When You Say Something Stupid: A Lent Reflection

Andy Stanley said something stupid.

If you’re not familiar with Stanley, he is the extremely successful pastor of the North Pointe Community Church in Atlanta. He’s an author, speaker and a major force behind the Catalyst Conference. He’s blessed a ton of people through his ministry.

And on March 3rd, he made a mistake. Which makes me feel better, because if you speak for a living you know it could happen to you at any moment. He was speaking passionately about his love for church and why it is so important. Then he said this:

“If you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them 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 — can you tell I’m passionate about this, yeah — here’s what you do. I’m so sick of this. I hear this all the time, ‘Well I just don’t like big church.’ Well ok, look, look. You see, here’s 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 to college and you know what you pray for? You pray that there would be a church in their college town that they could connect with. And guess what? All those churches are big.”

You can listen to his comments here.

It didn’t take long for the wolves to come out and attack. I won’t link any of them here. I’m sure Google can help you find more blogs and articles than you care to read. Needless to say, his attitude, perspective and even his ministry were called into question.

To be fair, he quickly apologized.

I think Andy has simply grown up in large churches and been blessed by them. He explains this in the rest of his sermon. His father was the preacher of a large church. And he’s planted a church that has (as far as I can tell) always been large. It’s been his context and his blessing. He also gets lots of criticism from people who don’t really like megachurches. I’m sure this played a part in his passionate delivery.
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But look, about 90% of churches don’t fit into his “big ‘ol” category. He did sound arrogant and ignorant.

So he’s pretty much like the rest of us, it’s just that more people listen to what he says than you or I.

And this is hopefully what Lent brings out in us. Not our ignorance and imperfections, but a greater awareness of them. We all have some bad opinions and would make fools of ourselves given a mic and enough time. We’re all flawed.

It’s so easy to lash out at the mistakes of others when we can hide our own. But Lent invites us to expose these parts we’d rather keep hidden and look them right in the face. Through that courage we develop greater amazement at God’s love and forgiveness.

And hopefully greater understanding and patience for others when they say or do something dumb. Because our turn is right around the corner.

May we all be more patient and understanding with one another today.
And may we all be as quick to apologize when we mess up as Andy was.

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2 thoughts on “When You Say Something Stupid: A Lent Reflection

  1. Perhaps Pastor Stanley should have apologized, but then again maybe not. I don’t remember any of the Apostles ever apologizing. Could it be that Pastor Stanley had a valid point in his message? Isn’t it true that what he says does happen and is a problem? Shouldn’t we be thankful for that bit of wisdom, without tossing it out because someone got offended? The Bible says, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Psalms 119:165 KJV Maybe the problem isn’t so much in what Pastor Stanley, or in what any of us say when we defend the Gospel, or our Christian way of life; maybe the problem is that we, as a people, have forgotten how to truly love His Word, so we don’t have the guiding peace we need to keep us from foolish arguments.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you that Stanley had a decent point in his message. The point he was getting to was, “Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.” It’s a good one. So should he have apologized? I think so, and I’ll tell you why.

      First, apologizing is good in almost any situation. It shows humility and grace, even when you did nothing to offend. It shows you care about the other person more than your opinion or point. Even when the other person is being incredibly sensitive or unreasonable. Apologies are always good places to start.

      Second, Andy made a mistake. He had a good point, but got distracted from it. He took something where he saw correlation and jumped to the conclusion that there was causation. Church size ultimately isn’t the point, but because he gets criticism and he believes in how he does church, he focused on something that was ancillary to his main point. And in the process made a logical leap and offended others. The Christians who attend smaller churches did not deserve to be called selfish based on that criteria alone.

      But ultimately, I just think this makes him human. I’m astonished how quickly people will discount someone’s entire ministry, work and life from one mistake or misstep. We need much more understanding and patience with one another.

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