"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

My First Time to Ever Hear Andy Stanley Preach: Some Observations

I heard tonight, for the first time, Andy Stanley speak. I realize he is a big conference speaker, and many on our staff have heard him numerous times and love his teaching style, but as strange as it may seem to some, Andy's message tonight at the SBC Pastors' Conference was my first opportunity to hear him. I was looking forward to hearing him, squeezed between Al Mohler and David Platt. Here are a few of my observations regarding Andy.

First, Andy would make a great motivational speaker or Fortune 500 CEO. He is articulate and persuasive. He had three major points, two of which came from statements of famous CEO's, words of wisdom that Andy applied to Southern Baptist churches and pastors. For example, he asked pastors "What would change at your church if you were fired and a new guy was brought in?" He explained, rightly so, that too often pastors and staff get comfortable in their traditions, routines, and methods--and churches get the kind of results for which they are institutionally structured to receive. He said that most pastors work to keep the people they have instead of working to reach the people they don't know. I n other words, church is designed for church people--and lost people have no "need" for church. Therefore, Andy suggested churches should take a look at EVERYTHING they do and restructure to reach people in need of Christ. "Everyone will live someplace forever." Churches, according to the euphemism Andy adapted from the CEO of Chick Filet, "shouldn't worry about getting bigger, they should concentrate on getting better."

I understand why Andy has 20,000 people attending his church. The church has been designed to make the lost people comfortable. That's not a criticial statement at all. It's a true statement. I thought it was particularly profound that Andy said he tells his staff, "Make sure the only thing that is offensive to the lost who come to our church is what I say. The gospel offends, but we don't need anything else to offend."  Good for him. He understands that the gospel is offensive. Andy's methodology seems to work--particularly in the southern culture of the United States where people expect to be comfortable in everything they do.

There's no way I can be critical of what Andy said. He was articulate, entertaining, and expressed a vision for establishing the design of a church to bring lost people to Christ. What must not be done, in my opinion, is to package the style of Andy Stanley and demand that all should imitate it. Truth be told, churches that build edifices and programs for comfort aren't really designed to succeed in times of travail and trouble -- nor do we really make a difference in the world at large.

But that's another message -- maybe a David Platt message.

In His Grace,



Lydia said...

"First, Andy would make a great motivational speaker or Fortune 500 CEO."

But that is exactly what he is. Well, maybe Fortune 1000...nevertheless.

The business enterprise is church.

mike fox said...

You said, "Andy's methodology seems to work--particularly in the southern culture of the United States where people expect to be comfortable in everything they do."

Um, there is no monolithic "Southern culture." The south ranges from huge urban environments with poverty and gang problems to little, one-stop towns where everyone plows their own garden every year. It ranges from the family in the hills that works its fingers to the bone to the suburbs of professionals who work 60 hr weeks.

I'm not sure why you characterized the south as a place where everyone exists for comfort, but you should take that stereotype and any others and bury it. Would you have me believe that there aren't any churches in California or Chicago that strive to make everyone feel comfortable? I wouldn't buy it if you did try.

Wade Burleson said...


I would consider myself part of U.S. southern culture, and most of the folks I know work hard to find comfort.

Bob Cleveland said...

Bingo! Your last paragraph was prophetic. To the max.

Rickie said...

I love Andy's style of delivery. I have watched many of his sermons... that aside he's getting a little cocky thinking that unless you preach just like him you are less effective as a preacher (i.e., thematically).


What other than the message could possibly offend "lost people" at church? I wasn't aware that pews or the color of paint on the walls were offensive to those in need of Christ.


Sunday mornings aren't a crusade it's the ekklesia coming together to worship...we need to be inviting and witnessing during the week, but come on, Sundays aren't for lost people although they might be present and we should be aware of that regarding the use of certain gifts(c.f., 1 Cor 14:22). Otherwise I think we need to stick to feeding the church and worshipping God in our services and quit depending on Sunday mornings to be the "catch lost people hour". Maybe Christians could start witnessing again and inviting people into their homes as a way to grow churches.

Gene S said...

I hate I missed it, but I had eaten a good fried chicken supper and was towing my chipping machine from Rocky Mount to Bath. I think I might have thrown up that good "Baptist Bird."

Maybe I should have headed on to Orlando if this is typical of mega church methods these days: Making the Lost Comfortable.

Didn't the Pharisees do such with the Temple at Jerusalem? Did they not turn it into a Money Machine with moneychangers on the steps getting rich and Priests inside living a grand lifestyle?

Jesus didn't like it--as a matter of fact he took his chipping machine (in the form of a whip) and literally beat the hell out of them!

Next, they had to get rid of him, BUT--"It's Friday night and Sunday's coming!!!!!!!"

gary dilworth said...

Ricki, I hope Andy Stanley avoids this mistake: “Every thing we do and say in our weekend services is designed for the guest!” - a message oft repeated by Ed Young to his church, his staff, and specifically at the Fellowship Church 2009 Creative Church Conference, standing next to a single empty stadium chair on his stage and broadcast live on Daystar T.V. Then, in a mocking and disparaging tone he says, “What about those who say, ‘I just want to be fed (God’s word)?’” He makes it sound like we should be ashamed of the hunger for God’s word to be fed us during a church service. “You need to be fed at your home, during the week. In here we’re concerned for the guest” - to great applause from those listening there. He repeatedly teaches his church that ‘we should have one third unsaved in here, one third baby Christians in here, and one third mature Christians,’ which is actually foreign to the bible, but quite in sync with modern perpetual evangelistic societies: McChurch. (Franchising McChurch: Feeding Our Obsession With Easy Christianity by John Mark Yeats). “Like newborn infants, desire the unadulterated spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it in your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good” Peter tells us at 1 Peter 2:2-3, after he was told by Jesus Christ three times in one conversation with him to ’Feed My lambs,’ ’Shepherd My sheep,’ and ‘Feed My sheep’ because he loves Him at John 21:15-18.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Twitter observations:

steveweaver: Thinks Andy Stanley should have contextualized and preached the Bible tonight.

steveweaver: Oops, just corrected by one of my church members watching online. He did bring out his Bible and lay it on the table.

DrJoelB: Andy Stanley is great on leadership but let’s b careful what we call preaching, when the Bible is barely mentioned

bradbrisco_kc: A Stanley is a gr8 leader & communicator but is any1 else troubled by his talk @#sbc2010? It is all abt vendor of religious goods & servce

sjcamp: Listening 2 Andy Stanley. So Weak. His axiom so far is: church should b better, better, better. How about: holy, holy, holy?

sjcamp: Andy Stanley. All pragmatics – no Scripture! Here we go again: the biblical command is to “preach the Word!”

chadwickivester: Is #AndyStanley the #RobertShueller of the SBC?

timmybrister: I don’t think there will be a more stark contrast in content & delivery than Andy Stanley & @plattdavid back to bac

timmybrister: We are about to go from customer service Christianity (goods & services) to biblical Christianity (Jesus & taking up your cross).

CurtTreece: Wish Andy Stanley would just “walk our the door and come back in again” and preach an actual sermon from the actual word of God.

DChrisGarner: Andy Stanley is the worst preacher I’ve ever heard at a conference I’ve attended.

scottsull7: Andy Stanley just managed to tell us how to make church “better” without once using Scripture as a reference. Just sayin’.

bradthayer1: ”Last point comes from the Bible. I know that’s a relief.” wow!

Josh from FL said...

Just one small correction, Wade.
It's "Chik-Fil-A". That's how it's spelled.
Thank the Lord no one has demanded your resignation for this yet
Their chicken sandwiches are killer awesome!

In all seriousness though, thanks for your insights on the convention. It has been helpful.

Craig said...

WOW, the comments here really confirm my heart break for the SBC. From what I have read about his message Andy pointed out that we can't continue to do what we have done for the last 40 years if we are to reach the lost. If you look closely at his church (not from what you hear) you will see NPCC makes disciples and reaches the lost. I have relatives who live in that area that have been transformed by NPCC and it's Biblical teachings. Just sayin!