Episode 35: Growing (our Faith) as Grown-Ups
with Andy Stanley

If you've been with us for any amount of time, you know that one of our taglines here at The Leaders Lyceum is ‘Developing the Whole Person'.  

Andy Stanley sits down with Keith to discuss what it means to have a faith that grows and matures with us, and how difficult circumstances, tragedies, even doubt itself, can cause us to grow when we choose to embrace the challenge. 

About our guest

Connect with Andy on Instagram,   Facebook,
at North Point Ministries,   YouTube,  
Apple Podcast,  Your Move 
& via his  website

Communicator, author, and pastor Andy Stanley founded Atlanta-based North Point Ministries (NPM) in 1995. Today, NPM consists of eight churches in the Atlanta area and a network of nearly 100 churches around the globe that collectively serve nearly 185,000 people weekly. A survey of U.S. pastors in Outreach Magazine identified Andy as one of the ten most influential living pastors in America.

Andy holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from Georgia State University and a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is the author of more than 20 books, including Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets; Irresistible; The New Rules for Love, Sex & Dating; How to Be Rich; Deep & Wide; Enemies of the Heart; When Work & Family Collide; Visioneering; and Next Generation Leader.

His success reaches well beyond the Atlanta area. Over 10.5 million of his messages, leadership videos, YouTube videos, and podcasts are accessed each month.

Your Move with Andy Stanley
premiered on NBC after Saturday Night Live in 2012 and on CBS after The Late Late Show with James Corden in 2017, giving him an even wider audience with which to share his culturally relevant, practical insights for life and leadership. Currently, over ten million messages are consumed each month through television, YouTube, and podcasts, underscoring Andy’s impact not only as a communicator but also as an influencer of culture.

Nothing is as personal as his passion for engaging with live audiences, which he has pursued for over two decades at leadership events around the world. In high demand, he speaks at various annual events before audiences of both church and organizational leaders.

“I cannot fill their cups,” he often says of the opportunity to impact leaders in business and in ministry, “but I have a responsibility to empty mine.”

Andy and his wife, Sandra, have three grown children and live near Atlanta.

Episode transcript

Keith: All right, Andy Stanley, welcome to the Growing as Grown-Ups podcast.

Andy: Thanks for including me.  

Keith: So excited to have you here. You know, the audience might not know this, but I have been a part of the Northpoint ministry system involved with Buckhead Church down in Atlanta. I've got to see you as a communicator, I think one of the greatest anywhere as a leader. I've always said that your leadership may exceed your communication ability, but I tell you in in terms of what we do with our audience and the content that we try and provide, I think one of the things that's been most impressive to me about you is over the last 20 years, just the growth that I've seen in you, and I don't know if you think of it that way, but you have continued from my perspective to grow in your thinking and in some ways in ways that have upset people, right?  

Andy: Yeah. Is that why they're upset? The growth in my thinking?  

Keith: I think -- yes!  

Andy: That's a great excuse -- I'm going to use it from now on. "It's because I've outgrown you in my thinking."  

Keith: Yeah. So I think it's safer for me to say that than for you to say that, but I think it is the growth in your thinking. There's been a piece of that that's amazing and, you know, one of the taglines for the Leaders Lyceum and for the work that we've done over the last almost 20 years now has been ‘developing the whole person’ and we talk a lot about leadership, we talk a lot about family, we even integrate parenting. We talk about what to do with your direct reports, friend groups, all these kinds of things but rarely do we talk about faith and I thought, "Wow, if you are willing to, who better to kind of give us some insight into how do we keep growing in our faith?" So if you're game?  

Andy: Yeah, yeah.  

Keith: You know, maybe we could start with as you've grown in your faith, right, as you have grown in your faith, we've always said that it's the harder stuff in life that grows us. When everything is just smooth sailing, there's no reason for us to change or grow in the way that we understand the world. Are there landmark challenging times that you look back on and say, "Yes, these were key markers in my life"?  

Andy: Yeah, and in full disclosure for your audience, you sent me these questions ahead of time because I like to prepare so and the questions that you sent were very challenging and so I'm glad I got them ahead of time and so in answer, so I wrote some answers down and the question of landmark transitions in terms of, again, bumping into those either events, relationships or emotions that, again, they're like a wall and it's like to get past this, I have to learn something new or I have to retreat -- and we'll talk about that a little bit -- and there were two early things for me. I'm a preacher's kid and I'm a firstborn, so I'm a rule follower by nature and what that did in me, is it made me very judgmental because I was pretty good at being good and of course, that's comparative, right? So I just became a very judgmental person, but I didn't know it because I'm blind to that. I just think, "No, I'm just -- I'm just doing things the right way, right, and everybody else is trying to figure it out," and to compound that because my dad's a pastor, he would -- and I did this with my kids, too, and I don't think this is bad -- he would come home and tell us stories about people's lives and essentially how, you know, to dip into my Christian theology, how sin had messed up their lives and ruined their lives and ruined their families and he was using this as a warning like, "Stay away from sin," and my version of that is I would bring email home to my kids and people say, "Hey, do you have family devotions?" I'm like, "No, I just read email to my kids." You know, "Here's what -- look, what happened to these folks."    So that combination of things, I decided I'm going to be a good person, I'm going to be very careful, and what I discovered, again thinking through this question, early on, I discovered that I was uncomfortable around anyone who was not like me and I didn't know why and of course, I had an excuse for it. The excuse is, "Well, I'm a good person. I'm a better person," and as I got older and kept bumping up against this, I realized there is something wrong in me and I -- it didn't cause me to abandon or question my faith, but it did cause me to question and abandon my approach to faith because I kept thinking, "If I'm a Christian and as a Christian, if I'm supposed to be like Jesus, Jesus was so comfortable around everybody and he seemed to be more comfortable around non-religious people, right, why am I so kind of wigged-out and bothered by people who aren't like me?" and I realized "This is my problem," and I think this is again, your question, the way you phrased it was -- it was very compelling. It was a landmark for me to realize I have some growing to do and some changing to do, and I don't need to dismantle or deconstruct my faith but I do need to ask the question, "Why am I so uncomfortable around people who aren't like me?" and I knew my standard narrative, you know, like we all have. But that was a big transition for me, and unfortunately, that came later in life than I even, you know, like to admit. So that was one. I, you know, there was a, you know, there was a defining moment in all of that for me. I was with the counselor who asked me a really compelling question and I'll share it with you and, again, it's within the context of my faith tradition as a Christian. He saw this in me and as any good counselor, you don't go right at it, you sneak up on it and you cause the client to learn themselves. And he asked me this question. It was so powerful, he said, "Andy, if you had been one of Jesus' disciples and you had been there when Peter denied Jesus, how would you have responded?" and before I could stop myself, I said, "He's out. Peter is out. I mean, what do you mean? What do you mean you don't even know who Jesus is? He's out," and Steve, my counselor, said, "How did Jesus respond?" and I said -- I didn't want to say it out loud -- I said, "Well, later, He put Peter in charge of the whole thing," and in that moment, you know, I just saw this ugly, judgmental thing in me. And, again, I didn't deconstruct my faith, but I had to rethink my approach to faith and it began a journey that went pretty quick and I became more comfortable around people who aren't like me. So that was a landmark. That was a big defining moment for me.  

Keith: I think, I mean, one of the things that I've seen in so many people is this fear that their faith will be dismantled if they can, if they confront what's going on in their mind, if they bump up against the way they've always kind of understood it, and I've heard you talk about maybe the reason your faith isn't working for you in adulthood is because you're still hanging on to a childlike -- or the faith of your childhood, right? There's a lot of stuff in that but when you think about this dismantling piece, do you -- mean, I think so many people stick it in a drawer, right? They keep it separate from everything that's going on at work. They're willing to lean into their growth journey and other places, but it's like they keep their faith in this little box and one of the things that I think was so cool about this episode of the podcast is it possible to kind of give people permission, maybe, to open the drawer, and are there better and worse ways to even open the drawer?  

Andy: Yeah. In terms of faith, specifically?  Keith: In terms of faith specifically.  Andy: Yeah. Yeah, and "What happens if we don't open the drawer?" -- I love that that word picture, and that was one of your questions as well, Keith. That was so great -- as long as our faith is -- as long as we've compartmentalized -- compartmentalization is terrible for anything, right? I mean, if we're for compartmentalizing, we're not connected relationally, emotionally the way -- but with faith, what happens is if you compartmentalize your faith, if it's just on Sunday and then I leave it there, our faith, like anything else, becomes a reference point as opposed to the context for the rest of our -- for all of our life. And faith as a Christian is not supposed to be a reference point. "Oh, I went to church, I was baptized, I prayed a prayer, you know, I checked the box. That's a reference point, but now I'm going to live my real life." Well, imagine trying to make your marriage a reference point. "I got married. I have a wife. She's at home," or "He's at home."  

Keith: That'd go over great.  

Andy: Exactly. You're not going to be married long. Imagine if you made parenting a reference point. "Oh, we have kids. I know their names, I know their birthdays, I know where their rooms are. It's just, you know, it's a reference point." Well, you're going to be a terrible parent. So the same is with faith. If faith is compartmentalized, if it's in a drawer, if it's left behind, if and to, I think to the point of our part of our conversation, if faith is in conflict with the real world, well, clearly there's something wrong with faith. You know, that's the kind of faith you put in a drawer because it doesn't work at work, it doesn't work at home, it doesn't work in relationships, it doesn't work when I'm under pressure. I have to go to other things. So for the person that's afraid to pull it out and hold it up against the real world, you know, we need to do that because why pretend? And I -- we can go into why I think people do that, but faith isn't designed -- the "reference-point-faith" it doesn't -- is no good when things are really tough and you really need something to, that's an anchor as opposed to, "Oh yeah, check the box."  

Keith: Hmm. Yeah. So we got off the original question about landmark events and how do we kind of integrate those into our in our lives? I know you've talked about pivotal circumstances a number of times playing a key role in people's journey. You know, you've looked back, you've recognized that there's kind of key landmark times in your life that have that have changed you. What have you seen, like, are there better and worse ways to lean into sort of pivotal circumstances, landmark events, as we are trying to grow ourselves as whole people. Grow ourselves in our faith?  

Andy: You know, if we're talking about faith specifically again -- and, again, I think it's two different things. Growing our faith, you know, I think there are things that help us grow our faith when we're just trying to be intentional, but when real life conflicts with faith or conflicts with our view of God or conflicts with what we've always been told, that is when -- I mean to the point of the podcast, that's when we grow because there's challenge and there's tension and it's always a mistake to look the other way, and in my faith tradition, I just, you know, I've just run into many, many people who just look the other way. That this real world circumstance doesn't line up with the faith that I grew up with, so I'm not going to adjust my faith or ask hard questions about my faith.  just going to look the other way.  

Keith: Yeah.  

Andy: And, of course, then faith becomes a reference point because you -- if it doesn't work in the real world and if it doesn't work within every capacity of my real life, then I'm, at some point, I'm pretending, right? I'm having to fake it. I'm just looking the other way.  

Keith: Yeah, and faking it is what a lot of people do for a big old chunk of their lives. They're worried about what other people are going to think, they're worried about -- I mean, you've caught me off guard a little bit, and I love this with this putting -- having faith only being a reference point and how ridiculous that would be in any other part of our life, right? So, I mean, all of us have lenses that we see the world through. It is our frame of reference. It's the way that we understand ourselves, it's the way that we understand our relationships that we have, it's the way that we make sense about what to do and how to interact with the world and when we take some component of our life -- any component of our life -- and isolate it, compartmentalize it, make it a thing that we're not going to deal with in these circumstances, I think we're missing out on -- because we bring the whole of who we are and if we're taking a component of who we are and not making it whole, there's no integrity in that, really. There can't be integrity in that. And so as I've thought about, you know, I think this is a thing that people bump up against. It is an opportunity for growth when the real world intersects with how I understand my faith. It's an opportunity to grow and I think one of the things that, as I did, is I wrote these questions and it's going to be hard to stay on track with the questions in order, but I want to open the door for people, right? Give them permission to just say, "This is something that I ought to look into, that I ought to deal with that I should not be scared of because eventually the big thing is going to come," that's going to -- it's going to be the death of somebody. It's going to be the loss of a child. It's going to be something big --  

Andy: Right.  

Keith: That all of a sudden this thing that you've kept in place for a really long period of time has to come out.  

Andy: There's a quote that I attached a later question, but I'm just going to go to it now. I love this is from Karen Armstrong. I think I read all of her books. I mean, I just was kind of on a tear for a while and, you know, your audience may or may not know her background but anyway, she wrote this. She said, "We --" and I think this goes to the tension point as to why we compartmentalize faith. Specifically, she said, "We often learn about God about the same time we're learning about Santa Claus as children but our ideas of Santa Claus change and mature and become more nuanced, whereas our ideas of God can remain at a rather infantile level”, and childhood God and childhood faith doesn't work in an adult world. But again, for those of us in any faith tradition where you're presented with, "Here's what God is like. Here's what God has said," you know, "Here are the stories associated with your faith and tradition," if that's as far as it goes and it never grows and it never matures and, you know, because, you know, I'm a professional Christian, I have strong opinions on why I think people who do what I do, religious leaders, keep people's faith from growing because of how they talk about faith and present faith. So when you're in a religious environment that keeps you kind of in an infantile state in terms of faith and what God is like in religious literature and all the rest, it almost makes it impossible for an adult to allow their faith to grow with them into adulthood and if it doesn't grow with you, it can't withstand the rigors of an adult world. It can't withstand the rigors of marriage or marriage problems or financial problems and so part of the problem is religious institutions are -- and we can talk about why if it's that interesting -- are not geared, I think, to help people's faith traditions grow with them.  

Keith: Yeah, I agree with that.  

Andy: And so consequently, the average person, I mean, we're busy. We're going to school, we're going to work. I don't have time to become a religious professional or a, you know, to read a dozen books and so if my point of -- if the place I'm going to help me develop a faith tradition that can survive and grow with me, if it's not doing that, then I'm kind of left to my own, and most people don't have time or the resources or even the know how to do it. So what happens? I take my childhood faith with me into adulthood and I put it in a drawer, I leave it at home, or I leave it at church because I got to go to work and I got to raise kids and I, you know, I've got to make adult decisions, and if I need it, I know it's there. So anyway.  

Keith: Yeah. So it's interesting. The adult -- the way we grow as grown-ups, the way we grow over the course of our lives, really starting in middle school but there's the kind of Piagetian childhood stages of development but those stages continue into adulthood, and you and I have talked about that at previous times a long time ago. The growth journey is from narrower, simpler, more concrete, a little more "me first", to more integrated, expansive, complex, if we keep growing, and it's the interesting --the thing that I didn't really think of when I wrote these questions, but that's bringing to mind for me right now is that we get more complex and more integrated if we keep growing in all these other areas of our lives. I mean --  

Andy: Exactly. If our faith doesn't or can't, or we haven't been taught how to do that, it can't. It just stops.  

Keith: Yeah, it's like some --  

Andy: But we want to be people of faith, so we carry our childhood, you know, we let go of Santa but we hang on to God, and...  

Keith: Yeah. Yeah, and there's a different fear around God somehow.  

Andy: Well, I think fear is a big part of why pastors and church leaders unfortunately leave people in a bit of an infantile state, and I think this is -- you, again, we...if you don't want to talk about this, I want to say with your topic.  

Keith: No, this is good.  

Andy: And you should, you know, jump in on this because you've -- we've all had our own experience of this. So, you know, I can only speak from a Christian tradition. So we're -- the Christian tradition is there as a template. Here are some things we're supposed to believe about God, the Bible, Jesus, here's -- as children, hear these facts.  

Keith: Yeah.  

Andy: And because they're foundational or fundamental, we dare not move too far away from them, less people think we're moving away from faith. Well, they become so traditional and so rooted, when pastors and preachers begin to preach and teach, they dare not drift too far from the template that we were given as children, the language we were given as children, the images we were given as children. I mean, you can have some variations on some themes, but if you get too far away, people have decided you've left the faith. So it is difficult, right? I mean, so it's difficult for people in my position sometimes to say, "No, I've not left the faith, but we have to move away from an infantile approach to anything as it relates to faith or we have to leave our faith behind." So there is a tension around absolutes and, to your point, growth and as we grow, there aren't as many answers. There's less dogmatism, there's less -- I mean, there's there has to be more openness to more things or you just can't grow. Once you stop being open to new ideas, you've stopped growing. The other quote I put in our notes -- this is from Sam Harris. This may be my favorite Sam Harris quote -- "We must pay attention to the frontiers of our ignorance."  

Keith: Oh, I love that.  

Andy: "Pay attention --" It was in a podcast, I don't know if it's in one of his books -- "Pay attention to the frontiers of our ignorance," which means we have to be outward facing, but when my worldview is threatened, my natural inclination is to turn my back to the questions and just hang on to what I've always thought and then we quit growing. Well, when you think about fundamentals of faith and absolutes that we think don't change, and the tension of, "I'm going to pay attention to the frontiers of my ignorance", there is a tension there and I think sometimes we've not equipped people -- we equip people to move into that tension in almost any other realm of life, but when it comes to religion or faith, it seems as if you can't do that. Well, I'm convinced you can, and I -- part of it is because I feel like personally, I have and you know, I try to integrate that into my communication.  

Keith: And that's my journey as well. You know, this is -- I decided -- I lost a grandfather in 2000 or 1999, maybe. One of just, like, you're lucky to get a grandfather like this if you get one and it really set me into this place where I was thinking about who do I really want to be because he had such a huge influence in my life, right? And I'm probably I don't know what I would have been at that time mid-thirties somewhere in that range, maybe a little bit older than that, and as I integrated that, I made the decision that I wanted to be the kind of person that kept growing, no matter what. That I was going to always -- that was the main thing is I wanted to push myself and I wanted to be about facilitating that growth in others. Well, Rick Warren challenged you to sort of make application of that in all different areas of your life, right, and so I thought, "Well, what's that going to mean in my faith to keep growing?" Right? And I decided early on that I was going to courageously face my doubts. I was never going to put --  

Andy: As it relates to faith?  

Keith: As it relates to faith specifically and I think that also applies probably to parenting, to values, to a number of other things as well, but faith specifically is where it gets different because the community is pretty good at ostracizing people if they even think out loud sometimes about their faith and yet doubt --  

Andy: People get nervous.  

Keith: Yeah, they do. They do.  

Andy: They get nervous for you. Yeah.  

Keith: Right, and then you get nervous and then you're thinking, "OK, this is not a safe space. All of my fear that I had about even kind of trying to process this and think through this is all going to come true now. I'm no longer going to be a part of this community. My whole life is going to have to change. My wife may not be OK with this," right? All of these kind of things. "What kind of example am I setting for my children?" I mean, I'm just -- I think I'm saying things that people are thinking, right? But if challenge is the thing that grows us, doubt is like the biggest gift we can get. If we're willing to lean into it.  

Andy: Yep. Exactly. It is a gift. It is not -- doubt is not the enemy. Doubt and questions, again, that's staying attuned to the frontiers of my ignorance. I don't know, and it's OK to say, "I don't know," but it's into the faith world, you're not supposed to say, "I don't know," you know. Jesus is the answer. Whatever the question is, Jesus is the answer. I don't know. So one of the things that I wrote in my notes because I want to make sure I drop this in because this is so helpful, is that if we get this right, in any realm of life, but I think even in faith, when we discover we've been wrong, that should be a point of celebration because now we're right, or at least we're righter -- or at least we're moving. We're more right. But as a Christian and again in any fundamentals of faith, I'm supposed -- I've already got my box. I've already got my answers. I've already got a worldview. Anything that threatens my worldview, again, I either don't look there or I feel like, to your point, "Oh, I've got to set aside the entire worldview if I look outside that worldview." But to celebrate being wrong, because now I've learned something new, if God is who Christians believe God is, there should be no fear in that. There's no conflict between God and science. There's no conflict between God and nature. There can't be, if we really believe God is who we say God is.    So, and, again, the thing that Jesus specifically in terms of warning people about more than anything else was fear. "Fear not, fear not, fear not, fear not," and yet, if you have a faith, if I have a faith in a box that makes me afraid to look outside the box or I'm afraid of what will happen to my box if I look outside the box, I've got the wrong box, clearly, again, if I take my faith tradition seriously. But there's a there's a tension there. So anyway, and again, you put yourself in my position as somebody who -- I don't want to be wrong and I don't want to ever lead people astray.  

Keith: Yeah, I know that firsthand.  

Andy: But I've got to be anchored to a -- some fundamentals, some assumptions about faith but at the same time, to stretch personally far enough to where I can continue to learn, attempt to take people with me, but not make the mistake -- and pastors do this all the time -- not make the mistake of making my faith journey the theme of my preaching or my teaching, because that's selfish and self-centered and if I do that, then I may lead people astray as I'm going astray.  

Keith: Right.  

Andy: So there's all these kinds of things swirling around. So for me, one of the most helpful things --  

Keith: Wow. I don't want to lose that last thing you said.  

Andy: Well, we can talk about that.  

Keith: Ok, can we come back to where you were going? Because I want to come back to the whole doubt thing, the fear thing, the bumping up against it thing, but I think what you just said actually hits on a thing that is really important for leaders to know, right, and maybe growing into this to take it into the Growing as Grown-Ups world, but I think for leaders to know is that there are times to share your thinking out loud and there are times not to share your thinking out loud.  

Andy: Or to be careful who you share it with.  

Keith: Or to be careful who you share it with, right? Because you could take other people off track and the stakes for --  

Andy: And you're just thinking out loud.  

Keith: And you're just thinking out loud.  

Andy: Yeah.  

Keith: But the stakes for you on a weekly basis, depending on whatever week it is, it may be 100,000 people hear the thing that you say and if you're just kind of thinking out loud to yourself, you so can't do that.  

Andy: You can't do that. I don't have that luxury and I don't think anyone who does what I do has that luxury and I think it is a misuse of our platform to do that, not because you don't want people to grow -- and it's not a lack of transparency. It's maturity, just sharing what I'm thinking and what I'm feeling because I want to be real, that's not real. That's immature.  

Keith: Right.  

Andy: Because to your point, there are different audiences for different, you know, different things we say. An example of this. I remember when Ali, my daughter, our youngest, was home from college. She was probably a freshman and I was reading a book that was kind of an off, you know, off-the-shelf, off-the-map book religiously because I just I try to read broadly and so Ali was home and we were sitting in the living room and I was telling her about this book and, you know, she loves this kind of she loves theology. So later, Sandra said, "I don't think you should talk about that with Ali," and I thought, "You're right. This is, you know, I'm older, I have bigger context." My anchor --I feel like my anchor to my faith is a chain. I feel like I'm more secure ever in what I believe, so consequently, my chain can be longer, which allows me to pay attention to the frontiers of my ignorance without being afraid I'm going to lose my faith, but here's my 20-something-year-old daughter who's in a philosophy class that's in college, which is what kind of ginned up this conversation. I thought, "Yeah, I've just -- I may have accidentally handed her a suitcase that's too heavy for her to carry," and it's not that it shouldn't be carried, but I can carry it. This is -- I may have -- and Sandra was exactly right and, you know, nothing came of it, but it was just that sensitivity of there are some things you talk about with some people and things that you don't.  

Keith: So how do you think you -- how do you find the group where not only is it safe for you to bring it up, but it's safe for them for you to bring it up? I mean, that's, you know, it's interesting. We're --  

Andy: I thought we were doing that now, right? No one's listening in to this are they?  

Keith: Oh my gosh, I just mean that's, well, I think as long as we don't unload. But, you know --  

Andy: A career-ending podcast for me.  

Keith: I won't get into the modern ones because I don't even want you to be tempted to comment on anybody who's still out there, but Thomas Martin had a huge influence on me during the middle of my life and Richard Rohr more recently in some ways and when you start reading a lot of what they're processing out loud, especially with Martin where he journaled --.  

Andy: He's publishing it, right?  

Keith: Journaling and publishing it, it shook me up at a good time for me to be shaken up, right? It's like, "Yeah, I don't think you're ready for Martin. I don't think you're ready," right? And there's a part of me that doesn't want to make that judgment for someone, there's a part of me that doesn't want to be irresponsible with the influence that I have, but there's a part of me that wants a community to continue to process what I'm thinking out loud and where is that safe? And I don't know if you've got any thoughts on that or insight on how we find people who maybe can meet us where we are in the journey. We can meet them and we can grow together in that.  

Andy: Well, I don't have any insight on how you find them, but the point you're making is an important one. We have to find them and I think one of the things that you and I are observing now with, you know, 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds deconstructing their faith, it seems that they deconstruct it on their own, on social media or with people. Perhaps, again, I don't want to judge because I don't know all of these individuals, but I guess I should put it this way. I wonder sometimes if they are processing that within this context and processing it long enough to once they've deconstructed their faith, then they begin talking about it. But to deconstruct it out loud with the wrong audience is not only dangerous, it again has the potential to plant seeds in people that they're not -- you know, the ideas with people --  

Keith: Just not where they are on the journey.  

Andy: It's not where they are on the journey and they don't have any place to turn. Again, you've just handed me a rock I've got to do something with. I'm not -- "Wow, I don't know what to do with this."  

Keith: Yeah. I mean, from my perspective and we've work a lot with the millennials, we work a lot with the young -- not so much the generation that's in high school and even in college so much now, but I think a lot of the deconstruction of faith has been actually related to the developmental journey that people are on because through our 20s -- with rare exception and into our thirties and for some people, they never actually keep growing from this stage -- their understanding of themselves, the world, God, everything else is from the outside in. It has been taught to them. It has been influenced by friend groups, groups that they affiliate with, ideologies that they have resonated with, and there is some pull. They have some ownership in what affiliations they make. But then you get to college, you get the internet, you get professors, you get people asking you to make decisions for yourself when you're really not yet at the stage of life where you're making decisions for yourself. You're not authoring who you want to be and I've got hope based on what I've seen with kind of the older millennial generation that there will be a reconstruction in a way that maybe --  

Andy: We're seeing some of that even, yeah.  

Keith: And we may say, "Oh my gosh, that's better than when they left."  

Andy: Well, see, I'm glad you said that. I think it is better. I think, because you never lose by asking honest questions if you're honest with yourself about your questions. I mean, there are people who just want to ask questions to deconstruct my faith, so they feel, I mean, there's that. But again, my limited experience but, you know, I read pretty broadly. I'm under the impression -- I mean, we're off-topic a little bit -- but this is true of any season of life when a person begins to deconstruct their faith, I'm always curious what -- tell me about the faith you're deconstructing, and in 100% of the conversations I've had in this space, the faith -- the Christian faith -- specifically that -- and these are older people as well -- that they are either consciously deconstructing or circumstances deconstructed for them. Something so traumatic happened that their faith just couldn't hold up under the weight of that. In both cases, what I've discovered is the version of faith that they're deconstructing, or the version of faith that collapsed under the weight of real life, was not the faith presented to us in the Gospels by Jesus. Because there are multiple versions of the Christian faith and so in the false versions or the immature versions or the partial versions, they don't hold up and they should be deconstructed or, going back to the beginning of our conversation, if there was a way to mature faith as we went, we would end up with a mature faith that doesn't require deconstruction. But if I take the template from elementary school and middle school and that's all I've got and then -- it just doesn't work, it doesn't hold up. So I have two choices. I can just look the other way when things conflict with it or I can examine it and say, "OK, something's got to change," and so, anyway, that's, again, that's just based on --  

Keith: This is so aligned with everything we teach, so I love this conversation. I love that we're being this overt about what I know a lot of our listeners are actually dealing with.  

Andy: Or their kids or grandkids.  

Keith: Yeah, exactly. So, I wrote a question. You've spent your entire adult life, arguably all your life, focusing on how to bring others along on their journeys. Are there a set of principles for growing well that people can put into practice that will accelerate their growth as grown-ups?  

Andy: I'll just tell you what I wrote because I love that question and, again, this is, you know, this is just my list. We have to read, I think, read broadly or listen broadly. So we get outside our bubble.  

Keith: Love that.  

Andy: And the earlier people do that, I think, the better to some extent and then I think it's so important to listen to people's stories because shared experiences -- or not even shared experiences -- different experiences that we share bring people together and in those moments, I have an, "Oh. I thought you did that because...But oh, well, now I know your story. Well, if I were you, I would do the same thing. If I were raised the way you were, I would believe the same thing. Oh," and the "oh" moments bring people together and when that happens, our bubbles collapse and then we have a bigger bubble and our worldviews get taken apart and then we have a different worldview, and if our worldview can't encapsulate or include the realities of the world and the realities of people's experience, then our worldview is wrong. It has to be able to contain that, and one of the best ways -- and it's so uncomfortable -- is to listen to people's stories and to pursue the stories of people who aren't like us or who weren't raised like us, and that's certainly not a new insight but going back to my early years as a Christian, I so insulated myself --  

Keith: That's relates to your opening story.  

Andy: Oh yeah, I insulated myself because it wasn't comfortable and I think there was a fear of, "If I listen, I'm going to let my guard down and I'm going to like these people. I'm going to feel sorry --" It's, again, there was a fear of "what's going to happen to my faith?" Well, my faith was so immature. The third thing I wrote down, and this is straight out of the book of James is, you know, just "Be quick to listen and slow to speak," right? Just be quick to listen. Be curious. Be a student, not a critic. You know, we're all critics quickly. Just, that's -- something I teach all the time with leaders. Look, when your younger people on your staff or new people come in with ideas, you know, say "wow", don't say "how". Be a student, not a critic.    And then last thing is a prayer I pray multiple times a day, and I don't say that because it's my profession. This is just, you know, my default. It's what I wake up thinking about honestly and go to bed at night thinking about. I just pray constantly, "Lord, help me to see as You see."  

Keith: Wow.  

Andy: "And help me to see people the way You see them. Help me to --" I just acknowledge I don't see clearly. I acknowledge I don't see people clearly. I acknowledge there's so much about the world I don't see clearly. "Help me to see and, specifically, help me to see people the way that You see them," and back in the, you know, those early years when I was learning so much about myself, that was so disgusting and embarrassing. I mean, I was already in ministry and I should have known better. There was a  situation, a group of people, I just was so angry with and I asked my counselor, I said, "How do I know if I'm getting any better?" and he said -- this was so helpful for me. He said, "When you can feel toward them, what you think your heavenly Father feels toward them, you're getting better," and then he said, "How do you think God feels about those people? Do you think God is mad at them?" Like, "No, but I am," and he says, "Well, there's the disconnect. So you -- that's your --"  So I just began to pray.  

Keith: Yeah.  

Andy: I said, "God, I want to see them the way You see them, and I want to feel toward them the way You feel them," and, again, what does this do? This doesn't deconstruct my faith, this makes my world bigger because I don't want to be an angry person and it doesn't matter who's wrong or right. He was right. You know, God's not angry with them. You know what God's angry with? God's angry about the break in the relationship and when I can be angrier, or more concerned about the break in the relationship than the people I've broken -- the relationship's broken with -- they're not making progress, whether we ever see the world the same way or not. So, anyway.  

Keith: I mean, I could go for -- We don't have time, but I could go for a long time on that. Just the points of application are so far beyond. I mean, when you look at the political division, the racial division, the social unrest, the socioeconomic division.  

Andy: Yeah. What wouldn't that solve, right?  

Keith: Right, and yet it's interesting that we're not -- It's like, "Oh gosh, they're Muslim," or "Oh gosh, they're -- there's something else," or they believe something else, and I'm...what are we afraid of? And I guess we're afraid that maybe the fact that we've constructed --.  

Andy: Won't hold out.  

Keith: Won't hold up, yeah.  

Andy: We're afraid we're wrong and we're afraid of being wrong, and we should never be afraid of being wrong; we should be afraid of staying wrong. I don't know who said this. I wish it was original with me and maybe you can tell me where this came from. The question someone asked -- and I don't even remember the context -- was, "Do you know what it feels like to be wrong? It feels like being right." Because when you're wrong, you think you're what? You think you're right. When you're wrong -- but I think I'm right. So what does it feel like to be wrong? It feels like being right. So, I mean, I know it's amazing, isn't it? It's a bit circular. I wish I'd come up with it. I don't know who somebody out there probably knows where that originated. But the point is, I were afraid of being proven wrong and people of faith -- and this is, you know, this should be embarrassing to us -- we're afraid that if we're wrong about this, then what if we're wrong about everything? But if there is a God the way that Jesus presents himself as a representation of God, we just don't need to fear that. We should fear staying wrong because -- I mean, you're the expert on this, not me  -- but in any area where I cling to something that's not true, someone will eventually get hurt. There is always a relational hurt around the corner when I cling to something that's not true about really almost any realm of life. So, again, staying focused on the, you know, the frontiers of my ignorance with an anchor to a faith, I don't know.  

Keith: I know you read the question "What's the most exciting, scary, motivating, etc. thing about continuing to grow yourself?" Is it scary still, at any point for you to think, "Man, what if I bump up against that? What if I lean into that a little bit?" or is it now this mindset that "I want to stay on the frontier of my ignorance?"  

Andy: I'm more comfortable with that than ever, and a lot of this has to do with the anchor for my faith and, you know, you're a part of our church, so you hear me talk about this stuff all the time. The anchor for my faith. I mean, you know, we -- people try to anchor our faith to a lot of different things. But the Gospels to me, and following Jesus through the Gospels, is so consistent and it's so clear and they're so historically reliable and the event of the Resurrection is why we have the Bible, and the event of the Resurrection -- if it is true -- then it is the anchor, it's the epicenter and for me, the more I have allowed my faith to be centered there, for me at least, the clearer everything gets. Not the smarter I become and not the more insight I have, the clearer and the less fear I have about what I don't know with what I might discover, and I don't know that I can even make --  

Keith: It frees you up then.  

Andy: Yes. It's, again, the how -- you know, if the anchor is secure, you can have a longer rope. Your chain can get longer it can, you know, you can extend and extend and extend without feeling like you're going to go off the edge, you know, of the world and so it frees you to explore. It frees you to read. It frees you to read things contrary to what you because, again, if my faith can't hold up against new information, well, there's something with my faith.  

Keith: There's something wrong.  

Andy: There's something wrong, yeah, and with so many faith systems there's fear.  

Keith: Well, I hope the church leaders that need to hear this, hear this somehow, I hope. But I think this exact point is relevant to leaders in industry. I think they get in -- they've got their leadership dogma.  

Andy: We all do.  

Keith: And they've realized success with it and then it's like, but, man, if I mess with that, the whole thing could come unraveled.  

Andy: You answer this for me, because you deal with leaders consistently and more broad -- My theory, this totally theoretical, I have nothing to base this on. To your point, when people feel like, "Oh, this is how I've always done it, this is what works. These are principles. They're fundamental, and if I don't do it this way, I'm not sure," my observation in life is there are people who are just going to do great things and after they've done great things and as they're doing great things, they pull in bits of this and that and they kind of build a castle around that explains why they were able to do great things.  

Keith: Yeah.  

Andy: But it was an -- it's an aftermath, it's an afterthought. There's an intuition among -- there's a leadership intuition, I'm sure of that. There's just an intuition. It's beyond smarts, it's intuition, and people with that kind of intuition lead and end up in leadership and the principles -- like, I love to read leadership management literature, but I don't think I've ever met a great leader who would say, "You know what? Before I read this book, I had no clue what I was. You know, before I read this book, I was floundering and I was never going to accomplish anything," and I'm not discounting the value of those books. I love that kind of stuff. But the point being when a leader or manager or anybody, any realm of life feels like, "Oh, I have this dogma or I have this framework and I can't question it," I'm like, "You know what? You would be probably as successful with or without that, so don't be afraid of asking those hard questions at times. I don't know if that makes sense.  

Keith: Yeah, no, it makes sense. And what we believe is happening is people construct their own system or their dogma. They would never call it a dogma.  

Andy: No, no, no.  

Keith: It is there, but it is their paradigm.  

Andy: Yeah, paradigm.  

Keith: It has been refined by all of these sources that built over the course of their life and their experience as they grow over the course of their life, they begin to have what we call a self-authored framework and what happens is that -- what we believe is 85% of the population, when they gain a self-authored framework, their way of seeing doing things, 85% of the population doesn't grow beyond that. They don't grow to something bigger where they're able to let go of their framework and take a perspective on it and compare it to other frameworks where a larger value system can begin to integrate multiple perspectives. That was a lot of academic --  

Andy: No, well, that makes sense because I've sort of built my castle and I've kind of, I'm out of blocks and I'm out of time and why mess with it? But then I stop.  

Keith: And so the lucky ones get fired by their board. Lose a child. Get cancer. Have something that that tears the structure that they built around this down and they're like, "OK, so now what? Everything that I was afraid of, everything that I was trying to protect is now exposed," and then they grow. I mean, I've had the privilege of interviewing some people who have gone beyond this, what we call level four for our audience, but this kind of self-authored framework and have grown to a place of amazing wisdom. Kind of Nelson Mandela, kind of Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, this wisdom that knits together and started instead of manages the separation or the difference between, right? And they all have stories of loss that none of us would sign up for, right? They are -- and yet we don't have to experience that loss. We can, I'm going to steal this phrase from you, I'll give you a credit as much as I can, but to live on the frontiers of our ignorance, right? To keep pushing up against that boundary and that's, again, I kind of started our conversation with this, but that's the thing that makes me so proud to be a part of and living under your leadership as a pastor of North Point Church, Buckhead Church, the whole North Point ministry system is that I've seen you do that at times that I thought, "Oh, there's going to be severe backlash for that one."  

Andy: And there is  

Keith: And there is, it's usually on the internet, but then the people who can't deal with that are probably the people that need to be finding a place that maybe isn't where...  

Andy: And again, I don't usually do that. I'm always surprised -- I'll say things and I think, "Uh oh," and there's nothing and then I'll just, it's not on purpose, and then people take something and run with it and I'm like, "What? They --" You know, so I'm usually surprised, and people in my position should never use that as a thing, a shtick. You know, "This will get them. This will gin up. Here's some clickbait."  

Keith: Right.  

Andy: I, you know, have a lot of respect for people who do that, especially in my profession and that's not what we're called to do, but stretching people, you know, during the political season, we've just come through the racial unrest, especially in our city in Atlanta, and so many other things. Anytime you, you know, address any of that and I -- people who do it, I think we should. I don't want to be the current events church where, you know, we're just whatever happened this week. We're going to talk about it in church, but from time-to-time, you hit pause and talk about those things and I know every time I wade into those topics, I'm going to be misunderstood because they're emotional and you can't talk about them perfectly and you can't nuance everything or you'll be there all day, you know, qualifying every statement and defining every term. But you do have to weight in and give people something to hold on to and then you just put your head down and you, you know, you just keep going.  

Keith: A lot of times it's bumping up against the stuff that they've stuck in the drawer. Right?  

Andy: I think so because I've bumped up so much of the stuff that, you know, I stuck in my drawer.  

Keith: Well, thank you for pushing yourself. What do you -- what are you most excited about in your world right now? What's the, I mean, you've got so many things going. You've got -- there are 20-plus books out. Do you have one in process right now? I'm certain you do. You've got the Leadership Podcast, so many things worth --  

Andy: I just got the galleys back on a book that, last spring, I just kind of got fed up with stuff in church world with politics and a lot of other things. So I just started writing, like, I just got to get -- I say "writing", I don't write -- I got to get it out. So I wrote four chapters. I thought, "This is just going to sink my career," put it away, literally put it away. Into the summer, I'm like, "No, I got to do this”. So I just turned in a manuscript. So the book is going to be called ‘Not In It To Win It’. Basically, why politicizing the local church is just a horrible thing to do.  

Keith: Wow.  

Andy: So the problem is, I'm not going to ask anyone to endorse this book because nobody's going to want to endorse it because they're not going to -- Even if they agree, it's like, "I don't know if I can put--" you know, because it's so scary to try to stand in the middle, right? Because you've, you know, "Take a stand, you're compromising." I'm like, "No, I learned this from Dr. King. Read The Letter from a Birmingham Jail. I think it was that book where he said, you know, in his situation, I'm not -- Please, I'm not comparing myself to Dr. King, I learned from Dr. King. You know, there was a group that said, "Go back to Boston. You're not even from the South, you have no business down here in our business." There was a group of black leaders that, like, "We're going to march at night and it's going to be violence-to-violence," and there's a group that's like, "Give us more time, give us more time, give us more time," and he adopted none of that, and he stood in the middle and he says, "If you stand in the middle, you're going to be shot at from all sides," and yet, again, and as a Christian, I read the Gospels and everybody tried to get Jesus to take their side. Everybody, and He didn't come to take sides. Tony said -- Tony Evans -- "Jesus didn't come to take sides, He came to take over." He said, "I'm establishing a brand, a different kind of kingdom -- an upside-down kingdom -- and it doesn't fit with any of those narratives," and, you know, everybody he intersected with became a footnote in his story, and so.

Keith: Oh, I can't wait for that to come out. How do people get connected with the resources associated with all the work that you've done? And I mean, again, the list is long. The podcast is out there is there. I should know this, I should have known this in advance, but I know how I find you. I don't know how others should find you.

Andy: Well, there's the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. That's, you know, wherever podcasts are found, really.  

Keith: Really, you can just Google up "Andy Stanley" and all sorts coming up so that's really good.  

Andy: I have a YouTube channel with all of our messages, you know, our church stuff on there and then there's books, and I've had lots of great opportunities and just try to be a good steward of opportunities, so.

Keith: Yeah. Well, listen, thank you for taking the opportunity to spend time with us. What a gift of your time for this audience and just for a conversation that I got to hear you say some things I haven't heard you articulate before, so I loved it.  

Andy: I hope they're true.

 Keith: Yeah, I really --  

Andy: No, thank you. Thank you for what you're doing. Because as I said early on when we sat down, this -- the angle that you've taken this narrow slice of leadership, I never heard anyone even talk about it before and so I'm sure it's very successful and your podcast audience, I'm sure, is growing like crazy. So thank you.  

Keith: We love what we get to do. Thanks.  

Andy: Thanks.