Andy Stanley is pastor of a megachurch in Atlanta and is considered a leader in Evangelicalism, often speaking at Willow Creek Community Church functions and other interdenominational gatherings. His father is Charles Stanley, a famous Southern Baptist megapastor in the same city. Andy grew up in his daddy’s church but drifted away from his daddy’s Baptist roots. Baptists might humorously say that when his daddy baptized him, he did not hold him down long enough or deep enough!
In 2010, a survey of U.S. pastors found Stanley to be the 10th most influential living preacher. In January of 2009, he was one of the speakers at the National Prayer Service following Obama’s first Inauguration. In January of this year, he spoke at the pre-inauguration service attended by Obama, Biden, the cabinet and some members of congress and all their family members.
During his 12-minute message Andy called Obama the “Pastor-in-Chief” for speaking to each family individually following the Sandy Hook murder spree. I think Andy was wrong, maybe sincere, but wrong in both accepting the invitation and praising Obama as “Pastor-in-Chief.” This was an Episcopal service which also had two rabbis attending. He did not “ring the bell” as preachers say.
He said that he purposely chose to speak from the New Testament and not succumb to the temptation of “staying away from Jesus.” For that he is to be commended; however, he chose to speak on Christ washing the Disciples’ feet in John 13. He then said that Jesus was saying, “This is what you’re supposed to do for each other.” Good point; however, the leaders he spoke too had not professed to being born again Christians! There was no proper application to them.
Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today, asked Stanley if he was not endorsing Obama’s views by preaching at that service. Andy said that if Christ had been fearful of guilt by association, He would not have come to earth. He added, “So I do not make decisions based on guilt by association. I grew up in a culture that was all about that.” Like many New Evangelicals, Andy took the opportunity to take a swat at his Fundamentalist background. However, he is wrong. The Fundamentalist culture is not “all about that.” Committed Christians are concerned about associations as well as actions and affirmations.
Furthermore, he is wrong about guilt by association. If you wallow with dogs, you will get up with fleas–scratching. Solomon warned in Proverbs 2:20, “That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.” We are not to shun evil men but never give them any support in their evil words, works, or ways. Solomon should have heeded his own warning.
Andy said he would refuse to pray at a bill signing that was contrary to biblical principles but not for something as general as the Inauguration. He added, “I have people in my congregation who have far more disturbing views than he does. I preach to them every week!” Andy is a better thinker than that. He knows there is a massive difference in his giving his stamp of approval at the political event and his preaching to people who have walked into his church!
Stanley makes the same mistake other religious leaders make. Our major responsibility is not to reach people with the message of Christ, as important as that is, but we are to do right in all matters, even if we reach no one. Serving Christ is not about crowds, cash, or converts. It is about obedience–doing right even when no one understands or tries to understand.
I wonder if Andy would have spoken or prayed at the wedding of King Herod whose daddy was the infamous Baby Butcher of Bethlehem. There was a “little” problem in that Herod had divorced his wife and taken his half-brother’s former wife. What a mess. But it was a big chance to reach people for Christ. However, I’m sure John the Baptist was absent that day. In fact, he would not have been invited since everyone knew he taught the truth.
No doubt, many preachers would have numbed their consciences and been thrilled to “give the invocation” for the occasion. Mark 6:20 reveals, “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” It is obvious that King Herod had some connections with John, even doing “many things” and was pleased to hear him preach. But like many men, he did not listen and obey the message he heard.
Herod had taken his brother’s wife and was living in adultery. John, not interested in climbing the clergy ladder, told him it was sinful. Not a good career move. At Herod’s birthday party (no Baptist preachers were there; although John was nearby–in prison), Salome did her lewd, seductive dance and Herod promised her anything she wanted. Having been prompted by her wicked mother, she asked for John’s head. She got it. And John got his ticket stamped for Heaven. Herod chose to decapitate John rather than displease his wife.
No, Andy Stanley and similar preachers are not in the mold of Elijah, Ezekiel, or John. Those prophets were addicted to truth, and did not try to walk a tightrope between right and wrong. They could not be bought. They were able to say “no’ to evil and “yes” to God. No doubt they would have challenged modern politicians by name to forsake wickedness, adultery, perversion, and lying.
Most preachers today don’t say yes or no, thereby not making anyone angry. They have developed a new word that means anything to everyone: Yo.