When Andy Stanley delivers the sermon at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, his words are heard not only by the 4,700 or so parishioners in the sanctuary, but by tens of thousands of others who watch a real-time videocast at four other campuses.
Photo: Hyosub Shin
Photo: Hyosub Shin

North Point pastor apologizes for small church, 'selfish' parents comments

A metro Atlanta megachurch pastor is in the hot seat for remarks he made about small churches and the parents that attend them in one of his recent sermons, according to a recent Christianity Today report.

Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, referred to parents who attend churches with small congregations and no student ministries as “stinking selfish” in a Feb. 28 message titled “Saved By The Church,” according to the report by the media outlet, known for its coverage of Bible-based ministries.

North Point Community Church is a ministry with six locations across the metro Atlanta area.

Stanley founded North Point Ministries in 1995. The church's services now reach 30,000 parishioners at campuses in Alpharetta, Buckhead, Decatur and Sugar Hill, according to North Point's website.

According to the online magazine, Stanley said in his sermon:

"When I hear adults say, 'Well I don’t like a big church, I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody.'

I say, 'You are so stinking selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids [or] anybody else’s kids' … If you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult.

Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church. Instead… you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church. They go to college, and you pray that there will be a church in the college town that they connect with. Guess what? All those churches are big."

Stanley swiftly received online criticism for his message, with some online commenters rejecting the megachurch pastor’s comments.

One such critic was California pastor Karl Vaters, who wrote a Christianity Today blog, “Dear Andy Stanley, Please Be the Small Church’s Ally, Not Our Enemy," on the preacher's sermon. 

“Andy Stanley – a guy I like, though we've never met – has engaged in some seriously small thinking by using some of the strongest insults I've ever heard uttered in a public forum against small churches,” the pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship said in his blog post.

In response to the social media criticism, Stanley issued an apology on Twitter Thursday:

In his interview with Christianity Today, Stanley expounded upon his Twitter apology.

"I’m not looking for sympathy here," he said. "It was devastating because my words undermined the importance, significance, and sacrifice of thousands of church planters and ministry leaders."

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An earlier version of this story included tweets incorrectly described as reacting to Stanley's apology.