Adrian Stanley’s pre-inaugural worship service: leverage in the Vicarage

In Christianity today (1/25/2013) appears Mark Galli’s interview with Adrian Stanley, “Did Andy Stanley Really Mean Obama Is ‘Pastor in Chief’?” Stanley preached at President Obama’s pre-inaugural worship service in Washington.

I surfed the web for Stanley’s sermon but only managed to find out that his sermon was about the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.  But I mostly got bedevilled by a deluge of “Andy Stanley says Obama is Pastor in chief. Andy Stanley says Obama is Pastor in chief. Andy Stanley says Obama is Pastor in chief. As a good Jew would ask: What’s the pork!” Here is Stanley’s explanation (from his interview):

[At the pre-inaugural service,] I knew that I didn’t want to get up and just launch into a sermon. When you’re in an environment where you have no personal connection with anyone in the room—and I certainly didn’t—as a speaker, you want to find a personal connection. I thought,Well, here is something that I felt deeply and here we have all these clergy on this stage. So I said something like, “Mr. President, I don’t know the first thing about being President, but I know a bit about being a pastor. And during the Newtown vigil on December 16th after we heard what you did—I just want to say on behalf of all of us as clergy, thank you.” And I added, “I turned to Sandra that night and said, ‘Tonight he’s the Pastor in Chief.’ So that’s the context. I wasn’t making a declaration that he’s our Pastor in Chief. But I can understand how that got reported.”

Some Christians know that in the New Testament and early church there never was such a person as a Chief Pastor (shepherd), and so there never should be such a person in the Christian church today. So, if Stanley wants to call Obama Pastor in Chief, it’s ok, ’cause it has nothing to do with the faith practised by the saints (that is, ordinary followers of Christ). Stanley’s critics might have a knee-jerk reaction and accuse Stanley of arrogating to Obama the same title as the Lord Jesus Christ, “Chief Shepherd” and quote John 10 (maybe some have done so):

[11] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. [12] He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. [13] He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. [14] I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, [15] just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. [16] And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
(John 10:11-16 ESV)

Don’t be silly, Stanley is not dumb; he knows that Jesus does not call himself the Chief Pastor, because before he created the church, there was only one Pastor, and only one good Pastor. Enough said about the “Pastor in Chief.” I have my own pork to grind with Stanley, of a linguistic kind with theological repercussions, as with much of theology:

Bob Weir and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead ...

Bob Weir and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead performing at the Mid-Atlantic Inaugural Ball during the Obama Inaugural. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

his penchant for the word “leverage,” which he uses several times in his pre-inaugural sermon. I had come across Stanley’s use of the term elsewhere. But first here is Stanley’s occurrences of “leverage” in the “Pastor in Chief” interview:

(Questions in italics)

1. How did you settle on a theme to preach on?

When Joshua invited me I knew immediately what I wanted to talk about, and it’s something I talk a lot about at leadership conferences—the idea that people with power are called upon to leverage their power for people who don’t have power.

2. So what did you say in the sermon?

[…] I talked about the tension that was in the room between the disciples, because they’d just been arguing about who’s going to be the greatest. Jesus removed their excuses. So those of us who follow Jesus, this is the example: You leverage your power for the sake of other people in the room. Then I told the President at the very end, “Mr. President, you have a very big room.” And he smiled. I said, “It’s as big as the nation. It’s as big as our world. And my prayer for you is that you continue to leverage this stewardship of power for the sake of our nation and the world.”

3. What do you mean by that? (“you just gave away influence”).

(Stanley had said previously “For the people who tweeted all those hateful things [about Stanley]—I won’t even mention names—well, I don’t [know] why they did it. I thought, Okay, you just gave away influence).

If I work for you, and I’m in that meeting with you and you have an idea, I don’t embarrass you or criticize your idea there. Then if I come to you privately and ask you questions, you’re going to listen to me. If I embarrass you in front of the whole group, I’ve lost leverage with you. Now, again, there are lines. There are things that you don’t cross. I’m not abandoning theology.

(End of interview excerpt)

Leverage” has the metaphorical meaning of “to exert power or influence,” so in all four instances, Stanley’s usage is appropriate. 

I’ve now prepared the ground for the main point I want to make, which has to do with his last sentence, “I’m not abandoning theology.” Stanley has received much censure for doing exactly that when he entered the camp of the “Pastor in Chief.” But what I want to do now is to talk about another situation where I suggest Stanley has indeed abandoned “old paths” theology. In the second video of the Louie Giglio series “God is so great,” Andy Stanley says the following: ” “He will have leveraged your sin for his glory’s sake. He (God) will not be undone.” This means, according to the dictionary definition of “leverage” that God will have exerted a power or influence over a person’s sin for His glory. 

Stanley uses the term “leverage” repeatedly.“As creatures who were created with more potential to reflect His glory than anything else in creation, it is our role, it is our duty, it is our opportunity to reflect the Glory of God who invites us to call Him ‘Father’” even as a race who has abused the privilege of our freedom. It means that in the middle of your wealth, your pain, of gain of loss… you can ask God ‘how can this be leveraged for your glory.’” 

Then follows a few more questions asking God how whatever in one’s life can “be leveraged for your glory”:

At the end of the day, we can say ‘God) if you can leverage sin for your glory, certainly you can leverage this (my life’s situations), and I make it available to you. It’s for your glory. It is for your glory. It is for your glory.’ And when that happens life begins to make sense, for suddenly we are living our lives in the context of life, which is the glory of God – the Father.”

God’s “leverage” of sin seems to resonate with the “new-model” of God, who, says Macarthur, “never demands any payment for sin as a condition of forgiveness. According to the new-model view, if Christ suffered for our sins, it was only in the sense that he “absorb[ed] our sin and its consequences”—certainly not that He received any divinely-inflicted punishment on our behalf at the cross.” But I might be too harsh. (See The “New Model” of Evangelism: Has God also leveraged forgiveness out of his vocabulary?

I’m old and old school: God may leverage (exert power over) my sin in some sense (I think Stanley means “turn it for good”), but the main thing he does is forgive it. I repent and God – why doesn’t Stanley just say it? – forgives.

I wonder whether Stanley, in his pre-inaugural, mentioned “sin,” which would certainly have been taken as personal. “Leverage of sin,” although post-modern, might have been better than no sin at all. But I suppose such talk at this inclusive event would have turned the American dream into an American scream.

Someone, however, who has access to Stanley’s sermon, might inform me that Stanley did indeed mention “sin.” Will I look foolish! But more important, if he did, kudos for Stanley.

In passing, someone may ask, “What’s with the grateful dead?” Well some will be, most won’t. Something to do with forgiveness and sin.


One thought on “Adrian Stanley’s pre-inaugural worship service: leverage in the Vicarage

  1. ” Some Christians know that in the New Testament and early church there never was such a person as a Chief Pastor (shepherd), and so there never should be such a person in the Christian church today.”
    This is such a typical way of reading of the only “Scriptures men” 🙂 Where do you put Peter…in the closet? Are we treating him as a in the closet kind of pastor in chief? Did you read the Scriptures? I am starting wondering about it. As Catholic I am supposed to be the one blessed with ignorance here..I will become very soon jealous about not be anymore the only blessed ignorant . He didn’t call himself Pastor in Chief…It would have been not humble enough…Peter speaks about Jesus as being the Pastor in Chief…but actually in the Gospel directly is recounted that he was immediately renamed Rock by Christ himself…wowwww….in your closet there is a rock that you are not considering 🙂
    John 21:15-17
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    Jesus and Peter
    15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

    And you know the sad thing? In England a bad king was made the Pastor in Chief and now….a president of a not so kosher country 🙂 not a bad country…but stilll…as every other leading country, doomed to an end

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