See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. - Colossians 2: 8 (ESV)
Mega church pastor Andy Stanley stepped in it again this past week preaching that people who like to attend small churches are "so stinking selfish" and that they "care nothing about the next generation." He went on to say that they do not care about their own kids or anyone else's. Stanley was offering up this scathing rebuke based upon the absurd thinking and teaching that he adheres to. His actual defense is that pastors secretly grow mega churches so that there can be separate youth groups for middle school and high school age children. That this split system allows the fostering of lifetime friendships that apparently cannot be made otherwise, especially in smaller churches. If you are digesting that and are thinking it is a bit of crazy with a side order of nuts - you would be correct. As he was preaching it, Stanley gushed how passionate he was about the subject. That he was sick if hearing from people that they want a smaller church.
I believe Andy Stanley was telling the truth. The truth about how he feels and how he has been taught. The truth about his disdain for a small church mentality. About how little he actually cares for people. I take him at his word. This despite the fact that after an avalanche of criticism, he has tweeted an pseudo-apology.
"The negative reaction to the clip from last weekend's message is entirely justified. Heck, even I was offended by what I said! I apologize," - Andy Stanley Tweet
His tweet is a reaction to the reaction he has received. It hurt his brand. Beloved, this was not an oopsie moment. Stanley went on an elongated rant about the subject and it was one of his preaching points for the sermon. This was not an illustration gone awry. Anyone can say something they did not mean in a sermon. This was not that. Andy Stanley meant every stinking word of what he said. He just did not realize how visceral the reaction would be and when he realized it he went into damage control. His actual sermon point for this portion was instructing people at North Point Church to not take their kids to a church they will hate; which he translated as a small church.
The truth is that Andy Stanley is a false teacher. He has been for many years now. He is the type of false teacher the Bible expressly warns us about in multiple Scriptures, including the key verse for today. We are to make sure that no one takes us captive with their false teaching beloved. There are three important points for us from this one small verse in light of this story. The first is we are to not allow anyone to ensnare us with teaching that is based upon philosophy instead of theology. With something that sounds good to the human ear but is not fully supported in Scripture. There is a reason God gave us the Bible and that is to use it to discern what is and what is not from God. There is no biblical support for the notion that mega churches are the design of God or that small churches cannot breed lifelong friendships. That is categorically insane. Outside of the three thousand saved on the day of Pentecost there is no indication of any large congregations anywhere in the Bible. Remember the simple truth is that narrow is the way to eternal life and few find it:
Just so, I tell
you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over
ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. - Luke 15: 7 (ESV)
Heaven rejoices when only one sinner repents. This mega church mentality is not supported in the Bible. It is however the cornerstone of Purpose Driven Church growth schemes. Rick Warren has taught the new generation of pastors like Andy Stanley that big is the way to go and that small is to be shunned. The reality however is that is nothing more than human philosophy not accurate theology. The Book of Acts makes it clear that it is God who grows the church:
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. - Acts 2: 46-47 (ESV)
The Lord adds to the number those who are being saved. That is biblical theology, not human philosophy. The second point from the key verses is to not be taken captive by empty deceit. Beloved, stop for a moment and really consider the point Stanley was trying to make. Not the thing about smaller churches but the notion that the reason he built his mega church was so there can be separate youth groups. Does anyone honestly believe that for one stinking second? Talk about empty deceit. I am not even sure if Andy is being deceitful to everyone else or just lying to himself. It matters not. It is the type of deceit that ensnares people. It gets people thinking they really are selfish if they seek out a small church. It is beyond sheep beating. It is lying to the sheep as you are beating them.
This ties directly into the third lesson and that is the nature of false teaching. It is rooted in human tradition and the elements of this world instead of according to Christ. When we see the phrase elements of this world just think carnality. That is what God is saying. The things of human tradition and the utter carnality of man. That is what false teaching is rooted in instead of in Christ. Here is an example:
(When asked about Pastors being called shepherd) - That word needs to go away." He added, "It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it's not culturally relevant anymore." (Leadership Journal, "Get-it-Done Leadership," May 2006).
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;not for shameful gain, but eagerly;not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. - Jesus Christ via Peter
The first quote is from the master of human tradition and carnality, Andy Stanley. The second is from God, found in the Book of 1Peter. This is the opposition the key verses are speaking to. God said that pastors are to shepherd the flock until the Chief Shepherd appears but Andy Stanley thinks he knows better. He thinks that what God says is somehow no longer culturally relevant. How absurd. How carnal. Just like he honestly thinks that people who go to smaller churches are selfish and do not care about their kids. But do you notice what is missing from his analysis? Jesus Christ. His logic of human tradition was based on youth making friends. It was not based upon whether Christ and Him crucified was being preached. It was not based upon whether the small church was bringing the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ, which ought to be the first question we ask about any church.
We must realize however that underlying all of this is the simple fact that this thinking has infected the modern church today. It is not just Andy Stanley. It is how young pastors are taught today. That they are a vision casting leader instead of an under-shepherd. That bigger is always better. That our ideas, the pure carnal wishes of our ever wicked hearts can be wiser than what God has already told us. This is the Purpose Driven mindset and Andy Stanley is one of the biggest adherents to it. He is a false teacher beloved and as we are instructed to do so in the Bible, he ought to be marked as one.