This week, Atlanta pastor Andy Stanley preached at President Obama's pre-inaugural worship service at St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. In the course of his remarks, Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, called the President "Pastor in Chief." This caused a whirlwind of comments and criticisms, to which Stanley wanted to reply. I talked with him by phone, and asked him about the context of this remark, as well as the content of his sermon and the Christian's public responsibility toward Presidents with whom we disagree on crucial issues. —Mark Galli, editor.
How did this recent invitation to preach at the pre-inauguration service come about?
Joshua DuBois, who works for the President, called me a couple of weeks before the event and asked me if I would do the 12-minute sermon at the pre-inaugural service. They've done this for many years. It was pretty much an Episcopal service, very high church, hymns, readings. Mostly Christians were there, except for two rabbis who read portions of Scripture—I believe they were rabbis. I was very honored and surprised to be asked.
Who attends this sort of thing?
The President's family, the vice-president's family, and the cabinet and their families. I think some invited members of Congress. And then there were a lot of church members. The place was full. I would guess five hundred people.
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. And I knew immediately ...