I am no fan, even sorta-kinda-maybe, of Andy Stanley and I am a big fan of Carl Trueman (even though we would disagree on several points of theology). So I have now made my full disclosure so let me point you to a fantastic article where Dr. Trueman weighs in on Stanley’s book on church strategy and growth.
Stanley is much like many mega-church pastors today. The presumption that big equals God’s blessing. Aside from the utter nonsense that is behind that thought comes a lot of deadly advice that flows into the ears of many aspiring mega-church pastors’ ears. It is something that has become more and more blatant as these men seem (note the acknowledgment that I may be wrong here) to think that because they are large and self-funded they don’t “need” the rest of the church. I think of Driscoll and McDonald and their E2 fiasco. Or Furtick and Hillsong conference sideshow in biblical narcissism. Truth is not the driving issues anymore, though all of these men would challenge that in one way or another. Stanley is simply saying what so many others have already believed and embraced.
With that I want to give my favorite part of Trueman’s analysis to whet your appetite for the whole thing,
And that is ultimately the saddest aspect of the Andy Stanleys of this world. It is not their patronizing attitude to others. It is not their arrogant assumption that they represent the culture or that they have the right to tell the rest of us how we should think. It is not the sloppy way they bandy words like ‘culture’ and even ‘happiness’ around without ever offering a definition of what they think they mean. It is not their crass prioritization of raw numbers. It is not their complete lack of imagination regarding the moral possibilities of ‘culture.’ Rather, it is the fact that what they confidently present as radical insights are really nothing but lazy, insipid, prosaic, and predictable capitulations to the values of the spirit of the age. In short, they are simply dressing up their society’s tastes as absolute truth. Unimaginative, respectable, lazy and lethal. The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie, is it not?
I have no idea how I came across this site called Gospel Partnerships but I did and I am glad I did. In their resources page I was pleased to find a video that was beautiful and powerful in its simplicity. It is an interview of a vicar St Oswald’s in Newcastle, UK.
What makes it such a good interview? Because this man chose to take up the challenge of pastoring a church that did not know the gospel. Here is a story of what the conviction of the power of the gospel and the power of God’s Spirit working through His Word can do. Such a breath of fresh wind in what is, at times, the stifling air of mega churches and “success” stories.
I am reluctant to link and comment to this other blog because I am in it. However I have a different set of readers out there in blog-land and I think the essences of the post is worth it. For me, as a pastor, the question is always how I spend my time and what is my vision.
In many ways the temptation is to grow the church, even when my lips are quick to say, “No, no, that is not what we are about.” And now, after fifteen years at the same church it is tempting to relax and enjoy the lack of battles that I once had to fight. A third temptation is to coast on all of the hard study I did in prior years realizing that so many who attend now have never heard those sermons.
But in the end I keep coming back to what I never really had, a man who would lend me his life so that I could walk next to it, watch it, and learn from it. I had many good men that I knew, but none who would go so far as to do that for me and the effects are still felt today. A long time ago I decided that if someone wanted me they could have me if at all possible. But I also decided that they would get the real me, not the one I wanted them to see. For those I have who want to go into full-time ministry I have tried to give them a no-holds look at want lies before them. Nothing is worse than entering into something that demands everything you are and you are ignorant of what lies ahead for you and your family.
All of that to say, here is a good blog post, excellent perhaps, on how one seminarian views the value of what many churches offer, an internship. But this is not for seminarians, or even pastors. In fact, it is for anyone who seeks to influence other Christians, formally or informally. This is what our young people need from our old people. This is what that first time mother needs from the grandmother. Just bold, honest, faith-filled, gospel-centered advice. Read it and consider yourself, what are you doing in the lives of those younger in the faith?
I was checking my e-mail yesterday and up popped an invitation to the Resurgence 2012 conference. When I clicked on the link out of curiosity I was ushered, electronically, to the front page which you can see here and I began to run my eyes down it. And this is when a bit of irritation began to set in as I read the short bios of each of the speakers. What jumped out for me was the numbers, always the numbers: 30 million copies sold here, one of the most downloaded guys in the world there, has ministered to 4,405,000 people (with that specific of a number you would expect it to be more like 4,405,013 if you ask me), and the list went on.
Perhaps the conference will be very solid, stretching the hearts of those who come to listen. Perhaps the theology would be dense and rich drawing out from the text several truths that come only through serious and prayerful study. Perhaps men would be driven to repentance of hidden sin as the clarity of the gospel, the utter holiness of our Lord, and the power of the Spirit are heralded without shame. Perhaps. I hope that will happen.
But for me I was left with this sense that though the conference had the name “Jesus” in every one of the message titles to be preached the people were coming not for Jesus but for the celebrities. I hope I’m wrong and I even pray that I am wrong.
After doing all of this reflection I then came across one of my favorite blogs which this very conference was also being discussed. I realized then that I was not alone in this train of thought. I think that he hit the nail on the head with his comments, it’s all about numbers, downloads, and book sales.I guess I should be happy that TD Jakes is not on the list of speakers, although he could easily preach a sermon entitled, “We prosper for Jesus.”
Here’s how Paul Levy ended his comments regarding this upcoming conference:
It is great that these brothers are having so much influence for the gospel but you wonder if the Apostle Paul would have made the list at the end of his life: Church planting failure: “You are aware that all who are in Asia have turned away from me” (2 Tim. 1:15)