Andy Stanley and his troubling message as spiritual shepherd of the flock
A little more than a fortnight ago, I wrote a column for The Christian Post titled “Free Speech and the State of American Culture.”
In that column, I discussed “The American Worldview Inventory,” which is researched and published by George Barna, the director of research with the Cultural Research Center located at Arizona Christian University. Barna and his team compiled exhaustive research in order to analyze the bedrock doctrines of the Christian faith to ascertain the current state of American Protestant Christianity.
Barna and his team’s research results were, and are, devastating. For example, Barna found that among Evangelical pastors, only 61% believed in the concept of absolute truth (some things are always right and some things are always wrong). And the Evangelicals are the conservative, Bible-believing Protestants.
Barna’s research was among pastors, not church members at large. If the pastors, the shepherds of the flock, have succumbed to sub-biblical worldviews, who is going to lead the people and “teach them all things whatsoever I have commanded you? (Matt. 8:18-20)
If people are not hearing a sure, certain, and uncompromising word from the pulpit, where will they find truth in this increasingly secular age in which Americans find themselves immersed?
Let us always remember that the Prince of Darkness, the Great Deceiver, is able to transform himself into “an angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14) and that Christians must “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph. 6:11)
And the devil is wily, deceitful and strategic. If Satan can deceive and neutralize a pastor, it is the spiritual equivalent of an expert sniper neutralizing or “taking out” the commander of a military unit. This is one of many reasons we should pray for our pastors, indeed all pastors, every day. It is a certainty they are going to get the special attention of Lucifer and his demonic minions.
It is with profound sadness that I bring to your attention a subtle, but profound example of a devastating, anti-biblical teaching coming from one of the leading Evangelical pulpiteers in America today—Andy Stanley.
The Rev. Stanley, the influential pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, and the leader of North Point Ministries, during North Point’s Drive Conference last May, made some rather astounding comments that have now gone viral on social media.
“A gay person who still wants to attend church after the way they’ve been treated. I’m telling you they have more faith than I do. They have more faith than a lot of you.”
Here is the most troubling part of the message from this shepherd of the flock. The Rev. Stanley spoke of “the gay men and gay women who’ve come to faith in Christ as adults, who want to participate in our church.”
After acknowledging and dismissing with a casual wave of his hand and the equally dismissive statement, “I know I Corinthians 6, and I know Leviticus, and I know Romans 1, so interesting to talk about all that stuff,” Stanley declared, “But just, oh my goodness, a gay man or woman who wants to worship their Heavenly Father, who did not answer the cry of their heart when they were 12 and 13 and 14 and 15. God said, ‘No,’ and they still love God!”
He then declares, “We have something to learn from a group of men and women who love Jesus that much and who want to worship with us.”
Frankly, this is an astounding statement from a leading Evangelical pastor. When God did not answer “the cry of their heart,” is he saying that God was wrong in not accepting their sexual orientation, or is he saying that God should have answered their prayer by changing that orientation? Either option is blasphemous.
When people of whatever background, behavior, or orientation come to God, they must come without reservation, forsaking all to follow Jesus as Savior. We throw ourselves on His mercy and trust Jesus and Jesus alone for salvation. He is Lord and Savior, and we come on His terms, not ours—it is not a negotiation.
I fear the Rev. Stanley has drifted farther than he is aware from the biblical foundations of his youth, and all of his Christian brothers and sisters should pray for him, and all the Christians whom he influences, without ceasing.
So, if Andy Stanley’s approach to the LBGTQ community is wrong, and it is, what should the Christian attitude be to a gay man or a gay woman who wants to come and worship in your church, but wants to do so while still embracing and practicing same-gender sexual relationships, expecting you and our Heavenly Father to accept such behavior?
It just so happens that I had some experience in addressing just that question many years ago before the LGBTQ community had received the acceptance it has achieved in today’s America.
In the early 1970s, I was the pastor of a storefront Baptist church in the French Quarter of New Orleans. At the time, there was a significant resident homosexual population in the French Quarter, supplemented significantly by LGBTQ visitors and tourists on a daily basis. Around the corner from the church was a gay bar and a drag queen costume shop was across the street.
This was during the Jesus Movement and most of my church members were recent converts to the Christian faith. At least 90% of the church’s membership were fairly new Christians and a high percentage of them had been addicted to drugs in the fairly recent past. It was a multi-ethnic church as well, and my fiancé (now my wife) and I were known as the “straights.”
My church members took their transformative Christian faith very seriously which meant, among other things, they were witnessing machines. I had a difficult time keeping them supplied with tracts and other witnessing materials.
Several homosexuals were converted to faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior—some from one-to-one witnessing and some through attending church services and hearing evangelistic sermons.
We always welcomed anyone in our church’s worship services, Bible studies, and other outreach programs, whether they were church members or not.
Christians should never discourage anyone from coming to their church for worship and spiritual sustenance. However, that is different than accepting the lifestyles they bring with them.
Our church would never accept anyone into membership (which was by baptism by immersion, subsequent to a profession of faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, unless by letter of recommendation from a sister Baptist church). I baptized some converts who had still not come to a conclusion about being church members. I baptized them as an act of obedience and witness to the Lord Jesus with a commitment from them that they would join a local congregation of believers when they felt convicted about when and where to join a church. (We most often counseled new converts who were not from New Orleans, many of whom were in their late teens and early 20s and who had run away from home before becoming Christians.)
We felt, with good reason, that there were a great many negative influences in New Orleans—a truly wicked city—that they were better off separating themselves from physically.
We never turned anyone away who came to worship, gay, drug addicts, Satan worshipers, prostitutes—we had them all—because the ground is level at the foot of the cross and they needed to be where the Gospel was being proclaimed and taught.
However, we made it clear that we loved and accepted them because Jesus did, but that neither Jesus nor we accepted those things in their lives that were condemned as sinful by our Savior. So even if they had experienced a conversion experience, until they removed such behaviors, they could not be church members or in positions of leadership.
I believe that is the way the churches should have dealt with homosexual and lesbian believers then and now.
Those people you truly love, you tell the truth. You are not telling them the truth when you lead them to believe that God accepts their behavior.
I am not diminishing their anguish or the fact that same-sex attraction is powerful. I lived with people dealing with this issue on a daily basis for more than two years, and on a regular basis since then.
However, as an ordained minister, and as a Christian brother, I have an obligation to my Savior, in whose army I serve, and to my fellow brothers and sisters, to be a truth-teller. And according to Holy Scripture, God does not accept or bless same-sex unions or behavior, whatever one’s sexual orientation may be.
Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.
Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.