It was during my academic tenure at Dallas Theological Seminary in the early 1990’s when Charles Stanley sat with some of us in the living room area of our dorm to have a heart to heart talk and Q & A about ministry. His son Andy, fellow graduate of DTS, has been stirring up some waves lately, and not for the right reasons.
It is very important that a pastor has a solid biblical ecclesiology(doctrine of the church) for a number of reasons. First of all, the church he shepherds is not his, but it is Christ’s. Christ Himself said, “I will build My church.”(Matthew 16:18, emphasis added) I recall one of my professors, Howie Hendricks, who was affectionately know as “Prof” by both faculty and students, used to say that when he would visit churches and the pastors of those churches would refer to the church as “my” church he would want to wring their neck. Secondly, Jesus loved the church that He gave Himself up for her.(Ephesians 5:25). Furthermore, pastors are held accountable by God for the flock whose souls they are watching over(Hebrews 13:17).
So what about Andy Stanley’s ecclesiology? In a recent message he gave he made it clear that if you do not go to a large church you are selfish and do not care for your kids. Excuse me while I take a break from this blog to tell my kids I really don’t care for them because of my selfishness to not go to a large church. In response to those who say they do not like large churches, Andy goes on the following tirade while pointing his finger.
“You are so stinking selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids, anyone else’s kids. If you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big ole’ church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church. I mean I’m so sick of this. I hear this all the time. Well I just don’t like a big church.”
So his ecclesiology consists only of large churches. So much for those faithful pastors who have served their small churches. I wonder if Jesus, the Head of the Church, will consign His words “Well done thou good and faithful servant” to only pastors of large churches. And did you notice that the reason to love the church is only if it is a large church? But the Bible says we are to love the church because Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for her(Ephesians 5:25). After all, true believes love what Jesus loves!
Furthermore, his 2012 book reveals so much about Andy’s unbiblical ecclesiology. Its title: Deep and Wide. Its subtitle: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. That ought to give it away. The church is a called out community consisting of those who have repented and are devoted to teaching, fellowship, prayer(Acts 2:37-42).
“These first gatherings of the church were designed primarily for edifying believers, not for evangelizing unbelievers. Of course, they were reaching out to the unsaved, for ‘the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.’(Acts 2:47) But this ‘evangelism explosion’ was the result of their teaching, not the stated purpose of it. They gathered for edification; they scattered for evangelism. The primary focus of their corporate worship gatherings was for building up the believers, not for reaching seekers. When this priority becomes reversed and the church meets primarily to save the lost, the apostles’ teaching soon becomes compromised and diluted.”
Steve Lawson(Famine in the Land)