Pastor Andy Stanley believes that part of the reason society is moving away from faith is that “the Bible says…” doesn’t carry the same weight of authority it once did, and thanks to our increasingly information-saturated world, people think they know “what else” the Bible says without even picking up the holy book.
Stanley, who serves as head pastor of North Point Community Church, which currently has six locations in Atlanta and 70 churches around the world, was so concerned about the next generation of Christian believers that he penned a book to discuss how we can reframe what our faith looks like for non-believers.
In an interview with Faithwire, the pastor and author opened up about why he wrote “Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World?” and why you should read it.
“I am concerned about the faith of the next generation—a generation that has unlimited access to misinformation about faith, the Bible, and Christianity,” he said. “The rise and influence of the New Atheists have shifted the playing field. In response, students and grads aren’t opting for atheism. They are opting for ‘I don’t know anymore.’ Why? Well, they tell us. They don’t ‘believe’ anymore. They don’t know what to believe anymore.”
Stanley pointed out that many people think that Christianity doesn’t follow science, but they also aren’t attracted to atheism.
“Christianity appears indefensible and untenable in our scientific digital world. But atheism isn’t appealing either. So more and more folks are stepping into what they consider the neutral zone of ‘I don’t know and don’t pressure me to decide.’”
“In my new book, ‘Irresistible,’ I argue that the faith they abandoned was a straw man version to begin with,” he said. “It was the text-based version, not the original, event-based version. When I say that, folks often respond by asking, ‘But how do we know about the events apart from the text?’ That question underscores the need for modern Western Christians to rethink and reconsider what the foundation of the Christian faith originally was and, consequently, still is today . . . whether or not it’s recognized and embraced.”
Enter the premise of his new book: resurrecting the faith of the first-century brothers and sisters in Christ.
Stanley reminds readers that “first-century brothers and sisters who had no official Bible, no status, and humanly speaking, little chance of survival,” still had a strong faith to model.
“What made their faith so compelling, so defensible, so irresistible?” he asks.
Pastor Stanley is well-known for his teaching on topics such as leadership, vision and communication, and exploring these issues on his podcast, the “Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast.” He has authored several books including, “Next Generation Leader” and “Communication For A Change,” but “Irresistible” is the first book he has written on the state of the Church.
“I love the local church,” Stanley told Faithwire. “[But] I’m concerned about the church’s messaging in a world where people can discover ‘what else’ is in the Bible without ever owning or reading a Bible. Every high school senior and college freshman is a click away from a podcast, YouTube video or blog that undermines faith — Christianity and the Bible in particular.”
“So I’m convinced the time has come for us to step back onto the firm soil that birthed our faith to begin with,” he said. “All we need are any two of the four Gospels, along with 1 Corinthians, and we are good to go. ‘Irresistible’ reflects the approach I’ve taken to talking about the Bible for the past several years.”
“Irresistible” addresses how Christians need to re-think how they approach faith.
“There was a time when ‘the Bible says’ was reason enough, when our culture still held the Bible in high regard. And while it may still be reason enough for us Christians, it’s no reason at all for a significant percentage of the population,” Stanley said.
“Appealing to post-Christian people on the basis of the authority of Scripture has essentially the same effect as a Muslim imam appealing to you on the basis of the authority of the Quran,” he explained. “You may or may not already know what the Quran says. But it doesn’t matter. You don’t view it as authoritative.”
A key to establishing the Bible as authoritative, according to Stanley, is to take a more personal approach to Scripture by detailing who said what in the Bible.
“It’s much better, and more accurate to say, ‘Jesus taught’ or ‘Paul wrote’ or ‘Peter declares’ or ‘According to the apostle John, who knew Jesus, peered into an empty tomb and had breakfast with him on the beach.’ I can tell you from years of personal experience, this approach immediately reduces resistance among post-Christians, non-Christians, and Christians who are struggling to maintain faith.”
From reading “Irresistible,” Stanley hopes his audience will realize how much God loves them and how real and tangible His love for us is.
“Christianity becomes less resistible when Christians love like they have been loved. I refer to this as the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as God in Christ has done unto you. Christianity becomes less resistible when we shift the foundation of our faith from a true book to a verifiable event.”
“Christians don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead because the Bible says so. Our case is way better than that,” he explained. “We believe Jesus rose from the dead because Matthew said so. Mark said so. Luke said so. John said so. James, the brother of Jesus, came to believe so. Peter said so. And last and least . . . according to him anyway . . . Paul said so. And Paul said so about three years after the actual event.”
Stanley added that Christians are lucky because early believers gathered the sacred texts that make up the Bible and preserved them for us to read and learn from.
“Fortunately for us, some third-century believers gathered these sacred texts,” he said. “Eventually, they were combined with the Jewish Scriptures to become ta Biblia—the Bible. But the event of the resurrection and the documents that support the resurrection predate the Bible by decades.”
Stanley is confident that if believers commit to learning three main things, they could radicalize their faith: “Love better. Serve better. Accept better.”
He offered some biblical background for his claim:
We must police ourselves and quit policing those outside the church. Paul was so clear on this: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Corinthians 5:12).
Jesus told us, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). But he defined the love he was talking about, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
This isn’t the Golden Rule. It’s better. I am to do for others what God in Christ has done for me. Paul reiterates this throughout his letters. For example, he says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Stanley shared a question he thinks believers should ask themselves every day in all situations: “What does love require of me? In light of what God has done for me, what should I do for others?”
You can buy Andy Stanley’s book “Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World?” and receive a free bonus chapter HERE.
Communicator, author, and pastor Andy Stanley founded Atlanta-based North Point Ministries (NPM) in 1995. Today, NPM consists of six churches in the Atlanta area and a network of more than 70 churches around the globe that collectively serve nearly 118,000 people weekly. As host of Your Move with Andy Stanley, which delivers over seven million messages each month through television and podcasts, and author of more than 20 books, he is considered one of the most influential pastors in America. His new book is Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World (www.AndyStanley.com/Irresistible).