Andy Stanley's many books and preaching style demonstrate his passion for reaching unchurched people. The founder and senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, aims not only to effectively and engagingly communicate the gospel to an audience with wide-ranging beliefs and backgrounds (31,000 people attend North Point's five campuses any given Sunday) but also to help other preachers do the same. Stanley talked with CT assistant online editor Kevin P. Emmert about the best ways preachers can communicate the gospel to unchurched and biblically-illiterate people in their congregations.
Is it fair to assume unchurched people are biblically illiterate?
Obviously, there is a continuum, but I think it is safe to assume biblical illiteracy. At the same time, however, preachers need to be careful not to talk down to people. And there's a way to do that. Most pastors I listen to start halfway up the ladder and then go up from there. But there's a happy medium where we assume a certain social and cultural sophistication, but not a biblical sophistication.
Whenever pastors assume people in their congregation know certain things, they miss opportunities to teach. If a pastor makes assumptions year after year, then a whole generation has never heard [that truth] for the first time. If we assume too much, we communicate too little. Starting from the bottom rungs of the ladder every time we open the Scripture is really important. We often need to reinforce basic things we assume people may know. In my experience, just because people have heard something once or twice doesn't mean they understand it.1