Thinking Out Loud

June 21, 2019

Andy Stanley Clearly Articulates the Premise of Irresistible

Maggie John of the daily Christian television show 100 Huntley Street has posted a full, 49-minute interview she did with Andy Stanley, talking first about his famous father and his call to ministry, and then focusing in more directly on his book Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleased to the World. (Thomas Nelson, 2018)

Some people have their minds made up about what Andy did say or did not say and that’s unfortunate, because I don’t see how anyone can watch this with an open mind and not grasp the point he is trying to make; namely, the need to switch our emphasis from “The Bible says it,” to “Hundreds witnessed it;” to remind ourselves that the key to our faith is not rooted in a book as it is rooted in a resurrection.

I suppose that actually giving this some thought is too big a stretch for some. It’s easier to pre-judge Andy and his book and bring personal bias to the discussion before actually slowing down to hear him out. It’s easier to go on the attack on Twitter and other media than it is to consider that if we fail to listen to this, we’re in danger of losing an entire generation. It’s easier to create a panic, accuse someone of heresy, or rally the troops around a common enemy.

I’m all in on this. 100%. I’ve embedded the video below, but if you click on the YouTube logo, it will open on their site and you can capture the URL to watch on another device. You may read my original review of the book at this link.

 

September 17, 2018

Irresistible — Andy Stanley’s New Take on New Testament Faith

By his own admission, publishing this book is a career-risking move.

Furthermore, the criticism that Andy Stanley has already endured over statements which are contained in Irresistible would cause some to lay low for several months until the storm passes.

But that’s not Andy Stanley. Instead, he takes nearly 300 pages to fully flesh out his reasons for saying that Christianity needs to “unhitch” itself from the Hebrew scriptures, or what we call The Old Testament. Yes, that. For some those were fightin’ words. For others, the implication was that those writings weren’t inspired or aren’t relevant to knowing the backdrop from which events kickstarted in Bethlehem 2,000-plus years ago. That’s called putting words in someone else’s mouth

…It’s hard to review a book when, for many weeks, you were tracking with the sermon series on which the book is based. There are usually few surprises. Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World (Zondervan) is based on a sermon series called Aftermath which the North Point pastor preached after Easter this year. The church website sums it up this way: “Jesus’ resurrection launched a series of events that introduced the world to his new covenant and new hope. But old ways don’t easily give way. Not then. Not now.” That could also well serve as a summary of the book.

The book is divided into four sections and like a good British mystery, each section is building toward the concluding chapters. I said, “few surprises,” above but unless I missed something in the teaching series, Andy pushes beyond the original conclusion and suggests something even more radical in the way we format our copies of the texts. (I’ve decided to avoid the spoiler.)

I was also struck by the humorous tone used to convey a rather serious subject. It creates a reading environment in which even a new believer — struck by the differences between the First and Second Testament and wondering aloud, “What’s up with that?” — can have a complete understanding of the world in which the news of the resurrection was first preached, and how the two parts connect.

In many respects, the book is personal. His motivation for writing begins with a 2007 trip to China in which he was asked a poignant question about the church in America. In the book (and elsewhere as well) Andy mentions a verse displayed in his office, Acts 15:19: “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (NLT) He’s committed to removing any barriers to faith which might be hampering someone who would otherwise want to be part of Christ’s family.

As he has stated many times, one of those barriers is the material found in the Old Testament (or if you prefer, First Covenant). The violence. The scientific questions. The seemingly arbitrary rules for conduct. The supernatural occurrences. Instead, he believes (as the book’s subtitle affirms) that we need to be focusing on “the new” and in so doing, focus on what the first generations of believers had in a world before church buildings, a world before printed copies of the scriptures, and a world where the resurrection was everything.

It was a faith to die for.


Release Date: September 18, 2018 | 9780310536970 USA | 9780310536987 UK, Aust/NZ, Canada


Thanks to Dave K. at HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada for a review copy.

 

 

June 5, 2015

Today is Blog Post # 3200

 So years ago, we were driving along in the car, when my oldest son suddenly got very loud and said, “LOOK at the odometer, it’s 143,517.” In his mind, this number was as worth celebrating as the ones that end in a lot of zeroes. (For my U.S. readers, and those in whatever is the only other country that didn’t go metric, that’s kilometers, not miles.) It was a rather funny moment. He tends to think outside the box. Last night, he cooked spaghetti and used cornbread to make garlic bread. It actually worked quite well.

But this truly my 3,200th blog post, and that’s just here at Thinking Out Loud.

Hairy Brother

As you might imagine, 3,200 posts can wear a guy out, so we thought we’d get lazy today and post some visuals. Hairy Brother is one of a long series of movie poster knockoffs created for the Orange kidmin (Children’s ministry) program. Click the image to get into the store and see more. A lot of churches use Orange, but some don’t know that the driving force behind it is Reggie Joiner, who started out with Andy Stanley at North Point. Considering that Louis Giglio (Passion Conferences) also started there got me wondering how many different ministries sprang from this one Atlanta church. Anyone got the time to research that one?

Also, a few weeks ago I ran a story on the current trend of revamping the hymns for fun and profit. I wish I’d had this cartoon at hand at the time. I’m not sure of who the artist is, but it’s from one of the many Christian comic collections that were common in the mid-80s.

New Tunes for Old Hymns

Finally, this video clip has been languishing in a back alley of YouTube for several months, with a very low view count. It’s an auto-tuned version of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. If you have the time click through to the video channel; the guy has some rather brilliant stuff posted. (Check out the National Anthem mash up.)

May 21, 2015

In Case of Rapture, Or Long Weekend, This Church will be Closed

North Point Closing

When we were given a midweek tour of Buckhead Church a few years ago, the thing that struck me was that there was a large infrastructure that was really only used for a few hours each week. The entrepreneur in me was trying to think of ways to leverage the facility to see greater exposure, so the idea of taking one week — no, make that two weeks — off each year is in my thinking, somewhat counterproductive.

But that’s exactly what the North Point family of churches in Atlanta’s north suburbs is doing this weekend; taking their cue from an already entrenched shutdown that occurs annually between Christmas and New Year’s, the church will be completely closed over the Memorial Day weekend, in anticipation of a major summer kickoff on May 31st.

Now, I’m not criticizing here, I’m just posing the question. I am a fairly rabid fan of Andy Stanley. I greatly respect and admire his ability to re-frame the Gospel in totally fresh ways. But let’s give this some context.

We live at a time when people are taking an extremely casual approach to church attendance. Families with children have already sacrificed weekly continuity on the altar of getting their kids into team sports: Soccer, baseball, three-pitch, t-ball, gymnastics, swim teams, etc. What hasn’t been destroyed by athletics has been decimated by dads working weekend shifts or moms working retail Sunday openings.

These days, if you can get a family out to church 26 out of 52 Sundays, you’re doing well.

So why chop that down to only 50 Sundays? Why create even the most subtle suggestion that taking time off church is perfectly acceptable?

Not being a regular attender, I don’t know if there’s room in North Point’s church culture for dissension, but I would rate this as one of their less-smart moves. I really feel for singles in this, people who don’t have family traditions on the long weekend, and especially, people who look for the fellowship of that weekly worship gathering as a boost for the rest of their week. Honestly, I get depressed as hell just thinking about people losing that sense of connection, to the point where I can’t imagine having to live it.

Obviously, some people, who place a sense of propriety on weekly church attendance will take the opportunity to visit another church. Some may stay home and watch an alternative presentation the church will offer at North Point Online. Some people, planning a visit to Atlanta for this weekend that includes a North Point visit, simply will not get the memo.

For this and other reasons, I have to say a resounding “No!”

What about you?

 

 

February 27, 2015

Target of the Month: Andy Stanley

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:35 am

Andy Stanley - Why in the WorldIt only takes one or two conservative bloggers to write something against a particular pastor or author and quickly, and all their many acolytes jump on the bandwagon. It was such with Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker, though few of his critics had ever bothered to read his earlier works, or, as the criticism continued, his new book The Grave Robber which is nothing more than straight commentary on the miracles in John’s gospel.

I noticed over the past week that North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia has become the most recent target. I have followed Andy’s sermon series to the point where I can safely say that there is not a sermon that he has preached in the past six or seven years (or however long the streaming site northpointonline.tv has existed) that I have not heard. I believe I can offer an informed opinion based on a high degree of intimacy with where he is coming from.

While I believe he needs no defending I wish to offer what follows.

1) You cannot preach the whole compendium of Christianity in a single sermon.

Anyone who tries to isolate a particular theme in scripture from the larger picture, and then pretend that it represents the entirety of Christian doctrine would be foolish. So when Paul speaks in Philippians about adopting the attitude of humility, you could try to extrapolate from that the idea that Christianity consists merely of walking with a humble attitude as Christ did, and you would miss other themes such as his divinity, the need for repentance, the atoning work of Calvary, the second coming judgment, etc.

You can try to work everything in to your weekly sermon if you wish, but your preaching will become repetitive, and you won’t leave enough time to really grow your people in different areas. Each of the epistles and each of the minor prophets has a particular emphasis; and while it’s helpful to see the Christological features of a particular book, it’s not helpful it appears forced.

2) Veteran Christians are in emotional bondage to certain words and phrases.

It was Canadian pastor Bruxy Cavey who first pointed this out to several of us. He had just preached a long sermon where he passionately referred to “the Kingship of God,” and then as people were leaving took some criticism from a woman upset that he had never mentioned the sovereignty of God. Sovereign and King are the same thing in my dictionary, but because he didn’t use the right words, she wrote him off.

In the rush to condemnation, many critics have an imaginary checklist and as preachers use certain references they award approval. (Right now “gospel” is worth five points for the initial use and three points for each additional usage; “ESV” is worth six points.)

3) Sometimes it takes a fresh analogy.

I believe the purpose of Jesus’ parables was in part to restate truths in a fresh way.  In my own discussions with people about a particular issue, I’ll speak about the way I believe God intended us to live, and then borrowing a computer term, I’ll suggest we need to ask God to help us “restore default settings;” i.e. return to the original design.

I don’t believe for a minute that anyone doing this on a regular basis is departing from orthodoxy any more than translating the book of Mark into Swahili is an affront to the original Greek text.

4) The best local church preaching is contextual.

There is a clash of objectives that takes place when a local church puts their sermons online for the world to watch. For that reason I’ve heard that a handful of churches are opting out of media pages on their websites. The sermons were preached in a single location at a particular time for a unique group of people.

Andy Stanley has an interesting demographic thing going on right now at North Point. You see it reflected occasionally in the testimonies of people being baptized, but it really needs to be the subject of a whole other article than we have space for here. Suffice it to say that in the current sermon series where he is speaking about “the Temple model,” he is really addressing the problem of religion in a way that mostly avoids the R-word; and he’s doing this with a particular hearer in mind. Perhaps it’s just one person, that one person coming from a place in life where this approach resonates, and then it is being expressed to a larger audience.

5) It doesn’t get more exegetical than this.

The complaint is often that ‘seeker-sensitive’ churches have topical sermons, but as I watch Andy Stanley working his way through passages on a phrase-by-phrase basis, what I see is a very old-school style of teaching — you can easily visualize people marking their Bibles — being offered with freshness and passion. Last Sunday’s message (the fourth in the series) had six specific passages (they’re posted for reference before and after the sermon) of which at least a couple went into great detail.

But before I dismiss this, why are we still hauling out this ‘seeker sensitive’ label? That’s so 1983. Survey results at North Point among people attending five weeks or less shows a desire on the part of many to go deep and jump into service. The people who show up and brave the traffic congestion at the various North Point sites in greater Atlanta are not necessarily doing this just to fill a spectator role. (Study results at Willow Creek also confirm this.) When you castigate the church with a pejorative use of the ‘seeker sensitive’ adjective, you’re really demeaning very sincere people who hunger after more of God.  The problem is not that some churches are seeker-friendly; the problem is that too many churches are seeker-hostile.

6) Listeners are encouraged to come back for more.

There is a classic story of Dwight L. Moody opting one week not to give an altar call, which proved to be the week before the Chicago Fire in which many perished. The story is told to encourage pastors to lead people to a point of decision on a weekly basis.

While the imperative of the gospel is “choose today who you will serve,” and “now is the acceptable time, today is the day of salvation;” odds are that an Atlanta fire will not consume the city in the week to come. The whole point of a sermon series is to build toward a conclusion.

The first Sunday of any of the North Point series is intentionally introductory. But the final Sunday often ends with the band playing the 21st Century version of Just As I Am, or some song that leads people to a point of decision and taking next steps. I don’t believe it’s fair to isolate any particular messages without looking at the whole.

7) We often misunderstand the role and power of sermon.

I’ve written before about how ideally, Evangelicals need to see sermons through a sacramental lens. Compared to Roman Catholic or Mainline Protestant churches, we place greater emphasis on the message than the ‘liturgy’ which proceeds it in Evangelical churches, and we do sometimes pray that through the teaching of the word, ‘we will leave here different than when we came in.’ So we need to preach for change.

But we also have to understand that this sometimes takes place over time. Last summer I purchase some clear wood stain as well as a gallon of opaque wood stain for another project. With the clear product, it took layers and layers and application before I noticed a difference taking place and it immediately struck me that this is what happens with sermons. Applied to our life in layers, the effect is initially invisible, but evidenced over a lifetime of faithfully attending to hear from God’s set-apart leaders.

For those reading this, ask yourself: What was last Sunday’s sermon about at the gathering you attended? Some might have an answer; many might have forgotten.

8) I believe Andy Stanley crafts his sermons with the criticism anticipated.

There are times I’ve listened to a North Point sermon and it has struck me that Andy is saying something in a certain way in anticipation of criticism or misunderstanding. Obviously no one wants this. He works to make identification with conservative Evangelicalism, while speaking its truths to those who are new to the doctrinal and theological concepts.

Thankfully, the ministry that I believe God has raised up at North Point has operated in such a way that many of the complaints and accusations brought against other large churches just don’t stick; in fact their Christian Education program has been a model for churches around the world and their track record on charitable giving has been exemplary.

That people miss these obvious signals and forge ahead with criticism I believe says more about the critics than the one being targeted. The survival of many ‘watchdog’ or ‘discernment’ ministries hinges on always having fresh targets and their followers thrive on all the negative messaging.

All this to say, I encourage you to check out the series Brand New at the website brandnewseries.org .

 

 

October 30, 2012

Andy Stanley Reveals What’s In The Secret Sauce

As someone who has been around The Church for a long time, I’m really not in North Point Community Church’s target demographic. But at 2:00 PM on a Sunday, you’ll find me watching a streaming broadcast of their morning service. Two reasons. First, I think there’s something exciting going on in that Atlanta suburb and because the technology allows it, I want to be watching to cheer them on. Second, there’s stuff about what it means to trust God that I still don’t think I’ve got right and I need to be told again and in new ways.

Andy significant landed on my radar eight years ago. I was doing a church plant and wanted to access video teaching content from another church that the other church wasn’t ready to give out. “Have you heard of North Point?” I was asked. “North who?”

Just about any survey of megachurches in the past decade places North Point in the top five. In addition to their own satellites in the greater Atlanta area, North Point Ministries has strategic partner churches across the U.S., in Canada, and beyond.

Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend (Zondervan) is Andy’s message to pastors who want a behind-the-scenes look at the church and know how (and why) they do what they do.

The book comes at a time that many are concerned that the megachurches are setting the agenda for the church as a whole in the Western world. But the North Point staff have spent enough time doing seminars to know that their methodology is of interest to medium-sized and even small-sized church leadership.

The church is mission driven. The book explains how that mission drives their vision; how it drives everything that they do. The vision, in turn, drives their model. Their model drives their programming. And their programming is radically different from other churches you have been part of.

There’s no men’s or women’s ministry. Most of their giving to local needs goes to secular agencies. Events or services are termed “environments.”Their children’s curriculum targets key narratives and doesn’t try to cover the whole compendium of scripture. Women help take up the offering (and do lots of other things, too.) Non-Christians serve in various limited capacities. You have to — without exceptions — record a 3-4 minute testimony video to be baptized. They avoid the phrase, “The Bible says…” Officially, the music selections on Sunday are termed “singing,” not “worship.”

Some of you are feeling your blood pressure rise.

Andy admits there are no chapters and verses for these policies. But before you get up in arms, or say, “See, I told you so…” you should know that much careful thought and prayer have gone into creating the North Point distinctives.

This is a seeker-targeted church. In its present form, North Point is more ‘Willow Creek’ than Willow Creek. Too many people think that means ‘dumbed down.’ Not at all. What Andy calls “putting the cookies on the lower shelf” does not preclude solid, often exegetical Bible teaching. I would contend that in status quo churches across the western world, most people would find the level of personal challenge at North Point to be much greater than they are presently accustomed to. Jesus didn’t ‘dumb down’ anything. He challenged people in terms of spiritual disciplines and in their understanding how the Old Testament puzzle pieces fit together to reveal Him. Trust me, some of you — some of us — wouldn’t be able to keep up to the pace at North Point.

This is a hardcover book for pastors, church leadership, and church planters that is going to resonate with anyone drive by The Great Commission. It’s not for everyone. But it’s a book that every pastor, church leader and church planter needs to read. There’s also much in personal stories including a section at the beginning that defines the relationship between Andy and his father, Charles Stanley.

Highly recommended.


Here’s a quotation from the book published today at C201

September 20, 2012

Eddie Kirkland CD — Kings and Queens

Filed under: music, Uncategorized, worship — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:04 am

I  don’t know why bloggers are given so many books to review, but rarely given compact discs. Music is a powerful force and Christian albums can make a significant contribution in the life of a believer.  Today, we look at one that I hope more people will discover.

Eddie Kirkland is a key part of the worship leadership at North Point Community Church.  We’ve already looked at Here and Now, a song from the new album, Kings and Queens, which I think should be the anthem of every church.  And a few of the songs which follow it have an athemic quality to them, worthy of a big sound, perhaps even fuller than what’s here.  Or maybe it’s just that as a weekly viewer of the North Point podcast, I am hearing the congregation joining in even as I listen.

Some of the songs themselves are hybrids mixing ‘horizontal’ thoughts with ‘vertical’ prayers and praise.  Looking at ‘side one’ so to speak we have “Part of the Solution” which speaks to our need to put ourselves into vulnerable situations in order to bless others —

I’ll be a light for the eyes that cannot see
I’ll be a voice for the lips that cannot speak
To the broken I will carry your love, whoa
I will be part of the solution

A similar anthemic quality is found in “Brighter Days.” The title song, cowritten with Steve Fee, really struck me once again the degree to which we have kingdom priorities upsidedown, and how it’s the last and the least in the kingdom that are deserving of the biggest crowns.

The riches found in heaven
Are crowned upon the meek
All the children, thieves and beggars
Stand above the kings and queens
The mystery of the kingdom
Is everything reversed
The hands that hold the treasure
Are the ones who live to serve
Heaven’s heroes are the last and least on earth.

There are eleven songs altogether with a very made-for-radio sound and thoughtful lyrics. Kings and Queens is available wherever you buy music.

June 20, 2012

Wednesday Link List

The fine print: By reading this link list I agree to actually click a few links and check out the stories, and not just scan the summaries and leave.

May 4, 2012

Why Albert Mohler Should Retire

…It’s a much more polite post title than the one I originally considered…

Another Evangelical leader has proven this week that when Evangelical leaders reach a certain age they seem to go a little bit off, not unlike bakery products that have a best before date, or as they say in the UK, a sell-by date.  And the manner in which they go a little bit off is to attack their own.

We have already mentioned here the travesty of Jack Van Impe insisting that Rick Warren has bedded down with Muslims to fuse some new brand of faith he calls Chrislam.

This time it’s SBC theological president Albert Mohler, Jr. on his blog accusing Andy Stanley as supporting gay marriage.

Well, first let me qualify that. Albert Mohler’s blog is not a blog in the sense most people use that term. There is no place for comments, for dialogue, for interaction. True, he gives an email address, but…

We begin with Christianity Today:

Stanley’s message was from the book of John, and he spoke about how messy and seemingly inconsistent Jesus’ love was. “At times [Jesus] seems to be forgiving, and at other times he seems to be holding everybody accountable,” Stanley said in the sermon. “At times he points out sin and at times it’s like he ignores sin altogether.”

That tension can be seen at North Point after sermons on remarriage after divorce, which people hate to hear but are glad they did, he said. It also exists for gay members, who have left predominantly gay churches for North Point because they want more Bible teaching, but are nervous about how welcome they’ll be, he said.

In trying to love like Jesus does, the church can also seem inconsistent and leave people wondering what they’re really about, Stanley said.

You can watch the sermon in question here, select part five (April 15th).

This is a good place to mention that Andy Stanley is considered one of the finest communicators in the United States.  He chooses his words very carefully, and he is what I consider a very wise man. He obviously wants to continue to living in the tension(s) he described that Sunday.

But while Mohler has Stanley in his sites from the very beginning, he couches his rhetoric with a vague academic church history lesson about megachurches in America. Apparently size matters, and not in a good way. Megachurches breed liberalism in Mohler’s view. Logically then, smaller churches should be fertile ground for orthodoxy. In some bizarre parallel universe, perhaps.

The Christian Post quotes Rick Warren demanding an apology from Mohler on this front:

A prominent evangelical’s recent blog headline – “Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?” – has irked Pastor Rick Warren, who is calling for an apology for the “sensational” title.

Warren, founder of Saddleback Church, sent a tweet to Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on Tuesday, saying: “A TITLE questioning1000s of churches’ orthodoxy due to size is unChristlike.U need to apologize to pastors Al.” …

…Taking issue with the title of the blog, Warren commented: “@albertmohler Would a sensational blog title ‘Are THE Seminaries the New Liberals?’ be fair if 1 seminary pres. messed up?”

In response, Mohler tweeted back: “@RickWarren Glad to hear from you, Rick. I would certainly not be offended by that title … In fact, I might use it. Megathanks.”

Where does Mohler derive such arrogance?

But church size is a red herring in this story.  As a somewhat biased fan of Andy Stanley, I had to weigh in at the CT piece:

I had been a consumer of Andy’s video teachings for at least five years prior to becoming a regular follower of NorthPointOnline about three years ago, and was watching live when this illustration happened. I think anyone who has had this type of exposure knows Andy’s heart and and tenor of his ministry.

Just as we’re told that Jesus’ parables should be interpreted only to say ‘one thing,’ so also should this illustration only be evaluated in terms of its primary purpose. You can’t condemn a sermon for what it did not say, or every sermon preached would have to contain a compendium of Christian doctrine and ethics.

Mohler described the resolution of the story Andy Stanley told his congregation. 

…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.

Note Mohler’s use of the word “celebrated.” This is where you see most clearly that you cannot trust what this man is writing. “Celebrated” is a calculated value-laden word which simply doesn’t describe the proper context.  At CT, I continued:

The reference to the TV show “Modern Family” was not giving endorsement to that type of family dynamic; the family in the illustration is simply reflective of the times, and the television reference immediately connected with the audience. That family is also a work in progress, an unfinished story in which the operation of grace and truth will hopefully continue to unfold.

Dan White, Jr. was another CT respondent who felt that Stanley was deliberately walking a fine line on this issue:

…Currently in our political culture of communication the non-negotiable’s are:  1. Define what camp you fall into,  2. Demonize anybody who does not fit squarely into your camp,  3.  Apply debate techniques not active listening and 4. Defend/clarify your position at all costs.  I believe this style of discourse is more secularism than it is biblical. 

I listened to Andy Stanley’s message.  He taught the principle that the tension of Grace and Truth sometimes makes things unclear, ambiguous and complicated.  Stanley’s message was from the book of John, and he spoke about how messy and seemingly inconsistent Jesus’ love was. “At times Jesus seems to be forgiving, and at other times he seems to be holding everybody accountable,” Stanley said in the sermon. “At times he points out sin and at times it’s like he ignores sin altogether.”   Listening to Stanley’s conservative critics, I’m not sure they see Jesus this way.  I’m not sure they’ve dealt with the way Jesus was perceived by his listeners. 

Jesus spoke in parables and in Matthew 13:34 he makes the point that “Jesus did not say anything without using parables.”   Why would Jesus indulge in short artistic fictional stories to convey such essential messages? Each parable would often end with the refrain “whoever has ears let him hear.” Each parable would often include a hidden message that would be accessible to some and confusing to others.  At one point the disciples share their frustration “Why do you speak in parables?” As if to say “Jesus why are you doing this? Your telling stories but nobody is getting your point, can you find a clearer more obvious approach?”   What the disciples did not understand was Jesus was intentionally enticing people into new territory.

Jesus was not offering easy answers and doctrinal points, he was inviting people into an interactive relationship. He said listen with your ears which meant listen to the deeper meaning.  Don’t listen for the literal meaning, seek deeper for meaning that requires a sincere effort of your imagination and a personal investment.

Is it ever Ok to be ambiguous?  I believe it is because Jesus sometimes was.  Is it ever O.K. to come across unclear in order to lay the trust-bricks that relationships require?  I believe it is because Jesus sometimes did.  Is it ever O.K. to not give a Yes or No to the “is it a sin” question because the history of the question is so convoluted with agendas?  I believe Jesus sometimes did for the sake of the larger mission and the loaded context of religiosity.  Sure this tension is a harder tightrope to walk.  Some call it the slipper-slope; I call it fighting for balance  This is the very reason why many are not comfortable with the third way of navigating through culture.  It’s much easier to just park firmly in an ideological camp and harp on your doctrinal talking points over and over.  Instead Jesus often models a way of being that is beyond what sin issue is served up to Him.

 Much of the conservative backlash to Andy Stanley’s presentation seems to be intoxicated with anxiety by whatever the hot sin issue is at this time…

There is one redemptive paragraph in Mohler’s conclusions:

Given their size and influence, the megachurches have an outsize responsibility. I am a member and a teaching pastor in a megachurch, and I am thankful for its faithfulness. I know a host of faithful megachurch pastors who are prepared to pay whatever cost may come for the sake of the Gospel…

On that, at least we agree. Where we differ is that I know of one faithful megachurch pastor who fails to make Mohler’s list. And we differ more violently on the need to make such unwarranted pronouncements.  Some opinions are best kept to oneself.

…I spoke with a pastor about this a few months ago who expressed his concerns about people whose ministry seems to be going along well and then they, in his words, “start losing it.” That’s when I wrote this piece about knowing when to quit.

One sure sign is when we start shooting at our own soldiers. If Mohler isn’t ready to enjoy retirement in Palm Springs, he should at the very least quit the blog that isn’t a blog.  The CT article concluded:

Stanley declined repeated requests for comment.

That’s the type of wisdom Albert Mohler, Jr. should have employed from the very beginning.


Update: Missed this one yesterday: For some additional commentary on the tension between grace and truth as it relates to this story, be sure to check out the article by Jeff Dunn at Internet Monk, and the 150 (so far) comments.

…What an incredible illustration of God’s scandalous grace in action. Yet Mohler misses this entirely. He misses grace in his headlong race to be sure that Andy Stanley understands right and wrong. Mohler writes,

…We desperately want all persons to feel welcome to hear the Gospel and, responding in faith and repentance, to join with us in mutual obedience to Christ. But we cannot allow anyone, ourselves included, to come to Christ — or to church — on our own terms.

No, it seems we must come on Al Mohler’s terms….

[HT: Clark.]

September 21, 2011

Wednesday Link List

With so much to see in the Christian blogosphere, why would anyone want to spend time on Facebook?

  • There are always a significant number or “religion” stories at Huffington Post.  In this one, author Tim Suttle examines what he sees as the three failures of the megachurch movement.
  • I liked this article enough to make an e-mail forward out of it.  Trey Morgan lists seven things your children desperately need to hear you say.  Great for all parents, but I think especially for dads.
  • Okay, so about the t-shirt. I thought I’d tripped over an example of subtlety in evangelistic casual wear; a sort of, ‘our best efforts at holiness and righteousness are never enough,’ a la Andy Stanley’s How Good Is Good Enough?. Works for me. But alas, I had simply typed “Christian tees” and the designer is Andrew Christian. Still, if you’ve got the $38 US
  • There’s something about Mark Driscoll’s new website, PastorMark.tv, that has me wondering why this site seems to exist apart from the Mars Hill Seattle site.  Just wondering.
  • A link you may have missed in last week’s George Bush story, as it was added as an update on Monday:  A Tyndale University faculty member voices his opinions in a guest post to Christian Week.  However…
  • Surprise! The George W. Bush thing in Toronto happened after all.
  • Fifteen years in the making, but the final pages of the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned in 500 years is just about done. With more than 1,150 pages of text and 160 illuminations, The Saint John’s Bible now goes on tour.
  • The latest in a series of YouTube vids contrasting Christ-centered worship with me-centered worship parodies some of today’s most popular choruses.
  • Meanwhile, if your church has had enough of cell (mobile for my UK readers) phones going off during services, this one-minute YouTube video should make the point clear once and for all.
  • Let’s go three-for-three with videos: This downloadable youth ministry video clip contrasts storing up treasure on earth and storing up treasure in heaven. Actually you could use this Bluefish-TV clip on a Sunday morning, too.
  • Jenni Catron is Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville (Pete Wilson) and discusses her personal discipline in approaching Sunday morning services, and her recognition that not everyone can muster the same enthusiasm.
  • But if you can’t make it to the service physically, you can always be there virtually, especially at North Point Community in Atlanta, where they’ve added three more broadcast times for the ‘live’ stream which includes baptisms and worship songs. Check it out at 9:00 and 11:00 AM and 2:00, 6:00 and 10:00 PM at NorthpointOnline.tv
  • In a somewhat depressing piece, Washington Times editor Julia Duin says that Evangelical singles are living a promiscuous lifestyle. Interesting paragraph: “Have you ever noticed how singles never get touched? It’s living in this bubble of no hugs, no physical contact whatsoever. Small wonder so many revert to pets… and professional massages. I once suggested to my small group at church that we give each other back rubs. I was looked at as though I had suggested we all get undressed. ”
  • Readers at Rachel Held Evans’ blog ask questions of Justin Lee, director of the Gay Christian Network. (You can also read the 255 comments containing questions that were submitted.)
  • Back in May, I introduced you to the band, The City Harmonic.  The band is nominated for five Covenant Awards — Canada’s equivalent of the Dove Awards — and the video is closing in on one million views.
  • Speak German?  Hirten Barometer is a site for evaluating the performance of priests and ministers.  Just like Trip Advisor, only church service instead of hotel service. The clergy rating site apparently has it sights set on sites in English for North America.
  • And just before we sign off, thanks to regular reader Brian for sending us an actual lynx news story, with a valuable lesson about what happens to people who cheat.
  • I chopped the seasonal summer reference off this panel of Mike Morgan’s For Heaven’s Sake, but wanted to share the concept.  I wonder how many others think this is what a certain website is about?

  • Very lastly — as opposed to just ‘lastly’ — here are the results of the CNN Religion poll taken in the wake of Pat Robertson’s remarks that it is okay for the spouse of someone with Alzheimer’s to divorce that person.  This was as of 9:00 PM last night, but as you look at the numbers, you’ll have to admit they’re somewhat inconclusive. ;)

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