Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently wrote an article on his blog about megachurches. In the article, he referenced an April 15 sermon (click on message 5: When Gracie Met Truthy) by Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Atlanta where Stanley seems to normalize homosexual behavior. After reading the article and listening to the sermon and then reading several other articles, what amazes me is what people weren’t upset about. Of course, many in the evangelical world would be upset about his apparent normalization and acceptance of homosexual behavior, but no one seemed to notice three bigger, underlying issues.
First, Stanley says that Jesus’ love was messy, inconsistent, unfair, and confusing. Granted, he sort of implied that these were from our perspective—but not really. Because he went on to say that when our love seems messy, inconsistent, unfair, and confusing, we must be doing it right. I would disagree. First, while things may have appeared messy, inconsistent, unfair, and confusing from the disciples’ or our point of view, they certainly were not from Jesus’ point of view. And we need to keep that in mind. Stanley says that when we try to figure it out, we are in danger of losing something. Again, I would disagree. We need to understand why Jesus was not inconsistent or unfair (from our point of view) so that we can accurately display God’s love as well. To imply that Jesus was inconsistent and unfair shows a lack of understanding about Jesus’ deity. He was not just a man who changed the rules. Certainly he related to different people in different ways, but he was perfectly consistent in his love, grace, truth, justice, and holiness.
Second, Stanley redefined two key theological terms: grace and truth. In giving a long list of things that grace means, he said, “Grace says, ‘You’re fine.'” But Grace does not say, “You’re fine.” In fact, grace is the loud and clear declaration that we are not fine. Grace is getting something we don’t deserve. If we are fine, we don’t need grace, and therefore, we don’t need God. This is a horrible representation of what grace is. He also said, in a long string of what truth means, that truth says, “You’ve got to work it out.” Truth does not say that in the Bible. Truth says, “You can’t work it out, but God can.” Stanley even pitted grace and truth against each other like two parents raising a child. While he didn’t use this analogy, I came across with the perception of good cop/bad cop sort of deal. But again, this is not correct. God is both grace and truth. They do not battle each other, and certainly grace is not untruth, as Stanley implied. Granted, Stanley did say, on more than one occasion, that Jesus was complete grace and complete truth, and he even had a nice visual to demonstrate this. But the previous long explanation about the differences between the two stayed in my mind as well, and they were what actually stuck with me more than the visual.
Finally, the issue of shepherd and sheep comes into play in the sermon. In the long story he told as his final illustration of the importance of grace and truth, a man and his male partner were allowed to be involved in some ministry team even though one of the men was still married. It took a conversation with the ex-wife of the other man with Andy Stanley and then a phone call to the satellite church for the men to be removed from the ministry team because of the adultery of the married man. How is it that two unmarried people, engaging in extra-marital sex, with both men committing adultery—one on his former wife, the other on his current wife—are allowed to be actively involved in ministry? Was there no one to ask questions? Had the church gotten so big, and desperate, for volunteers that any warm body could sign up to serve?
It appears that North Point is in danger in at least three ways. First, they have diminished the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, they are teaching a false idea of two key theological terms: grace and truth. Third, they have lost control of the ability to monitor the spiritual fitness of those who desire to serve in ministry. And if these issues aren’t dealt with, it will matter little what North Point’s view of homosexuality is.