A new challenge for Andy Stanley
Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Community Church, embraces his father, Rev. Charles Stanley, founder of In Touch Ministries.
November 17th, 2012
07:11 AM ET

A new challenge for Andy Stanley

By John Blake,

(CNN) - Since President Obama’s re-election, pundits have asked if the Republican Party needs to change its message to adapt to a changing America.

Here’s another question: Will conservative Christians have to adapt their message as well?

I thought about that question as I interviewed one of the nation’s most popular pastors, Andy Stanley. He is a Christian conservative who is also the pastor of North Point Community Church, a sprawling 33,000-member church in suburban Atlanta, Georgia.

I talked to Stanley about his relationship with his father, Charles Stanley, a famous Southern Baptist pastor. But the informal conversations I had with him, and his colleagues, were just as intriguing. Most revolved around change.

Two preaching giants and the 'betrayal' that tore them apart

Stanley is an apostle of change. His church has pioneered new ways to reach people turned off by traditional churches. North Point’s funky architecture, the hologram that beams Stanley’s image to satellite churches, the stage lights and visual props Stanley uses during sermons – all of it is geared toward pulling in that new audience. Stanley told me that church leaders come to his staff to learn how to be innovators. “I have little tolerance for doing things just because we’ve always done them,” he said.

Though in many ways Stanley’s church is cutting-edge, its theological foundation is conservative. The church website lists the congregation’s beliefs: The Bible is “without error;” Jesus is the “sole basis for the forgiveness of sin,” and people are “incapable” of having a right relationship with God through their own efforts.

That’s the message conservative Christians have been preaching for over a century. Can that message retain its appeal as the nation’s racial and religious makeup changes?

The religious right experienced what CNN called a “nightmare scenario:” in three states voters approved same-sex marriage; anti-abortion candidates were defeated in red states; and Obama, whose opponent had the support of Billy Graham, won a second term.

Some may still call the U.S. a Christian nation, but the fastest growing religious group in America is people who are not affiliated with any organized religion, according to a recent Pew survey.

“We are witnessing a fundamental moral realignment of the country,” Albert Mohler, who heads the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted on Election Night.

Jonathan Merritt, the son of another Southern Baptist leader, wrote in a recent essay that the evangelical influence on America is declining because of the “seeping impact of globalization and the digital age.”

Said Merritt:  “Evangelicals once presided like chairmen in America’s political boardroom, but they must now sit down with others at a common table to dialogue and search for common ground.”

Stanley may have already shown how that can be done.

He’s a conservative but he’s not a culture warrior in the pulpit. Most of his sermons revolve around personal growth, not politics. His church recently hosted a visit from first lady Michelle Obama even though some members grumbled. Stanley has even been accused of not condemning gay people enough.

He told me he has never compromised his theology to attract people.

“I never felt the need to make decisions with money or with growth in mind,” he said. “I don’t live with that fear.”

But the past shows that some pastors do change their theology with the times. What preachers once taught as biblical truth – slavery is sanctioned by God; women aren’t allowed to preach; gambling and dancing are sin – is now rejected by many churches.

As the nation becomes more diverse, will white conservative Christians reexamine their teachings as they encounter others with a different history and worldview?

Playing hip music and wearing jeans when you preach may not be enough to catch a new generation of Americans.

How Stanley, and others, address these questions will be fascinating to watch.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: 2012 Election • Church • Church and state • Culture wars • Faith • Politics

soundoff (303 Responses)
  1. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    Gravity is not up for debate !

    BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !

    Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet..............................E = mc2..........(U–Pb).................two math formulas.

    Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before


    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.


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    May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young


    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life


    the wrong path is Adam and Eve !

    Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought

    Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.


    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.

    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

    Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History

    Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.


    Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute


    Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...

    Good stuff !

    The fact...............the earth is to old for this nonsemse ! Time to EVOLVE !

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.


    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN


    Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

    Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

    Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
    bears his name as the “God particle.”


    Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
    Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \



    Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
    By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...


    April 7th, 2012

    08:32 PM ET

    The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth


    Make sure to read comments

    April 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |

    Breaking News

    NASA: Three planets found are some of best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our solar system.


    NASA: Mars could have supported life

    Star Dust we are


    Holy Hallucinations 35


    The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life


    Scientists have unearthed the first direct signs of cheesemaking, at a site in Poland that dates back 7,500 years.

    Human Evolution


    BBC. Planet of the Apemen. Battle for Earth 1. Ho-mo Erectus


    BACKFILL on E =mc2.....

    Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'

    By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

    Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist – Albert Einstein – was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.

    “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”


    May 4, 2013 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |

    Cheech & Chong's History of 420


    All cults...........creationists, ID believers and devil cults.................

    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.



    May 4, 2013 at 10:23 am |
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  4. The Court

    Aug. 30, 2012: The genome of a recently discovered branch of extinct humans known as the Denisovans that once interbred with us has been sequenced

    December 6, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Gadarenian

      People, what have you done?
      Locked him in his golden cage, golden cage
      Made him bend to your religion
      Him resurrected from the grave, from the grave

      He is the God of nothing
      If that's all that you can see
      You are the God of everything
      He's inside you and me

      So lean upon him gently
      And don't call on him to save you
      From your social graces
      And the sins you used to waive, you used to waive

      The bloody church of England
      In chains of history
      Requests your earthly presence
      At the vicarage for tea

      And the graven image you know who
      With his plastic crucifix, he's got him fixed
      Confuses me as to who and where and why?
      As to how he gets his kicks, he gets his kicks

      Confessing to the endless sin
      The endless whining sounds
      You'll be praying till next Thursday
      To all the gods that you can count

      Jethro Tull

      December 14, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  5. Rob McQueary

    I live in the shadows of NorthPoint Church. Some of my good friends are employed by NorthPoint. In terms of preaching the Gospel... NP is dead on. In terms of pushing past some of the archaic ways that keep the Gospel from being heard in today's culture... NP is dead on. I know first hand of lives being changed and futures forever altered because of the ministry being conducted through NP Ministries. Carry on!

    November 26, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  6. Paul

    As I see it, BOTH Charles and Andy Stanley have become part of the wicked emerging church.

    November 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  7. niknak

    When they mentioned that this clown used holograms and light props I could not help but think of the movie The Wizard of Oz and the props and stuff the Wiz used to keep everyone in check.
    But that is the basis of religion, to keep people in check, so if it worked for the Wiz I guess that explains why it works for this guy too.
    A mind is a terrible thing to lose, to religion.....

    November 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Jason

      Pretty sure your religion is self worship

      November 22, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  8. Tim

    My thoughts on this article: http://waterschurch.org/pastortim/blog/archives/1565

    November 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  9. David

    Christianity has survived and even thrived in cultures that are much more hostile to its claims. In fact you could argue from history that the more persecuted Christianity is in a culture the stronger it has grown. China is the most recent example, but there are many others.

    November 19, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Bob

      That simply shows that it is a successful meme. It is no proof of the validity of the wild claims of the Christian supersti-tion.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  10. Joe

    John Blake makes this story compelling through excellent writing and keen sensitivity to his subjects. Excellent journalism.

    November 19, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • Stan

      Joe, you forgot to put in your spamsite link.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 19, 2012 at 6:51 am |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
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      "John 3:16" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" is the degenerate.

      This troll is not a christian.'.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book can help you:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      November 19, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • brian

      actually what does not work is extremism.

      It's a bit nuts to assume that science presumes it can prove god does not exist, it merely lacks any proof he does exist. Just because we do not have an experiment does not mean something isn't true. If you hold true to science, you should just state the fact that you don't know. The domain of science is limited to provable facts.

      It's just as nuts to not take your kids to the doctor. There are many examples of both idiotic scientists and idiotic preachers – but generally this is due to all too common human stupidity. The domain of religion should be limited to spiritual matters and not deny proven facts about disease.

      Saying prayer does not change things is like saying ideas have no effect, that words do not hurt people. It misses the point, prayers are not about changing the world, they are about changing us.

      If you are addicted, the proven method of treatment is a 12 step group, which is actually religious in nature. It could just be hocus pocus, or it could be the help of the higher power, but it actually seems to help people, and isn't that what actually matters?

      November 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Robert

      People can help themselves and others, you don't need a god or prayer to do that.

      November 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  12. Lucille

    it makes no difference that the populations of the U.S. are changing. the gospel message is the same. it is the only way for man, woman, boy or girl to get saved.

    November 19, 2012 at 5:47 am |
    • Bob

      Lucille, think this through a bit: how come your ‘omnipotent’ creature couldn’t do all that supposed saving without the loony son sacrifice bit anyway? And for that matter, how was it a sacrifice at all, when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time it wants with less than a snap of its fingers? Pretty feeble god it is that you’ve made for yourself there.

      Give that some thought and maybe it will help you leave your delusions behind. You will remain a laughingstock otherwise, and the more you dwell in your silly delusion and ancient myths, instead of keeping up with advances in medicine and technology, the more America slips downward relative to the rest of the world in science and other fields.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Jeff

      Well, said, Lucille. The Gospel message has survived for thousands of years and will do so as long as God wills it.

      And, Bob, thanks for finally setting the record straight. After thousands of years and billions of people believing that the Bible is the Word of God and that Christ is Savior, we finally have you to walk the earth and straighten everyone out. Too bad for all those past generations who didn't get to hear the Wisdom of Bob (and his atheist friends) and wasted thier time and energy on the pursuit of Christ. Many an educated man have come to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Atheists think they're smarter, but they certainly are not. Just blind, that's all. It's alot easier to make yourself "God of your life" than to open your eyes, seek answers and admit your insignificance.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      If time were a factor of truth, then the Jews, who follow only the Torah, are more right than you are. If prevalence of an idea makes it true, then why is it that no one noticed the earth transforming from flat to round when what was accepted based on science changed?

      November 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Jeff

      Hawaiiguest – Jews and Christians believe in the same God and I believe that God has a plan to save them, His chosen. All will realize Christ as Savior some day. Also, nobody noticed the earth changing from flat to round, because it didn't. It was always round. Exploration just allowed people to realize it. Maybe you should explore as well.

      Bottom line – Atheists can believe what they want and those who believe in a higher power will believe what they want. What I don't understand is the venom of either side. Bob's unprovoked attack on Lucy was uncalled for. She was stating her belief and he called her a "laughingstock". We can respect each other for what we believe without sacrificing or stealing dignity.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  13. mike

    totally love all the new instagram/moving "still" photos all over the net recently!! hahaha

    November 19, 2012 at 3:24 am |
  14. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    "Some may still call the U.S. a Christian nation..."

    It is not. It is our nation. May it never be what it never was.

    November 18, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Bob

      Hear, hear.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:54 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.