December 18, 2017

He did not leave people “in sin”

by Doug Wright

Andy Stanley’s ministry at North Point Community Church and its many satellite campuses has recently come back onto many people’s radar. Stanley’s April 15, 2012 message, titled “When Gracie Met Truthy” caused quite a stir. The sermon was part five of a series called “Christian.” I have heard and read many critiques – both positive and negative – so for the sake of integrity and clarity, I listened to the message paying careful attention to the portion of the message where Stanley utilized a family in the congregation to illustrate his point.

On May 1, 2012, in a piece called “Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism,” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. gave a very accurate description of the illustration.

He told of a couple with a young daughter who divorced when the wife discovered that the husband was in a sexual relationship with another man. The woman then insisted that her former husband and his gay partner move to another congregation. They did move, but to another North Point location, where they volunteered together as part of a “host team.” The woman later told Andy Stanley that her former husband and his partner were now involved as volunteers in the other congregational location.

The story took a strange turn when Stanley then explained that he had learned that the former husband’s gay partner was still married. Stanley then explained that the partner was actually committing adultery, and that the adultery was incompatible with his service on a host team. Stanley told the two men that they could not serve on the host team so long as the one man was still married. He later told of the former wife’s decision not to live in bitterness, and of her initiative to bring the whole new family structure to a Christmas service. This included the woman, her daughter, her former husband, his gay partner, and his daughter. Stanley celebrated this new “modern family” as an expression of forgiveness.

As Stanley told the story, he regularly referred to a screen (with static figures) that showed a united “extended” family. Mohler questioned whether this signaled “the normalization of homosexuality at North Point Community Church?” After listening to the sermon and the illustration, I echo the question. Stanley gave no indication that the homosexual relationship needed to be confronted. He tacitly condoned allowing this “couple” to serve as long as they were not committing adultery. He made it clear that anyone confronting and condemning homosexuality just did not understand the balance of “grace and truth.” He intimated that if Jesus were still on earth, the way this lady in his congregation responded is how Jesus would have responded.

Stanley misrepresented not only the biblical conflict of grace and truth, but severely misconstrued Jesus confrontation with sinners. Jesus often confronted sinners, but he never left people in sin or with the impression that their sin was “ok.” Jesus confronted the arrogant, inflated self-image of the Pharisees, but he also confronted sinners. His words to the adulterous woman were, “go, and sin no more.” Stanley clearly left the listener with the idea that confronting the sin of homosexuality violated the delicate balance of “grace and truth.”

If there is ever a time that believers need to be clear on what the Scripture says about homosexuality, it is now! Vice President Joe Biden affirmed on the May 6, 2012 showing of Meet the Press that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex unions. The following Monday Arne Duncan, the education secretary, agreed that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. These comments elicited President Obama’s rebuke of North Carolina for rejecting gay marriage and his subsequent support for same-sex marriage. The Hollywood crowd has responded by pouring campaign funds into the sitting president’s coffers.

Andy Stanley’s failure to be clear that homosexuality is a sin is pandering to a societal perversion. He has been and should be rebuked soundly for his ambiguity. Paul concluded his exhortation to overseers in Acts 20:28-31 by referring to his own pastoral ministry. He says, “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. Paul assigns pastors doctrinal guard duty (“watch”), and illustrated the necessity of sounding a warning. It would not be inappropriate to send Andy Stanley a note expressing your disappointment. It is, however, inappropriate not to “warn” your flock that Stanley’s teaching is deficient. His wide media outreach will influence many believers – perhaps a few in your congregation. This is a good opportunity to teach our people discernment, as well as the necessity to be clear in speaking against sin. The Scripture is clear that any physical relationship outside of a heterosexual marriage is condemned. Homosexuality is especially egregious since it goes against “nature.” Jesus was compassionate, but clear when pointing out and dealing with sin. We should mimic that in our preaching.

Doug Wright is pastor of Keystone Baptist Church, Berryville, VA. He also serves on the FBFI Board as Treasurer.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.