Navigating Politics in the Church with Andy Stanley

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Navigating Politics in the Church with Andy Stanley on Modern Church Leader

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Navigating Politics in the Church

The world is full of political disagreements, and those disagreements will inevitably find their way into the church. 

But here's the thing—politics by itself doesn't cause division. Instead, it’s our reaction to differences in political opinions that can cause division.

Whether we are liberal or conservative, whether we are left-leaning or right-leaning, whether we're Democrats or Republicans, we can all agree that some values unite us: our love of Jesus and His teachings; our desire for a better world; our passion for justice and equality; our concern for those who are oppressed and marginalized.

These are things that transcend party loyalty and should not be politicized. When we force them into a political context, we lose sight of their true meaning.

This is not to say that the church is without politics; it is only to say that politics cannot control the church. Oftentimes, it feels like there is no middle ground between people on opposite sides of an issue. But we must remember that God calls us to love one another, and so we must be willing to reach across those divides.

We need to remember that politics is not our identity. We are not Americans or Republicans or Democrats or liberals or conservatives—we are Christians. We should never let our political views define us or make us feel like less of a person because we have different beliefs than someone else does.

To get a more in-depth perspective, we’re honored and thrilled to have Pastor Andy Stanley, founder and senior pastor of North Point Ministries, share some great insights on this subject. In this episode, we'll learn from him what it means to be a Christian in today's political climate and how we can best approach the topic in our churches and communities. 

We'll also hear from Pastor Andy about his recently released book, Not in It to Win It, which will give us a deeper understanding of politics through the lens of faith.

As a pastor and author, Andy Stanley has weaved together his faith perspective on issues that we all need to understand more clearly. So put your thinking cap on, and get ready for a conversation and discussion with a Christian leader who has something revolutionary to say on this subject. It could change the way you think about politics forever!

 “If we can't be mature enough to have relationships with people who don't see the world the same way we do, we're never going to learn anything. I've learned how to get along and navigate relationships with all those people because I have an agenda. And that is, to win some”
-Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley is a pastor, communicator, author, and the founder of North Point Ministries. He has written more than twenty books and is considered one of the most influential pastors in America.

If you want to learn how leaders approach this complex issue in a manner that builds healthy relationships, creates godly communities, and strengthens the Kingdom of God, then tune in!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • How to approach politics without dividing the church
  • How pastors can handle political diversity 
  • How to deal with people leaving your church over politics
  • How leaders can navigate politicized conversations
  • What happens when a pastor gets political
  • Ways to influence your child toward Christ
  • What It means to follow Jesus 

Resources Mentioned:

Read his latest book: Not in It to Win It
Know more about Northpoint Community Church: northpoint.org
Follow Andy on Instagram: @andy_stanley
Follow Andy on Twitter: @AndyStanley
Like Andy on Facebook: Andy Stanley

Other Episodes You May be Interested In:

What It Means to Be a Christian Leader with Richard Stearns
How to Promote Unity in the Church with Rob Lane
Create a Culture of Belonging with Willie Dwayne Francois III

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[3:09] We're going to be a church where people of all political persuasions can participate. And we can have conversations because shared experience is how you solve problems.

[6:20] Once we decide we're going to be Christians or Jesus followers specifically, then you know, it's why says you take up your cross.

[8:44] At some point, 2020 is in the rearview mirror. It is going to be a story you tell. So what story do you want to tell? A story of faithfulness, fidelity, generosity, we didn't get into fear or do you want to tell the story of I panicked, I became selfish, I became small, I headed for the hills and random my political corner.

[12:24] When our kids are sick, you don't call your congressman, you pray. So we all know it's one nation under God, not one God under nation.

[14:24] We are to judge insiders. We are not supposed to judge outsiders, Paul said, and the interesting thing is so many of these pastors are judging outsiders. They're criticizing unbelievers for acting like unbelievers. 

[17:14] I called every single person or every family that let me know they were leaving our church because I don't want them to leave. And I wanted to understand their thinking. And 100% was political.

[30:19] My responsibility as a parent always is to model to the best of my ability, following Jesus, not simply believing in but following Jesus.

[33:56] Lean hard into following Jesus, not just believing in Jesus. It's about following. It's about taking up a cross. It's about deciding my lifestyle, and my living is going to reflect what Jesus taught. 

[34:36] Following Jesus will make your life better, and following Jesus will make you better at life.

podcast transcript

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Andy Stanley (00:00):

Whether or not we choose to follow Jesus, that's up to us. But when it comes to following Jesus, we don't get to decide what that looks like, what it sounds like, what it acts like or what it reacts like, Jesus has prescribed that. So, I don't get to choose my tone, I don't get to choose my posture, I don't get to choose my approach, that has been prescribed for me.

Narrator (00:27):

Welcome to the Modern Church Leader where you'll hear executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world and advance the Kingdom of God. Here's your host, Frank Barry.

Frank Barry (00:41):

Well, Andy, I know you just launched a new book called Not In It To Win It and I guess the subtitle is Why Choosing Sides Sidelines the Church. Number one, great title.

Andy Stanley (00:53):

Thanks.

Frank Barry (00:53):

Did you come up with that one?

Andy Stanley (00:54):

All by myself.

Frank Barry (00:55):

All by yourself?

Andy Stanley (00:55):

All by myself, yeah, yeah. Actually, last summer, I preached a message to our, actually, it was the summer of 2020. Gosh, yeah, COVID time.

Frank Barry (01:06):

I know.

Andy Stanley (01:06):

Summer of 2020, I addressed some of the issues that were in the book with our church and the name of the message, I just called it not in it to win it and I decided, hey, just stick with that title.

Frank Barry (01:17):

It works, it's pretty awesome. I was reading through some of it and, man, I love the book. So, just give folks the high level sense. It just published so I'm sure a lot of folks won't have read it just yet and, hopefully, some will get inspired to go read it after this. But give us a high level context and overview of what it's all about.

Andy Stanley (01:40):

Yeah. So, Not In It To Win It, again, like you said, the subtitle is Why Choosing Sides Sidelines the Church. So, last spring, a year ago, spring 2021, coming out of another round of COVID, contentious election cycle, all the craziness associated with that. As I watched over those past 12 months high profile Christian leaders, pastors in particular, just go all in, especially on right wing politics, and the language they use, the criticism and basically alienating, especially the pastors, alienating half of America, I was just astounded. I guess I shouldn't be surprised but it just bothered me. So, I just started writing, just get some stuff out to help me rant and try to get my thoughts together and I decided, you know what? Somebody needs to talk about this because I lean right politically, I'm a very conservative person. But it seemed to me like a group of Christian supposed leaders forgot what it looks like to be Christian and that was astounding.

Andy Stanley (02:47):

So, anyway, so I wrote this book and went to the publisher and said, "Hey, I don't know if anybody wants to read this or not but I'm passionate about this," and they said, "Hey, let's give it a try." So, they published the book, it came out last week and these are things I've been saying to our church congregation for the last two and a half years as we've navigated all the craziness to say, "Hey, you know what? We're not going to politicize our church. We're going to be a church where people of all political persuasions can participate and we can have conversations because shared experience is how you solve problems." It's the messy middle, it's where Dr. King stood, it's where anyone who's ever accomplished anything, socially and culturally, you have to stand in the middle and you take arrows from both sides but you get the perspectives of both sides, and the church and church leaders, we should be great at this.

Andy Stanley (03:32):

But watching churches polarize over political issues, it was so disheartening to me. So, I don't name names and I don't ever do that but it's the ... And it happened on both sides, left and the right. So, I decided to write a book about it, Not In It To Win It. And the title specifically comes from the fact that Jesus and the apostle Paul specifically who contextualized the teaching of Jesus for Gentiles, they never allowed themselves to be co-opted into one of the three buckets that existed in their time. In our day and age, it's two buckets, it's a red one and a blue one, and they had a unique message for all people. And the moment they would've allowed themselves to be co-opted by the temple, the empire, just pagan religion in general, they lose their distinctive, they lose the message and the church cannot afford to allow that to happen because our message is for all people at all times.

Andy Stanley (04:28):

And that's not to say we don't have opinions about issues, of course we do, but to side or allow ourselves to be pigeonholed politically is a mistake. We lose the opportunity to be the conscience of the nation which a unified church in America has the potential to do and to be.

Frank Barry (04:43):

Yeah, I love that. And I can't imagine, you're Andy Stanley, you've been at this for a long time, you started and lead a pretty big church and network of churches and you've written a lot of books. Not trying to give you a big head or anything, but you've done some amazing work and God has used you in big ways. Speaking out, in a sense, or hitting this topic head on, I'm sure you had to go through a lot to get to the point of wanting to really address it and maybe not call out people by name but call out what was going on and your perspective on it. Was that difficult or what did it take to get to the point of being like, okay, I'm ready to go?

Andy Stanley (05:27):

No, it is not difficult and I think everybody can relate to this. I don't want to ever be arrogant and I don't want to ever come across arrogant and, anything I say publicly, everything goes through filters. My sermons, multiple people see my outlines so I'm not just getting mad one Saturday night and just get up on Sunday, I don't do that, I want to be more responsible than that. Anyway, but this was something I was confident about because I think the New Testament is so clear on this issue. I even said yesterday in my message to our church, I said, "Look, whether or not we choose to follow Jesus, that's up to us. But when it comes to following Jesus, we don't get to decide what that looks like, what it sounds like, what it acts like or what it reacts like, Jesus has prescribed that, the instructions are on the label." So, once we decide we're going to be Christians or Jesus followers specifically, it's why it says you take up your cross. When you take up a cross that means you've given up independence.

Andy Stanley (06:29):

So, I don't get to choose my tone, I don't get to choose my posture, I don't get to choose my approach, that has been prescribed for me. So, as Christian leaders, especially as public leaders, again, we're supposed to follow Jesus even with our different temperaments and personalities. So, there are guardrails and there are guidelines. The apostle Paul outlines those, all the one anothers that he gives us in the New Testament. So, just because we're passionate about an issue that has become political or just because we're passionate about our politics, hey, we got to keep it within the rails because we're Jesus followers. So, that's a lot of what's behind some of this and I outlined specifically what that should look like within the context of politics.

Andy Stanley (07:12):

And I encourage our folks all the time not to be less politically active. We should never miss an opportunity to vote., we should never miss an opportunity to engage, we should run for office. But as a Jesus follower, again, our tone and posture and perspective and the way we talk about and treat other people, that's prescribed for us, we don't get to vary, we don't get much choice in that matter.

Frank Barry (07:35):

Yeah, yeah. Well, I guess, at the very beginning of the book, you have this line where you said you're writing your pandemic story one decision and one response at a time, write a good one. That you use that line with your church early on and maybe through the whole thing.

Andy Stanley (07:50):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (07:51):

That really resonated and I know it's hard for church leaders to lead through all of this. Gosh, I can't imagine. It's like being a frontline worker, whether it's the police or fire department or nurses or anything, it's like you're on the front lines doing this but I love that perspective that you gave to the church. Where did that come from and did you have any scriptures that were your go to-

Andy Stanley (08:16):

Yeah. Well-

Frank Barry (08:16):

... through it all?

Andy Stanley (08:17):

... not to keep talking about books but my previous book to this is called Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets and I talk about five questions everybody should ask anytime they make a decision. And one of those questions is what story do I want to tell? So, if I'm in the middle of making a decision or responding to something, my decision or my response becomes a permanent part of my story and we write the story of our lives one decision at a time. So, I'd talked about this with our church multiple times, so I said, "Look, this is just another incident. At some point, 2020 is in the rear view mirror, it's going to be a story you tell. So, what story do you want to tell? A story of faithfulness, fidelity, generosity, we didn't give into fear or do you want to tell a story of I panicked, I became selfish, I became small, I headed for the hills, I ran to my political corner?" Every decision is just a story we tell, what story do we want to tell our kids, our grandkids?

Andy Stanley (09:07):

So, hey, write a good story and we write the story of our life one decision and one reaction and one response at a time. So, that's been a theme in my preaching and teaching for a while. So, when I try to bat out again within the context of the pandemic, and sure enough, here we are, 2022, again, it's the story we tell. We all have our 2020 story, right? As pastors, as leaders, as parents, as employers, employees and 2022 is going to be a story we all tell if we live long enough. We're Christians, so this is, yeah, what story do you want to tell?

Andy Stanley (09:43):

And in terms of your question, in terms of what was the biblical basis for that, in my book, the Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets, I talk about David in the cave with Saul and his men are saying ... Saul's using the bathroom, his men are saying, "Hey, cut his throat. Kill him, you'll be the king," and he's creeping up behind King Saul. And, as the story unfolds, he realizes, "Wait a minute, I'm about to kill the king. I'm about to kill my father-in-law. Is this the story I want to tell my grandchildren crawling up on my lap? 'Granddaddy, tell us about how you became king.' Oh, well, King Saul was using the potty and I walk, came up behind him and slit his throat." Who wants to tell that story, right?

Frank Barry (10:24):

Yeah.

Andy Stanley (10:25):

Well, that was about to become his legacy. But hey, the text says his conscience, his conscience was stricken. So, again, we've got to think about current decisions and current responses in light of the future and the story we tell. So, I try to couch all of this chaos within the context of some of that.

Frank Barry (10:45):

Yeah, yeah. That's great. You referenced it like COVID time, right? The last couple of years, it's crazy, it's almost like we missed a few years because everyone's like, "Oh, last year," but it's been two years, two and a half years gone.

Andy Stanley (10:59):

Yeah, yeah.

Frank Barry (11:01):

And church leaders have been really fighting through this and I've talked to church leaders that took a stand somehow and their churches are exploding which is this crazy thing that I've seen. And then I've talked to church leaders that, I don't know, tried to stay neutral and their churches are really struggling and then the flip sides of those things too so it's everything out there. But how do you extend this message to the local church pastor of 200 members that's really working through this? How do you help them do the right thing or have the right perspective two and a half years later?

Andy Stanley (11:39):

Well, you just touched on a really interesting point. There are some churches that the pastor went way right and people have left their local churches to go to those churches because these pastors, all men, gen it up big time. They become hyper political, they've got big charismatic personalities for the most part, they're saying ridiculous things that just aren't true but they appeal to the masculine American patriotic spirit. And the thing is, I so love our country. I have military family, Marines, and so I am emotional at the National Anthem. But at the same time, nobody dies and goes to Washington, DC, right? And when your kids are sick, you don't call your congressman, you pray. So, we all know it's one nation under God, not one God under nation, we know that.

Andy Stanley (12:32):

So, to politicize or to just allow a pastor or a dynamic speaker to so warp and get off center, our theology is crazy but it happens because, hey, we all love those big voices and those persuasive, inspiring people. So did the pastor who finds him or herself with we used to have 300 now we're down to 200 or 500 now we're down to 200 and they've all left and gone to these other more politically active churches. Hey, we stay the course because you know what? This is the story we tell, this is the story we do. We go to bed at night and look up and we want a clear conscience and we know that we're being faithful to what God has called us to do. And specifically, we're being faithful to the gospel and, in time, in time, I'm no prophet but I've been around and seen these cycles, in time, those churches that are experiencing all of that, it's going to Peter out because the fuel behind that, and this is another topic maybe for another day.

Andy Stanley (13:30):

Whenever a leader or a pastor leader has to have an enemy in order to lead, it's illegitimate leadership. If a leader has to have an enemy, in other words, we're the right ones, but they, they, they, the Democrats, the liberals, those hyper conservatives, any pastor who has to get up on a Sunday and play off an enemy is not legitimate leadership. It's certainly not legitimate spiritual leadership, Jesus covered this. And essentially, these are my words, not His. Just because someone considers you their enemy, you do not have to return the favor. In fact, if you're a Jesus follower, you don't return the favor. That legitimate spiritual leadership does not require an enemy.

Andy Stanley (14:12):

So, the pastors that, again, just demonize the left or demonize the right, they're not following Jesus, they're just not. And am I judging them? Yes, because we are to judge insiders, we are not supposed to judge outsiders, Paul said. And the interesting thing is, so many of these pastors are judging outsiders, they're criticizing unbelievers for acting like unbelievers. Meanwhile, we're not holding ourselves accountable to the standard of looking and sounding and posturing ourself like Jesus.

Frank Barry (14:43):

Yeah, I love that.

Andy Stanley (14:44):

My opinion but you asked.

Frank Barry (14:46):

Yeah. Again, I don't pretend to really understand what it's like to be near a seat or in the pastor seat but, just having talked to a lot of them on the show-

Andy Stanley (14:58):

It's hard. So hard.

Frank Barry (14:59):

[inaudible 00:14:59]

Andy Stanley (14:59):

Yeah, they're getting the crap beat out of them. Yeah. I know [inaudible 00:15:02].

Frank Barry (15:01):

Every single day.

Andy Stanley (15:02):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (15:03):

How do you help or just maybe your thoughts on helping church leaders, even within their church, foster the right kinds of conversations? Because just within the walls of the church, people are learning from Fox News and CNN and other media outlets and that's where they're getting almost their truth from and it's causing just major divides. And maybe, even in unsaid, weird ways in the congregations, how do pastors-

Andy Stanley (15:34):

Yeah, now it is.

Frank Barry (15:34):

Yeah. How do pastors lead through that or what can they do practically to help their churches foster biblical one another relationships that we're supposed to have?

Andy Stanley (15:43):

I can only tell you what I have done which is, I'm not even saying this to model anything. We have essentially 10 campuses around Atlanta and we have two campuses in what would be considered the inner, not inner city, but the downtown. We have a campus in a city called Decatur that is right next to the CDC, it's so to the left that, when the CDC lifted the mask mandate, the City of Decatur imposed their own mask mandate, okay? Then we have a campus in Forsyth County that's 85% Republican and has a long, horrible racial history that they're working hard to overcome.

Andy Stanley (16:25):

So, when I stand up and preach, I'm not talking to the people in my neighborhood, it's wonderfully diverse. So, my response to this is I ... So, what I was going to say is, so I heard from dozens, dozens, not hundreds, but dozens of families who were mad at me and upset and were leaving. Texts, emails, voicemails, direct message on Twitter, mentions on Twitter. And so, my assistant, Diane Grant, has been with me for over 20 years, we had this routine. She would go look on our database, see how involved they were, she gives me a card that has their names, how old their kids are, if they've led groups, been in groups, not giving information but just involvement.

Andy Stanley (17:09):

And this is what I would encourage pastors to do, I called every single person or every family that let me know they were leaving our church because I don't want them to leave and I wanted to understand their thinking and 100% was political. Nobody was upset with the theology or the doctrine or the music or the children's programs, we have all that trickling around like every church does. But this was all political, they were absolutely confident that I had caved to political pressure. Well, in the state of Georgia, there was no political pressure. And specifically, they were upset that we had quit meeting shoulder to shoulder in recirculated air in the midst of a pandemic, they just couldn't understand we'd compromise.

Andy Stanley (17:51):

Because, to your point, mainstream media and not so mainstream media had genned up this, oh, Christians need to fight and stand against local government, we need to meet, we're God's army, all this nonsense.

Frank Barry (18:05):

Right.

Andy Stanley (18:05):

So-

Frank Barry (18:07):

Some churches were doing one side of the [inaudible 00:18:09]-

Andy Stanley (18:09):

Right.

Frank Barry (18:09):

... like you had it all happening and so you could see-

Andy Stanley (18:11):

Oh, yeah. They were going to leave our church to go to these other churches. So, I called all of them, I had very friendly conversations, I made sure it ended friendly, I said I just want to understand, I asked questions and people appreciated it. Once they're on the phone and heard a voice, the temperature comes down. So, I just think, for sure, pastors should reach out to those people even if they hear a rumor. I'd hear, "Hey, did you hear so and so left?" And I would just call them, say hey. And sometimes I knew them, sometimes I'd never spoken to them before so I'd have to convince them it's me.

Frank Barry (18:43):

[inaudible 00:18:43]

Andy Stanley (18:43):

But hey, I've heard you're leaving, is there something ... Honestly. Is there something we've done? I want to hear. So, I learned some things. So, I think making it personal is important and then, to your point, you made the point, Frank, it's teaching the here's how you be Christian. We can disagree but shared experience is how you learn. And then the other line I use consistently is this. If you find yourself thinking or saying something like this, "I don't know how anybody could believe that. I don't know how anybody could say that. I can't understand how anybody would act that way," then what you've acknowledged is there's something you don't understand. So, if I don't understand how you could say that, I need to learn something. If I don't understand why you would vote that way, then I have something I need to understand.

Andy Stanley (19:33):

And until I understand why you say that, vote that way, act that way, I need to be a student, not a critic. So, I'm like, "Hey, we're Christians. Let's be students, not critics." Not to mention our gospel is that God came into this sin-filled world, He had nothing in common with us, He was nothing like us but His son showed up and people liked Him even though they were nothing like Him. And if we can't posture ourself in that way and model that, then, hey, there's something wrong with our Christianity regardless of whether or not our politics are right. So, there's so much to feed off of in the gospels and Jesus and the apostle Paul specifically, I just would keep bringing it back to that, bringing it back to that, bringing it back to that.

Andy Stanley (20:13):

Now, some people who left came back, other people are gone and I don't know. But one lady who's been at our church for over 20 years, we had a very friendly conversation but she was so mad and I finally said at the end, I said, "So, let me get this straight. You're going to go to a different church and the first thing you're going to do is make an appointment with the pastor and ask the pastor who he voted for, right?" She got real quiet and she started laughing. I said, "That's what I hear you saying that you're only going to go to a church where the pastor votes like you do. That's what I'm hearing. You've been at our church 20 plus years, nothing has changed, we're not doing anything different, we're just not doing what you think we should start doing that we've never done," and that's the frustration that a lot of pastors are experiencing.

Andy Stanley (20:57):

It's like, "Wait a minute. I haven't changed. Suddenly, the people in our church want me to be something I've never been, say things I've never said and, if I don't give in to that pressure, they're leaving?" It's like, wait, that's not the church you joined, that's not the church you raised your kids in. So, that's a real pressure pastors are feeling. I just say, "Hey, you got to remain true to your own conscience, you got to remain true to your own calling. And in the end, after some of this passes by, you'll have a story you'll be proud to tell. You remained faithful to God's call in your life to have an actual church, not a church that's back and forth, back and forth with the winds of culture."

Frank Barry (21:38):

Right, right, right. I love that story about your member. You going to go to the church where the guy votes like you do?

Andy Stanley (21:45):

But you got to find out who they voted for right-

Frank Barry (21:46):

Right, you got to ask.

Andy Stanley (21:48):

... before you can commit to the church. And you know what? She laughed and, honestly, she's back. She left for a minute because, again, I wasn't mad. I mean, if people are leaving, I want to know why. We're a really big church but it's about individuals and families, I've never lost sight of that. I love being a pastor.

Frank Barry (22:07):

Yeah, yeah. I love that. Have you done anything, either in the church or just in your small group ministries, in terms of helping Christians? Not pastors at their level of leading a church but just your small group leaders and your everyday Christians that are in small groups to work through this stuff because, if it's happening in the whole church, it's happening in the small groups or in the family.

Andy Stanley (22:32):

It is happening in groups. No, you're exactly right, you're exactly right. We've had small groups, especially in 2020, that just fell apart because two or three people decided that it was, hey, let's gripe about the pastor, let's turn this into a gripe session and you had people who agreed and people who disagreed. But again, it pointed to the fact that we're allowing debatable issues to divide families or specifically divide Christians from Christians which is the very thing Jesus prayed in John 17. His biggest concern was for the future church that we would be one in purpose as He and the Father were one and He said, this is mission critical, "By this, by their oneness, that's how people are going to know that You sent me."

Andy Stanley (23:15):

So, unity is mission critical even though we cannot all share the same opinions. And if we can't be mature enough to have relationships with people who don't see the world the same way we do, we're never going to learn anything. This is the apostle Paul saying, "I've become all things to all people in order that I might win some to those under the law, those not under the law, those who have the law. I've learned how to get along and navigate relationships with all those people because I have an agenda and that is to win some and save some." So-

Frank Barry (23:46):

It's not the right or the left agenda, it's the ...

Andy Stanley (23:49):

No, no, no, no. And, as most people listening to your podcast, Frank, they get this. Until I can enter into the shared experience with another person, I have no right to criticize them. And when we listen, at the end of listening, we always respond the same way, we go, "Oh. Oh, I thought. Oh, I assumed-"

Frank Barry (24:11):

Yeah, [inaudible 00:24:12] that.

Andy Stanley (24:12):

Exactly. I didn't know that. This whole time, I've sized you up and written you off or sized up people like you and written you off as those people, I had no idea. And I know this is touchy, even right now with the Roe versus Wade conversations that are going on, for pastors, this is not a category, this isn't an issue, these are real people. These are real young ladies, these are real moms, these are parents whose daughter was going to commit suicide if they didn't get her an abortion. And I've always been pro-life but, at the same time, and it's not even a but, I'm pro-life and these are real people so it's not simply an issue in a category. And so, pastors who have narrated, or not narrated, but navigated these deep and choppy waters with real people and real families and real young ladies, to just get up and to ... Again, when I hear Republicans talk about the baby murderers, the Democrat surgeons, I'm like, "Okay."

Frank Barry (25:14):

Yeah-

Andy Stanley (25:14):

No, no.

Frank Barry (25:15):

... you're working hard to make this [inaudible 00:25:17].

Andy Stanley (25:17):

Oh, yeah. At the same time, to hear people on the left just talk about, "Oh, you're just trying to control our bodies," I'm like, "No, come on." I realize you got to raise money, you can ... And one of the things I talk about in the book is you can only raise money on the far left and the far right. You can't raise new money in the middle. There's nothing to begin, you can't win office in the middle. So, I understand, politically speaking, the political game is this simple. I need to make it sound like the other group is winning and, if they win, it's the end.

Andy Stanley (25:49):

So, I can't ever appear to be winning, I have to always appear to be the underdog and losing so you'll vote for me because I'm going to save you from the people who are winning. So, that's the game. But by now, you would think Americans would have wised up to this, and Christians especially to say, "You know what? I'm not going to listen to the extremes because people live in the middle, problems are solved in the middle, real life happens in the middle. So, let's get together, I want to hear your perspective."

Andy Stanley (26:14):

For the pro-choice person who can't imagine why anybody would be pro-life, you have some learning to do. For the pro-life person that can't imagine why anybody would be pro-choice, not to change your view, but to go, "Oh, okay. I'm not going to change my view but okay. You're not crazy, you're not demon possessed, you're not godless." And there are people who would hear me say that and just think, "Oh, he's lost it. He's gone off the deep end." No, think about the situations that-

Frank Barry (26:43):

No, you're being reasonable, you're being thoughtful, you're not-

Andy Stanley (26:45):

Well, I think I am. Yeah, I think I'm being thoughtful. But think about the situations Jesus waited into and He could have walked in and just said you're all wrong. But His patience, to go home with Zacchaeus instead of just look up at the tree and just tell Zacchaeus off, right? To allow Matthew to become part of his posse instead of making a statement about over taxation. There's so many things where Jesus could have made a point and made no difference but He began with, "Okay, let's start where you are. Let's talk. I want to understand." And yet, at the same time, He says to the woman caught in adultery when all of the people who wanted to stoner go away, He looks at her and says, "Okay, leave your life of sin. This isn't either or, they were wrong but you're wrong. Leave your life of sin just as I had them leave because of the hypocrisy that was so apparent."

Andy Stanley (27:37):

So, as Christians, gosh, Frank, I know it just seems like we should be able to figure this out. But as pastors, again, we hear from the extremes, we hear from the loudest voices and it's hard sometimes to resist giving too much attention to those folks. And we love those folks and we want them to stay in our church, of course.

Frank Barry (27:55):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You keep referencing different scriptures, the one that's come to mind a lot is just about how Jesus humbled himself, became a servant and God did His work and lifted Him up. It wasn't Jesus trying to gain a position or something like that but He lived His whole life to serve people and love people and work in these crazy, messy, complicated situations and not-

Andy Stanley (28:18):

Yeah, for the son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life [inaudible 00:28:23] for many. And the passage that you refer to is where I got the title Not In It To Win It. That by every human measure, Jesus lost. He's on His way to Jerusalem and they're like, "Okay, You're going to go to Jerusalem then You're going to be Messiah, right?" And He's like, "No, I've told you. I'm going there to lose. I'm going to be arrested, beat, spit on, flogged and crucified, that's why we're going there." "But Jesus, that's what losers do." "I'm going to lose so that you and the world can win." So, we are not in it to win it the way the world defines winning, we're in it to lose it but then Jesus said, "Hey, if you lose your life for Me, you win. If you try to gain the world by trying to win the world, you lose." It's so clear.

Frank Barry (29:06):

So clear, yeah.

Andy Stanley (29:07):

But anyway, clear to me.

Frank Barry (29:10):

I was mentioning at the beginning I'm a dad. So, I've got three 10-year-old boys. How have you-

Andy Stanley (29:15):

Wow.

Frank Barry (29:15):

Yeah.

Andy Stanley (29:16):

Yeah, God bless you.

Frank Barry (29:19):

Talk to the dads out there or the families, the moms that are listening too? As a family unit, how do you help teach your kids the right way through this stuff?

Andy Stanley (29:30):

Yeah. Well, number one, and this is my prayer. My kids are in their 20s, I got two married, one engaged. My oldest is 29 down to 26, it's two boys and my youngest is a daughter. And again, because different seasons of life than you're in with my kids, I cannot control whether or not my children maintain their faith in Christ or their personal faith. Fortunately, they all have a faith of their own and I couldn't be happier but that could change, I have no control over that.

Andy Stanley (30:06):

I can't control whether or not they continue to believe what I hope they continue to believe, what I can control is whether or not they think I believe what I claim to believe. So, my responsibility as a parent always is to model to the best of my ability following Jesus, not simply believing in, but following Jesus and, when I screw up, I need to rush to apologize. Never defend myself, never get all boat up because I'm the dad and I can't be wrong but to model that Christ-like humility as a parent. That's ultimately the win.

Andy Stanley (30:44):

And in fact, I keep talking about books, next year, Sandra and I, we just finished a manuscript on parenting, super excited about it. And part of the reason we've wanted to write a book on parenting is to talk about what is the it in parenting and we think the it is that, when your kids are old enough not to have to be with you, they'll want to be with you and with each other. So, you parent through the relational paradigm which is what Jesus did. It's all about influence and influence is relationship. So, you never sacrifice your relationship with your kids over, really, anything unless they just don't want to have anything to do with you which is, you know? Still, as a parent, I can't control that either.

Andy Stanley (31:21):

So, anyway, as a parent, it's to model not believing correctly but living in such a way that my kids would never doubt that you know what? Mom and dad's faith, they really believe this stuff, they really are committed to following Jesus, even when it's difficult, even when it costs them. And so, our reactions to what's happening in culture and society around us is a huge part of that and I'll shut up after this but this is such a hot topic for me. Actions speak louder than words, for sure, but reactions speak even louder than actions. We all know how to be nice and kind when it serves us well. You can tell more about a person's reactions to change and reactions to crisis and reactions to uncertainty because, suddenly, what's true about them comes to the surface and what's true about us as well.

Andy Stanley (32:10):

So, our reactions as parents to what's happening in culture or what's happening even in family, that says so much to our kids about how solid our faith is and what we're really leaning into. So, this is a good opportunity to model that for kids as they're navigating just the complexities of growing up in this crazy world which you and I are like, hey, I'm so glad we already grew up because I don't know how I would handle it.

Frank Barry (32:34):

Well, parenting in-

Andy Stanley (32:35):

This is too much.

Frank Barry (32:37):

But for me, with fourth graders, so I'm in this spot where they're going up through the school system and there's all these new issues coming up that are crazy. This isn't really the topic of the podcast but it's a whole nother one, parenting through these times. But I'm sure every parent before me had similar crazy stuff that was going on that they didn't know how to face and you know?

Andy Stanley (33:03):

It's harder now. Social media, it's not even close to the same because, once upon a time, we controlled the voices and there were just a few. It was parents, extended family and teachers and a few friends and now it's the whole world so it is definitely more complex.

Frank Barry (33:20):

[inaudible 00:33:20]

Andy Stanley (33:20):

Oh, yeah.

Frank Barry (33:20):

They can get everything.

Andy Stanley (33:20):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (33:23):

Well, I'll end with this one just related to this. Obviously, the last couple of years is having a major impact just on future generations and how they view God and view the church and my hunch is this is just the beginning of a bunch of things that we're going to see from this time. I don't know. What's your encouragement to pastors on how to take the right steps forward from here to inspire and lead that next generation?

Andy Stanley (33:56):

Lean hard into following Jesus not just believing in Jesus. It's about following, it's about taking up across, it's about deciding my lifestyle and my living is going to reflect what Jesus taught, not just biblical. Once upon a time, we could talk about biblical principles and biblical marriage, biblical, biblical. These days, it's got to be Jesus. In other words, we're following Jesus. Christianity began with the resurrection and anchoring people's faith and anchoring our faith to the reality of the resurrection and who Jesus claimed to be and how He asked us and required us to live is the way forward.

Andy Stanley (34:31):

My little phrase I came up with years ago from my little personal evangelism is that following Jesus will make your life better and following Jesus will make you better at life, it just will. Even if you're not a Christian, if you follow the teaching of Jesus, your life will be better and you'll be better at life. You'll be a better parent, you'll be a better friend, you'll be a better employee, you'll be a better neighbor. Following Jesus will make your life better, it will make you better at life.

Frank Barry (34:54):

So true.

Andy Stanley (34:55):

And because our culture has misgivings about the Bible, but at the same time, is still highly infatuated with Jesus, it's a better statement, it's a better play and it's more biblical. Because again, Christianity didn't begin with the Bible, Christianity began with Jesus, with the resurrection. The reason we have a Bible is because of Jesus and Christianity. So, I think stepping back and anchoring people's faith and our faith to the first century anchor which was the event that brought about the movement that eventually brought us the Bible. The event of the resurrection that resulted in the movement, the church, that eventually brought us the Bible. That sequence, that logical, historical, undeniable sequence, I think, is the fertile soil for modern Christianity.

Frank Barry (35:42):

Yeah. No, I love that. And getting people focused just on Jesus and not-

Andy Stanley (35:45):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (35:46):

Not all the ways they might want to think about the Bible or whatever and I love your point. When you follow Jesus, your life will be better. Whether it comes with faith or whatever, it's so true, all the principles. That's one thing I hope to have my kids realize. It's not about a bunch of rules, it's about God actually helps you have an amazing life when you do it the right way.

Andy Stanley (36:09):

Mm-hmm, yeah.

Frank Barry (36:11):

So, I love that.

Andy Stanley (36:12):

Decisions. Hey, our decisions are the steering wheel of our life and Jesus will help how to steer your life, make those decisions. So, yeah.

Frank Barry (36:20):

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, Pastor Stanley, Andy, I don't even know what to call you but-

Andy Stanley (36:26):

Just don't call me Reverend.

Frank Barry (36:27):

No, I won't call you Reverend. I really appreciate the time today. This has been fun.

Andy Stanley (36:31):

Yeah. Yeah, Frank. I appreciate it.

Frank Barry (36:33):

Super, super insightful. Where should folks go to get the book? Is it on Amazon? Is that the best place?

Andy Stanley (36:37):

Yeah, anywhere you get books and wherever books are sold. It's Not In It To Win It: Why Choosing Sides Sidelines the Church and I hope that this next crazy cycle we're about to move into is a political cycle. I hope maybe we can do a little bit better as a local church and that's why I wrote the book.

Frank Barry (36:54):

Yeah, yeah. Everybody needs to get out there and read it. I've been reading through it and it's fantastic. So, everyone watching, we serve close to 40,000 churches so we'll make sure it gets out there and try to get as many people reading it as we can. So, appreciate it, Andy.

Andy Stanley (37:08):

I appreciate it.

Narrator (37:09):

If you enjoyed this episode of the Modern Church Leader, consider sharing it with the pastor or minister you think would benefit the most from listening to this conversation. You can send them to modernchurchleader.com or share this episode directly from your podcast app. Be sure to subscribe for free on YouTube, Apple Podcasts or Spotify so you never miss an episode. And we'll see you again next week with another conversation here on the Modern Church Leader.

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Navigating Politics in the Church with Andy Stanley

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Navigating Politics in the Church with Andy Stanley

If you want to learn how leaders approach this complex issue in a manner that builds healthy relationships, creates godly communities, and strengthens the Kingdom of God, then tune in!

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Navigating Politics in the Church

The world is full of political disagreements, and those disagreements will inevitably find their way into the church. 

But here's the thing—politics by itself doesn't cause division. Instead, it’s our reaction to differences in political opinions that can cause division.

Whether we are liberal or conservative, whether we are left-leaning or right-leaning, whether we're Democrats or Republicans, we can all agree that some values unite us: our love of Jesus and His teachings; our desire for a better world; our passion for justice and equality; our concern for those who are oppressed and marginalized.

These are things that transcend party loyalty and should not be politicized. When we force them into a political context, we lose sight of their true meaning.

This is not to say that the church is without politics; it is only to say that politics cannot control the church. Oftentimes, it feels like there is no middle ground between people on opposite sides of an issue. But we must remember that God calls us to love one another, and so we must be willing to reach across those divides.

We need to remember that politics is not our identity. We are not Americans or Republicans or Democrats or liberals or conservatives—we are Christians. We should never let our political views define us or make us feel like less of a person because we have different beliefs than someone else does.

To get a more in-depth perspective, we’re honored and thrilled to have Pastor Andy Stanley, founder and senior pastor of North Point Ministries, share some great insights on this subject. In this episode, we'll learn from him what it means to be a Christian in today's political climate and how we can best approach the topic in our churches and communities. 

We'll also hear from Pastor Andy about his recently released book, Not in It to Win It, which will give us a deeper understanding of politics through the lens of faith.

As a pastor and author, Andy Stanley has weaved together his faith perspective on issues that we all need to understand more clearly. So put your thinking cap on, and get ready for a conversation and discussion with a Christian leader who has something revolutionary to say on this subject. It could change the way you think about politics forever!

 “If we can't be mature enough to have relationships with people who don't see the world the same way we do, we're never going to learn anything. I've learned how to get along and navigate relationships with all those people because I have an agenda. And that is, to win some”
-Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley is a pastor, communicator, author, and the founder of North Point Ministries. He has written more than twenty books and is considered one of the most influential pastors in America.

If you want to learn how leaders approach this complex issue in a manner that builds healthy relationships, creates godly communities, and strengthens the Kingdom of God, then tune in!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • How to approach politics without dividing the church
  • How pastors can handle political diversity 
  • How to deal with people leaving your church over politics
  • How leaders can navigate politicized conversations
  • What happens when a pastor gets political
  • Ways to influence your child toward Christ
  • What It means to follow Jesus 

Resources Mentioned:

Read his latest book: Not in It to Win It
Know more about Northpoint Community Church: northpoint.org
Follow Andy on Instagram: @andy_stanley
Follow Andy on Twitter: @AndyStanley
Like Andy on Facebook: Andy Stanley

Other Episodes You May be Interested In:

What It Means to Be a Christian Leader with Richard Stearns
How to Promote Unity in the Church with Rob Lane
Create a Culture of Belonging with Willie Dwayne Francois III

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[3:09] We're going to be a church where people of all political persuasions can participate. And we can have conversations because shared experience is how you solve problems.

[6:20] Once we decide we're going to be Christians or Jesus followers specifically, then you know, it's why says you take up your cross.

[8:44] At some point, 2020 is in the rearview mirror. It is going to be a story you tell. So what story do you want to tell? A story of faithfulness, fidelity, generosity, we didn't get into fear or do you want to tell the story of I panicked, I became selfish, I became small, I headed for the hills and random my political corner.

[12:24] When our kids are sick, you don't call your congressman, you pray. So we all know it's one nation under God, not one God under nation.

[14:24] We are to judge insiders. We are not supposed to judge outsiders, Paul said, and the interesting thing is so many of these pastors are judging outsiders. They're criticizing unbelievers for acting like unbelievers. 

[17:14] I called every single person or every family that let me know they were leaving our church because I don't want them to leave. And I wanted to understand their thinking. And 100% was political.

[30:19] My responsibility as a parent always is to model to the best of my ability, following Jesus, not simply believing in but following Jesus.

[33:56] Lean hard into following Jesus, not just believing in Jesus. It's about following. It's about taking up a cross. It's about deciding my lifestyle, and my living is going to reflect what Jesus taught. 

[34:36] Following Jesus will make your life better, and following Jesus will make you better at life.

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