"From the Quieter Middle Space"-Andy Stanley on LGBTQ+
The most effective persuasion is subtle.
And pastors who can persuade large groups of people to abandon long-held Biblical convictions without them realizing they are moving to a different position are dangerous.
Andy Stanley is that pastor.
Andy is the son of the late, beloved, pastor and Bible teacher, Charles Stanley. Andy planted North Point Community Church in 1995. Today, North Point Community Church has 10 campuses in the Atlanta-metro area with nearly 40,000 attending its various sites each weekend. Additionally, when you include the churches in the North Point network around the world, the weekly attendance is over 200,000, making Andy Stanley one of the most influential voices in the world. Pastor Andy Stanley is arguably the best communicator alive today. He's an amazing speaker, in my opinion.
So, when North Point Community Church announced they were hosting the Unconditional Conference on September 28th and 29th ,there was quite the stir and interest.
Below is the advertisement to the conference:
"This two-day premier event is for parents of LGBTQ+ children and for ministry leaders looking to discover ways to support parents and LGBTQ+ children in their churches. You will be equipped, refreshed, and inspired as you hear from leading communicators on topics that speak to your heart, soul, and mind. We deeply desire this time will bring about healing and restoration. No matter what theological stance you hold, we invite you to listen, reflect, and learn as we approach this topic from the quieter middle space." (emphasis mine)
Attendees said that speakers mentioned repeatedly that the conference was intended to be "theologically neutral" and that their intention was not to change anyone's theology as they "approach this topic from the quieter middle space."
However, the speaker line-up, and the resources that were sold and recommended at the conference were all fully affirming of homosexual behavior as compatible for followers of Christ. This is not theological neutrality.
The keynote speakers and architects of the conference were Greg and Lynn McDonald, founders of Embracing the Journey. There were also two, homosexual, same-sex-married, professing Christians who spoke, Justin Lee and Brian Nietzel.
Unhitched led to Unconditional
The overall direction of a minister and a ministry matters. A lot. Having been a pastor for twenty-five years, and preaching nearly every Sunday during that span, I realize how easily it is to misspeak or invite someone to speak at your church that you regret. (I have too many stories!) I think it is fundamentally unfair to judge a pastor or ministry by isolated quotes, or events. Rather, check their history. Review their track-record. That said, the trajectory of Andy Stanley and North Point Community Church can be observed going back for nearly three decades. NPCC has, from its founding, been decidedly “seeker targeted.” Meaning, they intentionally target unbelievers and the “unchurched” in their Sunday services. (For example, it’s not unusual for the worship team to do a Led Zeppelin song or a similar secular number as a prelude to their Sunday worship.)
The overall direction of a minister and a ministry matters. A lot.
In listening to and browsing sermons that Andy preaches each Sunday, I noticed that they are mostly focused on felt-needs (making better decisions, leading yourself well, grown-up prayers, etc.) rather than a verse-by-verse teaching of the Bible. Much of his preaching series are topical instead of expositional as well. On Sunday, April 29, 2018, in a series entitled Aftermath, Stanley famously taught that Christians should ‘unhitch’ their faith from the Old Testament. He said, "Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well." He went on further to say that the Old Testament should not be viewed as “the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church.” He stated the apostles “unhitched the church from the worldview, value system and regulations of the Jewish Scriptures.” Hold on, Andy. That's just 21st Century repackaging of the ancient heresy of Marcion (85-160 AD). Marcion taught that the Old Testament God was not the same God as the New Testament God. Marcion was frankly embarrassed by the Old Testament. It appears Stanley is too.
If, like me, you are wondering where these views of the Scriptures were shaped, you would need to listen to a talk Stanley presented at Dallas Theological Seminary, (his alma mater) on February 19, 2019 in a messaged entitled “Your Assumption is Showing.” Towards the beginning of the talk, Andy stated his persuasive purpose: “…begin from now on, for the rest of your lives, in your preaching and your teaching and in your writing, to tether the faith of this next generation, to the event of the resurrection, rather than the authority, and the inspiration and infallibility or even the inerrancy of the Bible.” Andy is stating that the authority of the Christian faith comes from gospel events (like the resurrection of Christ) rather than the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures. But how would we know Jesus rose from the dead on the third day apart from the Scriptures? (I Corinthians 15:3-5) He then shared that nine years previously, (2010) he had watched a YouTube video by popular atheist, Sam Harris, and after hearing his attack on the inerrancy and authority of the Bible he realized he needed to change his assumption that “Christianity rises or falls on the inerrancy of Scripture.” This is revealing. Thirteen years before the Unconditional Conference, Andy Stanley unhitched himself from the authority, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Scriptures, apparently after a 30-minute video by one of the "big four" atheists of our generation. So it is not shocking that the Unconditional Conference neglected all of the Scriptures (old and new testaments) that speak about homosexuality. Unhitched led logically to Unconditional.
Thirteen years before the Unconditional Conference, Andy Stanley unhitched himself from the authority, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Scriptures,
Of Circles, Lines and Millstones
Last Sunday, October 1st, Andy addressed the controversial Unconditional Conference in his Sunday morning message. He began with saying that critics of the conference, like Al Mohler, need to stop critiquing them and rather learn from him and North Point by drawing circles rather than lines. Andy said this is what Jesus did. "Jesus drew circles instead of lines" At the Unconditional Conference, they used a slightly different binary categorization: the traditional script or the new script. The traditional script (or drawing lines) is when we reference anything the Bible has to say about sexuality. That's been tried (according to Andy) and it doesn't work. Or, you can try this new approach (drawing circles), that simply points LGBTQ+ people to Jesus.
Listen to their story.
Make them feel safe.
Point them to Jesus.
We agree completely about the need to truly listen to people and provide them with genuine care. But the obvious challenge about pointing people to Jesus is that if we point LGBTQ+ to Jesus, what do we expect Jesus would say to them? For instance, when Jesus was asked about divorce and extra-marital sexual behavior, (wait for it), He quoted Old Testament Scripture! He drew a line. In fact, Jesus often drew lines. "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14) Jesus also warned us about causing any disciples to stumble into sin. "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." (Matthew 9:42) Attendees of the Unconditional Conference said that there were no references that they recall, either in the plenary or breakout sessions, about "repentance." (Greek-metanoia, 'to change your mind') except the call to repentance for those who continue to hold to the "traditional script" (drawing lines). Imagine that. The sin of homosexuality is consistently and unambiguously condemned in Scripture. Among other unrepentant sins, no practicing homosexual will enter the New Heaven and New Earth. If that's the old script, or if that is "drawing lines", may we be found drawing lines and sharing (with compassion and care), the old script! Eternal perdition is at stake. And, millstones await false teachers.
Not Your Version of Biblical Christianity
It was profoundly sad for me to hear Pastor Stanley respond in his message on Sunday, October 1st to Al Mohler's article, The Train Is Leaving the Station: Andy Stanley's Departure from Biblical Christianity. He said, "I have never been part of his version of Biblical Christianity. And, he has never been part of mine. How could I leave something I was never part of?" Are there really multiple versions of Biblical Christianity? Of course, there are not. "There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:4-6) Andy Stanley is now affirming homosexual behavior despite the fact that the Jewish Scriptures, Old Testament Saints, the New Testament Scriptures and the church for nearly 2000 years, have all understood God to condemn, and call all of those who practice to repent and receive his grace and forgiveness by faith. The Scriptures not only warn those who practice homosexuality that they will not be in Heaven, the Scriptures also warn believers that there will be teachers who will seek to persuade and deceive us about the sinful nature of these behaviors.(I Corinthians 6:9-11) Andy Stanley is either naive or deceptive. Either way, he is dangerous.
If I had the large platform and massive influence that Andy Stanley has, and I wanted to infiltrate and persuade the church subtly to begin to affirm homosexual behavior, I think the most persuasive strategy to accomplish that would be to host an Unconditional Conference.