North Point Community Church lead pastor Andy Stanley clarified to The Christian Post about tweets he made earlier in the week that appeared to be criticism of Southern Baptist Convention leaders calling for a spiritual revival, explaining that he was talking about local revival rather than a Great Awakening-style revival.
On Tuesday, Stanley tweeted,
- "Instead of praying for revival leaders of the SBC should go spend three weeks with @perrynoble Why pray for one when you can go watch one."
- "Praying for revival equates to blaming God for the condition of your local church."
- "Why not call the Church to pray for the things Jesus & New Testament writers prayed for? Why add Revival to the list?"
- "Churches that need reviving most are the very churches that resist it most."
Stanley conceded that the conversation spiraled beyond what he had intended it to be after he and others began diverging on what they meant by "revival."
When asked to define the term, Stanley acknowledged to CP that he was speaking in terms of local revival. The Georgia megachurch pastor also explained that he wanted to draw attention to the revival-like growth and atmosphere at South Carolina's New Spring Church, pastored by his friend Perry Noble.
"I realized about half way into what became an almost four hour discussion that many, maybe most, of the response was coming from people who were thinking more in terms of an awakening like America has experienced in the past," he said.
He added, "I can understand the confusion and I definitely contributed to it."
As the son of a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Stanley explained much of the frustration evident in his Tweets stemmed from growing up in Southern Baptist churches listening to church leaders pray for "revival" while being unwilling to make the organizational changes necessary to reach people.
"I love the local church. And I'll admit I get a bit stirred up when I hear church leaders talk about the need to reach more people while refusing to make the changes necessary to actually get the job done," he said.
Stanley noted that he often hears "revival basically as an excuse not to make changes."
"So when a church says, 'We want to see our church do something. We want to baptize more people. We want to reach our city,' and then church consultants or smart people go in and say 'You need to fire these people, you need to quit spending this money, you need to do this and that' and the church goes that, 'We can't do any of that,' well my reaction to the whole revival terminology, is that, you know what, instead of praying for that whole revival, there are some very practical things churches could do to reach their communities," Stanley explained.
When asked about his thoughts on the decline in baptisms in the SBC, Stanley was quick to say since he is not Southern Baptist he should probably withhold judgment.
Later in the interview, Stanley added, "There are a bunch of great Southern Baptist churches doing a phenomenal job reaching people in their community. But when you look closely at those churches you discover several things they have in common. They are led well. They are organized around systems that free people to use their gifts. They are vision centered. And the preaching is practical and gospel centered."
Stanley said that he has been criticized on occasion for suggesting that a church's success could be built on the shoulders of "man" and leaving little room for the assistance of the divine. But he rejects that criticism.
"That's not what I believe and here's why," said Stanley. "The apostle Paul gives us a model for how the church is to function. He says the local church is a body and when every single member functions like they are supposed to function, it paves the way for great things to happen. Paul used the phrase, 'Gifts of the spirit.' When believers leverage their spiritual gifts for the sake of the gospel that is a spirit led endeavor. I have a hunch that if every believer leveraged their gifts along with the other believers in their community there would in fact be a revival of epic proportion."
Stanley noted that his tweet to "get busy" referred to this sentiment.
"It's not either/or. The organizational side of church is absolutely key to getting things done and I don't think that's un-spiritual. Applying what Paul taught can look a bit corporate. But what happens as a result goes way beyond what an organization can accomplish. People's hearts are changed. Only the Spirit of God can do that. But for reasons known only to Him, God chooses to work through us as we work together. That's why there's nothing like the local church. But how do you say all that in 140 characters?"