Tag Archives: covenant

Irresistible, by Andy Stanley, A Review

Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. Pastor Andy Stanley overstates a central theme in his argument, but his critics should learn something from him as well.

A little backstory, as to why I decided to read this challenging book: I am not really the type of guy who would be naturally drawn to a pastor like Andy Stanley. At least, that is what I thought a few years ago.

Andy Stanley is the son of the well-known Atlanta pastor, Charles Stanley, who for years has been an example, par excellence, of classic, traditional Bible Belt preaching. When I think of the oft repeated phrase, “The Bible says… the Bible says…,” I think of Charles Stanley.

But I must confess. While he has had a profound, positive impact on the lives of many, and I am sure he is a wonderful man, Charles Stanley’s teaching never thrilled me personally.

About twenty years ago, I was teaching a Sunday school class on church history. I love studying and teaching church history. It helps deepen my love for God. The history of Christianity is often neglected in evangelical churches, so I was thankful for the privilege to try to fill in the gap, at our church. After a few weeks of examining how God has moved in the lives of influential Christians, across the centuries, one dear, elderly woman confronted me and asked, “It is all about history to you, isn’t it?

Apparently, this woman did not understand why anyone in a Bible-believing church needed to waste their time learning about church history. I responded by saying something along the lines of, “Yes, I do believe that God works in history. Jesus did not just stop working in the world after the completion of the New Testament, and He continues to work in our world today.” This genuinely sweet woman then had that “I-have-no-clue-what-you-are-talking-about” look on her face.

*SIGH*.

The following week, the same woman walked into class, and handed me a whole set of resources from Charles Stanley’s InTouch Ministries to look at. I gulped. In particular, she pointed me to a cassette tape, with a title, something to the effect of why “the Bible alone is the Word of God.”

I got the message: Just stick with the Bible, and forget about this history stuff. “The Bible says” is good enough.

I thanked the woman, as she was kind and well-intentioned, and while I did eventually listen to the tape, and agreed with the teaching message, I was still flustered. For if this woman, who evidently was a big fan of Charles Stanley, was learning that we should disregard the lessons of God’s working over the past 2,000 years, since the closure of the New Testament, then I was not really impressed with what she was being taught.

My less-than-enthusiatic encounter with my less-than-enthusiastic church history student pretty much poisoned me. Frankly, Charles Stanley’s son, Andy, had never been on my radar, at all, until a few years ago. When I learned that Andy Stanley, a former youth pastor, now a mega-church pastor himself, started to rise in prominence, I really had no interest in learning anything from him either. Like father, like son, I supposed. Life is short, and since I can not read or listen to every resource article or sermon someone gives to me, I just left the ministries of the Stanleys at that.

That was until son Andy began making waves among his fellow Southern Baptist, conservative evangelical constituents. Though Andy Stanley continues to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, he no longer thinks that the old evangelical mantra of “the Bible says” really works any more in an increasingly post-Christian society. We simply can not assume today that people believe the Bible.

That is a pretty big shift in message from the elder Stanley…. and it got my attention, because that is the world I live in.

My interest was sparked. Perhaps the younger pastor Stanley has something important to say after all. As it turns out, he does. I am chagrined to think that I never paid attention to this before. Continue reading


A Covenant for Small Groups: Discovering Authentic Christianity

Ray Stedman, the California Bible teacher, who inspired Dick Woodward to write A Covenant for Small Groups.

Ray Stedman, the California Bible teacher, who inspired Dick Woodward to write A Covenant for Small Groups.

Dick Woodward, the late pastor emeritus for the local church I worship with, was once a youth director in a church pastored by Ray Stedman, at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California. This was back in the 1950s, when Ray Stedman, a popular Bible teacher and author at the time, mentored Dick Woodward, then a young man, fresh out of Bible college.

Stedman eventually would write a book, Body Life, that explained some of the great teachings that impacted Dick Woodward in those days. The thesis in Body Life is that the church needs to get back to practicing authentic Christianity, creating small fellowships of believers, who learn to care for one another, getting to know one another….really….as they study and seek to live out God’s Word together.

Fast forward to the 1980s, when Dick Woodward took these teachings with him to pastor the church I would eventually become a part of in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Williamsburg Community Chapel. Dick decided to distill the fundamentals of these teachings into a small booklet, A Covenant for Small Groups, now published by International Cooperating Ministries, that can be read in one evening. But this little booklet contains a lifetime of spiritual wisdom.

Since that time, the concept of small groups of believers, gathering together on a regular basis, to care for one another as they study God’s Word, has been the core foundation in our larger church fellowship, for over thirty years. An untold number of other churches and groups have adopted these same principles in their own fellowships. I would encourage every Christian to get and read the whole booklet, but please allow me to list out Dick’s eight fundamental commitments of a small group below, to whet your appetite.

By following these principles, a small group can create a safe place where the group members can get to know one another… really… as they study the Bible together. Living out these principles does not happen on “day one,” when you first meet together as a group. It takes time, and different people have different expectations as to what these specific commitments entail. But when you find such a group that is willing to embrace these eight commitments, it will help you and your group to discover authentic Christianity. Continue reading


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