This is a book discussion of Andy Stanley’s book ‘Irresistible’ prompted by @tabby68, @O_wretched_man, @Lakshmismehta and @andrew.bulin . There have been some accusations against the book and we would like to take the time to hear what Andy Stanley is really trying to say and to offer thoughtful, gracious critique. Below is a podcast interview with Andy Stanley you may find helpful as well as the original post that started the discussion.
To participate - read along with us and share your thoughts and opinions My thoughts are here hopefully to prompt discussion - so please do join in with your observations / thoughts so that we can all benefit from your perspective. May the Lord Jesus guide our discussion.
Big Idea: Why is the church so resistible? Jesus wasn’t. Once upon a time, his church wasn’t either. I’m convinced it’s the mixing, blending, and integration of the old (temple and empire) with the new that makes the modern church so resistible.
Jesus and the early Church were irresistible because they offered the world a new way of life that stood in contrast to both temple and empire. The only thing absolutely necessary to enter in to this new way of life is to accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness of your sins - you don’t need to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture or understand why God allows suffering in order to begin this new way of life. The reason the Church is so irresistible is that it has allowed old things - temple and empire concerns - to pollute the new way that Jesus offered. Through history reformers have stood up to help the Church free itself of these old values and to continue walking in the new covenant offered by Christ. To understand why this new way is so radical, we first need to understand the old covenant, the Old Testament.
I like how Stanley pointed out that we don’t need to have all the answers to begin walking with Jesus. Too often people want to have all their questions answered before they start the journey, but in many cases the answers will not become comprehensible until you’ve taken that first step of obedience or further along the journey. I also like how he gave a quick overview of the history of Christianity and how it was negatively influenced by being accepted as the state religion - I feel like he is setting us up to understand what has happened to American Christianity. He also very clearly says what the new covenant stood in contrast to - empire and temple - power and legalism.
I also liked how he pulled in the idea that Jesus is the fulfillment of the hope of all mankind - pagan and Jewish alike.
I’m not sure I think Jesus was really quite as irresistible as Stanley makes Him out to be - there were those who rejected or ignored Him, like in his hometown of Nazareth or in the city where He healed the demoniac. The people who followed Him around on occasion only wanted food or healing - they did not truly understand His offer of salvation.
John 1:10 - He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
I think the parable of the sower is helpful here - Jesus’ words, if they fell on good soil, always produced fruit. But there were those who were more concerned with the worries of the world - the values of empire and temple - then they were with the true religion Jesus offered.
Sometimes I think we feel guilty after hearing this type of message for not being as irresistible as Jesus. But we are not Jesus, first of all. And second of all, not everyone was attracted to Jesus. Many were simply attracted to the power (like the zealots), healing or food that were offered.
John 2:23-25 - Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
Modern, mainstream Christianity is fatally flawed.
The populist version of cultural Christianity we see today is anchored to two assumptions that create a straw-man version of our faith.
I’ve yet to hear a story from anyone who abandoned Christianity based on anything directly related to Christianity—at least the original version, anyway.
I recently read a blog by a former worship leader who left the faith after she read a book “proving” contradictions in the Bible. Apparently, she grew up believing the foundation of our faith is a non-contradicting book. It’s not.
Pain and suffering don’t disprove the existence of God. It only disproves the existence of a god who doesn’t allow pain and suffering. Whose god is that? Not ours.
In all my years of ministry, I’ve only had one conversation with an unbeliever—a Jewish friend—who had an objection to Christianity based on anything to do with the claims of Jesus. “Andy,” he said, “I just don’t believe someone can pay for someone else’s sins. I believe each of us is responsible for our own sins.” I smiled and said, “Well, congratulations, you’re standing on the threshold. That is the issue.”
There was something about the faith of these first- and second-century believers that made it attractive, compelling, and seemingly irresistible.
Jesus was sent by the Father to introduce something entirely new.
When we invite unbelieving, misbehaving troublemakers to join us, they should be intrigued—if not inclined—to accept our invitation.
Jesus was arrested and crucified because he was too popular. He was crucified for drawing too large of a crowd. People who were nothing like him liked him. And he liked them back. He was hard to resist. Impossible to dismiss. Why? He offered something new.
Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of Judaism and a replacement for paganism.
argued that Judaism and paganism both pointed to a day when God would unleash something new in the world, for the world. Those with eyes to see would recognize it.
His new movement would be international. The new covenant would fulfill and replace the behavioral, sacrifice-based systems reflected in just about every religion of the ancient world. His new command would serve as the governing behavioral ethic for members of his new movement.
The new Jesus introduced stood in stark, blatant, and unambiguous contrast to the values and assumptions of both empire and temple.
reformers would dedicate, and on occasion forfeit, their lives to free the church of the values, culture, and tone of empire and temple.