The “Quieter Middle Space”
The year 2023 has been interesting in evangelical circles. Christian nationalism, political theology, and eschatology have all been central debates within conservative circles. That being said, I believe that some issues over the last couple of weeks must be highlighted as we prepare to move forward into another year. Andy Stanley hosted the Unconditional Conference in September which was geared “for parents of LGBTQ+ children and for ministry leaders looking to discover ways to support parents and LGBTQ+ children in their churches.”1 This conference was problematic on multiple levels. The conference speaker list included two men in homosexual “marriages.”2 Advertising for the conference promised that it would be a “quieter middle space” to engage the topic of the LGBTQ+ children.3 Another speaker at the event is David Gushee who has described the Bible as being “deeply problematic.” At the end of the day, this was a conference designed to back away from the biblical teaching on sexuality and try to craft a “middle space” between conservative biblical teaching and the secular progressive agenda.
Stanley’s own sermon went viral for a quote saying “That version of Christianity draws lines. Jesus drew circles.”5 G3 ministries president Dr. Josh Buice summarizes the issue well:
“It was clear from the beginning, what Stanley was doing was pointing people away from the biblical ethic of love which communicates truth. Andy Stanley points people away from the biblical teachings of Christianity to an ancient error of compromise and a sexual ethic that is driven by the winds of culture rather than words of Scripture.”6
Dr. Buice’s full response is well worth the read. But, my concern for this post is to highlight something of a common theme. Andy Stanley is appealing to those who want to be squarely in the supposedly “quieter middle space.” That mythical location where it is assumed one can keep going without rocking the boat simply living without major controversy. It is not a position that has a backbone. No doubt, it will be one which sadly sucks in many individuals because of the deceptive lies packaged in fanciful ways appealing to the flesh. Yet, I believe that it is an equally devastating appeal which initially led many to support BLM back in 2020 and before which exposes a fundamental flaw that needs to be highlighted.
The Problematic Support of Black Lives Matter
How is it that an organization bent on the destruction of the biblical family and that promotes a radically progressive Marxist agenda ended up gaining steam in professing evangelical circles? One of the key answers to that question comes in a post released by The Gospel Coalition in 2016. Note well this key statement:
“The Black Lives Matter founders, some of whom identify as queer and/or a sexual minority, list the affirmation and inclusion of LGBTQ individuals in their platform. The Civil Rights Movement did not.
In sum, there are enough major differences to say Black Lives Matter is not an extension or rebirth of the Civil Rights Movement. Still, I strongly recommend full engagement with the concept and critical engagement with the movement, especially since there’s no evangelical alternative to Black Lives Matter. It grieves me deeply to say there’s no evangelical movement robustly, consistently, and practically affirming the value of disparaged black people. So we must be careful how we criticize Black Lives Matter in the absence of an evangelical alternative.”7
Please, dear friends, observe the statement in great detail. Even with the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ agenda, this piece recommends engagement with BLM. Primarily because the speaker Mika Edmondson does not believe there is an evangelical alternative. This led him to say:
“The fact that Black Lives Matter leaders distinguish themselves from the church and has queer leadership is just an indictment against the evangelical church. They have more moral sense than we do!” 8
To be blunt, this statement has not aged well. An organization with “queer leadership” does not have more moral sense than the church of Jesus Christ purchased by His own blood guided by His Word. Instead, many faithful voices have warned every step of the way about the perverse agenda of BLM. The BLM agenda led them to stand in support of Palestine during the aftermath of the Hamas attacks against Israel. Hamas sent paragliders into Israel to brutally murder and take captive hundreds of individuals and BLM is standing in support of Palestine even calling the acts of Israel “genocide.”9 BLM never has had a true moral compass nor have they promoted that which is righteous as defined by God’s Word. They stand for evil and perverse ideologies that are against the Scripture and against our Lord Jesus Christ. Because they were not grounded in Christ and His Word from the beginning (in fact opposed to both) they have consistently been off course every step of the way. Where is the retraction from TGC in the wake of all this? This piece was a pointing to a movement in an act of compromise because seemingly nothing else was available. The church doesn’t join forces with the world folks, that is never going to bring redemptive change by the power of Christ.
Tying The Themes Together
Andy Stanley and BLM do not work together. But, “evangelicals” following Stanley’s course and those supporting BLM have one thing in common . . . compromise. It may be because they do not think there is a better alternative, because they are seeking a quiet place, or because they want to gain cultural popularity. There are a whole host of other possible options as to what could be at play, but the main theme is compromise. It is a joining with the world to be more like the world and follow the course of the world. You had better believe that as we head into 2024 and the future beyond there will be countless more instances of compromise. Brothers and sisters, we must stand firmly unmoved on the basis of God’s Word. The great need of our day is a return to the Lordship of Christ and a relentless commitment to the sufficiency of His Word and the power of the Gospel to save sinners. You will not save souls by seeking a middle place with the LGBTQ movement nor by promoting what the world deems is moral. It is only by Christ acting through the power of the Gospel that souls are saved by His grace. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 highlights the weapons we have been given as the church:
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” -2 Corinthians 10:4-6
If you want to stand firm in the days ahead, by the power of Christ you must have a pure zeal for His glory, a total submission to His Word, and walk in absolute trust in who He is every day. The temptation to compromise with the world and the devil will come in a host of different packages, but we must resist by the power of the Scripture. Let us resolve to live, preach, teach, and stake our hopes on Christ and His perfect Word. In a day of professing evangelicals compromising and seeking to appeal to the world, may we as the church seek a different path. During an era when countless say that which is evil is actually good, let us speak the truth without any fear. May we preach the Gospel that souls will be saved, saints discipled, and Christ’s name lifted high. Be assured, the temptation is coming, but let us stand firm in our Lord who holds us fast!
4 David Gushee, After Evangelicalism: The Path To A New Christianity, p. 30, Kindle. (Note for a more robust interaction with Gushee’s position on Scripture see my article here: https://thechristianmanifesto.org/785/deconstructionists-and-biblical-inerrancy-engaging-deconstruction/)