Multi-site Mega-church Vision-casting leader, Andy Stanley recently "preached" a five-week series called “Address the Mess.” In this 5-week series, He successfully preached on sin and mankind's need for salvation without using words such as wrath, hell, heaven, repentance, belief, Holy Spirit, faith, or even salvation, though he did say the word savior. And words you would be hard-pressed to avoid, like sin and forgiveness, he only said a handful of times. This is a huge problem. The pastor of the largest church in American preached on sin for over 200 minutes without even once presenting a clear and complete Gospel. The sheer lack of Biblical truth in this series, not to mention the absence of any substantial support-texts and cross-references during each talk, is nothing short of concerning, and possibly heretical.
Andy is known for his extreme pragmatism, open rejections of the divine authority and inspiration of Scripture, obsession with filling "churches" with thousands of lost people, and his hatred of small churches. But this is as a new low. In this series, as with “Saved by the Church”, “Brand New”, and now "Who Needs God," Andy continues to show his true colors. He is taking bold steps further away from historic Christianity, ignoring and denying out-right fundamental Christian doctrines.
But, Don't take my word for it. Below are excerpts from this 5-message series on sin and salvation – my description, not his. I will attempt to keep them within the context of the larger series, but by all means listen yourself! Links to Scripture and brief commentary where necessary, will be provided in order to show the clear error.
*Spoiler alert: The following quote is the closest Andy gets to anything resembling a clear and complete Gospel.
"I messed up, I gave up, I looked up, and God showed up."
Shockingly, however, the most apparent reason to prevent "making messes" (sinning) in our lives is to have...
That's it. Sadly, it is all down hill from here.
Andy sets the stage in week 1, titled “The Mess in the Mirror, ” of this series on sin with a series of catchy half-truths regarding something of our need for God and His kindness and mercy. But, you will quickly notice that the word “sin” is exchanged with a far less obtrusive and offensive word... "mess." This is extremely worrisome. This is a trick of many attraction-oriented Gospel-diluters who try and make following Jesus far easier than Jesus did, they don’t call sin, sin. They call it a “mess,” an “oopsy-daisy,” or a “mistake.”
"It took the mess to arrange the meeting."
"The mess when brings us together today."
"The mess is a lens through which God reveals himself."
“Jesus loves the little messes, all the little messes of the world.”
This minimization of sin is very dangerous! I believe it was RC Sproul who accurately described sin as “cosmic treason against a holy sovereign.” No one can be saved apart from an understanding of their sin problem! The Bible teaches us that the Father acts in divine mercy, sending Christ to enter time and space in order to live, die, and be raised for the propitiation for our sins. And what Andy fails to communicate is that our salvation was the predetermined plan of God and that our salvation is actually from the Father and for the son, in order to present to Him a spotless bride that will glorify Him. For this to happen, our merciful and just God had to die for sinners. There is a big difference between cleaning up "our mess" and dying for our sin. But, to point that out would make much of sin, making people feel bad. Or does he even believe it himself?
Using his softer alternatives, Andy repeatedly refers to our spiritual status as sinners throughout the series, without ever as much as referencing the radical, miraculous change of nature born-again that Christian’s experience upon salvation when we trust Christ.
"We were a mess…we are a mess."
This may come off initially as humble, and while in a sense, we are always sinners until we are glorified, it denies the powerful work of God in the heart of the Christian. It also ignores the fact that we are no longer slaves to sin, but to righteousness, rejecting the fact that we have a new nature in Christ. Sure, Christians sin, but they do not go on sinning like sinners, because they are in-dwelt and governed by the Spirit.
Andy actually begins week 2 of his series on sin, titled “Bess Mess Ever,” really well by illustrating we are in a “mess” that is our fault and that we cannot clean it up all by ourselves. This is such an important point in the Gospel. unfortunately, he does not expound on it at all.
After just mentioning John 3:16, which tells about eternal death (“perish”) and “eternal life”, Andy reads only verse 17. Curiously absent from this verse is God’s punishment for sin to which verse 16 refers explicitly. It seems Andy chose to read this verse, because of the grace of God represented in it. It reads, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” But he says nothing of the Spirit's work to convict of sin, nothing of what it is we are “saved” from, and nothing about the powerful truth of what it means to be saved “through” Him, by faith. This is the stuff you couldn’t bribe most pastors to ignore! A good pastor looks for opportunities to preach the core of the Gospel laid out in this portion of holy Scripture. It’s a "preaching softball,” and he whiffs. But, Andy Stanley is an incredibly competent communicator; he is one of the best. This is all being done on purpose.
Instead, he serves up cheap-grace to his more than 30,000 attenders, by only focusing on the doctrine of Grace, for which we are all so incredibly grateful, by the way! The problem is this: what good is grace without judgment, without a guilty verdict, due to sin? Its useless. In fact, its illogical and asinine, but this highlights all the more how intentionally Andy dodges almost all talk of sin, hell, and judgment (unless he happens to be reading a Bible verse, which is rare).
At this point, we might ask, “Andy, how do we stop making messes? How can we get out of our mess-making?” To that, he says…
"We are not redeemed overnight by a magic prayer."
Now, I don't disagree with this, but it becomes apparent he is down-playing, not the "sinners prayer," but confession and repentance.
"You can't pray your way out of a mess you behaved your way into.”
“But you can follow your way out [of a mess]."
Andy does so much harm with these three statements. First, he completely snubs the doctrine of momentary Justification by grace and through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone. He does this by reducing the sincere repentant prayer of a sinner for God’s mercy down to a “magic prayer.” But Andy does not teach on forgiveness. I can only conclude he is not interested in the forgiveness of sin, because he does not believe in sin. If he believed in sin, he (being a pastor) would be quick to clarify and expound on it, especially in a series on sin, because a pastor exists to preach the Word and to keep watch over the souls of his people. Second, Andy disregards the doctrine of Original Sin (or the Depravity of man) that is passed down by Adam to everyone born of a woman (except Jesus). He refers to our “messes” as man-made, the consequence of foolish or selfish behavior. That’s it. He says nothing of a spiritual dimension, the devil, temptation, or our flesh. Without an understanding of our inherent guilt before God as sinners by birth, there is nothing for which we are to repent to God. The doctrine of Sin in the Bible teaches we are not sinners, because we sin, but that we sin, because we are sinners. This distinction alone leads to the belief that we are utterly incapable of keeping God’s law, or meeting His standard of holiness/perfection. But, Andy is quick to admit…
He rightly points out that the purpose of the law is not that you would be perfect, but that it is to reveal God’s perfection and perfect standard to us, correctly stating...
"The law is a mirror or a reminder."
He talks about the law and about following Jesus as though Jesus had only one command, basically, to love God but focus on really loving your neighbor. But the big difference is that Andy says it as though Jesus had reduced the whole law of the prophets down to “love God and your neighbor.” However, Jesus claimed that the greatest command, “to love God and neighbor” was a summation of the whole of the law. This means each aspect of the moral law still stands. Jesus did not come to break and destroy it, but to fulfill it - on our behalf! And the way to obey them all is to live a life of perfect love for the father and then to love our neighbors as ourselves. Basically, if you love God and neighbor this way, you will, by default, obey the whole law and get both. But if “love your neighbor” becomes a law of its own that replaces the rest of God’s law, you will miss both. This is qualitatively different to what Stanley teaches.
Then, feeling the overwhelming need to relate the thousands of lost people listening to him or watching online, or on TV, or in other NorthPoint “environments,” he sheds what is left of his pastoral accoutrements, saying…
“Whatever law you are under…state law, your conscience, other people’s expectations, we all fall short of our own standard, and if there is a God, God's standard.”
How irresponsible! No Pastoral or prophetic warning that they are all under God's law and that they are responsible for God’s law (both on their heart and revealed in His Word). Not a word about how they are guilty and damned to hell without placing their trust in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of their sins. This is blasphemous, yet he continues to lead hundreds of thousands away from biblical Christianity with the help of the SBC, publishers, conference promoters, business-leaders, and well-meaning Christian churches.
Another dangerous element of how Andy teaches Christian love, is that it emphasizes our love for our neighbor over our love for God. Here, he explains that our inability to measure up the God’s law ought to silence us. He is right. It should silence us before God, the law-giver. This is when the sinner humbly asks for mercy, accepting what Christ did on the cross for his sins. Right? Not according to Andy. According to him, your inability to keep the law should silence you before other people who are also not keeping the law and are “messy.” The message is basically, "Don't judge others."
“I know a mess when I see one, because I am one.”
Nothing about being humbled before God for not meeting his standard. Nothing about the eternal consequence of not meeting His standard. Absolutely nothing regarding eternal consequences or reward for the duration of the series. The worst thing about “being in a mess,” as far as I can tell - according to Andy, is that in your mess (whatever that really is to him) will lead to more regrets, so you should follow Jesus out of your "mess" (no instruction on what that means). Remembering you’re always a mess, says Andy, enables you to be gracious with other people, who are also messes. Its smells like moralistic deism mixed with a pinch of universalism. Whatever it is, it is not Christian.
Also, it completely subverts the responsibility of every Christian to hold one-another accountable for sins. The Bible is replete with examples, due to the seriousness of sin, of Christian accountability, judgment, and correction. Andy will not once mention this Biblical behavior in almost 200 minutes of “preaching” in his series on sin. In fact, several times he disarms Christian judgment altogether when he misinterprets Christ command in Matthew 7 to first remove the beam from your own eye, so that you may see clearly to remove the speck from the eye of another. Andy not only describes Christ’s command as “advice,” but he only teaches one half of it, take the beam from your own eye. He says nothing of confronting a sinning brother/sister. And he does so in a way that would challenge, “who are you to take anything out of anybody’s eye? You have enough to worry about with yourself.”
Again, I am a bit confused, because this disregard for another’s sin is somehow honorable and loving as long as I understand I too am guilty. This is so antithetical to Scripture its maddening, as we are called ambassadors to preach Christ to a dying world. We are to first remove our beam (humbly recognize our own sin) in order that we might be more gracious and gentle when we confront the sin in someone else’s life. With the attitude Andy promotes, no Christian brother or sister would be lovingly corrected in their sin and no one would be evangelized or even encouraged to consider their need for Jesus to save them from the wrath of God on them for their sins.
He supports his logic with these dangerous half-truths, taking our focus off of the God of the Bible and off of sin, saying…
”The essence of Christian maturity is not our invisible love for invisible God but the essence of Christian maturity is when we love a person it is difficult to love.”
“Following Jesus is not primarily about doing what is right because doing what is right is still all about you.”
Make no mistake, our love for God precedes our love for anyone. That said, our love for God will naturally produce in us deep love for all. This may just be Andy’s apostasy in a nutshell. He not-so-subtly strips God of His inherent sovereignty and holiness, while with theological precision and slight-of-hand, draws our attention to something as good and biblical as loving our neighbor until our belief in God (the Father) is little more than impersonal mental accent. We aren’t in awe of Him and we don’t truly know Him. The law-giving God of the Bible is a mere means to an end. He exists to send Jesus, our ethics professor and personal mess-cleaner-upper. Andy’s message is a lot of things, but it is not biblical Christianity.
God is far more than this. He is the creator and master of the universe, radiant in glory and perfectly holy. He is God. He is to be feared and is worthy to be praised. He along with the Godhead foreordained to glorify Himself and The Son by creating and redeeming a chosen people, a bride, for the Son, who is the co-creator and sustainer of the universe. While Andy hardly, if at all, mentions Him, the glorious Holy Spirit deserves high honor and worship as the co-creator, re-creator and regenerator of the heart of the elect, convicting us of sin for repentance, providing faith to believe, and causing us to be born again and raised to walk as slaves to righteousness. Andy, in a series on sin and salvation, never mentions His supernatural and miraculous work.
In week three, titled “Inside Out,” he decides it is finally the right time to openly discuss the things pastors should always discuss at church…
“I want to launch a new discussion around something Christians believe.”
He goes on to explain that Jesus loves you. And He loves you too much to leave you in your “mess”. This is where you might expect he will teach on the important and all-too-glorious doctrine of sanctification. Well, he tries…
“the Christian life is not just about sin-forgiveness, sin-forgiveness.”
*By the way, this line accounts for 2 of the 4 times he says the word “sin” and 2 of the 3 times he says the word “forgiveness.” And the only other times he said sin was when reading Bible verses.
I regain a sliver of hope when he says…
"The end game [of the Christian life] is maturity."
Then my disappointment persists when he stripped the Christian life of all pursuits of Christ-likeness, explaining holiness like this…
“What does God wants to do inside of you? Well, in the church I grew up in, it was called holiness. But at 16, 26, or 46 does anyone want to be “holy”? It would be easy to defer to a “Bible term” and say God wants to make you holy (*he laughs). And you know, 90% of us would be like, “Eh, OK, great, sounds kinda boring.” Here's some better terminology and this is straight out of the New Testament. You know what God's trying to do on the inside of you? You seen it in other people. This isn't the best word but it is a word... ”fine.” There's just “fine people,” people with maturity and security and an inner-confidence. Like a fine young man. I think that's a shot, a slice, one way of answering the question.”
Where to start? First off, he says nothing of being holy as God is holy and nothing about pursuing Christ-likeness by the power of His Spirit in us. Holiness is such a glorious promise that speaks not only of God promise to work in us by His Spirit, but also our desire to be like Him. You preach holiness not only because its commanded (with no fear of condemnation when we fail for we are the righteousness of God in Christ – praise God!) but also because we now hate sin and love righteousness and desire to please our Lord. If holiness is boring to you, you don’t love God.
Secondly, this proves again what Andy Stanley, America’s great pastor-leader and Southern Baptist church, believes about the Bible. He believes he needs to improve upon God’s revelation to people by using words that are easier to understand and that more readily relate to our natural world. To do this he stoops to find a word that basically describes a good person, the best version of human beings, perhaps. This is not new, but stokes the outrage felt by many that he still represents the SBC and hasn’t yet been called out publicly by people with the power and influence. That said, Andy clearly does not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible as God’s Word. He verifies it by how he leads and teaches. It follows, then, that if God’s Word is not authoritative (down to the words) then we need not take it seriously. But, if it is (and it claims to be…and it certainly is) then you are taking away and adding to His Word under the assumption that you have a better way of revealing truth than God does. And here, Andy does that free of the trappings of weighty theological and biblical terms by which so many lost people are turned away. He is therefore, more sensitive to the demands and desires of man than those of God.
On “episode” (as he calls it) 4 of the series, titled, "Move Toward the Mess,” Andy Stanley attempts to teach on how to Love your neighbor as yourself be engaging selflessly in the messes of others. He says, (correcting himself by changing the word “church” to “organization”)…
“We are a church … an organization … that walks towards messes.”
They (Andy and a fellow staff member) tell a story about a homosexual man named Terry and boast about how the goal was simply to be with Terry and love Terry without feeling the need to "fix" Terry. There was absolutely nothing in the story about the need to share the gospel with Terry or even to pray for his salvation.
They congratulate one another on their lack of invasiveness in the lives of people with “messes.” This is so unbiblical, unspiritual, and unchristian. They are oblivious to the reality that truly loving someone who is caught in sin (whether they are lost or part of the Church) means confronting the destructive pattern of addiction or hidden sin in their lives. In fact, true believers will greatly appreciate such accountability. But even after 4 weeks of messages, I am not convinced that by “mess” Andy means “sin.” Instead, I believe he does not actually believe in the concept of eternally offending a holy God by not living according to His law and being destroyed in hell. And if he does, he is the wickedest “pastor’ on the planet for hiding such live-saving truth. For example, according to James, the “mess” of argumentation and fighting is caused by sin. Nevertheless, these two men continued to opine about how being around people and “loving” people in their mess can be uncomfortable, saying…
“We love comfort it's the goal. They're a great place to recoup but they're not a great place to live, because nothing much happens. And if you spend too much time there it starts to get boring. Will never meet the best version of ourselves inside our comfort zone. If we insist on comfortable boredom is in inevitable.”
Once again, the motives they are appealing to for “getting out of your comfort zone to love messy people” are anything but Christian. They are carnal. Never mind that the Bible calls it evangelism and that it is a matter of obedience, they leave God out of it completely. 30,000 people left NorthPoint that day thinking (prayerfully, not believing) that the reason I should just love and be with people in their mess, is because well, Jesus did it and if I don’t, this “Christian life” is going to get real boring. But that’s not even the biggest problem. The main concern continues to be not calling, or treating, sin like sin. Christ didn’t just go to “be with” and “love on” people who were in "messes." That is not biblical Christianity. He called out sin and came to save people from their sin.
But matters of belief do not matter. Andy says nothing about belief, dangerously and arbitrarily emphasizing deeds not creeds. Therefore, they don’t feel the need to complicate this whole “love your neighbor” thing with talk of doctrine. Just go out and “do it.” Or at least try it, they would say...
“Test drive what means to follow Jesus this gives an accurate example of what it means to follow Jesus because that's what Jesus did.” (move toward messes).
They encourage people to go be with and love on people in their mess without arming them theologically and biblically with an understanding of WHY they are in their mess! They are not equipping the saints for the work of the ministry and what they will do is ultimately not ministry, but simply being a "good" person and freely accepting people. Ministry means addressing the need of the soul by presenting them with a solution to their sin. Sure...do it in relationship, but to not do it all is utterly pointless.
There is no urgency to see the lost saved and this is because Andy does not believe such urgency is necessary. We know this, because during a 5-week series (on sin), he taught on sin and forgiveness not once. He taught on the weight of eternity not once. He taught his people about God’s holiness and wrath on sin not once. He taught on repentance and faith not once. This is not Christian. This is moral deistic universalism and it is heretical.
On week 5, titled “Messy-er,” Andy Stanley attempts to teach people to not make their messes even messier by behaving foolishly and selfishly. What a great opportunity to talk about the seductive nature of sin and how sin begets sin! What a silver platter on which sits the critical topic of our need for Jesus to protect us from temptation. And yet, nothing. He continued swapping out the biblical word “sin” with the word “mess."
I expected him to use, what I thought was the most obvious support text found in Isaiah 30:1 about adding sin to sin. But, I soon found out why he didn’t. It says the word “sin”…twice. Instead he doled out worldly moralistic do-gooder advice like…
“Take the high road.”
“Choose virtue instead of hurt you.”
Notice, he says nothing of Godliness or being controlled by the Spirit. But the human wisdom and worldly advice gets even worse. Andy hypothetically asks, “So, how do we address the mess? How do we not make our mess messier?” He suggests…
“Ask, ‘What story do I want told?’ Or ‘What option do I want as a permanent part of my story?’”
This is not bad advice. After all, a little foresight and logical thinking about the legal, relational, or physical ramifications of our actions will certainly prevent a lot of regrettable behavior. The only problem with this advice, coming from a person called a pastor in a church, is that it is not spiritual at all. It does not take into account the concepts of temptation and sin. It does not take into consideration Christian liberty and weak consciences of weaker brothers. It is not motivated in the slightest by whether or not it pleases God. It only appeals to one’s pride and shame before people and in this life. This logic encourages us to ask, “Would I be embarrassed to see this on the front page of the weekly paper?” If not, I will do it. If so, I will not do it. This is not a terrible way to make some decisions, but it is certainly not biblical or spiritual thinking and it is not enough for Christians.
Andy’s solution and ultimate application comes down to simply following Jesus. This sounds great, but it’s a dangerous, cheap and easy kind of following and a different Jesus that what the Bible reveals. But, Andy depicts a Jesus who is little more than a great teacher who happened to be able to predict His own death and resurrection – a historical fact he can’t ignore. He has been quoted saying…
“Even if you don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God, you will have a better life by following his teachings.”
Therefore, following Jesus is primarily about learning to act like most generous, loving, and selfless person ever, Jesus of Nazareth. This is repeatedly confirmed by the hand-full of times he claimed that Christian and non-Christian alike are able to learn from and benefit from following Jesus. Andy does not believe you have to be a Christian to follow Jesus, which simply is not Biblical. Here are a few of such quotes. There were far more than there are here, and it is obvious that he makes these equalizing comments strategically throughout the message on a regular basis, if not each week.
“You might not be religious at all, you might not even be a theist, but this is absolutely true of all of humanity…”
“If you're not a Christian all this is true all this applies to you.”
“There's a win for any faith or no on faith to move toward messes.”
“If you're not a Christian maybe this will be a reason to never become a Christian.” (*laughs)
“Regardless of how seriously you take a Jesus or the bible”
“no matter what you believe…”
In summary, Andy teaches a surface-level, behavior-modifying Jesus, not the Jesus or the Gospel of the Bible. In his 5-week series on sin, he completely lacks any eternal perspective, never mentioning, or even referencing, hell or heaven. Neither does he does not discuss our need for salvation.
While most of what he did say is shocking and unsettling, far more dangerous and misleading is everything he does NOT say.
Andy Stanley is not a pastor, not really. And at this point, much of what he said makes me wonder if he is truly a Christian. Either way, he is unqualified to teach in Christ’s Church and should be exposed for the dangerous teacher he is. If, in fact, he is not truly a believer, I pray for his salvation and that he would repent for misleading the Church, and step down or start preaching the Bible to Christians like pastors are supposed to do at church!