I don’t remember much about the message I preached on Christian worship at that particular church gathering but I do remember the criticism that I received afterwards. It came in the form of a letter signed by a wonderful Christian lady. She was kind in her response yet clear in her words about some things I had spoken in the message I preached, things which seemed dismissive of others and insulting to her. And they were! I just didn’t know it until this Christian lady said something to me. I can’t remember exactly what I said. My thoughts may have been rooted in scripture and based on sound theology but what I actually said, by dismissing others and insulting her, caused unnecessary offense.
Thankfully I was smart enough to listen to her complaint not as an attack on me but as a kind expression of grace offering me an opportunity to learn and mature. So I thanked this lady for her response and apologized. Apologizing is the first thing that good Christian leaders do when they realize they are wrong!
What Andy Stanley Said…
I shared the story above because earlier in the week Andy Stanley said something in one of his preaching messages that was wrong. According to this post by Leadership Journal, this is what Stanley said:
When I hear adults say, “Well I don’t like a big church, I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,” I say, “You are so stinking 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.” You’re like, “What’s up?” I’m saying 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 old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church.
Instead… 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 pray that there will be a church in the college town that they connect with. And guess what? All those churches are big.
You can watch a larger clip that provides a little more context on this YouTube video:
For the record, I’m not opposed to large churches or even mega-churches per se, but I do strongly disagree with Andy Stanley and believe this kind of thinking reflects a poor ecclesiology. But to Andy Stanley’s credit, he quickly issued the following apology in a tweet:
Saying “I’m Sorry!”
Every pastor will at some point say something that is wrong. Hopefully, as in my case, they will have someone kind enough to confront them in a private matter. Now that we’re in the age of social media, where the teachings of many pastors are available online and where anyone can become a watchdog critic, an ill-advised word easily takes on a life of its own. And it seemingly has in this case.
However, because Andy Stanley quickly apologized, he also offers us a great example of Christian leadership. He made a mistake. But when confronted with that mistake, he listened to the voices that were crying “foul” and quickly apologized, admitting that his words were offensive.
To say “I’m sorry” shows good character. Just a year or so ago, all the talk in the sub-culture of Christian social-media was about a pastor in Seattle who, among other things, had said some things that were wrong but didn’t really apologize until the mega-church he planted imploded. Right now in America we are watching a Presidential election campaign in which some of the candidates, who claim to be Christian, routinely make remarks that are dismissive and insulting to others. But instead of listening to the complaints and apologizing, they keep at it.
As I said earlier, apologizing is the first thing that good Christian leaders do when they realize they are wrong!