Andy Stanley, the author of more than 20 books and founding pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, discusses his latest book, Irresistible: Reclaiming the News that Jesus Unleashed for the World (Zondervan, Sept.). In it, Stanley explains how he reads and talks about the Bible, pointing to what he calls a “first-century approach” to inviting people into the church.
How have you changed the way you talk about the Bible in Irresistible?
I’m trying to put the words of Jesus, Paul, James, and all the New Testament authors back in their mouths. Pastors have been saying: “The Bible says, The Bible teaches…” for generations. But the Bible has never uttered a word. Consequently, most Bible-believing Christians think the Bible is the foundation of our faith, that somehow the Bible created Christianity. It didn’t. The Church created the Bible. In Irresistible I encourage writers, teachers, and preachers to quote the inspired human authors rather than ‘the Bible.’ It’s better and more accurate to say, ‘James says’ or ‘Peter writes’ or ‘Jesus taught.’
Why is this approach better?
The way we talk about the Bible is one obstacle to Christianity. ‘The Bible says’ insinuates that the roots of our faith go no deeper than the fourth-century decision to combine first-century documents with the Jewish Scriptures. From years of personal experience, this approach immediately reduces resistance among post-Christians, non-Christians, and Christians who are struggling to maintain faith.
What are the biggest mistakes churches make today about the Bible?
Every church has its strengths and weaknesses. For conservative evangelical churches, we’re not nimble. It takes too long to adjust our sails. When it comes to belief, we put too many obstacles in peoples’ way. New Testament authors address this well. James, the brother of Jesus, says in Acts 15:19, ‘we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.’
How can the church become ‘irresistible?’
Love better. Serve better. Accept better. Police ourselves and quit policing those outside the church. The people who don’t like me will roll their eyes and say, ‘There he goes again.’ But for pastors, church leaders, and campus ministry leaders who have their faces to the culture and their hearts broken over broken people, perhaps Irresistible will [help] provide a way forward.
What does being “irresistible” look like for Christians?
The questions we should ask every day in every situation is: what does love require of me? In light of what God has done for me, what should I do for others? This approach is far less complicated than what many of us grew up with, but in the end, is far more demanding.