For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. -- 1Corinthians 1: 17 (ESV)
If you have been paying attention to discern over the past few decades you have noticed a seismic shift in the church landscape. With the release of the Purpose Driven Church in the 1990s, Rick Warren finally provided a blueprint for fledgling pastors that encapsulated the seeker friendly movements of the previous two decades. The creep against biblical truth became a full on assault. The unsaved became the unchurched. The design was no longer to present the Gospel so that the Spirit may draw the lost to the foot of the cross. No beloved. Now the design was how best to construct a business model that would pack people into the pews. Expand expand expand. All for Jesus of course, wink wink nod nod. For that you needed a speaker of eloquent wisdom who could articulate these carnal visions in acceptable Christianese. You needed a marketing plan that appealed to the lost. You needed to turn worshiping the Lord into entertainment. You needed to get rid of any dissent. The Gospel? You didn't need that as much anymore. After all, what unsaved person is going to respond the message that they are a sinner when we can exposit Jeremiah 29:11 again? While Warren and Hybels were part of the origins of this ongoing mass heresy, the new breed of pastors coming up under them would be fully sold out to it. They would have drunk the Kool-Aid from the beginning and been all in. One such young gun at the time was Andy Stanley.
The son of famous preacher Charles Stanley, Andy quickly emerged as his own brand of folksy preaching that led to tremendous growth at his Georgia church. As the years wore on though we started noticing cracks in his theology. The usually purpose driven cracks we often see although Stanley was bolder to proclaim these loudly. Soon he was insisting that the word "shepherd" no longer should be used to describe pastors, claiming it was not culturally relevant anymore. Remember, a vision casting leadership guru doesn't have the time to actually tend to the sheep God has entrusted to him. Soon he was giving interviews claiming that the Bible was just a "collection of ancient documents." We could have seen the recent controversy coming from that 2013 nugget alone. Anytime a pastor starts to devalue Scripture it should be a major warning sign that full blown heresy and post-modern emergent thinking is not far behind. As if on cue, Stanley started mixing his worship with secular songs. This year alone he had a full set of Beatles music and some sexually suggestive boy-band music another week. Now I like the Beatles as much as the next guy but not in church. Remember though; the purpose driven mindset is growth at all costs that often require sacrificing holiness for the sake of entertainment. That brings us up to this summer and the sermon series Stanley entitled, "Who Needs God?" One of the sermons in that series was a horrific dive off the theological cliff, where Stanley essentially denied the inerrancy of Scripture. Naturally, he has been roasted since then as one would hope. Stanley could have responded by apologizing for being so obtuse and unclear but instead, he has tripled down. He has run to the purpose driven machine to prop up his poor teaching and try to make his critics sound as if they are confused. Last week we started to detail the push back from Stanley as outlined by "churchgrowth.com", one of the heresy supporters and purpose driven enablers. Remember beloved, this is big business we are talking about. Everyone is making their shekel from this business model and too much money changes hands to allow any critique to go unanswered. Another such source, Outreach Magazine went as far as to publish a five page article from Stanley trying his level best to wriggle off the hook he placed himself upon.
After reading his tortured attempts to put a new spin on his message what we are left with is no better than what was originally stated. That is because video does not lie. You can dress it up, pretend you meant something that people did not hear, or simply lie but all we have to do is hit rewind. There is no question that Andy Stanley consistently undermined the veracity of Scripture. He stated that the earth is 4 billion years old. He stated that the walls of Jericho never came down. Now he wants us to believe that he just expressed that poorly because he doesn't work with notes when he preaches. Tell ya what Andy. Start using notes if you are going to be that opaque. The reality however, is we can give him a pass on that matter and his sermon is still insanely heretical. His defense however continues to reveal the flawed and unbiblical thinking he was trained under in the purpose driven model:
The world has changed. The approach most of us inherited doesn't work anymore. Actually, it's never worked all that well. In a culture that had a high regard for the Bible, the traditional approach held its own. Those days are over. -- Andy Stanley
Surveys, podcasts and blogs leave one with the distinct impression that the version of faith this generation grew up with left them unprepared for the rigors and questions of academia and adulthood. This is especially true for those who pursue education beyond high school. The dechurched who grew up in church exit because they find the version of Christianity they've grown up with unconvincing, uninspiring and irrelevant. -- Andy Stanley
So the twisted logic Stanley tries to use for siding with science over Scripture in his sermon is that he was trying to reach the "dechurched." The millennials he claims to have such a passion for reaching. In doing so however he has made some poor assumptions and even poorer decisions for how to reach them. The assumption he has made is that this generation of twenty-somethings is somehow different than any other that preceded them and that is simply untrue. The reality is that in modern society at least, the twenty-somethings of today behave just like they did when I was twenty-something. The same as when my father was twenty-something. Stanley is right to infer that sticking to the truths of the Gospel, such as sin and the need to repentance never worked that well at all. At least not in the mega church mind. But narrow is the way to heaven and few are those who find it. Heaven rejoices when a single soul is saved. The problem is not with the message but with the sinful wicked heart that doesn't want to accept it. So do you change the message then? Of course not! The message came from God! So Andy Stanley noticed a problem beloved. The kids he was sending off to college from his church were falling away from the faith when confronted with what he calls, "fact based questions." So the unsaved college professor tells them that the walls of Jericho never actually fell down, something he could not possibly "know" and the student immediately renounces Jesus Christ. What conclusion does Andy Stanley reach?
He blames God. The approach he is speaking about that he thinks "no longer works" is called the Gospel. It means you preach the Gospel without compromising it. It means that you do not allow secular music as entertainment when you are supposed to be worshiping. It means you act as a shepherd if you assume the mantle of pastoral leadership. It means to uphold the inerrancy of Scripture, which Stanley opens this defense affirming. He gives a detailed insistence that he believes the Bible is inerrant. He drops all sorts of heavy hitting theological names in stamping his foot on the ground and declaring that he himself believes the Bible is inerrant. He just doesn't think millennials will believe him so he has tried to come up with a different strategy. Essentially he blames God because while he may insist he believes the Word of God is inerrant he clearly no longer believes it is sufficient. That is painfully obvious. Instead of relying on the sufficiency of Scripture, Stanley tries to convince the dechurched that the Bible is accurate. He takes what is a spiritual matter and tries to make it into a carnal debate.
Please do not lose this point because it is crucial for understanding the purpose driven mind. Salvation is not a matter of the mind. It is a matter of the Spirit. You cannot be convinced to become saved. Why? Because at the end of the day we are sinners by birth and our hearts are wickedly deceptive above everything else. I can hear a professor or pastor teach me how reliable the original Gospel manuscripts are but that cannot save me. I can logically put together that if all of the disciples were willing to be martyred then that is a pretty good indication they believed what they claimed but that cannot save me. There is no human argument that can convert my soul, lead me to repentance, and give me a new heart. Only the Spirit of God can do that. I will say it again, if someone has their faith unraveled by a professor expounding on theory, then they probably did not have faith to begin with. They were not in Christ. The Spirit of God was not in them, leading them into all truth. If it were, they could survive the attacks on Scripture from the world. That is what faith is!
Now faith is the assurance of things hope for, the conviction of things not seen. -- Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)
The conviction of things not seen! I do not need to see human opinion about the historical reliability of the Gospel documents. I know they are genuine because I have the Spirit of God inside me! Sure it helps buttress the argument if one was having an apologetics debate but not from the pulpit! One thing Andy forgets is what you reach people with is what will keep them. If you convince them academically then they can become unconvinced academically. If you convince them logically with human wisdom, eventually someone will come along and convince them with what seems like even greater human logical wisdom. But if they are genuinely converted by the Holy Spirit? Then nothing can undo that! Sure you might walk away for a season. You might even buy into some of the carnal arguments of the world for a time but the Bible says if you train up a child the right way when they are older they will not depart from it.
What happens in Andy Stanley's church is what happens in the majority of churches in this country today. Kids are raised in the church by well-intended parents. They are separated out from the congregation and the Gospel to be brought up on Veggie Tales and play time. Somewhere along the way, a well-intended Sunday School teacher asks them if they love Jesus and after all, who wouldn't the way He is portrayed? Of course if you asked the average nine year old they would admit they love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles too. That is because kids do not accurately conceptualize love, let alone sin and repentance. Yet despite these facts, there the kids are at the next baptism. They have their "testimony" in hand, written out for them by their teacher of course. Mom and Dad snap the pictures and dry them off, feeling a little more secure in the false belief that their child is saved. Then they go off to youth, where it is a pizza party every Friday night, and the carnality of the world is fully embraced. Youth being smart, they realize better than their parents that church is no different than the world they have to deal with every single day. The drugs and murder. The sex and pregnancies. They are sent off to college, maybe even one that is allegedly Christian, and they come back completely secularized. And then the pastor looks at the carnage and his first instinct is that it is God's fault. That the Gospel is somehow insufficient for this generation. That he has to try and change tactics to reach them. Validate the positions of their professors. Give the youth head knowledge instead of Biblical truth. Convince them carnally that what they were taught from Veggie Tales through youth group was correct. They never once consider that they have caused the carnage. That they did not send off unprepared kids but unsaved kids.
Look at the way Stanley even describes the Christianity he feels he has imparted to these folks. Unconvincing, uninspiring, and irrelevant. That is the core of purpose driven heresy. That somehow the vision casting leadership pastor dude must dress up the Gospel. Sermons must be inspiring instead of biblically accurate. They must convince the listener. Convince them to do what? To be saved? No beloved. To come back to church. That is the problem. When you remove the sin and repentance from the Gospel then you cannot save anyone. A pastor's job is not the make the Gospel relevant to the world! Dear Lord, it is the opposite! The Bible says we are supposed to be a shining city on a hill! We should stand out! Be different -- not relevant! I would rather have the Gospel be unconvincing, uninspiring, and irrelevant than be inaccurate. It is hard to convince someone they are a sinner in need of a Savior. It does not inspire the human wicked heart to discover that they are not God. We should not be seeking relevance to a culture that is consigning people directly to hell.
This is lost on the purpose driven mind. To Andy Stanley the version of faith this generation had was insufficient. As if there are multiple versions of our faith. There are not. There is one. You are either gathering people to Christ or you are scattering them away. You either are preaching the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ or you are not. Stanley spends the remainder of the article citing difference in how Paul approached people based on who they were. I am not getting into the weeds here. Paul never altered the Gospel and that is the point. What Stanley should have reflected to is that the fault for these kids falling away was his presentation of a compromised gospel. When the Apostle Paul leaves the elders at Ephesus he states unequivocally that he is innocent of their blood because he did not hesitate from proclaiming the entire will of God for them. You know, even the bloody parts. Even the cross, sin and repentance.
Let us close today with a reflection to the key verse. The Apostle Paul understood that the Gospel did need any help from him. It did not need his words to be eloquent. It did not need his human wisdom. The frightening part here though is the assertion that interjecting your own eloquent wisdom actually empties the cross of its power. Well what does that mean? The power of the cross is that our sins were forgiven there. The law of God, before which we stand guilty as charged, was nailed to the cross. That is tremendous power beloved! The power that leads to eternal life! Yet once you insist on your wisdom over the wisdom of the Lord, you empty the cross of that power. Once you think nothing of having boy bands and the Beatles during corporate worship, you are emptying the cross of its power. Once you think that you can undermine Scripture in order to "reach" people, you have emptied the cross of its power. Once you have sent kids off to college with a fairy tale gospel, you have emptied the cross of its power. That power is unto the very salvation of men but it can be so easily undone by the eloquent wisdom of one person who thinks that when people walk away from the church, it must somehow be God's fault. That the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which has survived millennia unchanged, is somehow insufficient for today. The blinding, staggering arrogance of the purpose driven mind on display through the heretical teachings of Andy Stanley. God help us.