For probably 5 years now I've been thinking about writing to Andy Stanley. I write today because God has used Andy's ministry in a significant way for me. He is on a first-name-basis in our house and amongst my friends. God has given him a tremendous gift and he is using it to impact people like me. I'm writing this post as an "open letter" in hopes that someone may find Andy's sermons to be a new, impactful resource. Whether you're interested in learning more about Jesus or there's someone that you want to introduce to Jesus, Andy may be the resource you need. (If you have any questions about which sermon to use, let me know -- I'm a living index of the topics he's preached on.)
I know you get a lot of these. I've thought of writing you a number of times in the past few years: after I listened to "Character Under Construction" for the umpteenth time, I wanted to tell you the impact it had made in my life (and would you *please* do it again on DVD!?); the first--and even the fifteenth time--I heard you say I should 'take a year off of dating,' I wanted to write and tell you how stupid that was and how it wouldn't work for me; and when I finished my year, I wanted to thank you for the recommendation (THANK YOU!!); when I was considering baptism, after I listened to your sermon on why we get baptized, I wanted to thank you for making it clear to me.
I'm writing, finally, in response to something you said in your Re:Solution series last year. You talked about the "what if we hadn't done this" moment you have with your wife from time-to-time. I cannot tell you how many times I have reflected on how different my life would be if you hadn't done "this," if you hadn't answered God's call to start this church. I trust that God would have used someone else to reach me, but I want to tell you the story of the tremendous impact you have had on my walk away from and back to Jesus.
In 2010, I wrote this:
If I'm going to lose myself in this world, is going to be because I worked so hard to learn more about it that I couldn't find my way out. I want struggles. I want hard times. I want to lose my faith, my life, my heart, so that I can search my way through this world and find it again.
I meant it. And I did it.
Around that time, I gave up on Jesus. None of "His people" reflected anything I wanted to be, and, though I didn't know what I wanted to be yet, I decided that I would dive into the world and figure it out. During that season, I would reject Jesus, His all-welcoming salvation, and the idea that a good God would ever allow anything bad to happen. The only thing about my faith that I held on to was belief in a creator-God, the rest--to me--was absurd. I no longer believed in hell, but proclaimed that a good God would let everyone into Heaven. I would tell this to myself, and to anyone who would listen and I would get offended when someone would say that they'd pray for me because of my beliefs.
I, very inconsistently, went to Athens Church prior to moving to Greenville, South Carolina where I stopped going to church all together. Once in Greenville, I was surrounded by genuine Jesus-followers, so I chose to masquerade as one myself; I played the part as best I was able while internally--and even sometimes externally--fighting against them and their love.
For a reason I truly don't know, through all that time I listened to your sermons. Every day for over four years I started my day by listening to one (or two or three) of the NorthPoint sermons on Podcast. The truth you spoke was just gentle enough to keep me coming back for more. You weren't harsh (and when you were, I guess I excused it), and God gently used your sermons to speak to me.
I vividly remember one morning in September 2012. I was listening to one of your sermons. Staring in the mirror, I repeated to myself: Heather, you need to FACE UP to what you know God has for your life! I even used dry-erase marker to write it on my mirror, so as to remind myself of that Truth each day.
That was a turning point in my life. Over the next three months God used that sentence to ignite the Truth He had used you to bury in my heart. I heard His call to make significant changes in my life, and I followed Him. My heart broke many times, but I knew I could trust where He was taking me.
Finally in December 2012 I made a commitment to give my entire life to Jesus. As part of that decision, I pledged that He would get more than my eternity: He would get my right now. He would get every day of my life, used to His glory, by His grace. He spent the next 18 months renewing everything I thought I knew and implanting in me His truth. He showed me who He is, who I am, and what it means to wholly belong to Him. Now, three years later, God has called me and my husband to move to Scotland and share His grace and love with people who don't know anything about Him.
As I have walked through the steps it's taken me to get to this point in my calling, I have often reflected back and wondered how different my story would be if you hadn't been heartbroken over unchurched people. When you choked up while telling your "what if we hadn't done this" story, I choked up too. I was and am overwhelmed at the wonder of where I would be, how God would have gotten to me, and what would be different about my life today.
What I'm trying to say is THANK YOU, Andy and Sandra! I wish I could sit with you two and thank you eyeball-to-eyeball. Thank your children for all that they sacrificed so that you could reach me and many, MANY others. I've never once stepped foot in NorthPoint or seen you in person, but God has used you in an extremely tangible way in my life. Your sermons were just gentle enough for me to hold onto when I didn't want to have anything to do with Jesus, and just Truthful enough to lead me back into His loving arms. Thank you.
THANK YOU, thank you, thank you!