Depending on the circles you are within, you may or may not have heard about Andy Stanley’s direct attack on the parents and indirect attack to those who minister tirelessly within the smaller churches. I confess, I have barely heard of Andy. Why?…
Possibly because my husband and I were busy serving selflessly, surely imperfectly, in a church of about 150 to 200 people that Andy spoke so negatively about. Those negative opinions were not about a building. Those words pierced through souls who may now be wondering what might be wrong with their church family. His words were against souls who love and serve the same Jesus he does.
What Andy Stanley Said
Just in case you are like me and not really in Andy’s sphere of influence, here is the portion of his February 28, 2016 sermon to which I am referring:
“When I hear adults say, ‘I don’t like a big church. I like about 200. I wanna be able to know everybody.’ I say you are so stinkin’ selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids, anybody else’s kids. If you don’t go to a church large enough, where you can have enough middle-schoolers and high-schoolers so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big ol’ church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people, and grow up and love the local church. Instead, what you do…you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church, and then they go off to college, and you pray there’ll be a church in their college town that they connect with, and guess what: all those churches are big, the kind of church you don’t like. Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.”
Leaving the Mega Church
Andy has tweeted his apology, so I really don’t want to assume I know how sorrowful he is over his 3 minutes of spewing insults rather than the teaching of Scripture. I have had to ask for forgiveness for speaking hurtful words, so I know things are said that we regret and have to repent of. God is merciful to give us the ability to repent of our sinful speech. That is not why I am writing.
I am here to tell you why I left the mega church scene for a smaller church. I am not anti-mega church. This is just my experience. I am writing to tell you about one small nail aiding in the nailing of the coffin shut to our desire to be a part of the mega church scene, and guess what, it had to do with the next generation Andy spoke of.
Let the little children come unto the mega church?
I remember painfully well. I was at church on a Wednesday night, and someone came to the door to pull me from the class. There was a shortage in the children’s department that evening. I had served at other times within the children’s ministry, so they were seeing if I could fill in at the last minute. That happens, and I get it. People get sick, circumstances arise, and substitutes are needed.
However, what I observed that Wednesday night broke my heart. The young children were precious and energetic. The one teacher present was relieved I had come to assist her. I arrived just in time for the Bible story. The teacher asked if I would be willing to share the story of Jonah. She said I was probably more equipped to tell the story. I found that odd, and assured her I was fine to observe since I had just walked in the door and was clueless to what was going on. She said, “no, you don’t understand. I don’t know the Bible. I go to church, but we don’t use the Bible at my church. ” Confused and appalled, but willing, I took over the teaching time. We then settled the children at tables to color their big fish pictures.
I stood with the teacher as we watched the children color, and I asked her where she went to church. She told me, and then explained to me she was just a paid employee to the church I attended to make a little extra cash. Whoa. What?
James was pretty clear about the teacher’s responsibility:
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)
Parents of the children I was watching had no idea their children, the next generation, were in the care of a lady who was unfamiliar with the word of God, worse yet, the God of the Word. When we asked the Children’s pastor why this was happening, he said they didn’t have enough people within this wonderful church of over 5,000 people to serve on a Wednesday evening. How does this happen? I am not here to answer that question. That is not the point of this article either.
The point is this…
This incident revealed to me that the next generation was not being served well on many levels within this particular mega church. For that and many other reasons, we made a decision based on heartfelt convictions. Like I said, I don’t know Andy or his philosophy of ministry to the youth, but my husband chose to go to a seminary that had a high view of the word of God. And we were also convicted and led to minister within the small churches that many men like Andy Stanley do not find valuable.
In Scripture, throughout the Gospels, we see lives being changed in intimate settings as Jesus discipled 12 men. He also preached to the masses. The focus shouldn’t be numbers, but faithfulness to the Word of God. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was saved at a TINY church as a teen, yet he preached to tens of thousands regularly. It’s not about the numbers. It IS about God, His Word, and His glory. Oh, did I say it’s not about the numbers? It seems to me, Andy Stanley, like King David, may have had an unhealthy focus on numbers (2 Samuel 24).
By God’s grace and provision, we served men, women, children, and yes, the youth (we jokingly and lovingly referred to them as pre-people) with all of our hearts in that small church. Many summers were spent serving at youth camps and evening services designed to encourage the next generation’s love for Christ, growth in the Word, solid body life, community, and accountability. We drove them half way across the country to the best camps that encouraged our youth to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. We flew with them to foreign countries so they could experience missions first hand. When they went missing, we got in our cars and searched for them. When they were up all night from sinful choices, they came and slept in our guest bedroom. We stood by the parents when we buried them.
Our ministry to the youth may have looked nothing like Andy’s, but it was for God and His glory…not Andy’s opinion. A man who does not know me, and most certainly, who does not know my heart for the next generation has characterized the ministry GOD providentially placed our family in as “selfish.”
Thankfully, God is the Heart-Knower, not Andy Stanley. He knows and leads people to serve the next generation in unique ways and various church sizes. And most importantly, THE LORD is the one Who draws our children’s heart’s to Himself – not the mega churches, not the little churches, nor in-between churches – but God Himself.