While Louie Giglio withdrew from delivering the benediction at the presidential inauguration, another Georgia pastor, Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church, proceeded with his duty of delivering the pre-inauguration sermon at a church service held prior to the inaugural ceremony. The ecumenical service was held at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House and included hymns, prayers, Scripture reading and a performance by R&B singer Ledisi. The sermon, delivered by Stanley, discussed how a person may “leverage power” for the benefit of others.
To begin his sermon, Stanley had the gumption to declare that the president should perhaps wear the title of “pastor-in-chief.” The Washington Examiner shares more details:
President Obama’s recent response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., convinced the pastor who preached at this morning’s pre-inaugural church service that the president has the cleric’s touch.
Obama should be called “Pastor in Chief,” said Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., after he “thanked POTUS for work after Newtown shooting tragedy when he spoke to mourners.”
Some Christians understandably bristle at such a statement, as there is far more to being a pastor than merely extending kindness to those in grief. It certainly is not the duty of the president to act as a pastor, especially when that president has demonstrated that his platform is based upon the sins of Romans 1. Ironically, it is the very fact that a vote for a presidential candidate is not a vote for a “pastor-in-chief” that allowed many Christians to support the Republican candidate, Mormon Mitt Romney, in November’s election. There is little doubt that many would have preferred that, rather than complimenting the president in this manner, evangelical pastor Stanley would instead have called him to repent for his support of the sins of abortion and homosexuality, among others.
According to reports, Andy Stanley transitioned his sermon from this statement to telling the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples as found in John 13. Stanley then stated,
The takeaway: What do you do when in a position of power? You leverage that power for the benefit of other people in the room. Mr. President, you have an awfully big room. Source
The Apostle John’s record of this event leaves one with many truths. One may focus on Peter’s reluctance to have his feet washed by his Master. If so, then one may learn that, while the cleansing of salvation is eternal and complete, even those who have been saved must still repent of their sins before God and be cleansed of daily sin as they continue to be sanctified. If one focuses instead on the picture of the Savior of the world stooping to wash the filthy feet of His disciples, as Stanley apparently did, then one ought to walk away with an incredible sense of the humility and love demonstrated by Christ Jesus toward His own. Is the true “takeaway” from this story that Jesus knew how to “leverage His power”? Or is it instead a model of selfless service and humility rooted not in one’s position, but in love for one another?
Interestingly, Stanley, like Louie Giglio, last year came under fire over a sermon discussing homosexuality. In April 2012, Stanley delivered a sermon entitled, “When Gracie Met Truthy,” in which he described a “microcosm of the church.” In an anecdote shared by Stanley, this “microcosm” included a woman, her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s daughter, her own daughter, her ex-husband, and her ex-husband’s homosexual partner. It was claimed by some, including Dr. Al Mohler, that Stanley appeared to normalize the sin of unrepentant homosexuality within this message. Stanley’s response to the criticism was to ask people to listen to his sermon series in its entirety, however even upon the conclusion of the messages, some remained unclear as to Andy Stanley’s stance on the subject.