Why Andy Stanley is Right About Reaching Post-Christians

Andy Stanley

If you want to reach post-Christian, post-modern people—in other words, the next generation—how do you do it, effectively?

Although you might not know it if you just perused social media, the majority of churches are plateaued or dying. And even among growing churches, not all growth is coming from people with no church background.

Some—not all, but some—growing churches are just consolidating the Christians who are still around and giving them a new place to gather.

If you really analyzed what percentage of churches are truly attracting post-modern, post-Christian people, you might be a little surprised at how low that number is.

Three typical responses to this problem include taking pot-shots at growing churches, criticizing church leaders and lamenting about how bad current culture is. But none of these responses is in any way productive.

So, instead, what if we focused on the real issue, namely, figuring out what it takes to reach people who don’t know Jesus?

That’s why I’m so grateful for Andy Stanley’s recent contributions to the conversation.

Andy’s new book, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed on the World, does a deep dive into exploring the kind of message Christians need to focus on to connect with unchurched and de-churched people.

You can listen to an interview I did with Andy on his new approach to apologetics here.

Whether or not you agree with everything Andy says in the book (Andy’s had a few critics as he’s made his arguments), what the critics seem to miss is that the current generation of church leaders is losing the conversation with non-Christians. In fact, often, we’re not even in the conversation anymore.

That’s why what Andy has to say is so valuable. We need to change the conversation because the current conversation is making less of a difference every day.

Something fundamental is changing in our culture, and many Christian leaders are missing it.

Arguing among ourselves or rehashing apologetic approaches from generations ago isn’t going to reverse the growing indifference Christians face when we share our faith.

Radically different times demand radically different approaches.  The apostle Paul varied his approach depending on his audience. Speaking to Greeks in Athens required a different line of argument than speaking with Jews.

I think Andy is right in sounding the cultural alarm bells that our current approach isn’t working.

Here are five reasons what a lot of us are doing today won’t advance the mission the way we hope tomorrow.

1. Your Voice Is No Longer The Only Voice

Just a generation ago, the majority of people went to church, North American culture was at least nominally Christian, there was no internet, information was harder to come by, and most people simply trusted what they heard from their local pastor. In some cases, the pastor was the most educated and most listened to person in the community, and certainly in a church attender’s life.

It could hardly be more different today. The internet means you can learn about anything, anytime, anywhere. And people do.

Of course, you know all of this, but in most churches, we still behave like it wasn’t true.

Most of the people who attend your church and everyone you’re trying to reach has googled their way to an opinion on almost everything. They’ve binged listened to Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, and a host of others, and come to you with pre-formed opinions on almost everything.

It’s not just going away to college that crumbles faith anymore. Many teens and young adults have YouTubed and Reddited their way to their own views on God, Jesus, spirituality and the church.

Do all of these views hold water? Of course not.

But that doesn’t stop people from holding them.

2. Hostility is Giving Way to Indifference

If you look at the way many Christians are approaching the culture today, you’d think the church is under siege from critics. And in some respects, that’s true.

But look more deeply, and you’ll see the real issue isn’t hostility, it’s indifference.

And indifference is a much harder issue to deal with. Hostility means the person angry with you is still engaged. Indifference means you’ve lost them…at least for now.

Indifference is a very different opponent than disagreement or hostility.

Maybe it’s rooted in the fact that the church has largely stopped caring about the world.

And when the church no longer cares about the world, it should be no surprise that the world no longer cares about the church.

3. People Are Looking for Love…Not Judgment

A lot of Christians are upset with the cultural changes that have happened in the last decade. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t be alarmed.

But it seems like our response to the culture is to judge it.

I think that’s God’s job.

If God so loved the world, who gave Christians permission to hate it?

When someone attends your church (and mine), they’re hoping to find Jesus. And underneath it all, they’re hoping to find love.

Too often, they tell us, they find:

Self-righteousness

Judgment

Arrogance

Indifference

It’s heartbreaking.

Andy’s argument about love is compelling because it really is the heart of our faith. In fact, I seem to recall both Jesus and the Apostle Paul saying that without it we don’t have anything.

And it creates this tragic irony: the love that is so palpably absent from so many churches is the very thing the world is searching for.

Before you get defensive, ask yourself this question: when was the last time you stood in line hoping someone would judge you?

Exactly.

Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy.

4. The Church Increasingly Feels Like a Club To Which No One Is Invited

As the culture becomes more and more post-Christian, a growing number of people aren’t sure how to even engage church.

The sign on the lawn might say “All Welcome,” but that doesn’t really register.

Think about it: if you’re a practicing Christian, how comfortable would you be randomly walking into a mosque next weekend, or a synagogue, or a Buddhist Temple?

Right.

First, you’d think you need an invitation to go…that new people aren’t welcome.

Second, you’re not even sure when they meet, how to dress, what the customs are, what to do, where to go. The list is endless.

So it’s really no mystery as to why truly post-modern, post-Christian people aren’t flocking to most churches.

As someone who lives in a country (Canada) that is 20-30 years more post-Christian than America, I can assure you that, to outsiders, churches seem more and more like private clubs to which no one is invited.

The bridge, of course, is a personal invitation.

And that invitation is only likely going to be effective if the person you’re inviting likes you and loves you.

And that brings us back the previous point. It’s really hard for non-Christians to believe you love them if you behave like you don’t like them.

5. Too Many Of Us Are Answering Questions No One Is Asking

Too many preachers are answering questions no one is really asking anymore.

For example, many times in messages I’ve outlined the manuscript evidence that shows the scriptures we have today are in fact, with only tiny, minor variations, the scriptures that were written long ago. In other words, we’re quite certain that the version of the first letter of Paul to the church in Corinth that we have is what Paul actually wrote.

That’s important to know (and important to me) for many reasons. And a generation ago that would be enough to convince people to lean in a little harder.

Today, though, a growing number of post-Christians would say “I don’t care whether what you’re reading was the original letter from Paul himself. So what?”

That’s an entirely different line of questioning.

So many preachers are still covering the what of Christianity, (which is important), but ignoring the so what.

In every area of our communication, we should be drilling down the core issues.

If you fail to answer the ‘so what’, you fail to answer life’s deepest questions.

Start Reaching the Next Generation

For all of these reasons and more, I think Andy is right: we need to reach back the origin of our faith to help reach the next generation.

This fall, Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner and many other leaders are joining forces to help church leaders reach the next generation on the Deep and Wide Tour and Orange Tour, which sync up for a fantastic two day experience in several major US cities.

Andy is sharing the message behind Irresistible on the Deep and Wide Tour. It’s all new content for 2018, and you can register here. Use the coupon code CAREY10 at checkout to get 10% off your registration.

Stay for the following day and learn how to equip your entire church to reach the next generation through a full day training with Orange. Orange Tour 2018 is happening in 17 cities this fall. For 2018, Orange has added an evening session just for parents (Parent Cue Live) and evening training for all your small group leaders (Lead Small Night). Your Orange Tour Ticket includes admission to those bonus events. You can learn more about all Orange is doing in 17 cities here.

Register for Orange Tour 2018 here. Use the coupon code CAREY10 at checkout to get 10% off your registration.

Both events are designed for teams to learn together, so bring the crew!

I will be speaking at the following Orange Tour stops during fall 2018.

All the stops featured a combined Deep and Wide and Orange Tour stop, so make sure you register for both in each city:

Detroit, MI October 9th

Chicago Il,  October 19th

Orlando, FL, November 2nd 

Charlotte, NC, November 9th

Register today and get equipped to effectively reach the next generation.

 

What Do You See?

What’s most effective in reaching post-Christian and non-Christian people in your community these days?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

10 Comments

  1. Salvador on November 28, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    My biggest hurdle into this is the Bible and God themselves. They haven’t changed a bit and never will. They won’t lend themselves into something they’re not. So, if we changed our approach and we make ourselves irresistible, finally what we will present is the same eternal God and his same Book. By this I don’t mean God and the Bible aren’t that irresistible. They’re way more irresistible than anything we can imagine. BUT, they are what they are and maybe, just maybe, in the end, no matter how much love, that’s exactly what people have been rejecting.

  2. Derik on November 22, 2018 at 2:19 am

    Churches are not Christian at all anymore. They haven’t been for a long long time! They are about collecting money and making a name for themselves. They aren’t about reaching out to those in pain, those who are suffering. Yeah many churches run charity events, but what is that when they have people begging them for help with advice on being saved and escaping addiction? ALL churches in the Indiana area that I tested completely ignored me when I sent in requests to get counseling for addiction support, stating that I had a desire to be saved.

    Religion is completely man-made. There is nothing spiritual about it.

  3. Brian on October 30, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    Great article and in regards to point #2 – indifference INSIDE the church is hurting us as much or more than indifference outside of the church. Those on the outside of the church are becoming indifferent to the church because those on the inside have become indifferent to those on the outside. It is a vicious circle that will never bring the two sides together. And when it comes to reaching the younger generations, including teenagers, I see a lot of indifference from the older generations inside of the church. Reaching teenagers means creating a youth group that is mainly disconnected from the main body of the church so that it doesn’t disrupt the “adult environment”. As long as there is something for the youth on Wednesday night they don’t worry about the fact that there are very few if any teenagers in the morning worship service on Sunday. The generations within the church are becoming more and more distant and disconnected but it seems like very few adults are truly concerned about it as long as Sunday morning remains like it always has for them. In my opinion, we are starting to reap what we have sown for so many years as we have separated out the younger generations and failed to integrate them into the church in a meaningful way. We helped make them outsiders by creating separate programs for them and then when they become adults they tend to just walk away because they have never been connected to the rest of the church in any meaningful way.

  4. Mike Hiscock on October 21, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    Hi Carey,

    Love the insights of your blog.

    When young people in your church are conversing with friends about Jesus, what questions are being asked? What apologetics topics to you feel most need to be addressed? We are now organizing the breakout topics for our 2019 Apologetics Canada conference, so your blog is very timely.

    Just picked up Andy’s book.

    Thank you

  5. Dave Matas on September 28, 2018 at 6:58 am

    I have always enjoyed Andy Stanley’s insights. These are all good points churches should wrestle with and I would put particular emphasis on walking in love and then answering the “why not?” Question in, not just every message, but everything the church does.

  6. Beth Grant-DeRoos on September 27, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    The question if you’re a practicing Christian, how comfortable would you be randomly walking into a mosque next weekend, or a synagogue, or a Buddhist Temple? is interesting.

    Has me asking do most Christians only know other Christians and never get invited to weddings, etc. at a mosque, a synagogue, or a Buddhist Temple, LDS, Catholic church by co workers or non Christian friends?

    Knew Christopher Hitchens casually, and he was always civil to me, had a great sense of humor, was more conservative politically, and wasn’t grumpy, uncivil, meanspirited like Richard Dawkins

  7. Irwin on September 27, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Thank you Carey,
    I just recently listened to your interview with Andy Stanley. Sooo good. I saw the principles in action in a conversation I had with a young professional yesterday. I can’t wait to read “Irresistible”, right after I finish another great book about stuff we didn’t see coming….

  8. Daniel Decker on September 27, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    This is a great article but… so what?

    Just kidding. Really. Love it. Especially #5. That should be a filter we all run communication through if we want to be more effective not just in ministry but also in life.

  9. Ben on September 27, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Carey!
    Great observations. I’m with you, and got to see Andy and you live in Irvine two weeks ago. Fantastic content.

    Andy’s critics seem to have the biggest trouble with his statement of unhinge or unhitch the NT from the OT. Reading Luke 5:36-39 Jesus seems to agree with that thought, that new wine would burst the old wine skins. The ESV Study editors had this to say “The point of these two metaphors is that one cannot mix the old and the new covenant, and that the NC era inaugurated by Jesus’ coming will require repentance, regeneration, and new forms of worship.”

  10. ricky on September 27, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Thank you sharing useful nuggets on reaching the lost .All the several points I relate to ,

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