(Photo: Dan Delzell)
Anyone who has been richly blessed over the years by the preaching of Dr. Charles Stanley, as I have been, knows that he has a real gift to proclaim the Word of God with clarity and purpose in the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Dr. Stanley doesn't leave much wiggle room for his hearers. I really like that when I am listening to a message from God's Word. It reminds me that God has placed plenty of stakes in the ground regarding the truth, sin, and grace.
I have not had the pleasure to hear many messages from Dr. Stanley's son, Andy, but I have heard good things about him and sensed that God has used his life in tremendous ways to make disciples for Christ there in Atlanta. I was extremely surprised to read what I did today regarding his message from a couple weeks ago on April 15. A number of wise Christians are sharing some important thoughts online about that sermon.
I went to his church's website and listened to that message, "When Gracie Met Truthy," as well as to Andy's first message in the series. Let me say this....he certainly has his father's knack for not leaving his listeners with any wiggle room.
Andy talked about a couple he knew in his church that got divorced after the husband began a sexual relationship with another man. The two men then started serving on the "host team" in a congregation which is connected to Andy's church. When Andy learned that the other man was still married to his wife, Andy told him that he was committing adultery and that the men could no longer serve as volunteers in the church while he was still married to her. There was no wiggle room in Andy's pronouncement. The sin of adultery was addressed with compassion by their pastor as Andy lovingly drew a line in the sand for them.
In his sermon, Andy made no mention about whether or not these men were sinning by engaging in a homosexual relationship. This is the issue which is drawing the most attention because it might be a departure from his congregation's previous position on homosexual behavior. By using a specific real life example from his church family, Andy has not left his church with any wiggle room.
A number of people who have listened to the April 15 message seem to hear Andy condoning homosexual relationships while condemning adulterous relationships. Is that what he wanted to convey? Perception is reality.
Those living in adultery in his church now know, based on his sermon, that they will not be allowed to serve in a ministry role if their relationship becomes known. Likewise, those who are living in a homosexual relationship are now emboldened to believe that they will be welcomed to serve in a ministry role at Andy's church, after first being baptized and welcomed into fellowship.
Up until this time, there may have been lots of wiggle room for the congregation to basically have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy for church volunteers. Andy's recent sermon has now backed everyone into the corner. The congregation has no choice but to clarify the issue so that no one will be misled, hurt, or confused by mixed messages.
Whether he intended to do so or not, Andy has left the other leaders of his congregation with no option but to evaluate and disseminate their current policy concerning church volunteers. I guess that's one way to force them to take a stand on the issue.
Just when you think you have seen and heard it all in the contemporary church, a situation such as this develops from the teaching of a popular and charismatic leader. Dr. Charles Stanley has a gift at driving home a point until you don't really have anywhere to go except with God, or against God. It seems Andy has been given a similar gift.