Andy Stanley on Changing Lives

“If spiritual maturity were synonymous with information transfer, or more specifically, Bible content transfer (then traditional modes of preaching) would be fine.

But it’s not.  And you know that.  I know that.  Everybody I know knows that…

You and I know that Bible knowledge can lead to pride; the antithesis of spiritual maturity.  It’s interesting that the group who knew the Old Testament Scriptures best were the very ones who considered Jesus a blasphemer and arranged for his crucifixion.  Knowing isn’t enough.”

(Communicating for a Change pg 95)

I’m in the middle of this amazing book listed above.  The quote seems to be at the very heart of the argument that Stanley is making.  The parenthetical quote is mine because the words he used required reading the whole chapter to be understood.  (I’m hopeful that I didn’t really alter his meaning.)

It seems like quite a large paradigm shift.  I felt like it was so succintly and explicitly stated that I wanted to quote it.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

3 thoughts on “Andy Stanley on Changing Lives”

  1. The book you’re presently reading sounds smart by half. true, knowledge puffs-up, but God’s people also perish for lack of it. a healthy, well-balanced plan of knowledge and ministry will lead to an undertstanding of God’s vision and short circuit the self-agrandizing dreams of men.
    (Taken from a post elsewhere on this blog from my buddy Garret.)


  2. Taken out of context, I can see how you’d think that. Maybe if you’d got the wider context you’d still think this; but maybe not.

    The chapter this quote is drawn from begins with the idea that communicators must be clear about the goal of communication. Stanley notes that pastors ordinarily choose 1 out of 3 goals.
    Some pastors want to teach the bible to people. The emphasis here is on the bible itself, not really what’s been learned and applied. He gives the example of being at another church Easter Sunday and hearing a pastor preach on Psalm 44 because that church had been going through the psalms, and the week he was there, that was how far they had gotten. (Can you imagine a sermon series that lasted 44 weeks!?!)
    The second possibility is teaching people the Bible. The goal here is still information transfer. A pastor would measure listener success by how much head knowledge listeners had about scripture.
    Stanley’s preferred goal is (His words, from page 95): “To teach people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible”
    The section that I was so impressed by that I quoted at the very top of the post was from the end of the section on the second possibility; it was his bottom line explanation for why teaching people the Bible isn’t enough.
    Despite what the quote might have implied when I ripped it from it’s context, Stanley takes an extremely high view of the importance of scripture. And I think he’d probably agree with you that God’s people perish for lack of knowledge.
    Maybe he would say (and definitely I would say) that when you simply teach people the Bible, you run the risk of not conveying knowledge so much as information.
    To know that the pythagorean theorem is A squared plus B squared equals C squared is knowledge. To realize how to apply this in figuring out how far away you need to move a ladder from the corner of a house, this is knowledge.
    You’re absolutely right to say that learning and serving will short-cirtcuit the self-agrandizing dreams of men. (Great sentence, by the way. Very poetic.)
    But possessing a bunch of information about the bible can masquerade as knowledge, I think, and lead us to believing we’re not self-agrandizing when in fact we are.


  3. “it isn’t hard to imagine all the places we do this godliness (without God) thing. at the relationship level with God i believe it’s foundational. each of us struggles to have authentic communion with God in Christ, first and foremost. to the extent that the Christian community succeeds in nurturing the proper order of a living faith, so too will that community grow and thrive. you might be surprised at how many people occupy churches that are feigning a saving faith in Jesus. it ought to be the mission of intentional fellowship (like lifegroups) to encourage that relationship with Christ. ”

    when i wrote that in the preceding paragraph from the one you quoted, i intended to convey (albeit in a very broad way) precisely what you suggest in this “masquarade” (awsome song, btw).

    keep in mind i haven’t read the book. i have however, been intensely instructed by the elder Stanley. if Andy has also learned at his father’s knee and not departed from the faith taught there, i have no problem with his emergent ministry leanings. in fact, i don’t really have a beef with the emergent concept. much like the traditional church and it’s methods, it speaks to a culture and it’s world view. alot of the tension between the two seems to be a recurring theme within the Church from time to time. this happened in the early-mid 20th century as the world was changing and the Church wasn’t. prideful attention to the “binkies” of the day distracted from the Mission. it happened again in the 60’s and 70’s. there’s nothing new under the sun here.

    i have as much a heart for seeing the church in all it’s phases come together in meaningful association around immutable doctrines as i do for recognizing the neccessity of accepting the good old ways. i’m guessing that one need to know some old people to appreciate their culture and passions. Andy’s church is much different than his dad’s, i’m sure. that doesn’t make the Charles Stanley ministry style irrelevant. if we’re not careful to catagorize these differences in the proper light we’re doomed to repeat history’s mistakes and show the world that we’re a sniveling ilk consumed with our possessions rather than possesed of the Living God.

    so while i agree with you that on the surface it seems as though a 44 week (and perhaps longer) sermon series sounds like hell on earth rather than a little slice of heaven, how a preacher communicates the content is paramount. if Andy’s point is that it’s just plain wrong to preach exegetically (sorry for the big word) i disagree. if his point is that there’s a more effective use of a preacher’s pulpit time i would’t disagree. i would suggest that one know their audience in either case.

    i like the Emergent logic. it’s reasonable to observe and then conclude that to reach the unsaved and the unchurched it’s wise to speak their language. our God is a god of reason. Andy Stanley is wise to see that. he’s also wise to follow the vision of the Kingdom he’s received from God and not from his father. lastly, he is wise if he teaches that our faith isn’t in our systems and styles, programs and methods, or visions and dreams, but in the Jesus of the Bible.

    in Christ,


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