Mega-pastor Andy Stanley is of the opinion that outreach to the next generation with the saving knowledge of faith in Jesus requires essentially scrapping most of the Bible.
He also believes we should emulate the first-century church in our approach to a mostly unchurched, lost generation.
I couldn’t agree more.
It’s just that we don’t agree on the reasons for the latter.
He apparently believes, according to his new book, “Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World,” that the success in spreading Christianity in the apostolic era was due to the shortage of Scriptures, no text, back then. So, he says, if I have this right, he’d like to scrap most of the Bible in favor a scaled-down “essence,” if you will, and that will do the trick.
Let’s test that hypothesis with what we read in the book of Acts. I should point out that three-quarters of the Bible we know today existed when these events take place. They are the three-quarters of the Bible Stanley doesn’t believe we need any more.
The book of Acts begins with the risen Jesus providing some last-minute instructions to His disciples before He ascends into heaven. He had spent the last 40 days in His resurrected state preaching to hundreds about the Kingdom of God. Just before takeoff, Jesus tells them to stay in Jerusalem to await the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They had one more question for Him: “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
You will note what Jesus did not say to them at this time: “My friends, there’s been a change of plans. The Kingdom is not going to be restored to Israel as promised to you. The Davidic Kingdom is going to be forever stripped from Israel. All the promises of the Scriptures (the Old Testament, as there were no new Scriptures written yet) are null and void. The law and the prophets have been overturned. Just forget about all that stuff. There’s a brand-new playbook coming.”
Instead, here’s what He did say: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
With that, He was gone into a cloud and out of their sight.
While they watched, two angels standing nearby said to them: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
When the day of Pentecost, or the Hebrew feast of Shavuot, came they all gathered at the Temple for the observance of the holy day. When the Spirit descended upon them in great power, they began preaching to the multitude of Jews from all lands, each miraculously hearing in their own language.
Immediately, Peter affirmed to this all-Jewish congregation that Jesus had been raised from the dead by the power of God, that He would indeed sit as King in David’s throne after making His enemies His footstool. Three-thousand Jews, who already knew well the only Scriptures that existed that day (the Old Testament), were saved.
From that day forward, the apostles performed many miracles – speaking in other languages, healing the sick, casting our demons and raising the dead – adding new believers who repented of their sin and believed on the name of Jesus.
That’s the way it worked in the first century. It wasn’t because there were no Scriptures. It’s true that no one carried around Bibles back then. But the apostles and their disciples knew the Word of God, had memorized it and quoted it verbatim to others who learned it weekly for decades in the synagogues where the scrolls were read aloud. Only later would this Good News be preached to gentiles who would be expected to learn the Scriptures – also in the synagogues where the law and the prophets were recited.
You might recall Paul’s affirmation in Acts 17:11 of the people of Berea, for being more noble than those from Thessalonica, because they “searched the scriptures daily” (the Old Testament, again), to discern whether the things they heard from their teachers were so.
It was the power of the Holy Spirit combined with the power of the Scriptures, manifested in miracles, which brought in the harvest. It was the story of Jesus matched against the existing Hebrew Scriptures that turned the world upside down. (Acts 17:6)
That’s what was “irresistible.” That’s what Jesus unleashed on the world. That’s what was new. That’s what needs to be reclaimed – and will be – in the future harvest.
But Stanley believes the problem we have is too much Scripture. He wants to dismiss the Old Testament, the only Scriptures Jesus and the apostles preached from during this breathtakingly effective period of repentance, salvation and the spread of the Gospel.
He suggests there was no “official” Bible back then – and not too much emphasis on it. Nonsense. Jesus quoted from the same Scriptures we have today. Peter quoted from Scripture on the day of Pentecost. Paul had memorized the entire Old Testament and preached from it effortlessly, as we can see from his own writings. Contrary to what Stanley asserts, none of the apostles forsook the Hebrew Scriptures. Why should they? There is more information about Jesus’ future Kingdom on earth and the restoration of the whole world found there than in the New Testament. This was Jesus’ Gospel. It was Peter’s Gospel. It was Paul’s Gospel. No deviation, same plan from the beginning.
Salvation does not come from a better marketing plan. It comes from the power of the Holy Spirit and the truth and wisdom found in Scriptures – all of them.
Stanley has not yet figured that out. He speaks from the authority of having 34,000 attending his mega-church. But more people attend the average NFL game every Sunday than that. And if there happens to be a guy holding a sign that says “John 3:16” on it, you might get more Scripture at the game than at Stanley’s church.
He said in a recent interview: “In my new book, ‘Irresistible,’ I argue that the faith they (young people) abandoned was a straw man version to begin with. 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.”
Stanley says he’s concerned about the church’s messaging. His solution is to strip down the Word of God to “any two of the four Gospels, along with 1 Corinthians, and we are good to go.”
Is biblical illiteracy the secret to spreading the faith? Is that what he suggests?
He says the key 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. Christianity becomes less resistible when we shift the foundation of our faith from a true book to a verifiable event.”
What about the supernatural power of the Gospel? I don’t hear that in what Stanley is saying.
Maybe the reason kids today don’t believe is because they haven’t heard it or read it. Is that possible?
I’m 64 years old, and I never heard the Gospel until I was 21. I embraced it immediately. It still happens all the time. And that’s just the beginning. Then we need to make disciples of those who embrace salvation through Jesus. How do we do that with the stripped-down Scriptures?
Here’s what I’ve learned over the last 43 years: There’s a lot of faith-affirming and Holy Spirit-empowering that comes from studying the entire Bible. Nothing good comes from discarding three-quarters of it as an irrelevant, outdated, unfulfilled promise. And, since Stanley apparently believes God broke His promises to the Jews, why should a new believer in Jesus count on God keeping His New Covenant? And what is that New Covenant, by the way? Where do we find it? In the Old Testament he wants to scrap.
Here’s a better idea: What if you had an easy way to discover the very same Gospel Jesus preached in every book of the Old Testament? Would that affirm your faith in the One True God of the Bible? That’s what my new release offers – “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament.”
There’s no division between the Old and the New. There’s no discrepancy. It’s the same compelling message of repentance, renewal, revival and restoration throughout. When it comes to God, less is not more – more is more, and there’s plenty of more when it comes to God.
Jesus never gave us a marketing plan when it came to spreading the Good News – other than take it to the uttermost parts of the earth and actually share it. But you have to know it first.
Find out more about “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament”:
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