I’m Warren Smith, and today you’ll be listening in on my conversation with the pastor and author Andy Stanley. His new book is Not In It To Win It: Why Choosing Sides Sidelines The Church.
ANDY STANLEY, GUEST: We discovered in this season what's been true for a long time, that what's most important to many of the evangelicals, many conservative Christians is what's important to everybody else, and that is winning. We got to win, win win. And then you open the New Testament and realize, Jesus decided to lose, lose, lose, on purpose with a purpose, with us in mind. And we are, we are commanded to follow him.
Jesus said we are to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but render unto God what is God’s.
Andy Stanley believes that the evangelical church has devoted too much time and energy to Caesar and not enough to God. He does not advocate a complete withdrawal from the political process. Some issues and ideas are worth fighting for, he says. And using the political process to work for the good, the true, and the beautiful can be a way we love our neighbors.
But he says much of the involvement of Christians in the political process today is not fueled by love, but by fear. He says we too often fight for the wrong goals, and we fight in the wrong way—aiming to win political victory at all costs rather than aiming to win people to Christ. We’ve become more interested in “saving America” than we have with saving Americans.
In Not In It To Win It he says that churches, church leaders, and prominent pastors have too often taken their cues from the culture, rather than showing the culture an alternative way, not a middle way but a higher way, of being salt and light in the world.
Andy Stanley spoke to me from his office in Atlanta.
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Members like Kelsie who was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she had many decisions to make, how she was going to pay her medical bills was not one of them, and she had the freedom to choose the treatment that was best for her. You can watch Kelsie’s story at samaritanministries.org/worldpodcast.
WS: Well, Andy Stanley, welcome to the program. Great to be with you to talk about your new book, Not In It To Win It: Why Choosing Sides Sidelines The Church. Now I've heard that you really didn't plan to write this book, that this was not exactly the next book on your list to write. What motivated you to write it?
AS: Yes. The next book on my list to write was a parenting book, actually, that Sandra and I had begun that we're super excited about. And I said, darlin, I know that you're gonna hate me for this. Not really, but I just, I just gotta say something into this terrible this this crazy space we're in, this cultural moment with COVID, coming out of a crazy political cycle. And so she said, all right, you know, good luck. You know, God bless you. I said, I'll let you read it, I promise before I send it anywhere. So and I wasn't sure if any publisher would want to publish this. And I was really sure none of my friends were gonna want to endorse it. So I squeezed three endorsements out of some friends. But yeah, I just feel like 2020 was the opportunity of a lifetime for the local church to do something extraordinary, to come together and do extraordinary things and let our light shine brighter than ever before. Because things were so dark, not just all over the country, all over the world. I mean, when in our lifetime, have we, everyone universally, or you know, all around the globe, around the world, faced the same problem? Suddenly, we all had this, the same enemy. And the next thing I know, the churches, especially evangelical churches, are going to war with state and local governments and mayors. And I'm like, wait, what? It was baffling. And then we hit the election, and then we hit the post election. And I was just kind of losing my mind. Because, you know, I, as Christians, we can agree to disagree on some things. We can all have our theological, you know, peculiarities and, you know, leanings. But good grief. I just feel like Jesus and the Apostle Paul were so clear on how we were to manage through this and shine through this and be united through something like this. And so I just started writing and ended up with a short book. And I found a publisher who said, all right, it's your reputation. So anyway, and the subtitle is really the book. It's, "why choosing sides sidelines the church." And my my biggest concern was with evangelical leaders and pastors and nonprofit leaders, who just ran to the right as hard as they could, and then other church leaders who ran to the left. And I just felt like the church should be standing in the middle, not the, you know, lukewarm, I get accused of that, middle. The middle, where you solve problems, where there's enough that we have in common that we could have common language and have a common solution. And so anyway, I wrote a book about it. So thanks for asking.
WS: Yeah, exactly. So one of the reasons you say that we're not in it to win it, I'm assuming you mean, specifically, politically, is that whenever you choose sides politically, you are doing damage to the Great Commission. You're doing damage to the Gospel. You are basically saying to one half of the planet, or at least one half of your country, that…
AS: Welcome to our church! Yeah. And, and, exactly. And so, I'm very conservative, politically, very conservative, conservative person. But to watch Republicans in particular, demonize, demonize Democrats, not just Democrat political leaders, just everybody's a Democrat to say, you know, we want to do evangelism and discipleship, but we're going to demonize half the country. And at the same time, so many Republicans pitch the Democrats as godless, they're against church against family. In other words, they need Jesus. So let's talk about them in such a way that they will never listen to us again, and never step foot inside our church. I'm like, wait, if the Democrats are as bad as you say they are, which I disagree with that bifurcation and with, you know, that kind of stereotyping. But let's, assuming for a minute that that message was true, well, then, shouldn't you be building bridges? Shouldn't we be thinking like missionaries? But instead, we ran to our political corners, and we discovered in this season what's been true for a long time, that what's most important to many of the evangelicals, many conservative Christians is what's important to everybody else, and that is winning. We got to win, win win. And then you open the New Testament and realize, Jesus decided to lose, lose, lose, on purpose with a purpose, with us in mind. And we are, we are commanded to follow him. And I just, oh. And when I want to say one other thing to be clear. It sounds like I'm, you know, wagging my finger, you know, pointing fingers. Early on in the book, I say, no, this is not a you versus me problem, this is a we problem because we're of the same body. And if you slap me with your hand, I'm not mad at your hand, I'm mad at your entire body. And so we have a problem. And I think 2020, you know, everything that happened in 2020, culturally, politically, you know, in terms of the health crisis, it revealed something dark and ugly about the current state of evangelicalism, and we need to look at it, be embarrassed by it and fix it. So this is my, you know, my attempt to add to other things that have been said to, to basically say, let's not do this again.
WS: Right. Well, Andy, I want to connect a couple of dots in the book, because you said some things that really deeply resonated with me. One of the things that you said was, and I'm going to sort of state them all, and you can correct me if I'm misquoting you, but I don't I don't think I am. One of the things that you said is that Christians really should be motivated by love, that love is our brand, I believe is the way you put it.
AS: Jesus said that. Yeah.
WS: And the another thing that you said was that the fuel for all of this division is fear. That it's not, hey, I mean, the Bible says perfect love casts out all hate? No, casts out all fear. So that if we fear, that's not love. I mean, that, isn't...
AS: Over and over. We're doing it wrong. Right.
WS: That's, that's the opposite of love. And you say that fear is what is motivating evangelicals. Fear is what is motivating the division. And that if we're fearful, it means number one, that we're really not following Jesus, because Jesus commanded us over and over and over again... Fear not. Fear not. Fear not. And that love casts out fear. So like you said, we're, we're, I don't know why I didn't really connect all those dots into a single picture until I read them in your book. But it just really made a lot of sense to me.
AS: Well, here, here's what we know, Warren, that you can raise a lot of money with fear. And you can raise a lot of money in the extremes with fear. You can't raise any money in the middle. You can't scare people in the middle. You, so fear, you know, political cycle, everybody runs to the, to the edges. And here's the other dirty little secret. And I get that the American populace kind of falls for this over and over and over again, but Christians shouldn't. And it's this. In culture war mentality, the goal is to always appear as if you're losing, so that you can gin up enough fear to raise enough money to get enough followers to stay in office or to stay on the front of, you know, the headlines. So the message is, oh, no, oh, no, the Democrats. Oh, no, oh, no, the Republicans. If we don't, if you don't, if you don't send, if we don't raise money, the end is near. Well you have an, in a political cycle, you have both groups, pretending to be losing. Well Christians should say, you know what, been there done that, not doing that. Besides, we're not in it to win it. We're not here to win elections. We're not here to win America. We're here for a completely different purpose. We should engage politically. I tell our folks all the time, never miss an opportunity to vote your law of Christ informed conscience, be involved. But at the end of the day, we're following Jesus. It's not one God, under nation. We say it every time we say the Pledge. It's one nation under God. Let's keep that straight. And if you keep that straight, then I, it impacts the tone that I communicate with, who I communicate with, how I communicate, and how well I listen. So the fear of losing, of losing our country losing or losing our religious liberty. And Warren, imagine me, you know, you know this. There are people all over the world listening to us worried about losing our religious liberty, and they're like, seriously? You want to see what a loss of religious liberty looks like? You know, come stay with me for a couple of weeks. It just looks silly, and it made us look small. And oh, my goodness, I just don't want us to do this again. And we don't need to.
WS: Well, Andy, I'm going to want to come back to your book. And you know, let's develop the ideas in the book. But I want to pause because I know there are gonna be people listening to us that are already kind of tightening up, kind of frustrating, right? Because you...
AS: I'm not a patriot. I don't love my country.
WS: Right. Or that there aren't certain causes that are not worth fighting for. Or that compromise, you know, as the old, the old saying in Texas, that I heard years ago, the only thing in the middle of the road is yellow stripes and dead armadillos, right? So...
AS: I should have used that.
WS: Yeah, well, it's all yours. Yeah. Feel free from now on. The uh, I guess my point, though, is is that I mean, you're not necessarily advocating a middle way. You're advocating a higher way. Is that fair, a fair way to say it?
AS: The Jesus way, yes. And one of the things I say in the book is the church always looks better when we are defending other people's rights rather than demanding we get our way. We're all we always look better when we are using our influence and our voice to insist on other people being protected, other people being cared for, other people being lifted up, other people getting justice, other people being protected other than, “What about us?” And so, absolutely, there's issues you live and die on. There's things you go to the wall for. There are issues that you embrace, even if you know you're going to fail. But the selfish, “What about me? What's going to happen to us?”, that, I mean, again, Jesus wasn't, you know, ambivalent. There's so many things Jesus taught that we're still trying to figure it out. But not this one. For even the Son of Man, this is on his way to Jerusalem, and the guys are following him. He has to stop and give a little speech. Remember? Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. Follow me. They get to Jerusalem, and he washes their feet to say, okay, hey, if I'm not below, beneath washing your feet, putting you first even though you know, the hours before I'm arrested, okay, you guys just lost all your excuses. So for us to have gotten our backs all bowed up and to get in a spitting match because of what was going to happen to us, and it, we, ugh. So yeah, there are definitely causes you go to the wall for and that you risk your life for. But protecting your self at the expense of our testimony, and the reputation, and the opportunity for the church to be the conscience of the nation. I believe that's what we're called to be. And the moment we get in a red bucket or a blue bucket, game over, we've lost our opportunity. We're just a voting bloc to be wined, dined, and then used and ignored until the next cycle, election cycle.
WS: Yeah, you know, I'm fond of a quote from the poet TS Eliot that I've got to be honest with you, I haven't been able to source appropriately. So I'm not. I think TS Eliot said this. He said that, he was talking about in matters of the public square and matters of politics and, that we don't fight to win. Well, he said it this way, “There are no fully gained causes, there are no fully lost causes in politics. We don't fight to win, we fight to keep the truth alive.” And it seems to me that whenever a Christian's allegiance becomes greater to a political cause than to the truth and keeping the truth alive, and that would in part, I think, mean, it primarily mean the gospel truth. That when what when we're willing to say things that are false about our political enemies?
WS: That's when we've lost the way of the gospel.
AS: Right. And I mean, again, Jesus was so clear, these are my words, obviously, not his. But essentially, he said, just because somebody considers you their enemy, you do not have to return the favor. Just because somebody goes to war with you, you do not have to respond in like kind. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount is basically, ‘don't react like everybody else, don't respond like everybody else.’ And one of the things I talk about a lot in the book, I think I'm going to create a whole message series around this. You can tell some things by my actions, but my reactions tell the full story. I mean, if you really want to know what's I mean, we can all be nice and polite, and kind. It's our reactions to things being taken away. It's our reactions to the you know, feeling like the world's changing too fast. It's our reactions that, that reveal what we really believe and who we're really trusting in. And during 2020, 2021, wow. We, we saw things about ourselves that, you know, we aren't as buttoned up as we think. And so I just want, starting with me and our churches, I want us to follow Jesus in this cultural moment. Because the darker things get, the brighter our light’s going to shine. And we're about to have another election cycle. Here we go again. And you know, and the other reason I wrote this book, Warren, so many, we heard, I heard from so many pastors. Ed Stetzer did as well. Others I've talked to. Pastors who are trying to manage, to handle this right, lead correctly, and they're getting the crap beat out of them by the Republicans in their churches saying, why don't you take a stand? Why don't you take a stand? And these pastors are going, wait a minute. We've never politicized the church. I've never been political. I've I haven't changed. And people were leaving our churches. This was so strange, not because of something we said or did, but for something we refused to say and refused to do that we've never said and never did. And it's like, but that was just, you know, the crazy world we were living in at the time, and let's not do that again.
WS: Yeah, Andy, I want to read something from your book. And we talked around this a little bit, but I thought you said pretty plainly and, and helpfully here. And maybe you might want to say a little bit more about it. From Page 13 of your book pretty early in the book:
When a local church becomes preoccupied with saving America, at the expense of saving Americans, it has forsaken its mission. When church leaders embrace and grow comfortable with 'Save America' rhetoric that alienates some Americans, they are derelict in their duty. When pastors and churches intentionally or unintentionally subjugate winning people to winning elections, they've already lost, even if they win.
AS: Yeah, I couldn't say it better myself. I couldn't say it better than I wrote it. And...
AS: And then, and I, this is part of that same chapter, I think. I say, and then at the end of all, that, the candidate of choice for most of those people did lose the election. So we lost influence and, and I watched this happen, I would watch, some of these are friends of mine, or people that I've known for years. Watched them go on television and just lambaste, you know, these broad, you know, big, broad strokes of the Democrats, the Democrats, the... I'm like, wait a minute, first of all, most African American Christians in our country are Democrats, let's just start there. The largest demographic of, of evangelical conservative Christians in our country's probably, probably black women, honestly. And to make those kinds of comments, first, you're completely inaccurate. Second, it's inappropriate. And third, you've just said to half the country, you're not welcome in my church. And there's no point in participating in my nonprofit because you're godless. And I, it was shocking..
WS: Yeah, well, Andy, let me pivot away from the book a little bit, because one of the persons who's been lambasted has been you. And I'm wondering...
AS: What?! (laughter)
WS: When you encounter criticisms online, social media, elsewhere, what do you really think? What do you really do? How do you really respond? And how do you want to respond? And are they the same?
AS: Oh, no, no, no. I, I write tweets and read them to my family, and then delete them. Not as much as I used to. I actually, I don't get my feelings hurt. But it's, and this is partly being a preacher's kid. And I feel like sometimes I'm living my life twice. You know, my dad's a pastor, became very well known. So I, this is the world I grew up in. But here's, here's how I feel. First of all, I can't think of a single person in the world that I would criticize on social media for any reason. Zero. I, no matter how ridiculous what they said, that, the whole idea of criticizing somebody by name on social media, as a Christian, no matter again, regardless of what they've done, that is so anti New Testament teaching. So let's just start with just being Christianity 101. So that's off limits. The people in our churches who were mad at me - and there were plenty. We have, because we have churches in the city, we have a church in Forsyth County's 85% Republican. So anybody that direct messaged, left a voicemail, email, wrote a letter that was a part of one of our churches, I called them. Every single one of them we had a cell phone number for. And my assistant would give me a little document that said, here's how long they've been a part. Here's how old their kids are. Here's the environments they've been a part of. I called all of them because I'm a pastor at heart. I don't want anyone to leave our church, especially over something that either I said where they misunderstood me or something I refused to say. So I made all those calls. So my, the thing that was most disconcerting to me, were the people who were active in our church who decided to leave.
The outside world, that's just curious and interesting. And again, I just think, wow, you are taking, you know, first of all, half the time they don't know what they're talking about. And they won't follow me on Twitter, because the other thing I do is somebody follows me on Twitter, and they're critical of me, I 100% of the time direct message them in a friendly way and say, hey, what can I do to help? What's your question? Can I send you a book? I give away so many books to people who've been critical. And I feel like, give me a minute and we can be friends, we can talk this through. So I don't, I've never taken it personally.
Last thing I'll say is, it's just disappointing to me that so many Christians in their bios, their little Twitter, I mean their avatar say, Jesus-loving, coffee-loving, Reformed Baptist. I love my wife and my kids and my church. And then they, you know, they say all these un-Christ-like things. It's, it's remarkable. And the best one ones that I, the best ones, I have a little folder on my phone that says, Andy haters, and I save the best ones. And I read them to my kids. So maybe somebody out there is part of the Greatest Hits, because it's crazy what people who have never met me say about me. And not just me, everybody. So yeah, that's, that's just disappointing that there's that many people that are part of the body of Christ that feel there's nothing in their conscience that kind of rings and, you know, warns them that, hey, maybe you shouldn't do this, so anyway.
WS: So the moral of the story is, if you're an Andy hater out there, don't bother, because it's just gonna roll off his back like water off a duck's back, right?
AS: Or I may share it with my kids. Yeah.
WS: (laughter) On the other hand, you know, you also don't want to be that person that's not open to feedback. That's not transparent. That is not humble and willing and able to receive, you know, appropriate correction. So what's the balance there? Do you, do you say…
AS: No, that's a good question. That's why anybody in our churches, I called every single one of them. I mean, I'll sit at my kitchen counter, and Sandra would get on the line. First of all, there's this like, is this really you? I'm like, yeah, you know, you're leaving the church or you're mad? And what can I do? What did I, what did I say? So I, you know, one of my things that gets repeated that I said years ago, is leaders who refuse to listen are eventually surrounded by people who have nothing helpful to say. And I'm a firm believer in that. I, we have a board. I'm a believer in accountability, I want to finish well. And it's one of the reasons I'm willing to start conversations with people who are critical of me on Twitter, especially if I'm able to do that behind the scenes. But I'm not going to reply to them publicly. Because I want to get better. And, you know, I don't have the I don't have it all figured out, either. But anyway.
WS: Andy, you mentioned something in the book that I want you to say a little bit more about, even though I'm gonna read a sentence that kind of explains it pretty well. It's a discussion of fundamental attribution error. You say this:
“Fundamental attribution error describes our tendency to attribute other people's behavior to their character, and our behavior to our circumstances.”
WS: Boy, that resonated with me. Can you say more about that?
AS: It's terrible, isn't it? Yeah, this is just a thing that swirls around in the background for all of us. So if I'm late to work, it's because I was taking care of one of my kids, there was traffic, and I'm, I'm 100%, I'm late to work because of circumstances. If you're late to work, it's because you don't have a strong work ethic, you got up late, you're lazy, you piddled around, and you don't really care about our team. So it's the tendency to ascribe motive and character issues to other people. But as far as you know, in terms of my thing, it's circumstances. So whenever we read, ‘the wicked Democrats’ or ‘the selfish Republicans,’ what have we done? We have ascribed motive to their actions. Well, in most cases, it's completely incorrect. And this is why the answer to all of this, and Jesus models this, the answer to all of this is to enter into someone else's experience, and to say, tell me your story. As I say to our church folks all the time, look, everything everybody does makes perfect sense to them. So if somebody does something, and it doesn't make any sense to you, you have something to learn. If I'm like, “I can't, why in the world, would you say that?” Well, something I don't know. “Why in the world would you do that?” There's something I don't know. And we've all learned, the moment we lean in and ask why and express curiosity, we always, always have the 'oh’ moment. Like, oh, well, I thought. Oh, I assumed. Oh, I thought you people always. Oh, I thought every Republican. And in the ‘oh’ moment, we realize it's usually not character. It's usually not motive. It's the same as with as with me. It's the world I grew up in. It's what I've been exposed to. It's what I was, is what was said about me. It's what I had, the opportunities, the opportunities I had, or the opportunities I didn't have. And we are all in, in a common way shaped by our circumstances, our relationships, and the advantages we had, or the disadvantages we had to overcome. And in those shared experiences, you know, suddenly I discover that I actually value the same thing you do. And when we begin the conversation around values, rather than beliefs, there's common ground, we can make progress. So that's the goal. And that's what you see Jesus doing this all the time. It's why - and I'll be quiet this, Warren. How amazing that Jesus, who was the most righteous person to ever walk the Earth, did not carry his righteousness in such a way that anyone considered him self-righteous (laughter). Pharisees and teachers of the law, they're not even in the, you know, ballpark with his personal righteousness, but they were so self righteous, they alienated people. And hey, if we're the body of Christ, if we're following Jesus, then we need to live righteous lives, but carry our righteousness in such a way that we are winsome, and not self righteous, and accidentally or intentionally condemning. So but that's, you know.
WS: Yeah, I want to tie a bow around the book here just a minute Andy because I want to ask you a couple of other quick questions before we finish with each other. But since you brought that up, I do want to read another quote from the book - page 87 in the book, by the way, for those that are keeping score at home.
“Jesus refused to play the God card. Even in this final ‘if you forget everything else, I've said, remember this exchange - this is something Jesus said near the end of this ministry - Jesus did not leverage His holiness, His personal righteousness, his moral authority, his supernatural abilities. Jesus leveraged his example, how he loved.”
That's just another way of saying, I think what you just said, right?
AS: Exactly. And I, I love that particular section of the book, because that message has been, it changed me years ago. When I finally realized how Jesus led in terms of conversations and in terms of influence. And again, he could have played the ‘God card’. And the ‘God card’ being, “Hey, I'm God. You know, I'll have the corner table please.” Right? Even the Son of Man didn't come to be served. And again, that his final act of service, his final act of service, washing the disciples feet. Takes a long time. You can't do it at eye level. You can't do it and keep your hands clean. And I think that moment is when the it sunk into them, ”Oh, he was serious.” And then the next day, he put on a demonstration of love that took his breath away and took their sin away and took all of our sin away and leveled the playing field. And those are our marching orders. And we, in the United States of America, with all the privileges we have, and all the advantages we have, we should be able to get this right.
WS: Yeah, well, Andy, as I said a moment ago, I want to pivot in our conversation just a little bit, in part because I don't get to chat with you that often. You and I have known each other a long time. But I would say we're old friends, not close friends. Let's put it that way. Because I think I first met you when you were in college. My sister, Jackie, and your sister, Becky, were college roommates. And I think I first met you face to face in your parents' home in Vinings, probably in the late 70s or early 80s. And so just a couple of quick sort of retrospective big picture questions. First of all, in the late 70s, early 80s, whenever you were just getting started, did you ever imagine that it would turn out like this? That I mean, that, you know, your church and your ministry and all of that. I mean, were you hoping for that?
AS: I didn't even want to be a pastor in the late 70s. In the late 70s. I wanted to be Elton John, or Bryan Adams, you know, some combination. And then in college, I was a journalism major. Felt called to min - well, actually, I didn't feel called to ministry. That's what was so funny. My dad and I were driving to go see Star Wars, the first Star Wars. I remember this. And I said to him, I said, “Hey, Dad, do you have, do you have to be called to ministry? Or can you just volunteer?” Because I didn't feel called but I loved church, and I love all things church. And I didn't want to necessarily preach or teach. I just loved the local church. He said, “Well, I think you can volunteer.” So I said, “Well, I think I'd like to volunteer.” And then like most people, I just started doing everything I could and found my skill set and finished college, went to seminary and worked with high school students for 10 years. I thought I was going to do that the rest of my life. Then our church, my dad's church, started a second campus. And then, you know, just kind of went from there.
AS: I didn't envision any of this.
WS: You know, you've mentioned your dad a couple of times. And you've also mentioned your own desire to finish well. And, you know, Andy I hope you have many more years of ministry ahead of you. Given your dad's history, it's likely that you, you got good genes, and maybe you'd have many years ahead.
AS: Yeah, he's about to be 90 this fall.
WS: Yeah, yeah. And still doing it. So, but I also think it is fair to say that you've probably got more years behind you than ahead of you at this point…
AS: Thanks for the reminder. (laughter)
WS: Sorry about that. But listen, I'm older than you. So what's true for you is even double for me. So my question is, what are you doing to finish well? How do you want your ministry, your legacy, to be remembered? And, what are you doing now in these last years that maybe you think, you know, might be more important than you would have thought 30 years ago?
AS: Yeah, well, years ago, I got fascinated by the topic of leadership. I didn't grow up in a culture or a church culture that ever talked about leadership. And when I stumbled upon the fact that, hey, you know, it's not just pastoring your church or preaching at church, you got to lead an organization. So I just fell in love with the whole topic of leadership. So our network of churches really is a lab for training and raising up leaders. That's one of the reasons we love having, love having so many campuses within drivetime. Our residence program, we have a partnership with Dallas Theological Seminary. So I love the fact that I can look around and see a couple of generations coming along behind me that are super skilled, super talented, educated, smart, good communicators, organizers. So when I walk away from this, you know, the win for me is that our organization is well-led, and we have multiplied and spun off all kinds of men and women into all kinds of leadership positions, not just in our organization, but all over the place. So I, that's, that's the win. It's not just, you know, getting through a Sunday morning. And I love to preach, and I love the weekend services. But ultimately, I hope to leave this organization strong, not just as a local, a group of local churches, but as a leadership lab in a place where we train up leaders and, you know, send them out to make a difference in their generation.
WS: Yeah. And finally, talk to me a little bit about your dad. You know, I've talked to other sons of famous preachers. I talked to Barnabas Piper, for example, about his dad, John Piper, and so on. Has it been a burden or a privilege to be the son of Dr. Charles Stanley?
AS: 100% privilege. 100%. And, you know, in my book Deep and Wide, the second chapter, I tell the story of my dad and I's kind of break up and falling out and how awful it was. But I also tell the story of, to his credit, he's like, “Hey, let's not let happen to us what happens to fathers and sons.” I'm like, “Yeah, let's definitely not let that happen.” And to his credit, you know, we built a bridge, and it's, you know, it's absolutely incredible. I mean, I have breakfast with him on Saturdays. And I'm, he doesn't need a caregiver, but I'm his guy. You know, my sister lives in Texas. And we have the most fascinating conversations, Warren. He's, he's so funny, because, of course, when he hit about 75, he said to me one day, he said, “You know what, I love being older.” He's, actually he said, “I love being old.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Nothing impresses me.” I'm like, “What do you mean?” And what he meant was, ‘been there, done that.’ And he's, basically he said, “I see things clearer. I see, I see what really matters. I'm not moved and motivated by numbers, and you know, all the, all the stuff that you know, as a young leader you're so fascinated with.”
And then the other funny thing, he said. When he turned 80, he called me right after his birthday. He said, “Andy,” he said, “You know what I'd like?” I said, “What?” He said, “I'd like to find a pastor that's a little bit ahead of me, so I could ask him some questions.” I said, “Dad, I hate to tell you, you are the last,” because he was still pastoring the church at the time. I said, “You're the last man standing. I don't think there's many 80 year olds still pastoring.” I said, “But what would you ask someone if there was such a person?” He said, “I would ask them if it ever got any easier?” And I'm like, “Do you know how discouraging that is to me?” (laughter) And he was just talking about the responsibility and the grind of sermon preparation, of showing up prepared Sunday after Sunday. Because, you know, he never mailed it in. He never, you know, pulled out a file and just got up there preached. It was fresh every time and I caught that. And it is, you know, it's, it's a privilege, and it's a big burden - in a positive way. So he, he finished well. He's still finishing. He's still doing all kinds of really cool stuff at 89.
And I did tell him, he finally retired last fall. He finally retired from the church, finally, at 88. And I would tell him, “Dad, you've got to retire before I do. I I can't retire before you do. So please, you know, pick a date and stick with it.” So he's, he's wonderful.
That brings to a close my conversation with Andy Stanley. His new book is Not In It To Win It: Why Choosing Sides Sidelines The Church. The book hit bookstores this week.
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Tune in next week to hear my conversation with mega-best-selling author Jerry Jenkins. He was the co-author of the “Left Behind” series, which sold more than 65 million copies worldwide. However, he is also the author of more than 100 other books, and he has a new book on writing, called Writing For The Soul, that I have found nourishing and helpful. If you’re a writer, a reader, or anyone interested in the creative process, I hope you’ll join us.
The producer for today’s program is Leigh Jones. Johnny Franklin is the technical producer. And Paul Butler is executive producer for WORLD Radio. I’m your host, Warren Smith. And you’ve been Listening In….
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