On Andy Stanley and The Size of Your ‘Church’

I believe Andy Stanley's statement hit a cord with so many in a negative way because there IS an [element] of true in it and as most things that sting, it's because there's a hint of personal guilt.

*PERSONAL JOURNEY* October 14, 2012 Alpharetta - Andy Stanley preaches during the 9 a.m. worship service at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta on Sunday, October 14, 2012. Andy Stanley, whose father was the most powerful preacher in Atlanta, has now become the most powerful preacher in Atlanta. His North Point collection of churches has 30,000 members, and is growing.In his new book, "Deep and Wide, " he tells the story of growing up in the shadow of Charles Stanley, preacher at First Baptist, of the conflict that led to him breaking away to start his own church, and of his subsequent rise to lead the biggest congregation in the city, and one of the biggest in the country. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Stanley said:

When I hear adults say, “Well I don’t like a big church, I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,” I say, “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 [or] anybody 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 and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church. Instead… you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church. They go to college, and you pray that there will be a church in the college town that they connect with. Guess what? All those churches are big.

Read more of what Andy said HERE or listen to the full sermon HERE

Faced with the online outcry, Stanley apologized on Twitter, saying “The negative reaction to the clip from last weekend's message is entirely justified. Heck, even I was offended by what I said! I apologize.”

A wise WISE friend once told me something beyond profound when I message her about a big hurt someone had caused me with what they said. Fully expecting her to defend me, be upset with the other person, and tell me how right I was and therefore wrong they were she did something even better for me, in the long run.

She said, "Well, first I think you need to step back and see if there is any truth in their statement. Then you can decide if that truth means you need to fix something. If so, do it and move on. If there is no truth in the statement, move on without worry." Then she went on to give me her opinion like a sweet friend after being the spiritual guiding friend I needed first.

The question in this situation seems to be: Did Andy Stanley mis-speak OR call us out as The Church?

Don't get me wrong, I think there was a lot of false doctrine in his un-thought-out statements. That happens to the best of us when we're not careful.

  • "Church" isn't something you do or somewhere you go. It's the group of people who have become bond-servants of Christ. I so wish this one would sink in for us and a LOT of our misconceptions would be fixed.
  • 20, 200, 0,2000, or 20,000 are all just a number and each can serve a purpose in The Kingdom's work. Just like in business, there are benefits on both the sides of large and small.
  • The next generation doesn't necessarily need what a larger church. Not every large church is Bionically sound just as not every small church is.
  • Division by age, stage-of-life, gender, or any other qualifier is often the easiest way to manage large groups of people rarely the BEST for them. Maybe we could use RACE as an example here and see how that played out for us.
  • Mega/large churches are a fairly new commodity and it will take years to have any concrete studies on wither or not there are long-term benefits OR detriments. In reference to this specific topic, that means, we have no real proof if children will grow into adults who love or hate church [attendance] based on the size of their church.
  • If you are dragging your child to church, that highly indicates other issues...not with your church. Most studies indicate THE main factor found in those who leave the church is a hypocritical lifestyle lived by parents/those raising them. Meaning, living one way at home and another in front of others, ie The Church.
  • When you send your child to college, if you have taught them to group themselves only based on self-service and who looks, talks, sounds, etc like them, then of course, a larger church is where they will have the most likelihood to find such a group. But people become "dechurched", leaving church from mega and small churches.

If you were like me and initially offended by what Andy Stanley said, I think there are some questions that need to be ask.

  • Do you have the wrong view of what The Church is and what it's purpose is?
  • Are you proud of or embraced by the average attendance of your Sunday morning service? {either can be unhealthy}
  • Are you intentionally keeping your part of The Church small for selfish reasons?
  • Do you enjoy knowing 'everyone' and therefor selfishly don't care if you reach out to know [or MORE] people?
  • Are you living missionally {intentionally for The Kingdom}, chasing the lost even if that means you might have to share you church/christian club?
  • Is the effort to lead more people to Christ more important to you than the number of members your church has?
  • Do you worry about giving your children everything they 'want' rather than 'need', contributing to the entitled generation?
  • Do you attend your current church based on what it offers you and your family or based on sound Biblical reasoning?
  • Do you group you and others like a preKer sorting by colors, size, shape, and purpose when it comes to church and other facets of your life?
  • Are you bothered by small children "disturbing" the church service with typical childish behavior?
  • Do your children enjoy attending church service? Are they apart of The Church? What's the real factor there?
  • Is your church partnering WITH you [not for you] to train-up your children in the ways of following Christ?
  • Are you fully preparing your children to chase after Christ and His will for their future or are you guarding them in hopes of them leading a watered down, comfortable version of the 'christian' American Dream?

 

I know Andy's statements made me have to reevaluate a lot of this stuff. I hope you'll mull over both sides for you and your family as well. Your thoughts on the matter?

 

 

Related articles about the DechurchedMissional Living, and Church Planting.

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