?
      Making a difference may require both “grace” and “truth”, depending upon the situation. Making a point is just about being right, and right now parts of the Church are in a battle with groups in the World to make a point over homosexual practice. Andy’s a big player on our team, and we expect – no, demand – that he spike the ball in the endzone, or else we will declare him a traitor for the other team.
      .
      And in that light, I’d say he’s doing a pretty good job of emulating Jesus and the effect he had on the Law-lovers of his day.

  17. Howell, please recognize that the level-headedness with which you approach this issue is in the minority of Andy’s non-defenders — and, from what I’ve seen, it’s more like the *vast* minority.

    Chris L is right — there is NO response from Andy or NPCC that will satisfy most of the critics. In fact, a specific response might (in many cases) be a violation of Matthew 7:6. While I do not lump Dr Mohler into that group, it is VERY disappointing that someone as learned as he would publicly request (demand?) something which was both *somewhat* clear in context of that sermon and *crystal* clear in other publications of NPCC. The former is excusable (though surprising, in his case); the latter is not.

    I also see little merit in the argument that says that since many “big names” and publications have run with this, therefore it must be an issue. Given the fact that Dr Mohler missed the boat on this one, it seems VERY likely that the other critics did even less research than he. One such article even had the chutzpah to blithely confirm that it was simply copying what others said by saying “it has been reported” several times.

    To be sure, there are those out there who are genuinely confused and concerned, and it would appear that you are among them. But even your request for specific statements from specific parties on something that’s already been made clear is (to steal Burk’s euphemism) “troubling” to me.

    (Full disclosure: Chris and I are friends. But he writes gooder than me.)

    • Brendt,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this. I think that Chris writes gooder than me too, which is why he almost persuades me to his (and your) position :-) I suppose that Dr. Mohler’s post has been a double-edged sword for me. I wrote my original post on this issue five days before Dr. Mohler published his. While I got a fair amount of visits on the day I published my piece (April 26), let’s just say that visits/views on my blog have gone through the roof on this issue since May 1. While there have been some strong points made by commenters on my blog, I think that the dialogue has been fairly well-balanced. I can’t speak for other blogs (although I have read a few even today which seem to use more incendiary language than is warranted), but I will say that this has been a productive discussion to have on this particular issue. As I shared with Chris in an earlier comment, even though I am still perplexed by the lack of clarification, I will have to be content to accept the silence on this one illustration.

      While I do have disagreements with some of North Point’s methodology/ecclesiology, I nevertheless have seen Andy Stanley and North Point as very credible witnesses within the megachurch world. I can’t always say that for all megachurches, particularly one which is located in Houston, TX. However, without more at this point, I cannot say that Andy’s credibility has been so damaged by one confusing (and seemingly inconsistent) illustration about how NPCC deals with the homosexuality issue. Without Andy going full “Joel Osteen” on this issue (which I pray that he does not), I am constrained to intepret NPCC’s and Stanley’s stance on homosexuality through the non-ambiguous prior sermons and the non-ambiguous publications that you referenced. This issue, particularly in our culture today, is fraught with perils. We can go too far in the direction of “love” and negate the clear Biblical principles of sin, repentance, and forgiveness. Or, we can go too far in the direction of legalism and place unBiblical barriers in the way of sinners coming to a place of repentance whereby they can experience the grace and forgiveness of God, no matter how “big” or “small” their sin. Going forward, I am going to trust that Andy Stanley and North Point will continue to navigate these waters in such a way that both grace and truth are proclaimed. That’s what every church, no matter the size, should be doing anyway! Thanks again and God bless,

      Howell

  18. Wow, I can’t believe this is so blown out of proportion. Andy’s sermon topic was on the tension between truth and grace (in which Dr. Mohler said there was none-and by the way, the only people that I know who had no tension between grace and truth were the Pharisees)and Andy did a great job of developing the topic leading to a story that very poignantly illustrated the grace of a wife forgiving the obvious sin of her (ex)husband. Had the couple had a broken marriage due to adultery in a heterosexual context, no one would have even commented on it. But, in the evangelical community (of which I consider myself a part of), if homosexuality is not condemned when mentioned from the pulpit, the pastor is considered having a liberal theology, which is ludicrous and laughable if you have heard Andy’s body of work. Dr. Mohler is the one who should be put on trial, not Andy Stanley. He ignored the correct biblical model of going directly to Andy with the conflict instead of airing it out publically. He should be ashamed of himself. And to put out a conspiracy spin on the whole situation, I think, if the truth were known, Dr. Mohler was just waiting for this moment to attack Andy for virtually leaving the Southern Baptist Convention and having success in building a non-denominational church. A hint of jealousy, I believe.

    • Dr. Coe,

      Thank you for reading and taking time from your busy schedule to comment today. I can’t speak for the motives of Dr. Mohler or others who wrote about this issue. I don’t know why Dr. Mohler wrote from the position that he did. That is not the approach that I have taken in my three posts on this topic. Even though you and others have shared how you were not confused by the illustration, I think that some people, including me and some North Point members who have commented on these three posts, were honestly confused by the way that the illustration was presented. I suppose that you can argue that we were wrong to even be confused, but I think that is a hard argument to make. You could argue, as others convincingly have, that even though the illustration seemed confusing to some and could be interpreted as ambiguous on the issue of homosexuality if taken out of context (particularly if the context is the totality of Andy’s sermons and North Point’s unambiguous policies), that some of us –rightly or wrongly — were, in fact, confused. It is not too hard to confuse me, as my wife will attest :-)

      However, notwithstanding that confusion, I have come to the point where I must err on the side of grace in this matter (see my response to Chris L. above). I would like to say that I always get the balance right between grace and truth, but I don’t. I do believe that there is a tension between grace and truth when viewed from a human perspective, but that there was/is absolutely no tension or conflict from Jesus’ perspective. It might have looked messy to the disciples (and to us today), but Jesus was, as Andy preached, full of both grace and truth. I think that churches — big and small — will have both challenges and opportunities to live out both grace and truth in the days to come, not just on the issue of homosexuality, but a whole host of sins that folks are struggling with. Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts today. God bless,

      Howell

  19. “While the “unchurched” might not be concerned with sin, don’t they need to be confronted with, or understand the realities of, sin in order to realize their need for a Savior?”

    Bingo. This is seeker language: The “unchurched”. It has been used so long (30 years) it is literally the filter they read the Word through. So, it seems to always be a waste of time to try and explain that is really putting the cart before the horse. It sounds perfectly normal and Christian to want the “unchurched”, churched. So, are we really striving to “save” them to “church”? And the ultimate answer is yes. The problem is, to keep the unchurched at church you have to dumb down teaching, have spectacular entertainment and programs because that was the draw in the first place: You will be so comfortable here.

    They don’t stay if you preach expositorily through say, 1 Corin 5 or Hebrews 10:26-31.

    The problem is that it is a system that must perpetuate itself to pay for itself and provide influence and celebrity for a few. That is very expensive so it ends up pandering to what is acceptable that will result in the most pew sitters.

    • Lydia, you don’t really have any idea what you are talking about with NP.

      You chose to quote something in support of your own position to complain about. Then you complain about cost of a large church.

      NP has a $52 million budget and a weekly attendance of around 27000. My last church had a weekly attendance of around 60 and a annual budget of around $125,000. Which per average attender is about 50% more per person to operate as NP. Cost is not really the issue. You are at this point just complaining about method again. Which is fine, but stop pretending your complaint is about theology.

      • “NP has a $52 million budget and a weekly attendance of around 27000. My last church had a weekly attendance of around 60 and a annual budget of around $125,000. Which per average attender is about 50% more per person to operate as NP. Cost is not really the issue. You are at this point just complaining about method again. Which is fine, but stop pretending your complaint is about theology.”

        In the mega seeker world, method, money and theology are all tied together or it does not work.

  20. “He ignored the correct biblical model of going directly to Andy with the conflict instead of airing it out publically”

    This rebuke has no credibility anymore, Dr. Coe. More and more people are studing on their own and finding out how empty it is and used by many in positions of power and celebrity (by their followers, who learned it from them) to squealch any critical analysis of what they teach.

    If what you say is a “correct biblical model” then the Apostle John should be ashamed of himself, too. See, he wrote about Diotrephes without going to him privately, first, in a letter for all to read for 2000 years. Paul rebuked Peter publically without first giong to him in private, too. In front of a bunch of people, too!!! And then he wrote about it in a letter for people to read for 2000 years!

    Matt 18 is for “private offenses” and has nothing to do with the teaching of a very PUBLIC paster who promotes himself as a teacher of the Word. That is open game if we are to be Bereans.

    See, Andy has spent a lot of years marketing himself and his words for consumption. We should be Bereans and analyze every single word against scripture.

    The reason his illustration did not work is clear to some of us. It was like ignoring the elephant in the room. Another problem with it is that forgiveness does not always mean fellowship. We are called to love and forgive everyone…all the time… but that does not mean we have dinner with an unrepentant person who claims Christ. (See 1 Corin 5) But I am well aware the seekers teach it as such. And they teach in such a way that all the prostitutes, theives and liars in scripture who were invited to dine with Jesus…..stayed that way after believing in Him. There was always cognative dissonance in the seeker world that was really about cheap grace.

    Some are getting a glimpse of it now. Others won’t get it because they like Andy or NP.

    • And not only that, Lydia–

      But the obscure reference to Matthew 18 Dr. Coe made constitutes an abuse of the biblical text. This is why careful exegesis should precede any hermeneutical applications. It’s simply not acceptable to make reference to a passage of Scripture and use it as a pretext to support a particular view.

      • Milton, Of course it does not fit the situation. But it is trotted out for a reason. We used it daily to keep staff in line!

        I did not even go into why using Matthew 18 in a mega is an excercise in insanity. (First of all, I do not think Mega’s could stay in business without trotting out Matthew 18 for everything and there is a reason they use it. Because it CANNOT really be practiced with high level staff)

        Right. You are going to go “privately” to a “brother” (You do not know PERSONALLY) who is a celebrity and surrounded by tons of admirers and has a ton of first line secretaries,associates, etc. That is like trying to practice Matthew 18 with the Secretary of State. I know, why not call Andy at home? I am sure his REAL number, the one he answers, is published. I bet he gives out his cell number for all 27,000 who might want to practice Matt 18 with him.

        • Again, a face palm is in order. One of the interesting things about NPCC is that is not uncommon for members to send email to Andy and to get significant replies in return – with usually the most negative emails getting the most detailed and gracious replies. So while I’m sure he doesn’t give out his cell number, his email isn’t hidden away, and he reads and responds to more of it than most pastors at significantly smaller churches do.

          Also, the degree of accountability within the staff is rather deep. While I cannot speak to specifics (due to confidentiality concerns) I know of the way some staff members have been held accountable for subtle sins that the average member might not even notice or recognize. My own church has taken some of these practices into consideration as we’ve developed our own policies and practices.

          And yes, they do follow Matthew 18 – at all levels of staff. There was a very visible staff member (known in very wide circles) who went through this process a few years ago.

          Again, you are speaking of things you only imagine you know, where you might be better off taking the advice of Solomon in Proverbs 17:28…

          • Chris, I would suggest you go to work there to see how it works in reality. I can promise you Andy has people scanning his email and giving him the ones he should read and possibly even answering for him in Andy speak. Happens all the time. It would be impossible for him to read all the emails he gets. And besides, I bet there are quite a few email addy’s designated for specific people.

            In mega’s everything is designed to look and feel intimate and to bolster the “brand”. Like your pastor is not really a “talking head” but your friend. (Even though most do not know him at all past the stage but “feel” like they do.) I know, I know, it is different at NP. (They all say that)

          • Lydia,

            I’m afraid I’m going to need to cut this short, so this will be my last reply, unless you actually decide to engage in discussion. Of course I know that Andy has an assistant that sorts his mail and sends it through the mail that fits the criteria he’s given to them. My point was that he *does* reply to them, himself (I do know this, I am not guessing).
            .
            Additionally, I attend a “mega” in the midwest, and have family who works there, so I know how they do (and do not) operate. The assistant to the senior pastor in megachurches act as lines of accountability for them, as well – both by protecting them from folks who need to be referred to professional counselors and by keeping multiple eyes on their communications.
            .
            Of course, there is no way for a pastor to know all of his parishoners intimately. Sociological studies show that most people cannot be close friends with more than 12 people, and will typically not walk in a circle of friends greater than 150. (This is why small churches typically cannot get larger than 125 people with only a single pastor.) That is why, in large churches, the pastoral duties are divided up among a larger number of folks.
            .
            Again, I would counsel you to either walk away from this, or have the wisdom to stop speaking of things you obviously do not understand all that well.

      • Here we go. Disagreement is “hate”. (The Calvinist call it gossip…you might want to try that one for a change)

        Again, I am having flashbacks!

        • Lydia, I suspect I am now in the territory of Matthew 7:6, I will give it one more attempt.

          1) I do not use “hate” lightly, but I have no other words to describe the obvious disdain you have for large churches whose ecclesiology is different than your own, and your utter lack of Christian charity in your characterizations of them. So yes, hate is an accurate word.

          2) Your diatribe w/ Adam regarding money has now completely missed the point. While megachurches spend a lot more money (on a total basis), the statistics, as Adam rightly points out, show that the cost/attender is much smaller than the average-sized church in America (75-100 attendees), and (he didn’t point out) their outreach (missions local, national and international) spending is much higher on a per-capita basis. In the case of North Point, their reputation in the community in regards to caring for the poor and needy is incredible. Last Christmas, they gave several million dollars and gave nearly 10,000 hours in community service to the poor in December, alone. One Saturday each month, they provide dental care for 4,000+ poor families. They are not a “Sunday-only” church.

          Their small group program is wide-ranging, and far more structured than those in most churches – because they expect the small groups to act more like house-churches. (You will sometimes hear this referred to as “circles vs. lines”). For good or ill, the unchurched are most likely to attend a church and interact with Christians on a Sunday morning, so their Sunday morning services assume that there will be many unchurched people present, but their teaching is not “watered down”, though Andy (and the other campus pastors) take care to point out that many of the behavioral expectations in the Bible that they are preaching on are only expected of Christians, and that those standards are very high.

          3) I understand and respect that this may not be your cup of tea, but your reflexive aggression and utter lack of comity and charity seem to indicate that they could have 100% correct orthodoxy and orthopraxy and you would still complain for no other reason than their size.

          This is more than evident in your dismissal of any and every comment in support of Stanley or North Point, and your completely ignorant/uninformed insinuations in reply.

          • Chris, I used to prepare the numbers to give those presentations. None of that matters. It is a show. Entertainment. A social club with Jesus make up. Seriously, you want to give me a per capita unit cost of your unchurched/ churched? Trust me, I spinned those numbers for years.

            What I am pointing out to YOU that you are missing, is that you guys come here and rebuke Howell (who is nothing but irenic) and me (who is NOT because I lived your mega world)but miss the obvious point you are making about GRACE!

            I know the drill. When you guys rebuke they are “good intentions” because you are right and loving. When we question or disagree with your icon, it is hate or lacks grace. I get it. You are right, loving, and the real thing and I am not. You can accuse others of not having Grace and call it grace. But when others question Andy or disagree, it is hate or lacking in grace. I know the hypocrisy drill quite well. Used it all the time, too. It is fake and phoney. Repent of it. I did. Now I am just blunt and don’t use all the fakey flowery words we specialized in back then to make a maze out of whatever we were passing off or trying to cover up at the time.

            There are credible questions concerning Andy that he seems to think he above clarifying to those who question him. I know exactly why he won’t publicly clarify them. But nevermind. It is the mega bubble and we all know the pew sitters won’t demand clarification. They are too busy following man.

          • Grace and peace to you Lydia. Since you seem to respect him, I would suggest you pay attention to Howell’s example.

    • Howell,
      I don’t think anyone is wrong on this subject and I appreciate your take on all of this. I don’t think that I need to tell you that I am a member of North Point and have been since its beginning. I am not a “cultural” Christian and have studied the Word rather extensively. Let me just say that Andy Stanley takes every word of the Bible literally and I would not sit under a pastor who did not preach truth or one who allowed the world or culture to dictate his beliefs. Knowing Andy’s style (I don’t know him personally, by the way), I am pretty sure he calculated every word of this sermon and anticipated at least some backlash. The irony of it all is that the very thing he was talking about, grace, is exactly the opposite he is getting from a lot of so called Christians. If anyone thinks Andy Stanley believes that homosexuality is not a sin is crazy. But that does not mean North Point doesn’t allow gay people in their doors. Churches should be a haven for sinners to be healed by the saving grace of Jesus. And no, I don’t believe Andy needs to explain himself. Is every pastor supposed to explain every little nuance in his sermon when it doesn’t pertain to the main point? We would be in church for a long time on Sunday if they did. If you get a chance, I would suggest you and your bloggers listen to all 7 messages of this series. It has been life changing to advance from a Christian to a disciple.

      • “Churches should be a haven for sinners to be healed by the saving grace of Jesus.”

        Dr. Coe,

        Thanks for your response. You have summed up what I believe and what I hope I lead my own church to practice, even if we (and especially me) don’t always practice it perfectly. In my almost two years of blogging, my posts about Andy’s illustration have elicited far and away the most views and comments. Rarely have I seen dialogue change anyone’s position on a matter, even mine. While some of the comments (particularly the latest ones) have gotten more pointed and personal, overall, people have argued their points fairly and reasonably. It is because of how folks have dialogued that I have come to the conclusion that, notwithstanding my own confusion (which I will own), I need to err on the side of grace in this matter. Although I have not watched all eight messages in the series, I will take your suggestion to heart and endeavor to do so. Since it’s just me blogging and I don’t have any of the “your bloggers” that you referenced :-), I will encourage those who have read and commented on this to try and listen to the “Christian” series as well. Thanks again for sharing. May the Lord continue to bless you in your dental practice and in your mission endeavors in Swaziland. Thanks and God bless,

        Howell

  21. Calm down, Lydia. How about a little grace, here. If I were there I’d need to check your blood pressure, I’m sure.

    • Dr. Coe, do you realize you admitted you do not know Andy, your pastor, personally. Do you not see the problem with this…overall?

      • Lydia, why would it be a problem? I went to Andy’s dads church for years and don’t personnally know him either…. cant call him a misguided pastor if you dont like big church dont go

  22. Chris L,

    I had questions / concerns over the last divisive issue at NP, and they were dismissed by staff / leaders, in my opinion, as Pharisaical. Scot McKnight seems to feel the same way about the issue at hand, as do the NP staff / leaders I’ve seen tweet his blog post.

    And as someone who participated in numerous community groups, I can assure you they lacked theological depth, and served as a way to find friends if nothing else.

  23. Mike,

    I am sorry you had a bad experience. I’ve got two close friends/family members involved in small groups there, and their experience has not been the same – which is how small groups go in many churches – some work well, and some do not. Structurally, though, I’ve seen some things in NP’s program that seem to be improvements.

    As to divisive issues, I’ve been on both sides of them years ago, and I understand how painful they can be. Even years later, they still sting sometimes.

    And yes, I read Scot McKnight’s post (which I thought was probably the best one I’ve seen), along with the one on Out of Ur (a close second).

  24. Chris L,
    Is it Pharisaical to question something, or have concerns with something? Playing the Pharisee card seems to be an easy way to silence “critics,” and while I’m new to how divisive issues can be, it seems to be a trend.

    • Mike,
      .
      “Pharisaical”, as a term, has become synonymous with someone who is legalistic and seeks to impose (directly or indirectly) their own legalistic views/demands on others, sometimes (but not always) with some degree of subtle or obvious hypocrisy in tow.
      .
      “Legalism” is where we take our own Preferences (on how we would handle things) and raise them to moral Absolutes. “Hedonism” is where we take moral Absolutes and lower them to be mere Preferences. (See here for an article I wrote a while back on this subject.)
      .
      In this particular debate, in the wider American Christian world, there are churches that have taken the Hedonistic route and tried to define homosexual practice as “ok” via some loophole-seeking jujitsu hermeneutics. Theses are often called “liberal” or “gay-affirming” churches.
      .
      On the flip side, the predominant Evangelical response has been Pharisaical – because it conflates the sin of homosexual practice and the temptation of same-sex attraction as one, and then raises one’s vocal opposition to both as a litmus test of the Gospel (which it is not). It also uses this “ordering of sin” (with a sin it doesn’t struggle all that much with) as an excuse to act in unloving ways to those who (vocally and stridently and militantly, in some cases) disagree or who are living in this sin. All the while, it seems to “soft pedal” heterosexual sins and sinners in comparison.
      .
      In this particular debate, the Pharisees have taken their own Preference (that when a Pastor even mentions homosexuality he MUST, in the same message explicitly state that it is a sin and that it convicts those with that sin to repent or be turned out of the church) and raised it to a moral Absolute, thus appropriately earning the title.

  25. Clearly we don’t see eye to eye. I don’t believe, nor do I think Mohler, Burk, etc. believe, that whenever homosexuality is mentioned, it MUST be acknowledged by the pastor as sin.
    .
    Within the context of the example, it isn’t unreasonable to question his stance. BUT, apparently his stance is crystal clear within the context on eight 40-50 minute messages.
    .
    Either way, it’s clear, with the President’s endorsement of gay marriage, this issue isn’t going away.

  26. Call me Pharisaical, call me legalistic, call me whatever you want, but I need clarification. If I can’t get a clear answer from the pastor of the church, who else am I supposed to ask?

    Rev. Stanley, you have a problem on your hands. Maybe it wasn’t intentional, and if you want, you can put the entire blame for being unable to comprehend on me. Let’s get all the reasons for miscommunication out of the way and finally get down to the nitty gritty.

    In the sermon “When Gracie met Truthy” there is a deliberate focus on the sin of adultery. By then end of the sermon there is a deliberate focus on grace as we see how grace can overcome and heal even the most painful situations. Message received! Now here’s the question at hand-

    Is living in a homosexual relationship an acceptable life choice for Christians and if not, why did you deliberately avoid that specific topic?

    I’m really tired of the ambiguity.

    • Wesley,
      I don’t think you sound legalistic at all-just inquisitive. However, I don’t understand why everyone needs clarification of this topic when it was not the subject of the message. This sermon was not about SIN, it was about how we treat SINNERS. I think Andy answered that question quite eloquently. Additionally, the brilliance of the message was that I think he intentionally chose this very applicable story to point out that the “Christian” community doesn’t treat all sinners equally, and from judging the uproar that resulted, his point was well proven.

      • Bravo! You’ve got it, spot on.

        Why the need to “demand” an answer from a pastor at a church you don’t attend, in a city you don’t live, about a topic not addressed in a sermon about a different subject?

        • Why? Simply because people are asking, that’s why. What more reason do you need?
          Tell me, is there a stipulation that all media- books, CD’s and DVD’s of Pastor Stanley’s are to be sold only to those who attend this church in this particular city where he lives? No?? Then guess what, it’s out there and if the message is confusing, he needs to either clarify or let people assume what they will. But if the assumption is incorrect, don’t go crying “foul” later.

          • Why? Simply because people are asking, that’s why. What more reason do you need?
            Well that’s certainly arrogant and uncharitable (among other observations).
            .
            He doesn’t owe you anything, and demands to the contrary state more about your (lack of) character than anything about him. He’s not your pastor, and I see no reason he should waste time answering the demands of every Tom, Dick and Wesley who claims to have some beef.
            .
            Then guess what, it’s out there and if the message is confusing, he needs to either clarify or let people assume what they will. But if the assumption is incorrect, don’t go crying “foul” later.
            .
            Well, there is an assumption that the books, CD’s, etc. are being purchased by a Christian audience. This also assumes, then, that if they are Christians, they follow 1 Cor 13, rather than assuming the worst and “crying “foul””.
            .
            Apparently, though, this is a poor assumption with some Christians.

          • Chris,

            I think I stated this in one of my earlier comments, but I don’t think that Andy Stanley and NPCC can have it both ways. Their audience is obviously far larger than the Atlanta-area campuses of NPCC. Therefore, it would stand to reason that those who watch the sermons (even if only one) or purchase books/CD’s/DVD’s have some “investment” in Andy Stanley’s ministry. In a way, he does open himself up for questions (not demands) from folks who watch or read, particularly if something has the potential to be confusing. Of course, Andy Stanley is only accountable to his own church (elders, members, etc.). He does not owe me or Dr. Mohler or anyone else any explanation.

            However (you knew there would be one of these :-) ), I think that it is entirely reasonable — even within the confines of 1 Cor. 13 — for people to be left with a wrong impression which could easily be cleared up. That is slightly different than assuming. In the case of the wrong impression, I think the burden is on the one who has contributed to the wrong impression — in this case, Andy Stanley — to make things clear, especially when it is within his power to do so. Based largely upon the arguments that you, Adam, Dr. Coe, Daniel, and others have made, I have been somewhat dissuaded from holding onto a wrong impression. But, I cannot fault others who continue to hold what you and others claim is a wrong impression when Andy Stanley’s silence is, at least to many, still perplexing.

            Thanks, by the way, for the link in your recent post at “Prophets, Priests & Poets.” I would quibble somewhat with your characterization of “From Law to Grace” as an “ODM-ish” blog. You might have that impression from reading only a limited number of my posts. If you look at the totality of my posts, you will find that what you might label as “discernment” posts directed at particular ministries would be quite small. I can see how I might have inadvertantly contributed to that wrong impression, but I wanted to clear that up for you. See that, wasn’t difficult to do at all :-) Thanks and God bless,

            Howell

          • Howell,
            .
            While I think, from looking at your current front page, that my original characterization might not be too far off, per your observation, I toned the description down to only this article.
            .
            Probably the best response I’ve seen in this kerfuffle was Andrew Marin’s from Out of Ur.
            .
            What I think you are missing in all of this is that, in demanding an answer to a question you don’t struggle with – and if Pastor Stanley were to simply answer it as a “stance” – we are (or would be) exhibiting the very behavior we shouldn’t be exhibiting (see “Loopholes”). We are giving evidence that we weigh certain sins – ones we do not struggle with, at all – as worse than others. Sins that demand clarification every time they are mentioned.
            .
            I DO have friends who have ‘come out of the closet’ and left the church, because they did not – and do not – feel welcome there. And I consider this a tragedy that sinners do not find the church to be a place where they are welcome.
            .
            To quote from the PPP article:
            .
            The truth is, most of us – unless we have close family/friends dealing with this sin – have no true empathy or sympathy for what these folks are dealing with. When we tell them to “go and sin no more” (and constantly bring up 1 Cor 5, which we only reserve for the “really bad” sins like this one), what we fail to realize is that we’re also saying “Your only choices in life are to live single and alone, or to marry someone whom you have no – or little – attraction.” And that’s if they are not already in a relationship.
            .
            And if they have kids, that’s even messier.
            .
            How callous is it to flippantly demand someone “quit sinning” before God will accept them, when “quit sinning”, in our definition, may entail breaking off a relationship and making arrangements for a child?
            .
            Sin is horribly messy, and it’s awfully arrogant for us to try and take over for the Holy Spirit, when it comes to convicting someone else of sin and how they need to deal with it.
            .
            I think of a friend of mine who works with Masai people in Africa. Many of the Masai men are married to multiple wives. When they become Christians, the missionaries do not demand that they leave their polygamous relationships – which would often leave women and/or children destitute. With young, unmarried men the missionaries teach “one and done”, but for those already entangled in polygamy, there is no such easy answer.
            .
            This is why one of the best churches I’m familiar with, in dealing with the sin of homosexual practice, makes absolutely no public statement about homosexuality (though they consider it to be defined as sin in the Bible). When people come to them/call them and ask what their “stance” is on homosexuality, they first ask if the caller or a loved one is struggling with it. If so, they ask them to come in and meet, and then they counsel them as best fits their situation. If they or a loved one do not struggle with that particular sin, then their answer is “What is it to you?”
            .
            And this is brilliant.
            .
            Because the church has responded so poorly to this in the past, and the public perception of its treatment of it as a “special sin” (while comparatively ignoring rampant sins like divorce and adultery in the church) is so close to truth, the proper response of the church very well may be such an approach, to take the lightning out of the lightning-rod issue..

  27. Pingback: Prophets, Priests and Poets » Blog Archive » Andy Stanley, Grace, Truth and Homosexuality

  28. Howell said:
    I think I stated this in one of my earlier comments, but I don’t think that Andy Stanley and NPCC can have it both ways. Their audience is obviously far larger than the Atlanta-area campuses of NPCC. Therefore, it would stand to reason that those who watch the sermons (even if only one) or purchase books/CD’s/DVD’s have some “investment” in Andy Stanley’s ministry. In a way, he does open himself up for questions (not demands) from folks who watch or read, particularly if something has the potential to be confusing. –

    Thank you.
    In addition, I don’t think Stanley and his church realize another can of worms his silence is leading to which is, if practicing homosexuality is ok here than why can’t I bring in the wife swappers club, or drug dealers united? What, we’re going to allow some practicing sinners and not others?

    I contacted Northpoint and asked a question in reference to the sermon “When Gracie Met Truthy”
    Does Pastor Stanley support gay marriage?

    Here’s the reply:
    “He does not comment on political issues.”

    Political issues????????

    • Therefore, it would stand to reason that those who watch the sermons (even if only one) or purchase books/CD’s/DVD’s have some “investment” in Andy Stanley’s ministry. In a way, he does open himself up for questions (not demands) from folks who watch or read, particularly if something has the potential to be confusing.
      .
      And he’s answered the questions. If you’ve got a question about the implications of a 5-minute illustration from the middle of an 8-part series, listen to the 8-part series.
      .
      He’s given that answer rather clearly, and I think if you listen to all 8 parts – even if you only consider the context of your question – then you will have the appropriate answer to your question. It’s self-contained in the series that might raise that question from certain “Christian” camps.
      .
      On the other hand, if you’re too lazy to listen to the answer you were given, then why should you be engaged any further when apparently it really doesn’t mean all that much to you.
      .
      In addition, I don’t think Stanley and his church realize another can of worms his silence is leading to which is, if practicing homosexuality is ok here than why can’t I bring in the wife swappers club, or drug dealers united? What, we’re going to allow some practicing sinners and not others?
      .
      Well, reductio ad absurdum aside, I would hope that any church would hope that sinners would come to know Christ – be they simple liars and slanderers, or wife-swappers, or drug dealers, or “Christians”.
      .
      To be a slightly less flip – I would be willing to bet that, before you came to know Christ, you were a liar, and that you spoke falsely about someone else. I would also be willing to bet that you repented of this, at some point. And I would also be willing to bet that, despite your repenting, you have still lied and spoken falsely of someone else since then.
      .
      Are you any different?
      .
      Paul didn’t think so:
      .

      “We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”

      .
      Why should the church make an exception for you, a liar, and extend grace to you, but not for someone who has engaged in homosexual practice? Does your church purge liars before they even attempt to become members? When a preacher mentions lying/liars in a sermon without making it crystal clear that they are S-I-N-N-I-N-G, do you call his church and write blog posts demanding that he answer whether or not lying is a sin?
      .
      If you do, you’ve got much worse problems than anyone in Andy’s story. (And maybe you do.)
      .
      North Point hasn’t opened any “can of worms”. They’ve just ticked off today’s Pharisees and teachers of the law, who stand to the side and complain “they are eating with tax-collectors, sinners and prostitutes – are they not condoning such behavior by not taking the opportunity to condemn it?!?”
      .
      “I contacted Northpoint and asked a question in reference to the sermon “When Gracie Met Truthy”
      Does Pastor Stanley support gay marriage?
      Here’s the reply:
      “He does not comment on political issues.”
      Political issues????????

      .
      I will take it that perhaps you’ve mixed up the newspapers and the Bible. The political news right now is all about “gay marriage” (a political issue – unless you want to argue that all sides in the argument are Christians, and they their arguments, on both sides, are all based on Christian theology).
      .
      On the flip side, the Bible doesn’t say a word about “gay marriage”.
      .
      The phrase “gay marriage”, while there are some religious tie-ins for Christians, is political issue in America right now, and North Point, as a general rule, and Andy Stanley, specifically, do not comment on most political issues.
      .
      If you want to know why, I would reference The Separation of Church and Hate, which explains why in fairly minute detail.
      .
      If you want to see their “exception” to the rule (which isn’t all that much of one), I would reference their Recovery Road series.

  29. Chris L said:
    Well that’s certainly arrogant and uncharitable (among other observations).

    He doesn’t owe you anything, and demands to the contrary state more about your (lack of) character than anything about him. He’s not your pastor, and I see no reason he should waste time answering the demands of every Tom, Dick and Wesley who claims to have some beef.
    ****

    Sorry, but people don’t have to walk thru Northpoint’s doors in order for Stanley to be their pastor. But hey, if that’s the attitude, then I don’t need to be buying his books or supporting his ministries.

    Since when is asking a question of a pastor “arrogant” or “uncharitable?”
    What’s the deal- You bought the book, I already cashed the check,so get lost??

    The “stance” appears to be, the Bible already says homosexuality is a sin, so I don’t need to talk about it. Fine, then you don’t need to talk about adultery either because the same logic applies.
    In fact, it applies to all sins, so what do I need you for, Pastor?

    .

  30. Since when is asking a question of a pastor “arrogant” or “uncharitable?”
    .
    Let’s see… when they come from an automatic assumption of wrongdoing, they are “uncharitable”, and when they are pushy – as if they are owed an answer – that kind of fits the definition of “arrogant”. It could just be that we have different manners in my part of the world, but that’s just me.
    .
    And when you’ve been given and answer (which Andy gave – “Listen to the whole series!”), and are too lazy to do so, whose problem is this?
    .
    Sorry, but people don’t have to walk thru Northpoint’s doors in order for Stanley to be their pastor.
    .
    Maybe I missed something, but Andy’s title is “Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church”. So, unless you are a member of “North Point Community Church”, he’s no more your pastor than Billy Graham is your pastor when you watch him on an old video, or that Rob Bell is your pastor because you watched a NOOMA video.
    .
    If you’re not a member of his church, he’s not your pastor, so you might as well stop the Obama-blame-shifting routine now, for all our sakes.
    .
    Oh.
    .
    And if you’re not struggling with the sins related to homosexuality, or you’re not trying to help a loved one through them, you’ve got no pressing need to know (or care) what Andy Stanley’s position on homosexuality is. The last time I checked, the Gospel of Christ didn’t include “oh, and by the way, homosexuality is a sin that you need to specifically call out, or else it’s not the Gospel.”
    .
    The “stance” appears to be, the Bible already says homosexuality is a sin, so I don’t need to talk about it. Fine, then you don’t need to talk about adultery either because the same logic applies.
    .
    I guess this is logical fallacy day, huh? Since this whole “controversy” from the Pharisee crowd is already argumentum e silentio, what’s a straw man on top of it?
    .
    Not at all.
    .
    First, let’s deal with the argumentum e silentio, only we will apply it to the example of Jesus, given in that same sermon, just before illustration in question. When the woman who was caught in adultery was brought before Jesus, what were his words to her?
    .

    Jesus:”Has no one condemned you?”
    .
    Woman: “No one, sir.”
    .
    Jesus: “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

    .
    So, Jesus did not specifically call out the woman’s sin of adultery. If we wanted to go by your (and Howell, et al’s) logic in attacking Andy Stanley for being “unclear” on homosexuality, we could just as easily attack Jesus for being “unclear” on adultery (along with tax-collecting, sinning, and prostitution).
    .
    And now the straw man argument you’ve just made.
    .
    Pastors do not have unlimited time in their sermons, nor should they take every sermon illustration and examine it from every possible angle. In fact, part of being a pastor is knowing your particular flock (which is likely much, much different than the flock 100 miles away), and knowing what it is they need to (and don’t need to) hear.
    .
    If you had actually listened to the answer you were given, you’d have listened to the sermon in the series which dealt with how “Christians” like to hammer sinners with the sins that the “Christians” don’t really struggle with all that much, while at the same time looking for loopholes (or soft-pedaling) the sins they *do* deal with.
    .
    Homosexuality it one of those favorite sins that Christians absolutely, positively love to harp on and get incredibly specific on, and (lo and behold) create a special orthodoxy on. When I was growing up, the favorite sin of the church to harp on was divorce. Before that, it was interracial marriage. Before that, it was women who spoke up in church. Etc., etc.
    .
    But today, since we’ve made it pretty clear that we won’t welcome anyone but a completely recovered homosexual in the doors of a church, we are totally free to harp on this sin to our heart’s desire. And it feels good, because we’re preaching to the choir. And we can get good and angry about it when someone disagrees, because we know we’re not stepping on anybody’s toes (at least anyone who matters).
    .
    On the flip side, the divorce rate (and the rate of adultery) in the church is not all that different from that of the public at large.
    .
    When I open the Bible, I find about three verses that deal with homosexuality, but I find dozens that deal with infidelity and divorce.
    .
    So – if I were a pastor, and I wanted to actually, you know, pastor my church, it seems to me that I might choose to emphasize a sin that seems to be a problem in the church, while remaining silent on another that a) they don’t deal with; and b) that requires some bridge-building if you actually want to help bring some sinners to salvation.
    .
    On the flip side, if I just want to pander to the itching ears of my flock, I’ll preach about homosexuality a couple times a year, and I’ll hammer on it till the cows come home. And that way, I won’t ever have to worry that a homosexual might visit my church.

    • “So, Jesus did not specifically call out the woman’s sin of adultery. If we wanted to go by your (and Howell, et al’s) logic in attacking Andy Stanley for being “unclear” on homosexuality, we could just as easily attack Jesus for being “unclear” on adultery (along with tax-collecting, sinning, and prostitution).”

      Chris,

      You are obviously fired up about this issue. I suppose that Wesley has touched a nerve. Far be it from me to give you advice on how you want to present your defense of Andy Stanley, but you should have quit while you were ahead :-) If you think it would be “just as easy to attack Jesus” for being unclear in his encounter with the woman caught in adultery as it is to “attack” Andy Stanley for his perhaps intentional ambiguity, then we may have different meanings of the word “unclear.” I do appreciate your passion, but you might want to dial that passion in just a bit, IMO. You and others have made strong points about why Andy Stanley did not clarify what to many was a clearly confusing sermon illustration. I am as comfortable as I can be with that argument. However, in light of your dialogue with Wesley (including your apparent contention that “gay marriage” is a “political issue” with only “some religious tie-ins for Christians and that “the Bible doesn’t say a word about gay marriage”), I am beginning to have more (and different) questions than before. I’m not sure that anyone (myself included) has been arguing that “we won’t welcome anyone but a completely recovered homosexual in the doors of a church.” I should hope that every church which claims the name of Christ and preaches/teaches His Gospel would welcome sinners of any kind to the church.

      However, I do not believe that folks who are practicing homosexuals (or heterosexual couples living together without benefit of marriage) — who have no intention of repenting and turning from that sin — are proper candidates for either baptism and/or church membership. No one is expecting folks to be perfect when they get saved and begin to follow Jesus. Everyone, including pastors, backslides and struggles with sin. However, there is a difference between struggling and settling. If a homosexual recognizes (by the conviction of the Holy Spirit) that this “lifestyle” is sinful and wants to turn their life over to Jesus, then by all means, let them be baptized and join the church. That goes for the young heterosexual couple who are simply fornicating or the middle-aged couple who are having an extra-marital affair. But, if they have not recognized the obvious sin in their life and have no intention of turning from this sin, then they would be “welcome” at church but should not be baptized or formally join a local church. Perhaps we are saying the same thing, but in a different way. Blog posts and comments do have a tendency to cause folks to talk past one another in an effort to score points. Thanks again and God bless,

      Howell

      • Howell,

        I agree with you about the difference between struggling and settling. I also believe that no one who is cognizant of their sin and simply shakes their fist at God and continues in that sin should be allowed to join the church or baptized (if I were the pastor, anyway). However, (and I will say it again) homosexuality is a hot button amongst conservative Christians in that it is a less acceptable sin than all the other sins in the bible and that little grace is extended to homosexuals compared to other sinners. I am not so sure Andy didn’t think to himself as he was writing his message “Can I get away with mentioning homosexuality in a sermon and not condemn it, or will there be a huge call from “Christians” for me to condemn it? The question was answered resoundingly and I think that is a sad commentary on us as disciples of Christ.

        • Dr. Coe,

          I do agree with you that homosexuality has been elevated by many Christians and churches to a special category of sin. Perhaps sins are “less acceptable” when they are not our sins or we don’t even know anyone who is struggling with that particular sin. This maybe a matter of semantics and I can only speak for myself, but I wasn’t looking for Andy Stanley to “condemn” homosexuality as much as I was looking for him clarify what was a confusing illustration. There is no question that his illustration (based on a real-life situation) was well planned, right down to the nifty graphics. You maybe right about the questions that Andy was asking himself as he prepared the illustration. I know others have argued that those of us who were confused were missing the point of the illustration. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that is correct. In delivering his illustration, in which he apparently had no problems in clearly “condemning” the sin of adultery, I am still perplexed as to why Andy Stanley could not have included a gentle word about the rather obvious sin of homosexuality? It was, after all, his illustration. Even if it was not the main point of his illustration, surely Andy Stanley, as a master communicator, could have used some language within the story itself to convey even a subtle message that he did not condone the homosexual sin either.

          Maybe I’m expecting too much. Admittedly, I’m looking at this from my own perspective as a pastor and how I would not want to be misunderstood. I understand that NPCC is walking a fine line in trying to reach out to the homosexual community with the love and transforming power of the Gospel while neither condemning the sinner, but not condoning the sin. In some respects, it’s a double-edged sword. Go too far in one direction and fellow Evangelical/Conservative Christians are all over you. Go too far in the other direction and you are seen as hating gays. Perhaps that’s where Andy Stanley finds himself. I do think that this could have been avoided with a minor tweak of his illustration, but that is water under the bridge at this point. Based largely on some of the arguments that have been made on my blog — including yours — I am taking people at their word that NPCC is walking that fine line. However, I do not blame others for not coming to that same conclusion. I appreciate you taking the time to comment again today. God bless,

          Howell

        • Stuart,
          .
          I very much agree with you. I went ahead and sat down and re-listened to all eight sermons in a row, and – after doing so – it does seem probable that Andy’s mentioning it and not commenting on it was, as it were, a “living parable”, where those offended by it would be self-identifying as the “Christians” (rather than disciples) the series had identified at the outset.
          .
          By introducing the parable of the Prodigal Son the next week, and camping out on the older brother for awhile, in addition to his early comments on how Christians, if they are doing what Jesus did, ought to be attractive to today’s “tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes” and repulsive to the “Pharisees and teachers of the law”. Which was when he came back to this particular phrase:
          .

          People may misunderstand your grace towards sinners as somehow condoning their sin, but that is not the case.

          .
          And so, we come to the parable of the two lost sons, one who returned to the Father but felt unworthy to be in his family, and the other who was mad as his Dad because he agreed with his brother.

          • Chris L
            And so, we come to the parable of the two lost sons, one who returned to the Father but felt unworthy to be in his family, and the other who was mad as his Dad because he agreed with his brother.
            ****
            Difference being that the prodigal son left slopping the pigs behind him, he didn’t drag all his worldly desires with him, ask for grace and keep on behaving in this manner.

            Jesus said, neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.

            How that gets translated into, neither do I condemn you, now go gather your lovers together and come to church where we promise not to say a word about it, is beyond me.

            It’s amazing how Jesus words are always used as an example, but rarely used in the pulpit because heaven forbid we might “offend” somebody.

            In what part of the Bible will I find, church attendance = salvation?

          • “I went ahead and sat down and re-listened to all eight sermons in a row, and – after doing so – it does seem probable that Andy’s mentioning it and not commenting on it was, as it were, a “living parable”, where those offended by it would be self-identifying as the “Christians” (rather than disciples) the series had identified at the outset.”

            Chris,

            You’re starting to lose me here. Lest I misunderstand you because of my own lack of reading comphrehension, I have two questions for clarification. Is being confused by Andy Stanley’s illustration and asking for clarification the same as being offended by the illustration? Whether one was offended or merely confused by an illustration that could have been misunderstood, does that now mean that anyone who was so offended or confused is somehow merely a “Christian” (a term meant to be somewhat negative in connotation as used by Andy Stanley) as opposed to a disciple of Christ? I’m not sure that is the argument you are trying to make, so any clarification would be helpful. Thanks and God bless,

            Howell

          • Howell,

            Is being confused by Andy Stanley’s illustration and asking for clarification the same as being offended by the illustration?
            .
            While you may not be in that particular boat, a number of the calls for “clarification” are clearly offended that homosexual practice was not called out/clarified as a sin. Also, if you “need” clarification, but you are not struggling with the sin, it does not seem that you have any true need for clarification, which also implies some level of offense.
            .
            does that now mean that anyone who was so offended or confused is somehow merely a “Christian” (a term meant to be somewhat negative in connotation as used by Andy Stanley) as opposed to a disciple of Christ?
            .
            See my previous answer. If the Scriptures are our mirror, and we are “offended” (or unclear) about whether someone else is being allowed to “get away with” a sin that we do not struggle with, then we are in the shoes of the Older Brother in the story of the Prodigal Son. As disciples, it should be our desire to be the part of the Father in the story.
            .
            Wesley,

            Difference being that the prodigal son left slopping the pigs behind him, he didn’t drag all his worldly desires with him, ask for grace and keep on behaving in this manner.
            .
            Apparently you’ve not listened to Part Six of the series, which means you’re still complaining Andy hasn’t answered you, when you still haven’t listened to the first answer he gave you.
            .
            How that gets translated into, neither do I condemn you, now go gather your lovers together and come to church where we promise not to say a word about it, is beyond me.
            .
            It’s beyond me, as well, since you’re the only one making that uncharitable assumption without even bothering to have listened to the answer you were given.
            .
            In what part of the Bible will I find, church attendance = salvation?
            .
            In what part of the Bible will you find that having the right orthodox belief = salvation?
            .
            Most believers I know who became believers as adults were first “attenders” somewhere before they were “believers”. (And most “believers” didn’t become “believers” in a single moment, it was a process, over time, where they were in community with believers who showed love to them.)
            .
            Again, you’re demonstrating that you are too lazy to listen to the answer you were given, because Stanley addressed that, as well…

      • You are obviously fired up about this issue. I suppose that Wesley has touched a nerve
        .
        Howell, I am a little fired up, for a few reasons. 1) I’m a recovering legalist, and (like the ex-alcoholic) I may overreact when rejecting legalism; 2) I have a close friend who has left the church because, after revealing he is attracted to the same sex, he could no longer feel welcome there. He and I have talked since then, and I never realized how simple things I say or do – “trying to hate the sin and love the sinner” – still create unnecessary hurt, or that the answer many churches give for this sin are completely incongruous with the answers they give for other sins; and 3) When people who don’t struggle with this sin demand answers (through all sorts of convoluted logic, as we’ve seen above) they aren’t *really* looking for clarification, because they are clear with what they believe. They are, unconsciously, driving wedges that need not exist.
        .
        To go back to the sermon series and “Loopholes”, in particular, Scripture in the hands of a “Christian” is a mace, to be used in identifying other people’s sins. In the hands of a disciple, Scripture is a mirror, that should convict us of our own sin. Sin, to a “Christian” makes them demand answers and pull out verses to show they are ‘right’. Sin, to a disciple, breaks their heart, whether it is their own sin or someone else’s.
        .
        Yes, there is a time to be clear that homosexual practice is a sin. I did so in this thread, simply because I did not want to waste time arguing whether or not it is one. In the case of his illustration, I leave it Andy’s wisdom and prayerful consideration as to whether it was ‘proper’ to not explicitly address homosexual sin. Whether intentional or not, it has had the effect of a parable that makes clear who understands the parable, and who still has a whole lot of work to do.
        .
        As for whether this ‘touches a nerve’?
        .
        My primary area of study in my faith journey over the past 15 years has been in the first-century context of Scripture and the culture in which Christ lived – looking at Jesus’ teaching through Middle-eastern eyes.
        .
        There were only a few times where we see Jesus get truly angry at someone/something. The most obvious one is the “Cleansing of the Temple”, which was all about the efforts of the “Righteous” to exclude (and possibly cheat) the sinners and Gentiles from the Temple. (see here).
        .
        As such, I would like to reserve my anger for those occasions where this is the case. I want to be like my Rabbi, and I want to be angered by those things that angered him and I want to be broken-hearted by those things that broke his heart.
        .
        You didn’t see him involved in the “butt sniffing” (think of when two strange dogs meet) that so many Evangelicals (particularly those of the Reformed stripe seem to) get involved with, making mountains of molehills and (nearly) always siding with law over grace. When you look at what set Jesus off on a rant (think Matthew 23), it was when the religious folk shut the doors of the Kingdom in the faces of sinners.
        .
        However, in light of your dialogue with Wesley (including your apparent contention that “gay marriage” is a “political issue” with only “some religious tie-ins for Christians and that “the Bible doesn’t say a word about gay marriage”)
        .
        Homosexual practice is an issue of sin, and is covered in the Bible. “Marriage” in America has dual tracks – in one sense, it is a religious sacrament. In another sense, it has become an official function/title/label granted by the State. By giving control of “Marriage” to the State, the church no longer has exclusive control of it, for better or worse.
        .
        The Bible doesn’t address “gay marriage” (because it is already assumed that homosexual practice is a sin). In America, when we ask about one’s “stance” on “gay marriage”, we are asking a political question (Should the state allow members of the same sex to marry?), not “Is homosexual practice a sin?”. The first is a political question, the second is a theological question.
        .
        North Point labelled the question correctly, as a political question, and their policy is not to make political statements.
        .
        I’m not sure that anyone (myself included) has been arguing that “we won’t welcome anyone but a completely recovered homosexual in the doors of a church.”
        .
        Whether you know it or not, from Wesley’s questions and the sampling of articles on the front page of your blog, you’ve already made it rather clear that you would not ever have to worry about that question, because people struggling with that sin would not be all that likely to ever come to you in the first place.
        .
        North Point wants to reach all sinners – to be a “church for the unchurched” – which means walking along that knife edge, the “tension” between grace and truth. They may get it wrong, from time-to-time, but it seems to me that this time, they’ve gotten it right.
        .
        However, there is a difference between struggling and settling.
        .
        I agree. Unfortunately, this is not a one-size-fits-all answer when dealing with people who have been living in deep-rooted sin, that could be as much a product of biology as a product of environment (another argument Christians get into with the GBLT community that is counterproductive.) And because there is so much nuance, and because the church has historically behaved badly in this arena, if a pastor doesn’t want to make public “stands” or “statements” on the sin of homosexuality, but would rather handle those issues 1-on-1, I’m going to grant him that charity, and I’m not going to throw a public tantrum and demand answers from him.
        .
        But, if they have not recognized the obvious sin in their life and have no intention of turning from this sin, then they would be “welcome” at church but should not be baptized or formally join a local church. Perhaps we are saying the same thing, but in a different way.
        .
        In some ways, we might be. As I understand NPCC’s policy, if you have blatant sin in your life and no desire to turn, they won’t baptize you. Even so, being attracted to the same sex is not a sin in and of itself, and I know of one individual who did not believe she would ever be attracted to a man (and so identified as a ‘celibate lesbian’) who was baptized into a church – to the horror of some of the members.
        .
        As for the example in question, just to re-center: What the man was volunteering for was something that NPCC allows non-members to do: hold doors, pass out programs, park cars, etc. – but it is also the only church that I know of with a multi-page application to do so, which includes sexual and moral standards expected of someone who wants to volunteer to do so.
        .
        Does your church screen people to make sure they are Christians and that they are members of your church, before you will hand them a pile of programs to hand out to people as they walk into your Sunday morning service? While NPCC allows non-members to do this type of thing, you cannot work with children, worship, production or any sort of leadership unless you pass a much more rigorous screen (which, yes, includes homosexual practice in its list of disqualifiers, along with drug use, adultery, “shacking up”, and other areas of sin).

  31. Chris L-
    Maybe I missed something, but Andy’s title is “Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church”. So, unless you are a member of “North Point Community Church”, he’s no more your pastor than Billy Graham is your pastor when you watch him on an old video, or that Rob Bell is your pastor because you watched a NOOMA video.
    .
    If you’re not a member of his church, he’s not your pastor, so you might as well stop the Obama-blame-shifting routine now, for all our sakes.
    ******

    You have definitely missed something. Why do you suppose the option of watching/donating online is made available? Not all church members live on your street. Some people have a higher criteria regarding their choice of pastors, requiring more than just location convenience.

    But I’ll tell you what, I’d be real happy to send Pastor Stanley your responses concerning church membership and pastoring, just to see what he has to say about it. I guess this needs clarification also, and hopefully I won’t have to sit thru 8 hours of sermons to get the answer.

    • Wesley,

      Why do you suppose the option of watching/donating online is made available?
      .
      Because not all members are able to be there every week, and some (like my family members who attend there) want to stay connected when they are away from Atlanta.
      .
      But I’ll tell you what, I’d be real happy to send Pastor Stanley your responses concerning church membership and pastoring, just to see what he has to say about it.
      .
      I’m not sure what the chip is on your shoulder here, or why you seem to be wanting to demand these answers from a guy who’s not your pastor, but, I guess, um, knock yourself out, dude.
      .
      hopefully I won’t have to sit thru 8 hours of sermons to get the answer.
      .
      I’m not sure why your laziness in listening to the answer to the all-burning question you wanted to ask warrants any additional response. Seriously, the answer to your question is in the sermon series, and I’m not sure the depth and subtlety required would warrant a shorter answer.
      .
      AS the sermon ends, we have one big happy family, some heterosexual relationships, some homosexual relationships, singing Christmas carols and burning marriage certificates over the yule log. [remaining nasty screed snipped]
      .
      On second thought, if you’re going to have a level of charity so small that it cannot be measured, you might want to spend that eight hours looking for a hermetically sealed box in which to tape yourself for the remainder of your life.
      .
      It is rather obvious that your claim to care for sinners when compared to your (mis)characterization of them, proves your words to be a lie. You would drive them away (justifiably so) in an instant.
      .
      Rather than listen to any sermons, you should just go read Matthew 23, as it was written specifically with you in mind.

  32. Howell said:
    I’m not sure that anyone (myself included) has been arguing that “we won’t welcome anyone but a completely recovered homosexual in the doors of a church.” I should hope that every church which claims the name of Christ and preaches/teaches His Gospel would welcome sinners of any kind to the church.
    However, I do not believe that folks who are practicing homosexuals (or heterosexual couples living together without benefit of marriage) — who have no intention of repenting and turning from that sin — are proper candidates for either baptism and/or church membership. No one is expecting folks to be perfect when they get saved and begin to follow Jesus. Everyone, including pastors, backslides and struggles with sin. However, there is a difference between struggling and settling. If a homosexual recognizes (by the conviction of the Holy Spirit) that this “lifestyle” is sinful and wants to turn their life over to Jesus, then by all means, let them be baptized and join the church. That goes for the young heterosexual couple who are simply fornicating or the middle-aged couple who are having an extra-marital affair. But, if they have not recognized the obvious sin in their life and have no intention of turning from this sin, then they would be “welcome” at church but should not be baptized or formally join a local church.
    *****

    I second your statement.
    AS the sermon ends, we have one big happy family, some heterosexual relationships, some homosexual relationships, singing Christmas carols and burning marriage certificates over the yule log.

    Will Pastor Stanley be officiating at the wedding of either of these couples in the near future? Since it’s not necessary for the gay couple to be married to have sex, why should it be necessary for the ex-wife an her new boyfriend? How about the two little girls? Lesbianism ok? Questions? Here, watch this series and find out.

    Oh look, when Gracie met Truthy.
    Aren’t we right back to square one?

  33. I am not sure anyone’s mind is going to be changed on this. This comment makes 85 on this post. Neither side is moving.

    What I do think might be a useful discussion is about ecclesiology. I think there are at least three questions that are import (probably more.) 1) What does it mean to be a part of a body of Christ that is physically apart from you as an individual. I think this is particularly important as internet church, podcasts and other methods mean that people consider a person their pastor even if they have never attended a service in person.

    2) How can we appropriately hold someone accountable for a message when we are not a part of their congregation, or if we can’t what does that really when we think about the church universal. There are pastors that I frequently disagree with. So even though I have been primarily speaking in favor of Andy Stanley as my pastors (I am a member) I have in the past questioned other famous and not so famous pastors on specific sermons. I want to be appropriate both to allow for questions, but to not overstep bounds.

    3) What is the role between reaching out to non-Christians and maintaining orthodoxy. This seems to be the primary question for this sermon. On the one side we have people that are claiming that reaching out is more important. On the other, we have people that say that if you are reaching out improperly, it doesn’t matter that you are reaching out.

    I think it is possible to have a loving conversation about ecclesiology, even though we will likely have some different opinions. But it is unlikely that we will come to any meaningful conclusion on the topic of this particular blog post.

    • Adam,
      .
      I believe that Howell has engaged in honest, collegial debate, and I believe we are closer on some things than it appears.
      .
      1) If you look at the church, as it was designed and executed – and the culture it came from – the key component of the local ecclesia is community. The time where the community comes together to sing songs, share in the sacraments, and listen to some teaching is but a small facet of what the church is to be.
      .
      North Point, as executed, is a church of small groups that come together once a week to worship together in multiple locations. I would also note that, while the sermons are made available via podcast/video, there are only a handful of online services each week, at specific times, which include all parts of the service. While it shares the sacrament of baptism in its weekend services, communion and fellowship are shared as part of its small groups, not its weekend services.
      .
      I would say that, ecclesiologically speaking, if you are not physically connected to a small group within your church or any of its activities, outside of an hour on Sunday, you are not actually a member of that community.
      .
      2) Somewhere, we must trust the Holy Spirit to do the job we were told it would do here on earth. (O We of Little Faith). Additionally, most churches have a reasonable accountability structure in place, that holds its staff to account for their words and actions. From what I know of NPCC and similarly structured large churches, senior pastors do not speak or teach in a vacuum, and “controversial” messages/series do not catch them unawares.
      .
      Most differences in opinion do not rise to the level of “heresy”, and unless something is *obvious* heresy, I’m not sure it is the place of non-members of that community to discipline their pastors (or, a la Ken Silva, to declare fatwas on them). For example, I strenuously object to certain bits of Calvinism (and any systematic theology), but I regularly listen to Mark Driscoll, discounting the bits of Calvin that show up now and then (which also gives me a chance to discuss my disagreement w/ any kids/passengers who might be with me). Even so, I would never dream of taking to the airwaves to “warn” the internets about him, as I would hope that God would have as much mercy on any errors in their theology as I most likely have in my own.
      .
      3) Non-believers have no real appreciation of “orthodoxy”, and when we try to make them follow “orthodox” behavior before they’ve even decided whether they want to take part in following Jesus, we end up putting our own sense of personal righteousness above loving them. This is not to say that “orthodoxy” is unimportant, but, rather, that the gospel is what is paramount, and its components do not contain the minutiae most Christians fight over.

    • Adam,

      I appreciate your continued contribution to the dialogue. I would not say that neither side is moving. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have moved from my initial position based largely on some of the comments that you and others have made. I will say that how one argues the case — tone and actual words used — will go along way in either persuading someone to move or else to become fixed in their position. When we try to find commonality on the big things and continue to agree to disagree agreeably or charitably on the lessor things, then progress is made. I don’t always succeed in disagreeing charitably (or gracefully), but I find that approach far more beneficial than the alternative. Thanks again and God bless,

      Howell

  34. For myself, I’m not interested in anybody moving anything.
    Nor am I interested in dictating to someone how they preach.
    All I wanted was clarification of a very confusing message.
    And never EVER in my 25+ years of chaplaincy have I ever come across a pastor, chaplain, elder, deacon or even Sunday school teacher who refused to answer a question about something they taught. This is a first for me, and I find it totally bizarre.

    • “And never EVER in my 25+ years of chaplaincy have I ever come across a pastor, chaplain, elder, deacon or even Sunday school teacher who refused to answer a question about something they taught. This is a first for me, and I find it totally bizarre.”

      Wesley,

      I can’t say that I disagree with your conclusion. I continue to find Andy Stanley’s silence on this question perplexing. As others have argued, he may have good (and even valid) reasons for not clarifying something that many (most?) pastors, chaplains, elders, deacons, and Sunday School teachers would have clarified had they been asked the question. Be that as it may, his silence may leave a wrong impression that was not necessary (it was his illustration, after all, and he told it just like he wanted), but you or anyone else still confused are not wrong to seek clarification. It may not be forthcoming, but I don’t think it is wrong to ask, particularly if done in a non-confrontational way. Thanks for the spirited dialogue. God bless,

      Howell

      • I agree, it may not have been intentional.
        But his continued silence on the matter seems to indicate that it was.

        At any rate, the message I am left with is regarding the teachings of Andy Stanley is to move on. There’s no sense listening lest another “miscommunication” arise and I’m left guessing again. What’s the point?
        If I wanted unreachable clergy, I could have joined the Roman Catholics. No thanks.
        Hey Charles- Have a talk with that boy!

        Thank you Howell for an interesting blog. God Bless!

  35. Wesley: And never EVER in my 25+ years of chaplaincy have I ever come across a pastor, chaplain, elder, deacon or even Sunday school teacher who refused to answer a question about something they taught.
    .
    He has answered it. You’re just too lazy to listen to the answer, since it isn’t a simple yes/no answer. After you have listened to the sermon series, if you still don’t get it, you might have a leg to stand on. Otherwise, you’ve only got yourself to blame.
    .
    He answered the question. Go listen to the answer. It’s that simple.
    .
    Howell: I continue to find Andy Stanley’s silence on this question perplexing.
    .
    Howell – he did answer the question. Have you listened to the entire series? The necessary answers are all there…

  36. To Chris L,
    Are you Andy’s personal P.R. person? Why do you have to attack anyone who just wants to know the truth about what NorthPoint stands for? Right now with homosexuality and gay marriage at the forefront of our November presidential elections this is a question that should be asked! And, a pastor should be prepared to answer! Why can’t Andy just say “I won’t tell you what I have to say about homosexuality, but I will tell you what God’s word says about homosexuality.” There, he answered it without putting himself into hot water. Then, if someone wants to argue with God’s word they can go directly to God! He tells us in Jude that in the last days apostasy will grow like wildfire. We are to be careful, we are to be vigilant…we are to ask questions! We must watch out for those who secretly slip into our churches and change the grace of God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
    You keep telling everyone to show Andy grace but I haven’t heard one bit of grace from you!

    • Are you Andy’s personal P.R. person?
      If I was, I’m certainly not being paid enough.
      .
      Snarking aside, I am a guy who is part of a group of bloggers who, for the past 7 years or so, get involved in responding to “friendly fire” incidents of Christians (usually armchair “discernmentalists”) unfairly/uncharitably attacking other Christians (usually pastors of churches they’ve never attended, and never would attend, even if they lived next door to them). That’s me.
      .
      Why do you have to attack anyone who just wants to know the truth about what NorthPoint stands for?
      If you want the truth of what they stand for, look at their web page. All of the actually important stuff is there.
      .
      If you’re wanting questions answered about a 5-minute snippet from the middle of Sermon #5 in an 8-part series, you’ve been given an answer by the man who preached it: Listen to all eight parts of the series and (hopefully) you will “get it”. If you’re unwilling to listen to the answer you’ve been given, then I’d say it’s rather evident you don’t really care about the answer to your question.
      .
      Now, if you happen to be an actual member of North Point, I’d say to talk to your LG leader or your campus pastor, and they will be happy to meet with you and discuss whatever issues you might have.
      .
      November presidential elections this is a question that should be asked! And, a pastor should be prepared to answer!
      Why is that, exactly? I thought he was a pastor, not a politician.
      .
      But actually, he has answered that question, as well, here.
      .
      This reminds me quite a bit of Rick Warren and Proposition 8, 4 years ago in California. A LOT of churches were hosting rallies and pushing hard for Proposition 8, but Rick Warren and Saddleback were completely silent on the issue for the first 9+ months of the year. There were all sorts of calls for RW to put his $$$ and influence behind the effort, with taunts of “silence on homosexuality is affirmation” (sound familiar?). Finally, about a week before the election, Warren released a video to members of Saddleback saying that he believed marriage to be only between a man and a woman. Most in-state critics shut up at that point, the ODM’s (who hate Warren no matter what he says/does) said it wasn’t good enough, and – after Prop 8 passed, Saddleback was picketed by all sorts of pro-gay protersters.
      .
      And then Warren accepted an invitation to pray at Zero’s inauguration, and the Christians and gays finally agreed on something: they hated Warren for accepting the invitation. I remember this quite vividly, as Rick Warren’s wikipedia page was locked down in mediation for the next six months, with me as the primary editor preventing a gang of pro-gay editors from tarring Warren as a homophobe who “actively campaigned against gay marriage”.
      .
      Personally, I thought Warren should have stuck to his guns and remained silent. The result of his public statement (which wouldn’t have swayed voters from either side, but only served to get “Christian” critics off his back) was a large number of burned bridges, where Saddleback was trying to reach out to members of the gay community.
      .
      And so it is that Pastor Stanley should avoid any public statement “clarifying” an issue that is actually quite clear to the people asking the question, and – theologically speaking – not all that important as it pertains to the Gospel.
      .
      He tells us in Jude that in the last days apostasy will grow like wildfire [blah blah blah]. You keep telling everyone to show Andy grace but I haven’t heard one bit of grace from you!
      I am giving the critics (typically in the approximate volume they are asking) the same answer given by Jesus to their predecessors (who were angry at Jesus for loving sinners and opposing those who would shut them out of the Kingdom) in Matthew 21:12-17 and Matthew 23, along with the response given by the Father to the Older Son in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
      .
      You are saved. What does it matter to you what a pastor at a church you don’t attend in a community you don’t live has as his “stance” on a sin you will never in your life commit? What business is it of yours? Answer: None.

    • Just a follow-up question/observation (that won’t make sense until my previous comment comes out of moderation, since it included links in it).
      .
      Let me ask it a different way:
      .
      What if satisfying your “need to know” a “clear and public” answer (to a sin you don’t even struggle with) would result in burning bridges and lost lives in the community of sinners actually served by the church you don’t attend?
      .
      If that was the case, is your “need to know” more important than their hearing the Gospel?
      .
      You, like the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, live in your father’s house. Everything there is yours. Sin should break your heart, not make you angry and opposed to your prodigal brother. .
      Is your need to be right more important than his need to come home?
      .
      THAT is the issue at the core of this. And THAT is why the “Christian” critics ought to know better.
      .
      If you want to know more, you’ve already been given the answer. Go listen to all eight parts of the series with only this topic in mind, if you’d like. If you really want to know, and if you have ears to hear you will have your answer.

  37. Actually, Chris L, I do live in Alpharetta, Georgia. My kids go to school with Andy’s kids and I have been to NorthPoint many times, although I am not a member. I am a member at a small church not far from NorthPoint. I have several neighbors who are members of Northpoint and my life coincides with theirs in many areas-Bible studies, parenting, local sports…you get the picture. This is the community I live in. It is, in fact, my business, and many other Christians business, to know what churches are teaching because as Christians we are indeed told to beware of what teachings are going on around us. If someone is being led astray, then it is my job to take the word of God to them to help them get on track with God’s word. So, if a church won’t clarify exactly where they stand on an issue that is so in-your-face then it makes me wonder what they are hiding.

    Absolutely clergy should respond to Obama’s call to legalize homosexual marriage in the US! If they have their head in the sand about our nations’ leaders then they are in the wrong profession! I do agree…anyone should be allowed to attend a church-but if the pastor is condoning outright sin then the people have a right to know! I actually left a church up north because, from the pulpit, the pastor said that there is no sin in homosexuality. I went to the pastor directly, with 5 different Bible translations, and told him that I could not support a church that changes God’s word.

    BTW-I have supported Northpoint many times over the past several years by attending different functions(some that I’ve paid $ to attend) and by giving to support it’s short-term missions projects. So, yes, this is actually very much my business.

    You, however, actually have no right to comment here-according to your own words-“You are saved. What does it matter to you what a pastor at a church you don’t attend in a community you don’t live has as his “stance” on a sin you will never in your life commit? What business is it of yours? Answer: None.”

    • Karen,

      So, if a church won’t clarify exactly where they stand on an issue that is so in-your-face then it makes me wonder what they are hiding.
      .
      Or, you can choose to follow the example given by Paul and the simple Christian virtue of charity he describes, assuming the best, rather than the worst.
      .
      Walking into Athens, Paul was immediately given the “in-your-face” issue of adultery. What did he do there on Mars Hill? He spoke the truth of God and his son, but he did not attack the gods of the city – the sin of idolatry, which for a Jew was about the biggest “hot button” in existence. In Ephesus, where he lived for almost three years, the pagan city official testified against the crowd on Paul’s behalf that he had never attacked Artemis/Diana, the primary goddess of the city, whose practices were incredibly detestable and resulted in the exposure deaths of tens of thousands of infants a year.
      .
      If you live near North Point, then I would hope you are familiar with their reasons for staying out of politics and not even granting major media interviews. (I linked to it above, but don’t want this comment in moderation for linky goodness.) What they believe is that “the moment the church tries to leverage anything but love (i.e. political influence, etc.), it loses its leverage with the non-Christian world.”
      .
      Rome was overthrown in 300 years because Christians lived as Jesus lived and taught, not because they exerted power or influence (because they had none) or because they protested against Caesar. Rome was overthrown because Christians lived by love and nothing else. The church began going downhill when Rome recognized it as the State religion, and it started converting people by force and when people claimed Christianity in order to have political power.
      .
      As I noted in the Rick Warren example, there was absolutely no reason whatsoever for the church to “clarify” its position on a sin mentioned three times in the Bible in order to satisfy people who already know it is a sin. In being forced to do so, outreach to specific groups of sinners was damaged or ruined.
      .
      BTW-I have supported Northpoint many times over the past several years by attending different functions(some that I’ve paid $ to attend) and by giving to support it’s short-term missions projects. So, yes, this is actually very much my business.
      .
      I have attended there, when visiting with family, and I have given money as well. Even so, I am not a member, so I cannot demand answers from them. I have no more right than you to do so.
      .
      You, however, actually have no right to comment here-according to your own words-
      .
      Nope. You missed the point – I am not responding to North Point, I am responding to this blog and its commenters – I am going directly to the source, not sitting off somewhere else demanding that Howell and Wesley and Karen answer me on my own terms.
      .
      So – I asked a question above that you completely ignored:
      .

      What if satisfying your “need to know” a “clear and public” answer (to a sin you don’t even struggle with) would result in burning bridges and losing lives in the community of sinners actually served by the church you don’t attend?
      .
      If that was the case, is your “need to know” more important than their hearing the Gospel?

      .
      Were I as uncharitable as many of those commenting here, I could assume your silence means that your own selfish desires (cloaked in sanctimonious “watchman” language, of course) trump the high potential of driving sinners away from the church.

  38. Chris L, I read the question. My need to know is the same as thousands of others who are asking “what does NorthPoint actually believe?” Homosexuals need to know this also. Are they going to go to NorthPoint and hear that they are living in a lifestyle condoned by the church, or does this church believe the Bible to be God’s Word and what it says about homosexuality is that it is an abomination. Why does the church have to handle homosexuals any different than liars, thieves, adulterers or any other sinners. You will hear from the pulpit that those are sins and that one must repent from them…no different than homosexuality. All are sins, and all sinners who are not repentent will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
    So Chris, this is my final response to you. I guess you can say you win because you drove every single responder off of this blog. I consider you to be one who enjoys arguing (this is obvious by the sheer number of arguments by you in this section alone!) but I have better things to do.
    Peace and Blessings to you.

    • Well, I guess I should have just taken the uncharitable view, then.
      .
      Unless someone wants to become a Christian, there is no need for us to try and force them to follow the rules only expected of Christians. Heck, we do a poor enough job *within* the church, why should we try to put those outside the church on a “sin-management” plan?
      .
      My need to know is the same as thousands of others who are asking “what does NorthPoint actually believe?”
      .
      I other words, unless they are members (or want to become a member), they have no need, whatsoever. Thank you. Should you actually desire an answer, you will listen to the series. If not, you’ll just gripe about it and claim to do the whole sanctimonious “be a Berean” routine. I get it.
      .
      Homosexuals need to know this also. Are they going to go to NorthPoint and hear that they are living in a lifestyle condoned by the church, or does this church believe the Bible to be God’s Word and what it says about homosexuality is that it is an abomination.
      .
      You see, you have actually touched on why I hope Andy never answers the question in a public forum. Part of the problem is that the word “homosexual” is conflated to mean both a) someone who is attracted to people of the same sex; and b) someone who is engaged in homosexual practice with other people. “Homosexuality” is the same way.
      .
      This confusion occurs both with Christians (like yourself) and non-Christians, alike. So, when you say that “homosexuality is an abomination” (or expect that to be taught), what the homosexual (non-practicing and practicing, alike) hears is “you are an abomination to God”.
      .
      In our culture, one’s sexual preference is ingrained as inseparable from one’s core identity. This is completely unlike any other sin. Someone who is tempted to steal is not a thief, unless they actually are committing theft. Someone who is tempted to commit adultery is not an adulterer unless they commit adultery. But someone who is attracted to people of the same sex are homosexuals, whether or not they act on their temptations.
      .
      SO – it is quite easy for believers to say things that are terribly insensitive: as you just did, by seeming to declare that homosexuals, practicing or not, are abominations to God. I hope you did not mean it that way, but that is how most unbelieving homosexuals would read what you just wrote. It is also easy to get into arguments about things that have no bearing whatsoever on the situation (like whether or not the proclivity for SSA is or is not genetic).
      .
      Thus, a wise pastor in today’s society will say little or nothing publicly about homosexuality, but they will be willing to discuss it with those who are actually struggling with it. At least they will do so if they have the heart of the Shepherd who leaves the 99 to search for the one lost sheep.
      .
      All are sins, and all sinners who are not repentent will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
      .
      Nobody’s arguing with you on this point.
      .
      I consider you to be one who enjoys arguing (this is obvious by the sheer number of arguments by you in this section alone!) but I have better things to do.
      .
      It is not so much that I enjoy arguing, but that I care enough about Christians who are slandered and maligned by other Christians, as is being done to Pastor Stanley right now, that I will try to persuade those holding the guns to put them down.
      .
      Go read the policies for North Point. Read about the “Foyer to Kitchen” philosophy, and why they do not hold non-Christians to the standards of Christians. IF, however, you want to become a member, you are subject to the expectations God gives for Christians in the Scriptures, and you will be held accountable for those.
      .
      Grace and peace to you.

    • Karen, you probably know that Andy is solid and belives that homosexuality is a sin. I know he speaks the Bible as the word of God.
      I have heard him preach against sexual immorality. Everyone there knows its a sin. Everyone knows homosexuality is a sin. Even the unchurched knows it. Andy could have named the sin in reference to
      the two guys. He could have pointed out that their relationship is sin. I honestly have watched the whole series. I have listened to Andy as far back as 1988 when he filled in for his dad. I understand his approach. He has compassion for all people. It was probably brought up in private. Andy is wise to understand the audience
      he is speaking to. He said in the beginning of his sermon that he knows of gay and lesbian couples that come to the church because
      their gay churches affirmed their relationships and they were tired
      if hearing that and wanted to hear Bible teaching. They do get Bible teaching every single week at the church. Only a guess here but knowing Andy after hearing him for all of these years, I would guess that he is drawing in people who need to hear that Jesus loves them.
      We are so quick to judge the gays and lesbians who in 100 percent of the cases need someone to care for them. Who besides Jesus is gonna care for them or anyone else either. Andy has NEVER said being in a homosexual relationship is ok and not sin. What he has not done is thrown it up in their face. They already know it is a sin and the world does not love them and affirms them. If someone is struggling with that sin or any other and are willing to come than let them come.
      There is no reason to offend them. What about the sex addicts that come week after week or the alcoholics that come every week who secretly struggle. Everyone who is in sin knows it already. What people are looking for is the love and compassion that only Jesus can give. I know this to be true.

      • Pablo, two key words here: struggle and secretly.

        “Struggle”: Christians should all struggle with their sin. They should not sin comfortably without any remorse (they should be repentant).

        “Secretly”: If members of a church serve but are in secret sin (even if they do not struggle and are unrepentant), the church leadership has no way of confrunting them and asking them to stop serving.

  39. Eph 5:11-12

    Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.

    1 Corinthians 5:11,13

    But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one …”Expel the wicked man from among you.”

    The words of the Apostle Paul seem pretty clear to me.

    • You can pull most any verse out of context and get it to fit your agenda.

      In this particular case, it seems you’re trying to apply standards for Christians (i.e. “so-called brother”), when there is no indication that the person(s) in question were members of the church who claimed to follow Christ.

      In applying these concepts, you also run into an area full of contextual judgment calls. When someone first becomes a Christian, we do not expect that they are fully mature and convicted of (and cognizant of) every area of sin in their lives, so it is up to the community to judge how to deal with that on an individual basis.

      I know of a church, hundreds and hundreds of miles from Atlanta, where a lesbian couple attended for several years and just recently came to the full realization of the sin in their situation, repented (and separated), and were both baptized into the Christ and joined the church. In the time they were attending (but not immersed believers), they participated in some of the ministries of the church (working a soup kitchen, packing clothes, etc.), but were never in “leadership” positions. Had they been “driven” from the church (per your implied application of I Cor 5), the story would not have had a happy ending.

      In short, you’re taking standards God created for those who choose to follow Him and trying to force their application on people who have not yet accepted Him.

      Apples and oranges.

  40. Howell, I am truly intrigued by all this discussion and even snarky remarks directed at you. This blog and responses really reveal a deeper problem in the church. First to all those who defend Stanely’s silence, why did you not extend the same presumption of best intentions to Howell? Because you are caught in the very sin you accused a brother of. Secondly, I do not believe we need to scrutinize pastors at every turn. We do misspeak and then there are issues we differ on that are not unbiblical, but stylistic or within the ongoing inter nicene discussions. Most of the time, just move on. However, this is a hot button issue that goes to the core of the gospel, namely REPENTANCE. If sin no longer needs to be repented of if the culture accepts it, then why preach the Bible. Why not just set up group therapy to accept yourself just the way you are. Do you need to repent of sin? Adultery, yes, other stuff intentionally unclear in this sermon discussed. And if he just forgot a note, a simple clarification that NPCC recognizes we are all sinners and all sexual immorality needs to be repented of, we want people to know its a safe place to grow in your understanding, faith, and walk with Christ no matter what area you struggle with. However the problem was that these men were in good standing as members as long as they were both divorced by they way the sermon was left.

    Those who are still upset with these questions should be required to do an exegesis of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 and drawing some clear statements where it is ok to disagree with Christ and remain a church in his eyes before attacking you and accepting a soft, or maybe Lukewarm position on Homosexuality without question. And although I believe in church autonomy to decide how and where to minister in local context, I do not believe that position negates the accountability within the Christian community to be within the Historic and Orthodox confessions of faith and more simply the Ten Commandments. This speaks to an unbridled idea of autonomy that comes from an unbiblical understanding of life and certainly an unreflective soul, and perhaps the worse case scenario of someone who has rejected repentance while believing he or she has received grace. Esau sought for real repentance, but did not find it. I hope all churches in the USA stop thinking that we need to go any further in normalizing sin as an OK behavior within church membership. I also hope we can distinguish between degrees of sin. Some are simply more destructive to the churches witness before God… Hmmm I put His pleasure before the need to get a crowd on Sunday morning… Again a huge difference and shift in thinking that has occurred within the evangelical stream. Pleasing God does not contradict evangelism, but we must not disobey or displease God and then say, but it’s all for the sake of getting more people around that we can tell about God. Those are the horns that should be dealt with before we capitulate to pragmatism.

    Howell, thank you for being open to comments and criticism. Stanley needs our love and prayers. I still believe he is a good guy who is trying to reach out to a broken and lost world. And up til now, I believe he has differed only in style and focus. But this shift from how I understand this side of the Church growth movement is the cutting edge means towards pragmatism in dealing with the move culturally towards homosexual marriage and keeping the front doors wide open and avoiding political controversy. I believe he wants to stay ahead of the cultural curve and war by keeping Sunday morning as the evangelistic arm of the church.

    Unfortunately, the shots are being fired and there will be no middle ground in the next decade or two on this issue. A Church will not be able to stand for traditional marriage without being against homosexuals. And vice versa. Unfortunately I don’t know of any commentator who is willing to draw that out yet. If our mega churches capitulate again as we have on no fault divorce etc… What makes being married and having any transcendent morality matter? Just let kids be kids, let live and let live, just make sure the church has great music, positive, encouraging messages, and throw some good parties with food and inflatables for kids.

    • Jim,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment this morning. I think that your analysis is spot on. The Evangelical Church in America — particularly the megachurch model — has been leading the way down a path which does seem t minimize the Biblical principles of truth, sin,and repentance while magnifying the Biblical principles of grace, love, and forgiveness. All of these principles are true, but they can be applied in a way that is both unBiblical and untrue. My belief is that Andy Stanley, based upon what he said in the sermon “When Gracie Met Truthy,” even if you don’t include the ambiguous (at best) illustration, is coming to conclusions about the tension between these principles that the Bible itself does not. Jesus was never inconsistent in how He applied the principles of truth and grace. Andy Stanley appeared to conclude otherwise. While it maybe true that His disciples thought He was being inconsistent (they would have been wrong in their thinking), Jesus never was. To even imply that, IMO, is wrong exegesis.

      It would not at all surprise me if Stanley and other megachurch pastors continued to soften their stance on the issue of homosexuality. They may try to do this under the guise that they don’t get involved in political issues (i.e., same-sex marriage), but silence on this issue, in the cultural climate as you point out that we are in, is going to be seen as an acceptance — even if indirect — to the normalization of homosexuality within the church. You are right that the journey down this path did not start with the issue of homosexuality. It started with divorce and heterosexual cohabitation (which, sadly, is the norm young people who are self-professed Christians). The next 3 to 5 years should be and interesting and volatile time for churches, especially those who will continue publicly hold out the Biblical view of marriage and the Biblical view of homosexuality. Thanks again for stopping by. Have a great day and God bless,

      Howell

      • Howell,

        You wrote:

        Jesus was never inconsistent in how He applied the principles of truth and grace. Andy Stanley appeared to conclude otherwise. While it maybe true that His disciples thought He was being inconsistent (they would have been wrong in their thinking), Jesus never was. To even imply that, IMO, is wrong exegesis.

        Maybe you’d best go back and listen to the series. Andy did not say “Jesus was inconsistent” – in fact he said multiple times that “it might appear that Jesus is inconsistent” (noting that this was sometimes the disciples’ view, and quite possibly the view of many in his audience), but then he went on to demonstrate that Jesus’ actions were rooted in how to love one’s neighbor.

        I think you’re just continuing to look for a “there” that’s not there. And just as an FYI – NPCC’s stance on membership for those living in active sin – including homosexual practice – has not changed an iota in the past 17 years. They are just very intentional in not holding non-Christians to the same standards that Christians are expected to live by.

        Regarding divorce and cohabitation (much bigger issues in the church, as you note), Andy has been rather firm. People have been fired and members reprimanded for cohabitation and/or marital infidelity, and he’s taught many times on divorce and how “you cannot ‘un-one’ whatGod has made one.”

        Dr. Broher – you wrote:

        However the problem was that these men were in good standing as members as long as they were both divorced by they way the sermon was left.

        Neither man was a member, or “in good standing” with the church – they were visitors, one a first-time visitor, and the other a longer-time visitor who was not a member of the church. What they were volunteering to do was to be part of the “host team” – parking cars, handing out programs, etc. – which you do not have to be a member of the church (or even a Christian non-member) to do.

        • Chris,

          Thanks for the response. I have listened to the sermon in question multiple times. Each time I listen to it, it does not become any clearer than the first time. Not only was the illustration unclear (and I suspect intentionally ambiguous), it did “appear” (hence the use of that word) that Andy Stanley was implying that Jesus was inconsistent in his application of truth and grace. Perhaps I misheard him (which is entirely possible), but the entire sermon continues, even months later, to elicit responses on all sides of this issue. That’s why I think Stanley’s continued silence is perplexing, particularly when, as Dr. Bohrer points out, a simple statement from Andy Stanley would have eliminated much of the confusion. Hope you are doing well. Thanks again for stopping by. God bless,

          Howell

          • Howell,
            .
            You wrote:

            it did “appear” (hence the use of that word) that Andy Stanley was implying that Jesus was inconsistent in his application of truth and grace.

            .
            I do tend to find it works best just to take someone at their word, rather than implying the worst about what they’re saying. At multiple points in the sermon (the 95% of it that isn’t on constant replay for Online Discernment Ministries), he makes it rather pointed that when we try to deal with both grace and truth that it may appear that we are inconsistent (just like it appeared to his disciples that Jesus was inconsistent), but that is not the case.
            .
            From the sermon: “‘people may misunderstand your grace towards sinners as somehow condoning their sin, but that is not the case’”.
            .
            “People may misunderstand?” Yup – Dr. Bohrer and yourself can be Exhibits A and B, if you’d like.
            .
            “But that is not the case.” Seems pretty clear, but hey, who am I going to believe – your worries or my lying ears?
            .

            the entire sermon continues, even months later, to elicit responses on all sides of this issue. That’s why I think Stanley’s continued silence is perplexing, particularly when, as Dr. Bohrer points out, a simple statement from Andy Stanley would have eliminated much of the confusion.

            I suppose if you’re going to look for something sinister there, (or, as some choose to do, moan and wail about the downward slide of American Christianity, led my those awful ‘Megachurches’), then you will probably find it, even though in reality it is a figment of your own imagination.
            .
            As for continuing to pine for Andy to bend to someone’s personal (and rather petty) desire for them to jump through your man-made hoops, the only thing I really see as ‘perplexing’ is that some folks can’t seem to let it go.
            .
            Let it go, man.
            .
            It was a sermon illustration about grace and truth, not a dissertation, exhaustively listing the sins you don’t struggle with, but (for some psychological reason I can’t seem to fathom) need to affirm as still being sinful. He’s never going to give bloggers (or Al Mohler, who’s still sore NPCC never joined the SBC) an answer, other than to suggest they listen to the entire series and note that the church policies have not changed regarding membership and living in open sin.
            .

            “‘people may misunderstand your grace towards sinners as somehow condoning their sin, but that is not the case’” – Andy Stanley

            Yeah. No kidding.

          • Chris,

            For the record, my last post on Andy Stanley and his ambiguous illustration was on May 8, a little over three months ago. I have not had a post about it since then. It might surprise you to know that I actually try to reply to folks who comment on any of my posts, particularly those whose comment is addressed to me personally, as was Dr. Bohrer’s. Not that I mind you popping up three months later and interjecting your rather long thoughts into the conversation between Jim and me, but I’m not sure that I’m the one who needs to “let it go, man.” ;-) Thanks and God bless,

            Howell

  41. Howell, I am on an iPad and have some misspellings with poor punctuation. Sorry, if you are comfortable posting please feel free to correct the obvious. Jim

  42. Dear Howell,
    So you are still raking Andy over the coals?? Once again I am shocked. Isn’t your website entitled from Law to Grace. I believe you forgot the Grace part. Please answer, “What do you think the biblical view of homosexuality is? How does that differ from the biblical view of adultery and heterosexual sins outside of marriage (or any other sins, for that matter)? Most importantly, does Jesus see a difference between homosexual sin and other sins? Does He condemn homosexuals more than other sinners? (Does He “condemn” any sinner)? And Dr. Bohrer, when you say that a church will not be able to stand for traditional marriage without being against homosexuals, what do you mean by the church being “against homosexuals?” Are you against homosexuals? Is Jesus against homosexuals? Did Jesus not die on the cross for everyone? Do you believe that we can actually through sin make God love us less?? Or is it just through the sin of homosexuality that God hates. The big problem here is the hypocritical idea that Jesus extends grace only to those He deems worthy, and that homosexuals are not a part of that club.
    Once again, you are picking on the wrong pastor and the wrong church. Andy could run circles around the both of you spiritually, theologically, and intellectually, and he is right on when it comes to grace and truth. The way this has been blown out of proportion, I am wondering, is there some sort of jealousy component here? Dr. Mohler, it seems, needs to be asked that question also.

    • Dr. Coe,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment again today. It’s good to know that folks like you and Chris — even three months after I published this post — continue to monitor my blog for any wayward comments directed at Andy Stanley ;-) It tempts me to actually write a new post about this whole kerfuffle and the comments that have ensued, but I think I shall refrain for now. However, if I get many more comments like yours and Chris’ to a personal exchange between myself and another reader, then I may succumb to that temptation :-) If, by my comment to Dr. Bohrer, you think that I am “still raking Andy over the coals,” then we have a very different definition of that activity. As to you being shocked, that was not my intent, but even a pastor who writes a blog entitled “From Law to Grace” can get both the law part and the grace part wrong from time to time. No pastor is infallible, no matter what we (or members of our congregations) might think.

      As to your several questions, all sin — including sexual sin in all its many forms — will separate us from a Holy and Loving God. Therefore, all sin — including homosexuality, adultery, fornication (heterosexual sex outside of marriage, etc.) — is a sin that Jesus died for on the Cross. There is no sin that is too great that cannot be forgiven by Jesus and the blood that was shed on the Cross. Are there different consequences for different sins? I think that is fairly self-evident. Does God condemn homosexuals more than other sinners? No. Does God “condemn” any sinner? Depends on what you mean by condemn in that context. For those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. Apart from Christ, there will be condemnation and eternal separation from a loving and holy God in a very real place called hell.

      I have no doubt that Andy Stanley could run circles around me (I’m sure Dr. Bohrer can more than hold his own with Andy Stanley) spiritually, theologically, and intellectually. I won’t lose any sleep over that tonight :-) As to this issue being blown out of proportion, I would merely ask you to think about who is contributing to that more: the person who hasn’t written a post on this subject in over three months or people who stand at the ready to challenge any negative comment about Andy Stanley on a three-month old post? To your last question, the answer is “no.” You are more than welcome to ask Dr. Mohler, but I tend to think the answer is “no” for him as well. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

    • Dear Dr. Coe and Chris,

      I have read most of this thread because God has used Andy in my life and I think he’s a great communicator of God’s word, but his illustration that caused this thread totally caught me off guard! He taught me so much over the years. I have listened to his sermons since 2005 “religiously” (and Jeff’s too, more recently)!

      I do not agree with Andy’s silence on this either, yet I continue to listen to him online and I truly love him. I have tried to write to him directly, but he’s hard to get in touch with (millions listen to him so I don’t blame him). I finally know where he stands, I just wish he could have made it less hard for me (and others) to find out.

      Having read most of the posts on here, I do not see one sign of disrespect from Howell towards Andy. As a disciple of Christ, I don’t like to see my brothers allowing their emotions to get in the way of discussion.

      I did not see Howell lifting homosexuality up as more evil than other sins. However, I did feel like Andy chose to ignore it (homosexuality) during his talk with the gay couple about serving at church. Ignoring it, yet focussing on the adultery. Granted, Andy did not say “if you are sexually active with each other, you cannot serve”, so I did give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s just later that I found out that non-christians and non-members could serve that raised a red flag. But I still don’t fully know where Jesus stands on that (my instinct says it’s not a good approach, but I have to do more Bible study on it). Biblically, though, I see no basis for allowing people in homosexual sin serving vs not allowing people in adultery to serve. I totally see the intent… It’s just weird and inconsistent (and that’s my road-block). If you are aware of a place in the Bible that shows this, please direct me to it. A place where it says that we are to ignore certain sins over others for new or non-believers. The end of Hebrews 5 maybe??? Spiritual milk vs solid food? (sorry for that rant)

      I’m not a pastor and did not even get saved until after my university degree (in Biology at that, go figure)… So I have no formal training on theology. I do, however, know that we are called to love each other and this is how people will know who we belong to. So I pray that we all show each other love. Not just in private, but also on public blogs where the world can see how we interact! I thank God for this opportunity, giving us no more than we can handle, but exactly what we need.

      The following quotes do not demonstrate love (Andy Stanley would agree):

      “if you’re going to look for something sinister”

      “jump through your man-made hoops”

      “you are picking on the wrong pastor”

      “Andy could run circles around the both of you spiritually, theologically, and intellectually”

      ” I am wondering, is there some sort of jealousy component here”

      To Him be all the glory,
      With sincere love to you, my brothers,
      Tibor III

  43. Howell,

    If anyone who has participated in this discussion checked the little box below the entry window (“Notify me of follow-up comments by email”) will, as promised, receive an e-mail with the new comment in full. It is not that hard to understand that people who were interested 3 months ago checked that little box, and as promised every new comment is promptly sent to the interested party’s e-mail.

    If Dr. Bohrer wanted to talk to you personally, he could have e-mailed you. He did not however, and as a result it was sent to everyone who checked the little box. To portend that these “people who stand at the ready to challenge any negative comment about Andy Stanley” essentially have nothing better to do than to scour the web for negative comments about Andy Stanley is hurtful and considering e-mail follow-up is a feature of your own blog, disingenuous.

    If you were smart, you wouldn’t have responded publicly–but you did, and since your assertions are clearly false to anyone who has listened to Andy’s sermons, you were called out on it. We already have to deal with so much misinformation today–we don’t need fellow Christians doing it too!

    Regardless, it would be in your best interest to listen to a sermon given today by Andy as he clarifies in no uncertain terms that marriage is “as it was in the beginning”–one man and one woman, forever.

    Best regards,

    Daniel

    • Daniel,

      I’m sorry that you thought I was being disingeuous. I am aware of how the commenting system works and that some folks have opted to be notified when new comments are posted. I was being rather sarcastic in my own replies, but that obvioiusly did not come through as clearly as I intended. Perhaps that’s why it’s generally best not to use sarcasm. I’m well aware that the comments between Dr. Bohrer and myself are not “personal” in the sense that they are private. And, perhaps I should have just let him comment without responding, but as I try to respond to everyone who comments (as I am with you), that did not happen. As to being “called out” for assertions that are “clearly false,” this is where we continue to be at an impasse. From the very beginning, I — along with many others — were perplexed at what APPEARED to be a confusing illustration and why Andy Stanley did not immediately clarify the illustration apart from directing people to watch seven more sermons. It would do us no good to rehash that argument, because we will not persuade one another. I do find it curious — if I am permitted to use that word — that people are still interested in this subject, even three months later. I have not written any other posts on it, but with each new comment, I am tempted to write a follow-up. I certainly welcome your comments and input, even at those areas where we may disagree. I do think that there are times when it would be better not to respond to a comment that someone has left, only for the fact that it does not do much, if anything, to strengthen your case. Thanks again for stopping by and God bless,

      Howell

  44. Hi Howell,

    If you want to be sarcastic, use brackets like this: –or make some considerable effort at being over the top! I definitely could not differentiate when you were being sarcastic and when you were being serious.

    That being said, I am not referring to the original topic of the “unclear” sermon illustration when I referred to you being called out. I am referring to your comment that from your perspective it “appeared” Andy implied that Jesus was being inconsistent in his application of grace and truth–which is patently absurd. If anything, Andy’s CENTRAL point was that Jesus exemplified in EVERY situation (the definition of consistency) the right amount of grace with the right amount of truth, and that we as followers of Jesus should strive to live in the same way.

    There’s simply no way you could have watched the entire sermon and come away with such an understanding. Andy’s last slide even said this:

    “The Church is at its best when it embraces both Grace and Truth and refuses to let go of either.”

    As a result, your comment:

    “The Evangelical Church in America — particularly the megachurch model — has been leading the way down a path which does seem to[sic] minimize the Biblical principles of truth, sin,and repentance while magnifying the Biblical principles of grace, love, and forgiveness.”

    –really confuses people who listened to the message in its entirety because you have claimed to have listened to the same message multiple times, yet make a statement that directly contradicts the central point that is made crystal clear at the end of the sermon.

    That’s the kind of misinformation I am referring to. You appear to have not really given Andy the benefit of the doubt after all, and are using that lack of grace and resulting misinformation to assert that there is a problem with megachurches (Andy’s in particular). It’s just fallacious reasoning. You can do better than that.

    Best regards,

    Daniel

    • Daniel,

      Thanks for the reply. The potential for misunderstanding, as occurred in my recent comments, again reminds me why I should refrain from using sarcasm in online discussions. It becomes difficult for the reader to discern and it is not always the best way to communicate. I did understand your reference to my comment regarding what I (mis)understood Andy to be saying in the whole discussion of grace and truth in the sermon in question. When you listen to a sermon by Andy Stanley, you are interpreting through your own lens. When others, who may not be members of NPCC or listen to Andy on a regular basis, listen to a sermon, we are interpreting it through our own lens, which perhaps allows for more (mis)interpretation. It might not be the case that I (or others) are being patently absurd as it is that we may not be hearing the same things that you are. I’m not trying to make excuses for that, but simply to point out the room for error and misunderstanding that sometimes happens in communication. As a pastor, I have to realize that I might only get one time to deliver a message to a certain person. It is incumbent upon me to communicate each message — even if it is in a series of messages — in such a way that minimizes or eliminates misunderstandings, not just in the series but in each individual message. That’s where I think the problem with this one message of Andy Stanley’s lies, even if it was in a series of more messages.

      Let me be clear about the megachurch model that I referenced. Even though the discussion is coming out of the topic of NPCC and Andy Stanley’s message, my observation (which I stand by) about the Evangelical Church in America (in general) and the megachurch model (in particular), was not directed at NPCC or Andy Stanley. Again, whether you believe it or not, I have given Andy Stanley the benefit of the doubt and I have moved on. I am still perplexed as to why he did not issue some type of short clarification when all this happened, but that is water under the bridge at this point. However, there are numerous Evangelical churches — both megas and non-megas — that “seem to minimize the Biblical principles of truth, sin and grace while magnifying the Biblical principles of grace, love, and forgiveness.” That one of the key areas where this occurs is the issue of homosexuality should not come as a surprise to anyone who is watching what is happening in the culture at large and how it is affecting the church. Perhaps you don’t see that problem from where you sit, but I can assure you that I see it from where I sit. And, it will only intensify in the years ahead. Thanks again for your gracious reply. Hope you have a blessed week in the Lord. God bless,

      Howell

  45. Howell,
    I recently stumbled upon your postings and have read most of the comments. I am in agreement with with your frustration, because I am a long time admirer of Andy and have learned much from him and applied many things he has done/taught within my own congregation that I shepherd. That is why I was so surprised that in a sermon on grace and truth, Andy would decide to not speak more clearly on the truth side of the issue in regards to his illustration with homosexuals and adultery.

    I felt the same kind of angst many years ago with Phillip Yancey when he was discussing the book he was writing (it hadn’t come out yet) “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” One illustration he used in the book dealt directly with a man who was his friend who asked him to march with him in a gay pride march. He said “you don’t have to march with me in support of homosexuality, but would you march with me as a friend.” Yancey never did say whether or not he marched. But he then implied that this is the kind of thing that grace would do. Grace would march with a homosexual friend who was coming out of the closet. I never read the book after that because it bothered me so much.

    The problem is, when someone is sinning, it should not be re-labeled as something else. Grace doesn’t “erase” active sin. Wasn’t this the issue in Corinth with the man who was sleeping with his fathers wife?! As Paul makes clear in Romans when he addresses the reader “shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound? Certainly not.”

    I do realize that Andy’s illustration was primarily focused toward a crowd of unbelievers who may be listening, and that he may be trying to leverage it so that people would stay and listen more and be able to receive the gospel some time in the future. Perhaps the issue was not wanting to highlight homosexuality to someone who was a homosexual and had recently started coming, . . . therefore making him desire to keep coming to hear the word of God taught more thoroughly in the future.

    I want to give Andy the benefit of the doubt and believe that in much of the conversations between he and the men who committed adultery and homosexuality that all sins were being dealt with, not just the adultery. I want to believe that he and the wife/kids in the illustration were all attempting to show what Scripture says and get them to hear the truth. However, it is very difficult to give that benefit of the doubt in this particular sermon. I have heard him teach against adultery, and homosexuality in his statements about how sex was designed by God to be between one man & one woman in marriage for the rest of your life. But that message was not in this sermon.

    Jesus hung out with the tax collectors, & sinners; the drunkards and prostitutes. He was full of grace and loved them. But they also knew where he stood on the issue of sin, and He never gave a mixed message saying, “well, I’ll overlook that sin” or “well, that sin is not as big as another.” The love and grace showed itself partly from Him confronting the sin issue and loving them in spite of what they had done, so HE may lead them to salvation.

    I guess as I end my contribution to this blog topic, I still have one big problem with this one sermon that Andy gave. Perhaps in the future he will address the issue of homosexuality in a direct way. Until then there is a discouraging tension in me about what he taught.

    Perhaps the best thing for us to do is to leverage this issue/problem, and make certain that when we teach or preach that we don’t do similar things.
    To use an Andy Stanley quote: “Next generation leaders must fear a lack of clarity more than a lack of accuracy. You can survive being wrong. You cannot survive being unclear.”
    Unfortunately, I believe Andy failed in at least one if not both of these areas in this one particular sermon.

    • Kyle,

      I’m glad that you stumbled upon my post. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. Of all the topics that I have written on, the Andy Stanley sermon has been the one that has received the most views and comments by far. I think it struck a chord with so many because of our generally favorable view of Andy Stanley (his books and ministry). While trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, it is nevertheless perplexing as to why Andy Stanley used the illustration as he did in the first place and then why he never clarified it after it was abundantly clear that the illustration was confusing at best. I can speculate as to why I think that, but only time will tell whether my speculations are correct. Thanks for sharing that quote. In hindsight, it looks as if Andy really did not take his own advice about being clear. I still think he was wrong, but apparently he believes that, in this case, he can also survive being unclear. Thanks again for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

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