Andy Stanley and What Has NOT Been Talked About

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.

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Those Annoying Character Developers

School has kept me busy as of late and car trouble and various odds and ends—those little annoyances, character developers, if you will. I have also been working on catching up with the blogs I have been reading and was encouraged and challenged by this post. I know it’s old, but it’s still good.

I need to do a better job of not letting the little things turn into big things. I need to take the focus off myself. I need to allow Christ to live in me each day in each situation. I’m not much on WWJD because most of the time that turns into what do we think Jesus would do based on our own preconceived notions. While principles can be mined from scriptures, Jesus did not live in the 21st century in Texas with my family or at my job. But, I can let the Holy Spirit work in me, trusting that He knows best in each situation and that whatever comes my way doesn’t have to affect how I treat others.

What’s a Christian To Do?

If you are unsure how to behave in this politically charged season, you can find no end of advice in blogland. 

Here and here and here and here

Those took all of two minutes to find. Don’t know if you’ll find anything you like or not. 

But, if my opinion means anything to you, here’s one that I thought was right on the money.

I won, I won…well, sort of.

Jeff held a contest. I got third place!

Several years ago I won a Church of Rhythm CD from a Christian radio station. I knew why Ivory soap floated. I also won a door prize once somewhere, but I don’t remember what it was. Neither of those took a whole lot of talent.

But this contest—this was huge. You can go here to see all the competition I was up against, or you can go here to see the extremly talented people who edged me out. In the spirit of the Olympics, I must say that I was proud to represent my country in this hard fought, emotional struggle.

I want to think my parents for teaching me my alphabet as well as some wonderful English teachers like Mrs. Butler and Mrs. DePriest* who challenged me to grow in my vocabulary. This great accomplishment would not have been possible without people like that. And thanks to Jeff, as well, for spending the time and energy it took to organize, conduct, and judge such a demanding competition.

If I am not blogging for while, it’s because I am busy writing lesson plans for next week and preparing for the classes I will be taking this fall waiting for the late night talk shows to call.

I wonder if Jeff will provide an html code to put on my blog?

*In all seriousness. After 12 years of regular school, 5 years of undergrad, and and 3 years of grad school, those two ladies were two of the finest teachers I ever had. I actually had the privilege of teaching alongside them both a few years ago. I spent a lot of time in high school in Mrs. DePriest’s home. She modeled Christ for all of us who hung out there with her son. They are both retired now, and I hope they are enjoying every minute of it.

What do you mean by that? Semantics Part II

We talked about denotation vs. connotation today in English class. It brought my last post to mind. Then I read this post, and it reminded me of this vision statement from the Dismantling Racism Task force of the United Methodist Church’s North Texas Conference (these thought trains can be dangerous):

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the people of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church seek to fulfill the word of God by committing to the full participation of people of all racial identities including their gifts, their worldviews and their cultures.

I actually had an opportunity to talk to one of the authors of the statement. I asked him if he really thought it was a good idea to fully include someone with Hitler’s worldview. His response: “Well, that’s not what we meant.” Well, that is what it says. Or what about a Muslim worldview. And does full participation mean they can be pastors. Without defining terms, this statement is at best unscriptural and at worst a statement of universalism. 

And what does Pete mean when he says,

[Jesus] would…include anybody who came up to him.

I have read Pete’s blog long enough to know what I think he means by that, and it’s not what I think the North Texas Conference means.  I have been around the Methodist Church long enough to know I really didn’t buy it when I was told, 

That’s not what we meant.

I know that I fail to define terms as well, and now this reminds me to work hard to be clear.