In a message tailored to leaders within the local church, North Point Community Church senior pastor Andy Stanley cautioned attendees of Catalyst Cincinnati against putting theology above ministry, encouraging them to keep people first and to be good neighbors in their communities, loving enemies in order to "be the generation to awaken the culture to the wonder of God."
Seeking to help church leaders leverage their ministries, Stanley explained that rigid ministry systems and "lines in the sand" on cultural issues often "bump" people out rather than win them over. "There are no one-size-fits-all ministry rules," he said at the inaugural Cincinnatti event on Friday.
Stanley reminded the audience of 2,500 of how Jesus Christ disregarded status and appearances when he walked among the people, instead putting their needs first. "If Jesus was worried about guilt by association, he would've stayed in Heaven," Stanley said. The pastor added that the Church can have greater impact when it follows Christ's example of putting the needs of the people first.
The North Point senior pastor pointed out that Jesus never "dumbed down" the truth to please others, neither did He lessen His grace when issuing strong medicine. Stanley said that the Church should follow Jesus' example and be "the embodiment of grace and truth," not sacrificing one for the other — even when it comes to tough issues like fornication or gay marriage.
Stanley said that simply because many in society may not uphold biblical standards like abstaining from sex outside of marriage does not mean that the Church should stop talking about it. Neither should the Church lighten up on its advocacy for marriage between a man and a woman simply because governments and secular society advocate for gay marriage.
The pastor also stressed the importance of the Church being a good neighbor within the community as well as loving its enemies. "The epicenter of who we are is how we treat each other." He explained that Jesus said that's how the world will know his disciples, by the way they treat others.
When it comes to being a good neighbor, Stanley added that churches should not only do good works, but be "seen" out and about doing them within the community, building a positive reputation. "Be proactive about how to be a good neighbor," the pastor said.
Stanley shared that North Point's Buckhead Church, one of six in metro Atlanta under North Point Ministries, was recently included by local authorities as a place of interest on the city's Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transport Authority (MARTA) system map — noting it as evidence of the church's positive impact on the community, since the city only lists its major attractions and places of significance.
The pastor challenged church leaders to embrace possible enemies or adversaries of the local church, asking audiences, "What if you decided to initiate friendship … ?" He explained that Jesus said to love one's enemies, and he encouraged participants to identify enemies and show them the love of Christ.
Co-founded by Andy Stanley, Catalyst is recognized as one of the largest gatherings of Christian leaders in America, attracting groups and individuals across nearly every denomination, including more than 5,000 churches and faith-based organizations from across the nation.
Stanley's North Point Ministries was named the largest Church in America by Outreach Magazine in 2015. The ministry currently has an average weekly attendance of over 30,000, according to its website.