Andy Stanley responds to critics over closed church: We’re doing pretty good

Pastor Andy Stanley preaches at North Point Community Church in Georgia, Jan. 26, 2020.
Pastor Andy Stanley preaches at North Point Community Church in Georgia, Jan. 26, 2020. | Screenshot: North Point Community Church

Pastor Andy Stanley of Atlanta’s North Point Community Church once again addressed criticism for not restarting in-person worship services, saying his congregation is “doing pretty good” spiritually and financially as they had recently given a record donation to the local community.

During the online service on Sunday, Stanley began his sermon by expressing his gratitude to the church community for tuning in every Sunday for services and for continuing to support the church financially.

The leader of the multi-campus church quoted Ephesians 1:15-16, “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

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“We have not met in the church building for nine months, and you gave more to ‘Be Rich’ than you have ever given before — over $7 million,” he told the congregation, referring to the church’s annual “Be Rich” campaign, an “initiative to partner with life-changing organizations in our communities and around the globe.”

When he was recently asked by a “high-profile media person,” who had taken some shots at him and the church earlier, how his megachurch was doing spiritually given that doors have been closed most of the year, Stanley said he responded: “Well, they gave over $7 million in 39 days to support the local charities and communities. And if Jesus was serious about that ‘where your treasure is there your heart is,’ then I think we’re doing pretty good.”

The pastor added that whenever the church is criticized for not being open due to the coronavirus, he sends them a 4-minute version of the “Be Rich” celebration. He continued that he’s often tempted to also tell them, “Our closed church just did a thousand times more for other people in 39 days than your open church has done in the past 10 years.”

Stanley announced in the summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic that the Georgia megachurch would suspend in-person services until 2021 because they cannot guarantee everyone's safety.

On Sunday, he noted that while many other churches are struggling financially, even the ones that have reopened for gatherings, North Point continues to witness its congregation’s generosity.

The pastor said he doesn’t take his congregation for granted “that you’ve trusted me … even when my decisions didn’t necessarily line up with what you thought your church should do in this season.”

He also thanked the church members for their patience “during this political season,” as he hadn’t taken a stand.

While he has strong political views and feelings, he surrendered his freedom to express political opinions publicly “for the sake of what we are attempting to corporately.”

He then shared 1 Corinthians 9:19, which reads, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.”

Also quoting Ephesians 1:18-19, he added, “When we follow Jesus through the Gospels, we discover quickly that He never leverages His power for His sake, always for the sake of other people.”

“Power,” he underlined, “is not the problem. It’s what we choose to do with it.”

In a video message in August, Stanley had explained that his church’s decision to suspend in-person services was based on the true stance of the Christian faith.

“We did not suspend services because of government pressure; there was none,” he said. “We’re not afraid, we’re not bowing to social, cultural or political pressure.”

There’s a version of Christianity that “I’ve worked very, very hard to help avoid,” he told his church. And that’s “culture-war Christianity.”

“This is the version of Christianity consumed with winning,” he explained. “It’s a version that sees itself perpetually under attack and consequently feels the need to attack back. It requires an enemy for sustainability.”

He said he knows this version well because he grew up with this version. It is a “perversion of our faith,” he stressed, adding that it also “sets the church up to be a tool of politicians rather than the conscience of the nation.” This type of Christianity is more concerned about winning than loving.

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