Over the weekend, CNN posted a lengthy story about the tenuous relationship between two prominent Atlanta preachers: Charles Stanley and his son, Andy. I’ve remarked to a couple people lately what an interesting time we’re in, as we watch the sons (and occasionally daughters) of prominent evangelicals. Of course, we’ve seen it writ large with Franklin Graham and Robert Schuller’s children recently. But I’ve also had the pleasure of befriending Jay Bakker, Sean McDowell, Chuck Smith, Jr., and a few others. Those sons bear a heavy burden.
I’ve only met Andy Stanley, pastor of the massive North Pointe Church, once, but it was memorable.
Several years ago, I was speaking at a pastors’ conference at Columbia Seminary in Atlanta. Columbia is a PC(USA) school, and the chapel was full of mainline pastors to hear Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Barbara Brown Taylor, and me.
Andy Stanley came to the conference. He sat in the crowd and listened to our talks and took notes. I believe he shared a cup of coffee with Brian.
Andy Stanley probably cannot eat at a restaurant in Atlanta without being recognized — 33,000 attend his church — and yet not a single mainline pastor at Columbia recognized him. Humbly, he sat under our teaching, and he learned.
Very few megachurch pastors would do such a thing. In fact, I’m hardpressed to think of one who would. But Andy Stanley did, and that tells me a lot about him.