Going Back to Where Our Faith Began So We Can Better Share It Today
Andy Stanley is the senior pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, GA and I would say that it’s one of the most innovative and influential churches in America. Andy just released a new book called Irresistible. This book is already stirring the pot—in a very good way, I believe.
It all comes down to what made faith in Jesus so irresistible, so compelling that it spread so far and has never gone away? What was the “new” Jesus came to bring, and have we gotten away from it?
If you lead a church that cares about reaching the next generation, the themes Andy addresses are ones you should be wrestling with. I got a chance to interview Andy and ask some of the questions that stood out most to me.
In this conversation, Andy and I discussed:
Why a “Mix & Match Theology” is so prevalent in our churches
Why Jesus’ one command makes our faith generationally transferrable
How we go back to where our faith began to better understand how to connect with the next generation
Join the Conversation
We’ll be talking about this more on Facebook and Twitter this week. Listen to the episode and then join in.
Some things we are hoping to discuss:
- How do you keep from mixing and matching the Old and New Covenants when you communicate?
- What concerns do you have about changing what we’ve been doing to better reach the next generation?
- How can we teach the Old Testament in a way that brings life instead of condemnation and confusion?
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ANDY’S SERMON SERIES ON THIS TOPIC: Aftermath
Tony: 00:00 Before we start today’s conversation, let me tell you about our episode sponsor plain Joe Studios and how they can help your church. You know, basically you’re telling a story, the one about Jesus and your church and Plain Joe works with you to get that story right and the most important and visible places. This includes your logo, your website. They help with facility space, theming and signage. They’ll assist with your communications strategy and the staff development for your communications team. Um, they’re really helping you tell your story and all of these areas. So check them out online at plain Joe Studios Dot Com.
Tony: 00:52 Welcome to the church podcast I’m Tony Morgan. And each week we share a conversation our team is having about getting churches unstuck. You know, if you’re a church leader, then you’ve more than likely read a book, listened to a podcast or heard a teaching from Andy Stanley. Andy of course, is a senior pastor of north point ministries in Atlanta. It’s one of the most innovative and I would say influential churches in America. Andy’s new book, Irresistible comes out in September and I recently had a chance to talk with Andy about the book in the very first question. I was curious to hear why, why did he write it and why now? So let’s jump into Andy’s initial response.
Andy: 01:38 So Irresistible is basically my thinking and some shifts I’ve made in my terminology really for the past eight or nine years. And so this, in some ways irresistible is kind of the why behind the what of deep and wide, but it’s not written to church leaders. It’s really written to thoughtful Christians. And what spurred me on to write this book is right after nine slash 11, as you know, the new atheist came out with all this anti, not just anti-Islam but anti-religion. This fueled lots of conversations on the college campuses and it, you know, I just thought we got to do something about this and churches have complained about our losing millennials. We’re losing students and you know, maybe I’m just not content to just keep doing what we’re doing even though we’re a large church. So several years ago I made some, some shifts in my thinking and in the way that I talk about a lot of things and so I decided to write a book about it because I’m, I’m really on a crusade to help the church specifically step back away from a text based faith, which we really adopted after the reformation.
Andy: 02:41 Everybody knows that back into what I feel like is the more fertile soil of the first century version of our faith, which was an event based faith what launched Christianity was not. It is written what launched Christianity is, here’s what happened. So I’ve not changed my view of scripture even I’ve been accused of that. I have not dismissed the Bible. I’m not abandoned the Old Testament, but I’m, I’m trying to call the church to a different approach and it’s not a new approach. It’s the, I feel like the original approach. And so that’s irresistible and I’m super excited about it and love talking about it and I appreciate this opportunity.
Tony: 03:18 Well, okay, so let’s jump forward related to that then. You wrote in the book, the Church has a terrible habit of selectively rebranding aspects of the old covenant and smuggling them into the new and then later you wrote, most bad church experiences are directly related to old covenant leftovers.
Tony: 03:39 What are some examples of that that came to mind as you were writing those statements?
Andy: 03:44 You’re jumping right into the middle of the book, so if I can create just a little bit of context of the section of the book that you’re a part of. What I do in this book is try to help people think instead of thinking theologically. Although I’m all for theological thinking, I’m trying to help people think sequentially. In fact, if I was going to start a new Christian movement, I might call myself a Sequentialist because when we understand the sequence of events that resulted in the church creating the Bible, so many things become clear and one of the things that becomes clear is this, and hopefully this will answer the question or you can give me a follow up question. Gentiles did not become interested in the Jewish scripture until they first began worshiping.
Andy: 04:28 A specific Jew, before the birth of Christianity, gentiles wanted to have nothing to do with Jews or their scripture. They viewed Jews as elitist or racist, cultist. Again, anyone who knows anything about history knows this to be the case. So after the birth of Christianity, which began with the resurrection, gentiles became fascinated with the Jewish scripture. Well, there wasn’t any Christian scripture at the time, even though, you know, there were documents being written that were later gathered. So what of course happened isthe church Christianized, the Old Testament, baptized it, allegorized assumed and concluded and all of this is in my book. And this isn’t a lot of books concluded that the Jewish people did not even understand their own scripture since they missed their own messiah. So consequently, um, you know, thanks to some wonderful things that happened in the advancement of history and the reformation.
Andy: 05:22 We end up with our Bibles, um, which, you know, when I got mine and Tony’s like, you got yours. This is God’s word, you know, it’s all true. Don’t set a coffee cup on top of it, you know, and you know, it’s so interesting that people who told us it was all true, they probably hadn’t read it all either. And so we as children, except that it is true. So consequently, to the point of your question we, because of the way we are given our bibles, as children, we automatically begin looking for God everywhere looking for application everywhere, looking for devotional thoughts and guidance everywhere. And so there is little to no sophistication for the average Christian when it comes to understanding what the Bible is. And specifically that at Mount Sinai, God instituted a covenant with a nation and the stipulations of that covenant are the 10 plus the other 603 commandments and that they were given to a specific people for a very specific period of time.
Andy: 06:22 And then in the upper room right before his arrest, Jesus said, okay, I mean, they should have all gotten up and left the room. He said this meal that you had been celebrating since you were little boys. That has always commemorated God’s delivering the nation from Egypt. Passover, from now on, I want you to do this in remembrance of me. They should have all gotten up and left the room. It would be like me this coming December, getting up on the first weekend of the month and saying, Hey, I know we normally celebrated Jesus’ birthday in the month of December, but this, this December, and from now on, I want you to celebrate Christmas in remembrance of my birthday. Well, the body would leave or they would call a psychiatrist or you know, the, the, the elders would have a meeting that afternoon. Well, that’s what Jesus did.
Andy: 07:08 And, and so in doing so, he said, I’m inaugurating a brand new covenant that is going to repeal and replace the current covenant. And there was nothing wrong with the current covenant. It’s just that it had a timer and the time has run out. It was this fabulous, divinely created cocoon that birthed the light of the world. So again, understanding sequentially what the Bible is and how we got our Bible gives us permission to step back into that first century space between the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus, where our faith actually began. So I go into extraordinary detail and all of this in the book as you know, but my goal is to help Christians not give up something but actually regained something.
Tony: 07:53 Alright. So with that then you mentioned all the commandments including the big 10, and you wrote about the Ten Commandments. Believers belong to Jesus, not the old covenant. Believers are accountable, the Jesus not the old covenant. And then you wrote this, according to Paul, Jesus followers are dead to the 10 commandments. The 10 commandments have no authority over you, none. To be clear, thou shalt not obey the Ten Commandments. Now, first of all, after writing that, I’m just curious, do you still have your credentials to pastor northpoint?
Andy: 08:28 Within context, and thanks for diving into the middle of the book. Fortunately within context, I stand by that. And here’s why. And he think about this, Tony, you know this, I’m a passage or a verse of scripture, most of your listeners can recite from memory because of the second part, not the first part. When Jesus, after Jesus rose from the dead and he gathered his own followers together, he gave what we call the great commission, but the first part of that commission is extraordinary and we miss it because we’re not Jewish. He this now and again, they should have all left the room, except he had risen from the dead. All Authority has been given to me now who would say that? And he doesn’t qualify it all. Authority. Now here’s what Jews heard. Once upon a time, Moses was your guy. Now I’m your guy.
Andy: 09:15 I warned you about this. I foreshadowed this. The entire old covenant forshadowed this and pointed to this day, from now on, all authority has been given to me. And then at the end of the great commission, he says, you are to teach them what I have commanded you. So in this moment, Jesus steps into the center of our faith and becomes what we call him. And pray to him as our Lord and doing so. He closed the books on the old covenant that was temporary in nature and was with a nation. And again, he’s launched this brand new covenant that’s with, with all of mankind who chooses to participate. And as was the case with every covenant, there are rules and stipulations that go with the covenant. Now I make the point in the book and I make the case in the book. And this is, this is one of the reasons I wrote the book that in the upper room during Passover, Jesus gave his commandments that go with his new covenant.
Andy: 10:12 And it wasn’t commandments. It was the one command, the one commandment. You know what? It’s not sound very exciting, but the one command was as I’ve loved you, you’re to love one another. That’s it. And then in the book, I make the point that essentially the apostle Paul teases that out and that every new testament command that we find in his epistles are not new commands. They’re simply applications of the one command. And he actually makes that super clear. So that’s kind of the nature of where I’m going with the book and it makes things simpler and as I say in the book, you know, the new, the new covenant is less complicated, but at the end of the day it is far more. It’s far more demanding because the new covenant new command requires of me every time I have conflict, every time I have an interaction, every time I make a financial decision, every time there’s a relational decision, I’m brought back to this simple question, what does love require of me and not mushy.
Andy: 11:07 You know, misguided, compassionate, kind of love, the kind of love that Jesus demanded when he said, as I have loved you, you’re to love one another. And, and Tony, one of the push backs that I get when I talk about this is people feel like people are afraid and you could probably speak to this. People are afraid of that, of the license. They think that kind of love gives. And I’m like, wait a minute, license. Remember the person who gave us this command died covered in his own blood and body fluids. There is nothing mushy, there’s nothing soft, there is nothing permissive about this kind of love, so we don’t need to fear it. I just think we should embrace it.
Tony: 11:45 Yeah. So, I’ll jump ahead to one of the questions I wanted to ask you then as related to this, and I think you’re starting to describe what you referred
Tony: 11:54 to as the distinction between vertical morality and horizontal morality. Right. But I mean you just mentioned it. I would think one of the key questions that people would have that as what does that mean about all the rules that we grew up with in church about sex and alcohol and dating and dancing and whether or not we can wear white after Labor Day. I don’t know.
Andy: 12:22 Dancing. I haven’t heard that one brought up in a while. Playing cards going to movies on Sunday.
Tony: 12:30 So what happens to all those rules?
Andy: 12:33 Well, it’s really simple and this is what’s so brilliant and I can’t state it as well as I do in the book because I spent a lot of time trying to craft these words. This new, the new Covenant Single Command is so brilliant because it is generationally transferable. Whereas the old covenant is not generationally transferable. It’s one of the reasons people struggle reading the Old Testament. There’s bits and pieces that transfer, but there are bits and pieces that they’re actually. Some of the laws in the old covenant are illegal in the United States and Canada and we want them to remain illegal. But Jesus, New Covenant Command given to us 2000 years ago is, it is international. It is intergenerational because the bottom line is this, if it’s not good for him, it’s a sin. If it’s not good for her, it’s a sin. If it puts you ahead of them, if you advance into, to their demise or if you advance to the point that it costs them something else, you need to reconsider.
Andy: 13:32 It is so relational. It is so clear. Again, what does love require of me? When you only have one rule, there are no loopholes. You give me five commandments, I can find space and conflict between those communities. But you say to me, Andy, you are to put others ahead of you to the degree that your father in heaven put you ahead of himself when he gave his son for you. Now go do you know, manage your marriage that way, parent that way, be a friend that way. So all of the, you know, specifics that you mentioned a few minutes ago. If these are not applications of this new covenant, New Command, then they need to be reconsidered. And the beauty of this, and you’re a pastor, you get this. How many times have you been faced with a very specific family situation or a difficult situation with a teenager and you realize the rules, they don’t really apply here.
Andy: 14:23 I’m not sure how I take what I was brought up to believe and apply it to these real life people. But Jesus, New Covenant Command, it is so clear because I’m required to do what’s best for this individual. And again, it’s not soft and it’s not mushy and it is not permissive. So again, if we had time, and again in the book I go into detail, the Apostle Paul, as I say in the book, he never sets his application ball on an old covenant tee, he always says his application ball on the just as Christ did for you. That is the clearest example for people who are listening or watching today. Just take Ephesians chapter five, just read Ephesians five and look how Paul ties all of his applications, not to Moses said, but because of what Christ did for you, here’s how you’re to treat one another. So it’s, it’s very clear. It’s simple and it’s our marching orders. And to the point of the book, this is how we reengage our culture and reengage people who’ve left the church. And that’s the reason I wrote the book. It wasn’t to, you know, try to do something new or say something new. I’m concerned as you are about, you know, people walking away, not non Christians who don’t come, but people walking away from the church in droves for reasons I think are basically all the wrong reasons.
Tony: 15:38 Yeah. Alright. So in the closing moment, and by the way it really isn’t fair. It doesn’t do justice to the book that we’re having this brief conversation over. You really do need to read the book, but in the closing moments, the prelude to our conversation today, Andy, was a back and forth
Tony: 15:54 that we had related to, you called it the mix and match theology and here actually in churches across the country all the time. So the, what’s your perspective? Why is it that pastors are still teaching a mix and match theology would? Do you have any sense of that as well?
Andy: 16:15 It’s because the assumption is that the Bible is the foundation of our faith. It’s not, it’s the resurrection and it’s again, we don’t think sequentially. We think holistically. It’s the Bible is all God’s word. We don’t tie our applications to Jesus single command. We look for all these command scattered throughout the Bible and say, well, the Bible says, the Bible says, the Bible says, the Bible teaches, and we were all raised on that model. Most pastors and preachers inherited that model. So consequently you have the Prosperity Gospel that’s rooted in old covenant thinking.
Andy: 16:46 You have the God’s going to judge this country and God’s going to judge these people. We have preachers preaching like Old Testament prophets when Jesus couldn’t have been clearer and Jesus that, no, no, no, God’s not going to judge the nations. I’m sending you to the nations. There’s going to be one final judgment. So there are so many things that have crept into our preaching, our teaching and our theology, and it unnecessarily drives people away. And, and they, they look at what Jesus did and then they look at how we talk about people and culture and that, you know, they don’t line up. So people leave. And the great news, Tony, and the reason I’m not really discouraged is our culture still has a love affair with Jesus. People love Jesus. Don’t love us sometimes and I think it’s because you know, in the first century people who are nothing like Jesus liked Jesus and he liked them back and we need to get back to that and that’s one of the reasons I wrote the book.
Tony: 17:41 So here’s my bottom line conclusion. After reading the book, and even after today’s conversation, I actually think Andy Stanley believes Jesus is who he said he is. Is that true?
Andy: 17:52 Absolutely. He physically bodily rose from the dead. And as I tell our churches all the time, you’ve heard me say this, if someone can predict their own death and resurrection and pull it off, you should do whatever that person says and you should believe whatever that person believes, including what they believe about the Old Testament, what Jesus called the law and the prophets. Thanks Tony.
Tony: 18:14 Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation. Be sure to subscribe on Itunes, Google play, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss any future episodes. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. So join the conversation on social media and using Hashtag unstuck church. And finally, you can learn more about how the unstuck group helps churches get firstname.lastname@example.org.