Did Andy Stanley do a 'great disservice' with comments on LGBT churchgoers?
A now-viral video of Georgia Pastor Andy Stanley magnifying the faith of LGBT people over "most" of his own congregation has drawn sharp criticism from pastors and Christian thinkers alike, with one ministry leader claiming the megachurch pastor does God a "great disservice."
The clip of Stanley, an influential pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, and the leader of North Point Ministries, comes from North Point's Drive Conference last May, where Stanley told churchgoers that any LGBT individual who continues to go to church has "more faith than a lot of you."
"A gay person who still wants to attend church after the way they've been treated, I'm telling you, they have more faith than I do," Stanley said in the clip. "They have more faith than a lot of you."
While drawing praise from some LGBT-affirming Christians, others such as David Hoffman, founder and director of the evangelism training ministry His Kingdom Enterprises in Tucson, Arizona, have accused Stanley of pandering to LGBT individuals over "straight people."
"Stanley's attempt to magnify the faith of openly LGBT individuals over 'straight people' is total pandering to the dictates of secular pagan American culture and a rejection of Biblical truth," Hoffman told CP via email. "His most recent stance can be summed up by saying he believes gay people in his church have more faith 'than him' and the majority of his congregation, because they are willing to come to church even though historically Christian churches have not been accepting of homosexuality."
Calling such a statement "absurd," Hoffman said homosexuality, just like a myriad of other sins, is clearly defined as sin in the pages of Scripture.
"The disposition of the heart is very important in coming to saving faith. If a liar, a thief, an adulterer, a porn addict, or any other person stuck in sin, comes to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, He will forgive their sins and give them a new identity," he added.
"The homosexual is in no different position than anyone else that is in need of coming to Jesus Christ and receiving forgiveness for their sins and receiving a new forgiven, sanctified, and righteous identity that is imputed to us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ."
When it comes to fellowshipping and worshipping with unrepentant LGBT individuals, Hoffman said anyone who openly refuses to obey the clear teachings of Scripture is called to first repent before being welcomed into fellowship.
He pointed to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, which states: "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you."
Hoffman, a graduate of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, said that standard still applies to unbelievers who refuse to acknowledge what is clearly defined as sin.
"The Church is meant to be set apart. Biblically, the Church is the Body of Christ, not a building," he explained. "Hence, if someone is in open rebellion to God, they cannot be part of His body, regardless of the sin. The same standard applies to anyone that is not LGBT."
But Hoffman distinguishes between unbelievers living in unrepentant sin and those who belong to Christ who struggle with same-sex attraction.
"In no way am I talking about people that struggle with sin and are seeking to live a life of repentance and a life of overcoming temptation," he said. "Many people struggle with sin, and they struggle against their sin, seeking to give it no place in their lives. Fellowship and worship are fine for someone that struggles with same-sex attraction, or the person that has had past homosexual encounters that have been repented of, or even the person that wants God to change them but still feel stuck, but they have responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and no longer engage in same-sex relationships."
In the same sermon, Stanley seemed to suggest that God has said "no" to the prayers of some of the LGBT community that asked Him to change their hearts.
"I know 1 Corinthians 6, and I know Leviticus, and I know Romans 1, so interesting to talk about all that stuff," Stanley said. "But just, oh my goodness, a gay man or woman who wants to worship their heavenly Father, who did not answer the cry of their heart when they were 12 and 13 and 14 and 15. God said, 'No,' and they still love God?
"We have some things to learn from a group of men and women who love Jesus that much and who want to worship with us," he continued. "I know the verses; I know the clobber passages, right? We got to figure this out. And you know what? I think you are."
Hoffman said the topic of unanswered prayer is far more complex than Stanley's response.
"He really does God a great disservice in this statement. Individual lives are complicated and hard to speak of in generalities," he added. "If there is one thing I have learned in ministry, it is that people are complicated. Childhood experiences are unique for each person. They often shape our experience of life and even shape our understanding of God many years later after the experiences even though we wouldn't think they could have such long-lasting effects.
"It is always God's will to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ."
Hoffman's His Kingdom Enterprises was founded in 2015 as a multi-faceted ministry that seeks to further the Gospel in local communities and equip believers to fulfill the Great Commission.
CP reached out to North Point Ministries for comment on Wednesday. A response hasn't been received.
In a column published Friday, Dr. Richard Land, CP Executive Editor and President Emeritus at Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina, warned Stanley may have edged toward blasphemy with his comments.
"Frankly, this is an astounding statement from a leading Evangelical pastor. When God did not answer 'the cry of their heart,' is he saying that God was wrong in not accepting their sexual orientation, or is he saying that God should have answered their prayer by changing that orientation?" wrote Land, a former head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "Either option is blasphemous."
Ultimately, Land wrote, it's about laying down not just sin but all that people cling to as their own to truly take up our cross and follow Christ on His terms.
"When people of whatever background, behavior, or orientation come to God, they must come without reservation, forsaking all to follow Jesus as Savior," he wrote. "We throw ourselves on His mercy and trust Jesus and Jesus alone for salvation. He is Lord and Savior, and we come on His terms, not ours — it is not a negotiation.
"I fear the Rev. Stanley has drifted farther than he is aware from the biblical foundations of his youth, and all of his Christian brothers and sisters should pray for him, and all the Christians whom he influences, without ceasing."
Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.