I have been a long-time fan of Pastor Andy Stanley and his ministry. As a student at Liberty University in the early 1990s, I remember Pastor Andy coming and speaking to our student body in Chapel. The two things that stood out to me the most were: 1. His love for his dad, and 2. His love for God’s Word. He inspired me to want to know God’s Word.
Fast forward to today, for the past five years, it appears Pastor Andy has been moving in a new direction. His statement, “You should unhook your plow from the Old Testament” has created a firestorm of controversies.
Second, what comes out of this debate is him saying, “We don’t worship the Bible, we worship Jesus.” This statement standing alone could be benign depending on the context, but the need to separate the Bible from Jesus and declare we worship one and not the other raises a myriad of questions as to why it is necessary for a pastor to make such a statement in the first place.
Third, Pastor Andy has made a myriad of statements publicly to show support for the homosexual community that professes Jesus as their Savior without giving a definitive answer to whether he believes the practice of homosexuality is a sin.
As a fellow Southern Baptist Pastor and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, these concerns collectively give me grave concerns for Pastor Andy. He is a pastor to a lot of pastors. Many pastors across the SBC, the nation, and the world look to Pastor Andy for guidance on how to deal with these delicate issues. Because of his influence over other pastors, it is imperative to know where the train is headed. Because in the end, we’re all about the Gospel and the glory of God.
I have spent a lot of time personally watching and listening to Pastor Andy talk about the phrase, “Unhitch your plow from the Old Testament.” He uses Jesus’ words in the Gospels to largely and clearly support this argument. He refers to Jesus’ often-used quote, “You have heard it is said, but I say…” motif to make the point that Jesus was “unhooking his plow from the Old Testament.” When Jesus uses this phrase, He is not using it to get you to no longer study the Old Testament or see it as irrelevant for your walk with Him today. He is using this to make the point that the Pharisees took what Moses, Abraham, and others said and twisted it to say what they wanted it to say. Jesus’ intent was never to downplay the Old Testament but to show that He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus said, “I didn’t come to abolish (unhook from it) but to fulfill it…” He came to show us how it all fits together.
Second, Pastor Andy says, “We don’t worship the Bible, we worship Jesus.” It is a dangerous thing to divide the Bible from Jesus. First, when we separate the Bible from Jesus we tend to head into the “red letter heresy” where only Jesus’ words are counted as inspired. Second, when we separate Jesus from the Bible we remove the Bible as the sole authority on issues of morality and sin. I don’t know Pastor Andy’s motivation, but I believe his statement is at best reckless.
Third and finally, Pastor Andy has made many statements over the past five or so years in support of the gay community. Let me first say, as a church-planting Southern Baptist pastor who started Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs with an unbelieving lesbian couple, I have great love, compassion, and empathy for the gay community. I have spent 26 years in Colorado Springs building relationships with people who do not agree with my view. I don’t come to these statements lightly and would even encourage you to read our church’s view on this in the book, Friend of Sinners: Taking Risks To Reach The Lost.
With that said, it is extremely important that we do not mislead people on what the Bible says in order to get a hearing with them or convince them we care. We have to be forthright. And yes, homosexuality is “a” sin not “the” sin. I agree. I am simply trying to help us as pastors and leaders to realize that withholding what the Bible says will not help anyone in the end. Our authority begins and ends with the Bible and our attempts to show love apart from truth does not lead to the grace of God. It leads to more sin.
I have been told a myriad of times, “He’s being misquoted, misunderstood, and mistreated.” I believe these matters at hand can be clearly addressed and articulated so that the intent and outcome can be clear.
From my perspective, up until now, his ambiguous approach is doing more harm than good for all involved. I pray Pastor Andy will bring clarity to these matters in the days ahead.