The following is a section out of the book Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend by Andy Stanley. You are welcome to agree, or disagree with my assessment of this statement made by Mr. Stanley, but before you do, check out the links included below to others who share similar opinions. So, on that note, lets dive in to Deep and Wide. Mr Stanley writes:
People are far more interested in what works than what’s true. I hate to burst your bubble, but virtually nobody in your church is on a truth quest. Including your spouse. They are on happiness quests. As long as you are dishing out truth with no here’s the difference it will make tacked on the end, you will be perceived as irrelevant by most of the people in your church, student ministry, or home Bible study. You may be spot-on theologically, like the teachers of the law in Jesus’ day, but you will not be perceived as one who teaches with authority. Worse, nobody is going to want to listen to you.
Now, that may be discouraging. Especially the fact that you are one of the few who is actually on a quest for truth. And, yes, it is unfortunate that people aren’t more like you in that regard. But that’s the way it is. It’s pointless to resist. If you try, you will end up with a little congregation of truth seekers who consider themselves superior to all the other Christians in the community. But at the end of the day, you won’t make an iota of difference in this world. And your kids…more than likely your kids, are going to confuse your church with the church and once they are out of your house, they probably won’t visit the church house. Then one day they will show up in a church like mine and want to get baptized again because they won’t be sure the first one took. And I’ll be happy to pastor your kids. But I would rather you face the reality of the world we live in and adjust your sails. Culture is like the wind. You can’t stop it. You shouldn’t spit in it. But, if like a good sailor you will adjust your sails, you can harness the winds of culture to take your audience where they need to go. If people are more interested in being happy, then play to that. Jesus did (Copied from my Kindle, sections 1216-1234).
I listened to this quote a while back while on my way to work and it was all I could do to not drive my car off the side of the road in total frustrative disbelief that a supposed minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ could even say something like this, much less print it in a book that will sell many copies and be around for years. This is an incredible display of arrogant pragmatism that is a slap in the face of any method that Christ, the Apostles, or the Church down through history have used to preach the Gospel. If I turn to scripture, I find no indication at all that Christ conformed to the culture of his day and used that to his advantage to spread the Gospel. If anything, he decried the culture of his day.
So, how do you reconcile the above statement with Jesus’ own words? Christ said in Matthew 10:34-39, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” Jesus Himself was very emphatic in stating that he came to cause offense in families, which, from what I have observed, is anything but a happy situation.
Culture is very man-centric. 100 years ago, there was no such movement for same sex marriage rights like we see today. I submit that in just a few years, polygamy, polyandry, and polyamory will be on the front burner and become even more divisive to our current culture. All of these forms of relationships mentioned above are due to our cultures inability to find ‘happiness’ in life, so it just leads to more and more debauchery. So, to take this to an extreme, what would a church that practices what Mr. Stanley says above do if someone came into their congregation and said something to the effect that they enjoyed killing someone or having sex with children because it made them happy? From the quote I shared above there would be nothing you could say to that person to convince them they were wrong because that would take away their happiness, and we should ‘play to that because Jesus did.’
I have absolutely no doubts that Mr. Stanley is a well educated man, probably much smarter than me, but I don’t think he has thought this proposition through to its logical end. A statement like he makes above is pretty much a license for ‘anything goes’ as long as it makes me happy and if I am one of the people he is trying to reach, then I should come to expect whatever makes me happy from what I experience at his church. If it doesn’t make me happy, then Mr. Stanley needs to be informed so that he can make the necessary changes to accommodate me, because my happiness is the ultimate goal, right? Of course, I’m stymied as to how that would work in a church of 20,000 plus people who all want to be happy. From what I have seen, there is no generic ‘happiness’ that reaches everyone in the same way.
So, Mr. Stanley, you just keep on preaching to the goats you lead because they have itching ears and only hear what they want to hear. You, sir, do not want absolute truth because that would cause a full on confrontation with the God of truth who is more concerned with His glory than any happiness that you or I could ever have. And, by the way, should you ever preach the truth of Gods glory, you would find yourself as one of those small, obscure, non-world impacting preachers you so haughtily poked fun at. Joshua 24:14-15 says:
Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
That word spoken by Joshua is not a request, that is an emphatic statement to put away the culture that was left behind when the Israelites came out of Egypt. An entire generation fell in the wilderness because they would not put the culture behind them. I fear for you, sir, as you and others like you are leading an entire generation into a wilderness that has been charted and explored before. In your quest for happiness, you will find only misery, heartache, destruction, and when it is over, eternity apart from God because you refused to listen to the voice of God.
Like Joshua said, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Other links of interest:
Happiness Questing from The Mortification of Spin Podcast
Carl Trueman weighs in at Reformation 21
Stand Firm in the Faith has a take on this
A View From Serenity Acres