Andy Stanley preaches at North Point Community Church on putting religion in its place. (Photo source: Screen capture)

April 17, 2014

Andy Stanley’s Troubling New Sermon

The last place you might expect to hear a call to put “religion in its place” is a church. And certainly the last church you might expect to hear it at is an Evangelical megachurch . But that was indeed the message of Atlanta megachurch pastor Andy Stanley’s message on Sunday, April 6, entitled “Putting Religion in its Place.” Stanley, the pastor of Atlanta’s North Point Community Church, addressed the topic as part of a sermon series addressing why God became human. One of those reasons, Stanley preached, was “to put religion in its place.”

Stanley noted right off the bat that religion does have a place, in that it allows us to answer unknowable questions and provides a moral and ethical framework. However, the “place” that Stanley has for religion is below other, more important concerns. “When religion takes first place, it begins flexing its muscles at the expense of mercy…. [W]hen religion is in the top shelf, when religion is most important, when religion moves into first place, mercy always, always, always, always loses.”

“Just think about some of the phrases we’ve heard in connection with religion,” Stanley continued. “Child sacrifice. Honor killings. Holy wars. ‘Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!’ the religious people cried.” Stanley then launched into a four-minute illustration of the evil of the Crusades, and how religion was used to justify it.

Religion, he added, “collapses under the weight of the real world.” Stanley said that while religion is systematized and orderly, the real world is unsystematic and messy. As a result, when religion is in first place, “leaders become self-righteous and followers become hypocrites.”

Stanley described Jesus’ battle with the religious leaders of the day as essentially a debate over priorities. As he sees it, both the religious leaders and Jesus agreed that people were important and following religious laws were important, but each prioritized different things. The religious leaders prioritized religion, while “Jesus consistently prioritized people over his own religion, and he’s the Son of God!”

Stanley likened God to a parent who lets their child bend the rules out of love. “Great parents set rules, and when they feel it’s in the best interest of their children, they break their rules… Great parents decide that their children are more important than the laws that the parents set. And the parent who doesn’t do that creates an orderly home that everyone can’t wait to leave. And God is a perfect, heavenly Father.”

“Jesus’ conscience was informed by compassion, rather than consistency…” Stanley preached. “Love demands inconsistency. Every parent knows this!”

You are more important to me than my view,” Stanley summarized. Bizarrely enough, Stanley seemed to admit that he found the implications of his own words uncomfortable. “Where will that lead? How far do you go? What extreme does this take us? I don’t know.”

Towards the end, Stanley was even more direct: “…I don’t want you to ask me how to apply it.”

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With all due respect, I submit that if Andy Stanley did not know the answers to the questions posed above, he should have never delivered the sermon. At best, it was poorly thought-out. At worst, it flirted with a departure from Christian orthodoxy and moral teachings.

It would have been one thing if Stanley had clearly delineated which religious rules ought to take a backseat. Obviously, there are religious rules and regulations without much moral weight behind them. No one could say with a straight face that either the Western or Eastern Church is sinning, because one of them must be celebrating Easter and Christmas on the “wrong” days. But then there are religious rules and regulations that Christians believe carry heavy moral weight. There are the moral laws (do not steal, do not covet), but also rituals and practices required of all Christians to further their connection with God (prayer, attending church). Which rules and regulations does God let us break for “love?” Stanley doesn’t say.

Equally troubling is his suggestion that Christians’ ‘views’ are less important than love. And which views are those? The closest that Stanley comes to saying is his statement that “the moment someone places their religious beliefs and values above you, we go backwards.” So it isn’t simply a matter of simple opinions, like liking one color over another. Stanley believes that Christian “beliefs and values” are not as important as ‘love,’ but again, Stanley leaves it to us to decide which Christian beliefs aren’t actually that important.

Really, the problem permeating throughout Stanley’s sermon is a false dichotomy between ‘love’ and ‘people’ vs. ‘religion’ and ‘views.’ Put simply, there should never be a conflict between practicing the Christian religion and loving someone. If there is, either you aren’t practicing the faith or you aren’t actually loving someone.

Likewise, he creates a false dichotomy between ‘you’ and the Christian ‘view.’ ‘You’ are not more important than the Christian ‘view,’ because there is no conflict between the Christian view and the importance of every individual. If the Christian ‘view’ keeps you from loving someone, again, you’ve misunderstood the situation.

Probably the most relevant example of a false tension between love and the Christian religion is the recently dissected-to-death scenario of providing a cake for a gay wedding. Some would say that Christians ought to refuse to provide the cake, because providing the cake would involve oneself in an affirmation of sin. Are those people prioritizing religion over love? Of course not. Love, as they understand it, doesn’t mean providing for someone whatever they ask. They’d likely say that facing the possibility of lawsuits and public ridicule in effort to correct the sins of the couple was an act of love. Even those who take the opposite view (including Andy Stanley himself) can’t fairly be said to be prioritizing love over religion, because they understand the rules of their religion in such a way that they’re required to provide the cake.

That was at the heart of the dispute between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day. It wasn’t simply that the Pharisees were placing their religion in “first place”: Jesus did that, too. It was that they put the wrong religion in first place. They took a totalitarian approach to rituals and traditions that, in truth, God had never commanded. Jesus and God the Father weren’t “inconsistent” in religion as Stanley claims; they were the only consistent ones.

The claim that God’s goodness requires Him to be inconsistent when applying the rules is likely the most troubling aspect of Stanley’s sermon. Again, there are religious rules and traditions which are largely arbitrary and have little-to-no moral weight. But those didn’t come from God. Those are the religious laws of men. The moral and religious commandments of God do not change and will never change. We believe in a just and fair God, and there is no justice or fairness in requiring men to follow His laws, only to break them for others.

Suffice it to say, Stanley’s notion that God could be inconsistent in any fashion raises a boatload of theological issues, not to mention his claim that His nature requires inconsistency. Here’s the one I consider most disturbing: if God’s rules and Jesus’ ethics are inconsistent, doesn’t their moral perfection becomes un-praiseworthy? Why should we praise God’s surpassing goodness or Jesus Christ’s sinless nature, when the Father and Son can exempt themselves from the rules at will?

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This is hardly the first provocative sermon from Andy Stanley. In 2012, he mentioned a situation where a man in his congregation left his wife for another man, with the two men continuing to attend and serve in the church. Stanley found out that the second man was still married and rebuked the adultery, but made no moral statements on the homosexuality. That sermon led to several critical responses from fellow Christians, including a piece from Dr. Albert Mohler entitled “Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?”

That controversy was as much about what Andy Stanley said and what he left unsaid. Stanley’s silence on homosexuality, coupled with his strong denunciation of the adultery, left the impression that there was only one sin to be concerned with. Throw in a dubious use of the phrase “modern family,” and it should have been abundantly clear that his sermon had the potential to confuse his congregation on the issue. Dr. Mohler, and all those who criticized Stanley, simply sought a clarification: a clarification that never really came.

This sermon too is disturbing because of what Stanley left said and unsaid. Really, it’s bad enough that in an age where Americans are increasingly rejecting organized religion, one of the country’s foremost pastors gave them a sermon loaded with anti-religion ammunition. And it’s bad enough that he did so in a way that denied the immutability of the laws of God. But equally disturbing was what he didn’t give his congregation, namely any sort of restrictions on this newfound commission to ignore the Christian religion for the sake of love.

“I don’t want you to ask me how to apply it,” Andy Stanley told his congregation. Well, I must. I urge Mr. Stanley, a man who has done so much good for the body of Christ, to clarify his comments.


  • Bart

    Religion–i.e. habitual worship within a body of people–is bad or at least very dangerous? Welp, better not show up to North Point next Sunday!

  • cleareyedtruthmeister

    Andy Stanley’s ministry, of course, has benefitted from his conservative father’s name, and he, like all children of famous people, feels the need to distinguish himself (a more extreme example may be Francis Schaeffer’s son). This is probably not the best way to do it.

    But I am not ready to throw Andy under the bus just yet. Keep in mind his church is full city-dwelling millenials, with their postmodern notions of truth and their media-conditioned impressions of “judgmental religion.” To some extent he is just trying to get their attention by speaking their language.

    One can only hope and pray that Stanley is able to appreciate and make clearer that the reason for the love of which he speaks is rooted in our beliefs about the character of God, and that character is revealed by the disciplined study of Scripture and apologetics more so than belief in a God who behaves like a child-spoiling parent.

    • fdfe

      So this is his slick answer to the untruths that millenials believe? That Jesus came to destroy or upset religion? How nutty. It also seems his history is completely bogus, as is the history many millenials believe.

  • Daniel

    So, what about God’s holiness and his anger kindled against sin of any kind? At this time of the year he should be preaching about the shed blood of Jesus redeeming Christians from God’s righteous wrath.

    Shouldn’t Andy be preaching repentance and forgiveness instead of “bending the rules?” I would not be at all surprised to find out that Andy has some sin that is troubling him and he is looking for acceptance of it rather than confession and repentance. Given his public upbraiding of his father for the father’s marital sins, Andy better hope that his life is without spot or taint (and we know that is not true for any human).

    • JesusNeverSaid

      Please tell me that all of you commenting have listened to Andy’s sermon and are aware of the gist of the series that it is a part of? Don’t comment on what you have not verified for yourself. Do your homework and then you can comment intelligently. http://northpoint.org/messages/why-in-world/
      cleareyedtruthmeister, The North Point churches are not made up of only city dwelling millenials. Andy speaks to a MUCH broader crowd than that.
      Daniel, you’re way out of line. Arrogant and divisive remarks like yours are what drive people away and keep people away from the church.

      • cleareyedtruthmeister

        I have listened to Andy Stanley and generally liked what I heard. And I didn’t say that his church consisted only of urbanites, but that demographic is a major component.

        Feel free to say whatever you like, JesusNeverSaid, I would only suggest that you practice what you ostensibly preach and don’t mischaracterize other people’s commentary…you might seriously consider whether you understand it before offering another reflexive reaction.

        • JesusNeverSaid

          Fair enough, you didn’t say ONLY, I definitely misspoke on that. I apologize. I would still push back on the young urbanites being a major component though seeing as how the North Point churches are scattered around the suburbs of Atlanta and much more suburban than urban.

      • glenn

        Jesus never said,
        And sir or ma’am, with all due respect, since when have we been commanded by the Lord to bring as many people into the church as we can? Last time I checked (and it so happened to be this week because I’m preparing a sermon about a true Christian taking Jesus’ yoke on himself so that he can obey the law of God), Jesus told us to GO into the world, not the silly notion of “if we build it, they will come”. Besides, combining the sheep and the goats can be a dangerous thing. Either feed the sheep or preach the gospel to the goats. Trying to do both at the same time is often confusing to both camps.

    • courtney

      If you don’t like Andy’s views then don’t listen. And find someone who is God serving that ou can connect with. I believe we are all wired slightly differently hense why we have four different versions on the same story Matthew,Mark, Luke and John. But to decide for a person in leadership what you think is better for what they take on, that is something I don’t think we are able to even imagine. Leadership is not a light matter, maybe you are being called to it if you feel so strongly about what the messages should be.

  • Dennis

    Reminds me of the saying, “love ceases to be a demon only when it ceases to be a god.”

  • Andy

    Andy Stanley is an incredible pastor. North point’s mission is a church for unchurched people. He realizes that if he publicly denounces homosexuality then they will never attend to his church or any other church. He also knows they need to be there more than anyone else.

    What is more important? Shaking his finger at them or helping them see the truth of the Christian world view and by extension their sin.

    North point is setting an incredible example which I wish more of Christians would follow.

    • Bill Lonas

      “church for unchurched people”

      Now there’s a contradiction in terms for you.

      Funny, I just don’t seem to see the same catering to worldliness from Moses, Jonah, Paul or any other prophet or apostle in Scripture for that matter.

      • Laura Robertson

        Men of Athens…

        When in Rome…

        And before he did anything else, Jonah ran the other way.

        Bill – Do you feel more comfortable having all the answers? Always knowing. Always judging…

        “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

        • glenn

          Laura,
          And walking humbly with our God means that we are available to Him to do what He requires. And God requires us to have no compromise with the world.

      • Chris Nelson

        Amen. Three distinctives that make a church, 1) The full bore preaching of the whole counsel of God, 2) The correct administration of the ordinances and, 3) Church Discipline. This means that a church is made up of believers. Churches are to feed the sheep and the sheep then graze in the pasture of the world and evangelize/disciple. Certainly an unbeliever can go to church but they should feel uncomfortable in many ways and should not be catered to if it effects any of the 3 distinctives.

        • JB

          To which “church” are you referring with the 3 distincitives you’ve given? What happened to the “movement” that Jesus established against which hell’s gates would not prevail? From where do we get these three distinctives that we can so confidently state the church is? And, based on Jesus’ last thing he told us to do before exiting this earth, should not the making of disciples precede all else?

          I have seen absolute life transformation happen specifically due to the whole counsel of God that is preached by Andy Stanley. The radical effect that Andy has had on my oldest son to bring him into a growing relationship with Christ is nothing short of phenomenal. His impact on the life of the “ekklesia” to bring us back in line with one of the clearest statements (and the last) that Jesus uttered has impacted me personally and spiritually.

          I do not want to argue with anyone and believe that I have an intimate knowledge of the “church” (I’m a P.K., hold a M.Div. and am Lead Pastor at a growing church). However, I have personally repented (repleat with a change of my ways) from being an insular, myopic, “holy huddle” that has historically muted the one item that differentiates us from any other religion on the planet: GRACE. In it’s absence or in the attenuation of the the grace message, we have become a “compare and contrast” group that watches friends and neighbors await someone else to rescue them out of their certain discussion… and often feel “holy” doing so. I have too many indebted people who, like me, deserve nothing more than death, but for whom I have the Good News that Jesus paid it all.

          Andy Stanley is reaching countless people with the practical, pragmatic, simplicity of the Gospel… I can only hope that we all be as effective; …not all be a megachurch, but effective in reaching people with the message of Jesus… crucified but now alive and victorious!

      • Kelly

        Didn’t Jesus have dinner with sinners? Weren’t his disciples tax collectors? Didn’t He allow a prostitute to wash his feet?

        I didn’t see Jesus rejecting or denouncing them. If anything, by loving them, He spoke LIFE into them. That’s what allowed them to see the truth.

        • glenn

          Kelly, but Jesus did this, in our vernacular, in His role as an evangelist. He was with them. He didn’t bring them in on a Sabbath to the synagogue, which, of course was the equivalent for our church. But don’t get me wrong. We ARE to be out among the world. In fact, our “evangelism on Sunday morning” model of doing church flies in the face of what it means to be the church. It is the saints who, in church growth terms, build the church, not the pastor. The common folks are to be leading people to Jesus. After they get saved, then bring them into the church so the pastor can feed them.

          • courtney

            Glenn, I believe you are not understanding Kelly because she views Jesus did this as God not as an evangelist.

      • Irish Coleen

        Great point! I’ve said for years, Church is for the building up of the believer. I don’t agree when I hear people say “bring your unsaved friends & family to church…they might hear & accept Jesus. Well…yes, they might. But, we the believer should pray & witness to best of our ability (through the Holy Spirit) & trust the results to the Lord. I’m glad I’m part of a small church (120) & not one of these ‘mega churches’ that are, as you have well said…catering to the world! Blessings, Irish Coleen <

        • glenn

          Coleen–great comment!

          • courtney

            Glenn, Coleen,

            I do understand many churches are viewed this way and can seemed prioritized as focusing on the “saved” vs. the unsaved. But coming from a a young believer who never grew up with church only after my adulthood began attending any church, I would have loved to be apart of a body of people who desired their Fathers plans for them the way I believed for myself. It can be a lonely road when you do not have a place to connect with fellow people…even for a hour a week. What I love about the buildings Andy’s has started are that “The Church” is a group of people IF you want it to be or it can be a building. You have a choice.

    • Catherine

      Andy: The contraction of what you just said is breathtaking. How can Andy preach the WHOLE counsel of God, but fear people’s reaction if/when he preaches exactly what God says about homosexuality? When a preacher keeps silent on so-called divisive issues, such as homosexuality, he is leading his congregation astray. He is to preach truth IN love — not love without truth.

  • Findingmyway

    In my mind there is no greater communicator on earth than Andy. And I don’t attend NP, but listen regularly to him. But the unspoken elephant in the room of Andy’s message is, “What are we going to do about the homosexual question?” In fact I believe pressure to find the middle ground between what seems to some to be two untenable positions is the driving force behind this message. The unstoppable force of culture’s mission to make homosexuality acceptable has met the immovable object of the Word of God and the Church. Andy has always been able to build a bridge between those two distant shores bringing transformation in many ways to both in the process. I feel Andy’s angst in this message…grasping for an impossibility, a will o’ the wisp. I just think this particular issue is the Continental Divide between the world and the Word. I love Andy and I appreciate the effort he is making…but it just seems like a fools errand and I see no solution. I honestly wish he could find some way to resolve this issue…he might save us all from what looks like the first drumbeats of a new Civil War.

    • Brian

      I believe we need to grow past the Homosexual problem and understand their problem and leave it at that. The doctrine of Spiritism, revealed by Allan Kardec in the 1850’s, which states we are eternal spirits who may reincarnate as male or female, could be one cause for people to have their sexual predilection. Spiritism also states the law that we will pay for our sins in this life or the next, as we travel through attempting to be better souls in each successive existence. If you wish to explore more about Spiritism you can go to http://www.nwspiritism.com

  • Adam Shields

    I am unclear at your critique. Your main problem is that what he said could be misconstrued? But isn’t that always a problem, no matter what is said?

    You want him to say exactly where religion has gone too far and where it has not. Isn’t that the unanswerable question?

  • Rich

    Mr. Griswold is responding like a modern-day Caiaphas (How ironic, for today is Good Friday) in his criticism of Pastor Andy Stanley. One does not have to go far in reading any of the gospels before reading an account of Jesus placing the needs of people above the dictates of religion. He healed on the sabbath, prevented the stoning of an adulterous woman, touched/healed “unclean” persons, feasted with all types of sinners, gained insight from a Canaanite woman, and much more. I think grace means God places the needs of us sinners above his sense of holiness. Jesus placed the needs of a sinful creation above the Son’s place within the Holy Trinity, on the very first Good Friday.

    As for the matter of application. Preachers (at least within my Presbyterian neighborhood) don’t dictate how insights from biblically based sermons ought to be applied. There might be suggestions, but maybe not. Definitely questions. More often than, I trust the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts and minds of those who hear my sermons, in order for my sister and brothers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

    • Daniel

      Oh really! God incarnate, omniscient and omnipotent, in the person of Jesus “gained insight from a Canaanite woman?!” I submit that you may want to rethink this statement, or state that you deny the divinity of Jesus Christ.

      • Chris Nelson

        God is holy and seeks His glory and so should we! We need to quit groveling for each others acceptance and bow the knee to Christ. I want to learn more about God and His amazing power and then communicate this and minister in His power to other people yet without placating their sin.

    • cleareyedtruthmeister

      A modern day Caiaphas? Really?? You commit intellectual suicide in your first sentence.

      Jesus placing the needs of the people above religion as it was known at the time? Uh, yeah, one might expect that since Jesus WAS the de facto religion.

      Seems to me you are overly influenced by postmodernism’s untenable claims about truth, which are little more than a deconstruction of truth. I think this may be what Alexander is alluding to in his article, not that Andy Stanley is purposely doing something nefarious.

      Western intellectual history and philosophy has from its birth had a logocentric foundation—i.e. it centered on a certain presence—God, the Logos, reason, logic, the self, etc. To do so is to affirm “beingness”—the essence of something. You yourself, for instance, probably feel that you have a core—the self, the “I”—that is the origin of all you say and do. Deconstruction denies that any of this, including “the real you,” is in fact “real,” although the finding that all of this is not real is to postmodernists “real.” It’s like they claim that to deny the objective reality of truth is the ultimate truth.

      Central to deconstruction–which has crept into modern Biblical interpretation (see Walter Bruegemann) is another assertion based on dubious reasoning: the relationship between the meaning of a word and what it signifies is arbitrary. Words have no intrinsic meaning, but are only “signifiers” referring to other words, which are the “signified.” That is, words are just words that refer to other words. And human language refers only to itself, not any extra-textual reality.

      To believe that words refer not to other words but to ideas that have an objective ontological status is to be logocentric. And the deconstructionists mean to delogocentrize the world. They fully intend to turn the world upside down, glory in the absurd and abnormal, and uphold the bizarre and contradictory against common sense and logic. This is the ultimate liberation, which requires the ultimate rebellion.

      This gives ballast to the modern sentiment of “your truth” vs “my truth.” Truth is but a social construct and has no objective existence. This is the theo-philosophical battle we are witnessing.

      • Laura Robertson

        “Logos” and “self” are not the same things. Logos is the ground of being. “Self” is who we are at our core and finding out who that is takes a lifetime. Just because you come to something “logically” does not mean it is objectively truthful which IS Logos – the place where truth is inferred because it is the ground of being. God cannot be gotten to in this way. Descartes settled that with “I think therefore I am.” So you affirm your “self” by thinking, but that in no way affirms God, His existence, or His mind. We cannot know what God thinks. We can use all of our resources to theorize. We can pray and read the Bible and follow the leading of the Spirit, but that is ALL we can do. In summary, truth exists objectively – that is outside of time and space – you but can’t know it. (See 1 Corinthians 13:12) You can get close, but not all the way there which is why we have to be so very careful when we seek truth over love.

        • cleareyedtruthmeister

          And I certainly did not say that logos and self are the same. Indeed, I was trying, in part, to draw the distinction.

          In Christian thought ruth and love are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist fully without the other.

          God can be “gotten to” in several ways, but the only holistic way is through Christ.

          Descartes offered an observation, one which seems pretty reasonable….whether or not he settled anything is open to debate.

          If truth is truth then it exists in space and time as well as outside it (which we cannot really conceive of).

    • Heather

      uhh preachers at my Presbyterian church don’t really talk about the Bible much and you will never hear the word ‘salvation’ in a sermon. Come to think of it, you don’t hear a lot about Jesus either.

      Our sermons are more of the ‘good advice for good living’ type, which you could hear at any secular gathering.

      This is why I’ve lately been attending a Methodist church with my sister. So refreshing to hear the Pastor actually talk about Jesus.

      • Heather

        ps I meant this to be a response to Rich’s comments.

        • cleareyedtruthmeister

          Heather, glad you found a Methodist church that maintains orthodoxy…sadly, the UMC is headed the way of the PC-USA.

  • Rob Russell

    I think perhaps you have missed the point. Jesus said, and I paraphrase like Andy did, Love God and Love your Neighbor. Jesus obeyed the Father unto even death because He loved sinners more than anything. Jesus fulfilled the Law and now humanity is covered by Grace through individual acceptance of Christ. We are to put God first and others before ourselves and when we do God is pleased. I am saved thru Christ’s sacrifice only because He put the Father’s will and my need before His own desire to forego the suffering of the cross. This is not about theology. It is all above love, God’s love for humankind.
    I think Andy was spot-on……..

    • trytoseeit

      But love of God implies obedience to His will. John 14:15. Since that is the whole object of religion, it is hard to understand how the place of religion is to be subordinate to anything else. This makes Andy not spot on. It is as though he reverses the order, and the priority, of the First and Second Greatest Commandments.

  • John

    In religion there are God’s “Principles” and man’s rules (laws) for trying to keep those principles. Here, I believe that Stanley is referring to those rules (laws) that man imposes to “fulfill’ God’s principles. No where did I hear him say that we should violate God’s principles. ( Jesus broke rules but never Principles)
    Trust me, if you knew my “views” you would have no question about my “Christianity”. But, my views (the “right” ones) without Love are just “clanging cymbals”. We(Yes, me too) like to say “love the sinner, hate the crime”, but do we? When was the last time many of us “conservatives” were on our knees crying and praying for those we didn’t want to bake a cake for? Now before I get bombarded about that comment….I am from Arizona and I played a role in pushing the Governor to sign the bill ( she eventually vetoed) because I believe that no one should be forced to affirm something that they have strong convictions against. refusing to affirm sin should be done because of conviction not a rule. That conviction should also be accompanied by a burden for the sinner, if it isn’t it just empty religiosity. Jesus himself told us that this was God’s heart…..”he left the 99″…those doing religion “right” and went after “the lost one”….those we won’t ( And I don’t necessarily believe it is wrong) bake a cake for. But our heart should hurt for them.

  • Heather

    oh come on, this is just a swipe at various denominations. North Point is, of course, a ‘non-denominational’ church. I know people who attend NP, and they don’t like ‘denominations’ of any sort. Why bother to identify yourself as Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, etc is how they see it. Just replace the word ‘denomination’ for the word ‘religion’ and you’ll see what Stanley’s real message is. BTW, I occasionally watch Stanley on tv and enjoy his preaching, but I wonder why he abandoned the church (Baptist) of his youth. Oh right, it’s a denomination.

  • FAMiniter

    So, according to the author of this article, we should never ask questions to which we do not know the answers. Wow. That would preclude every last little bit of learning of any kind whatsoever.

  • jack gott

    “it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood”, as Karl Popper said. Dear author, if your personal struggle for significance drives you to nothing more than mischaracterizing sermons, then maybe public writing is not your ‘thing’.

  • Douglas Fraley

    Picky, Picky, Picky

  • Bill H

    Nicely written and thoughtful article… If you have listened to Andy preach or heard him share his perspective in other forums, I believe people would understand his perspective on ‘taking a stand’ or ‘clarifying his position’. Andy isn’t going to do that on certain issues. He has shared ‘religious leaders would press Jesus to state his position on specific things and Jesus would leave their questions deliberately unanswered’. Andy is simply modeling what Jesus taught by his example… If God’s call on Andy’s life is to reach out to those far from God, he isn’t going to do anything that opposes or negatively impacts his ability to do that. He has a quote of Acts 15:9 in his office “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God”… So if you are looking for Andy to take a stand on homosexuality or any other issue that is important to conservatives in the church, you aren’t going to get it… Or if you are looking for consistency and rigidity in how to live don’t listen to his sermon “When Gracie met Truthy”… Love is messy.

  • Mark J

    Christ clearly came outside of religion. He paid a heavy price for it. Paul also paid a price for the residual religion in James and Peter and John. Religion was what thrust him into the Gehtile world.

    We humans, unfortunately, are religious beings by nature. If we don’t use it to worship God, we use it to worship Mother Earth. It’s in our DNA. But it is devoid of Christ.

    • Militantmessenger

      Your morals aree a conceit if they are incomplete.
      Compare David eating the shewbread.
      WITH DAIVID BRINGING IN THE ARK IN ON A CART.IT SEEMS CONTRADICTORY BUT IT IS NOT.
      GOD DOES PLAY FAVORITES JACOB I LOVE ESAU I HATE.BUT ITS NOT UNJUST.
      TWO PEOPLE MAY COMMIT THE SANE CRIME ADULTERY BUT ONLY ONE IS REPENTANT OF IT.
      GOOD MAN MAKES A MISTAKE VS BAD MAN HAS NO REPENTANCE.
      JUSTICE IS THE PLUMBLINE..THE TWO SPIES STAYED WITH A HARLOTCIRCUMSTANCES DICTATED IT.GOD SPARED RAHAB THE HARLOT..THE LORD GAVE SAMUEL A COVER STORY WHEN DEALING WITH SAUL.(BECAUSE SAUL WOULD KILL HIM OTHERWISE)PEOPLE TODAY WOULD CONDEMN DAVID LIKE NABAL DID AS A REBEL TO HIS MASTER.THE CHURCH DID NOT OBEY THE AUTHIRITIES LOWERED PAUL OUT OF A WINDOW IN THE WALL.)

      ANDY IS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THIS AND PERRVERTING IT .MOST OF YOU AGAINST GAY MARRIAGE OPPOSING ANDY (AS DO I ) WOULD LET MEN IN YOUR CHURCH DO MY WIFE AS LONG AS SHE SAID SHE REPENTED. HEROD AND HERODIAS CAN SHOW UP N YOUR CHURCH.LIKE AMY GRANT SANDI PATI .JOHN THE BAPTIST APPARENTLY LOST HIS HEAD IN VAING BRYANT ASKED ME TO LET ANOTHER MAN DO MY WIFE.I CAN GO TO YOU AND YOUR PATOR AND YOU WILL NOT FORM A POSSE.ANDYS INCLUSION GRACE FORGIVENESS LOVE LETS MEN IN HIS CHURCH DO MINE AND OTHER MENS WIVES BUT THAT WOULD BE COMMON GROUND FOR ANDY HATERS TOO.SO YOU IGNORE IT

  • Dan

    True evangelical Christians understand this message and have no problem with it. He is arguing against organized religion as opposed to knowing the heart of God and living in accordance with that knowledge. No one criticized organized religion and strict rules applied without mercy than Jesus Himself. One of His most constant themes was the strict focus on rules of the Pharisees, while they ignored the mercy and grace behind those rules. God gave us rules to understand how He wishes us to live, not to beat us over the head with. We all fall short of obeying those rules, and that’s why we needed Jesus to live out for us the perfect life of which we are incapable. Does this give free license to break the rules without consequence? No, it simply means that God understands we will fall short despite our best efforts – and He forgives us when He sees that we are making our best efforts out of our love for Him. Only Jesus was perfect, and that is why forgiveness, mercy and grace come only to those who are in Him.

  • JohnS54

    I’ve been listening to Andy Stanley regularly for a while through his podcast. I’m still not totally sure what to make of him. Sometimes I think he tries too hard to be clever, and ends up confusing people as a result. Other times he seems to be going overboard to appeal to non-believers.

    His sermons almost always start out sounding like something that’s going to depart from sound biblical teaching, but by the end he usually brings it back and delivers the “medicine” of the word to the hypothetical non-believer he’s hopefully convinced to listen to that point.

    Some of his sermons seem to strike the balance better than others. Some are troubling. But at this point my view is that he’s still trying to strike the right balance in this approach, and he isn’t actually interested in casting aside sound doctrine.

    One thing that is clear today is that there is no amount of accommodation for the anti-Christian forces in society that will satisfy them. Christians and pastors who think that they can make the world accept them if they just “tone down” their beliefs and basically apologize for them are misguided.

    The concerted effort to roll back religious liberty, destroy Christianity and drive it to the margins of modern society is not happening because the people behind it don’t understand Christianity well enough. They understand it perfectly well, and they hate it. There is no way of making it palatable to them. It threatens their world view and way of life, and they want it destroyed, just as it was in Rome for the early church. How far this movement will go remains to be seen. But comfortable, upper middle class churches and pastors who want to believe they can make peace with the world are eventually going to have to face reality.

    I’m not sure where to place Andy Stanley on that spectrum. But it seems those are the issues he’s dealing with.

    • courtney

      God shows us we have free will and a choice from the very beginning of our existence. There are four different books on the very same story in the Bible. Matthew,Mark, Luke and John. Why did God make sure this happened… because we do not all hear his word the same, we are not all wired the same. He gave us choice and options to fit us uniquely. Andy’s style might not work for you, I encourage you to find one that does. But be careful to judge someone for their “watered down” and “catering to the world” style because He might be a Luke version of the story and you might just need a Matthew version.

  • Marc Benton

    Irony upon irony upon irony…..here we are again, Christians ravenously tearing at each other, trying to prove that we are right in all of our doctrines and have all of the answers. No wonder so any Americans no longer attend Church. If they listen in to us, they want no part of the whole mess. Paul wrote something about the fact that in the end, only 3 things will survive: faith, hope and love. Outsiders may see our “faith” in these arguments….probably have little hope we’ll ever get together as one (as our Lord Himself prayed we would) and look for love and see little if any. Wow! And we are trying to attract people who don’t know God to see Him through these disagreements? God help us!

  • Paul Wilkinson

    As a regular watcher of North Point sermons for nearly a decade, I think Andy is taking the long-term view and sees this as the beginning of a much larger, longer conversation. If you look at his unequivocal Biblical teaching on divorce, he leaves no ambiguity as to what he sees as God’s best, while at the same time recognizing his church is teeming with divorcees. I’m prepared to bet that over time, he will be prepared to outline God’s best on other areas of sexuality as well; but he’s in this for the long haul; running a marathon, and not about to be pressured into a sprint.

  • Meg

    Thank you for highlighting this.

  • John Make

    As you said, this is nothing new. In a recent sermon, “The Fine Print,” Andy all but denied the eternality of hell for non-Christians.

    Direct link: http://media.northpointministries.org/content/sunday/follow/Follow-Part5-Stream-WEB.mp3

    He says hell “might” exist, and then goes on to say that he doesn’t know. I listened to the entire message and Andy does not circle back to mention the reality of hell. Maybe he does in other messages, but given that he focuses on unchurched people, shouldn’t he tell people the whole truth, especially if someone attending today may not come back for the next message? Jesus referenced hell more than He referenced heaven, so the reality of hell was important to Jesus. It should be for anyone who claims to be a pastor.

    Transcript: 20:02 – 20:24 (referencing Mark 8:36-37, which Andy previously had read)
    “You forfieted your soul. You say, what does that mean you forfiet your soul? He [Jesus] doesn’t tell us, but I think it’s not good, to forfiet your soul. Maybe it means – psst – you’re just out of business, existence, you just go out of existence. Maybe it means hell. Maybe it means you’re tormented. Maybe it means, I don’t know. He doesn’t even tell us.”

    And to say that this passage doesn’t clarify what happens is a cop-out. It is clear elsewhere, and Andy does in fact know what happens…so why not say that? Andy has a duty to tell the whole truth and unfortunately, he hasn’t been doing that.

  • Mary

    I have always been taught that religion should take a backseat to a relationship with Jesus. Don’t get caught up in the rituals. Jesus broke some of the Jewish laws (religion) but never broke any of Gods laws.
    If this preacher is throwing out the Bible and Gods laws that is wrong. But if his point is not to get caught up in rituals or church given rules, then that is good. He doesn’t clarify enough for me what he is referring to. Part of the sermon is what I’ve heard before, but then strays.
    Confusing instead if leading.

  • Marie

    I heard the sermon you’ve critiqued. You’ve driven home again how deaf we’re made by our own filters. Nowhere does Stanley hint that Christ or the Father were inconsistent – you’ve heard that through human filters. Nor does Stanley focusing on God’s consistent mercy negate God’s holiness, or that there’s a false dichotomy. Jesus forgave the woman taken in adultery – mercy. The account of the healing of the man with the withered hand (Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11) lifts up the dichotomy. Religious leaders used Sabbath observance to test Jesus. Jesus response? Essentially, what’s the purpose of Sabbath? Jesus provides the answer (Mark 2:23) “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” We have to struggle against falling over into an ‘anything goes cause God loves to forgive’ kind of religion. That’s an old, dangerous heresy. Mercy and relationship and redemption is messy. Jesus examples that over and over and over. And focusing on the speck in one anothers’ eyes opens up space for the Enemy to gain a foothold by our division.

  • Kent Harris

    We have heard the acronym RINO Republican In Name Only but it is also very applicable this day and age. I call them CINO Christian In Name Only and by that when you read God’s Word and after that you say I don’t agree with it or you don’t believe what He said. Then you have made yourself superior to God’s Word. The Pope is a prime example of the current deception which has become mainstream that no one has noticed. I for one WILL obey God because He IS my Creator and He died for me on Calvary. I know I will never repay the debt but a truly humble heart will do so because you love Him.

  • Stuart

    Unfortunate this much time is spent disagreeing with someone. There are lots of Alexander Griswolds that do this all the time and evoke a discussion that ends up with the systematic destruction of other believers.

  • RadikalOne

    Not a bad article… for a pharisee. Good job. Nailed it.

    • RadikalOne

      And by pharisee, I mean I use stuff like this to show my kids what a pharisee looks like in 2014 so they can appropriately understand the contrast between Jesus and well, pharisees in a modern age. Thank you for your time and example. This was one of the better ones.

  • Jeff Taylor

    “It would have been one thing if Stanley had clearly delineated which religious rules ought to take a backseat.”

    So you want rules about when its okay to bend the rules? We need to invent an emoticon for when an idea goes over someone’s head.

  • courtney

    It is within ALL of our human nature to be “religious” to make our rules fit for our priorities. It is not on the other hand natural to be spirit filled, to show love and mercy and grace despite sin in some ones life. Or have we forgotten we all once were lost but now we’re found. I am a child of the God most high and I gladly support Andy’s views.

  • Maze

    Ironic. Much of what you say, such as, “There are the moral laws (do not steal, do not covet), but also rituals and practices required of all Christians to further their connection with God (prayer, attending church),” punctuates Andy Stanley’s point for him. Church attendance is a ritual one MUST adhere to? Really? You either missed the point of the sermon entirely, or just demonstrated exactly how one puts Religion and it’s practices, dogma, and rituals above the Truth that is everything. As someone else commented earlier, your article is a perfect, modern-day example to hold up and say, “This is what a Pharisee would sound like in 2014.”

  • RSJ

    Andy Stanley makes you uncomfortable because he is truly diving into the teachings and the life of Jesus which terrifies many in the traditional church because they don’t want to be like Jesus they want to follow their religious rules check off boxes that I’m okay and you’re not and go to bed comfortable that’s not what Jesus came to do and Andy Stanley is one of the few that actually pointing that out he is exactly right