Popular pastor says evangelicals are too concerned with winning

Atlanta based megachurch pastor Andy Stanley has a new book coming out titled “Not in it to win it: why choosing sides sidelines the church.” 

From the description of the book: 

“Is it possible to disagree politically and love unconditionally? The reaction of evangelicals to political and cultural shifts in recent years revealed what they value most. Lurking beneath our Bible-laced rhetoric, faith claims, books, and sermons is a relentless drive to WIN!

But the church is not here to win. By every human measure, our Savior lost. On purpose. With a purpose. And we are his body. We are not in it to win anything. We are in it for something else entirely. That something else is what this book is about.”


We’re in the middle of a major cultural shift where numerous things have become mainstream which are antithetical to the gospel, and Andy Stanley wants to concern himself with evangelical Christians trying too hard to win? 

A baker in Colorado had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to assert his right not to have to bake cakes for gay weddings. And he’s been harassed by LGBT groups ever since. This week, a handful of baseball players for the Tampa Bay Rays refused to wear pride themed jerseys and they’ve been vilified. Chick-fil-a is a constant source of ire because the company has evangelical Christian values and used to donate money to some causes who had the audacity to affirm traditional marriage. Charlotte, North Carolina lost the 2019 NBA All Star game because the state would not allow transgender people to use their preferred bathroom. And countless other examples. 

There’s incredible venom and vitriol against any who stand up to these social pressures. The culture bullies anyone who stands up against these social issues and labels them as hateful and bigoted.  

And Andy Stanley wants to say evangelicals are too focused on winning? 

Evangelicals are just trying to stand up against being forced to comply with this paganism of our society. 

Think of all of the major cultural institutions who have thrown in with the progressive left in the culture wars. The media, Hollywood, social media companies, higher education, healthcare, (increasingly) big corporations, professional sports, and on and on and on. 

And so with all of these major institutions already being to the left, Stanley’s comments are easy to make about those on the right. It’s easy to say that too many evangelical Christians and leaders make too much of an idol of politics. But what’s hard to say is that there are too many liberal churches who have embraced abortion and the LGBT movement and that these beliefs are unbiblical. 

I don’t find Stanley’s thesis to be particularly interesting or original. Russell Moore says similar things, Beth Moore, the Gospel Coalition, Tim Keller in his own cryptic way. I feel like I see a similar commentary every week. In the mainstream Christian media (Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, Religion News Service), the call for political moderation only seems to go one way. It’s the argument that evangelicals are too conservaitve (and everyone else is just fine).   

“Evangelicals are too political.” I think of churches where I’ve served and attended. And yes, more people were probably voting republican than democrat. But politics was not the focal point of what we were doing or what was being taught. And someone who believed differently about politics was still welcome (and many such people served these churches in meaningful ways). 

Are there evangelical churches that are more politicized than the churches that I’ve attended and served? I’m sure there are. 

But for every evangelical church that wants to conflate republicanism with the gospel, there are rainbow flag waving churches who clearly have cast their own political lot with the left. For those churches, not only are they too political, but they’re also out of step with the Bible. Where’s the call for these churches to repent? 

Stanley argues “By every human measure, our Savior lost.” It is true that Jesus willingly gave up his life for his people. Jesus was unjustly arrested, tortured, and crucified. And he also never turned a blind eye to sin.

A common argument I hear is that evangelicals should be more loving to our neighbor. Stanley writes, “The moment our love for or concern for country takes precedence over our love for people in our country we are off mission.” I would argue that part of loving the country and the people within the country is wanting what’s best for both the country and its people and that the progressive cultural issues which dehumanize the unborn, which say that gender is a social construct are both bad for the country and for its people.

It isn’t loving to stand idly by. Yes, we can’t force people to live a certain way, but we should stand up to a society that is trying to force a contrary set of values upon us and everyone else. And one of the tools to combat these issues is politics, how we vote, who we vote for, and what we support. 

I too would say that we should not make idols of politics or make saviors out of politicians. Politics and “winning” are not all important. But they are also not unimportant. 

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