No, Mr. Noble

28 Apr

Popular pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC wrote an article today for the Christian Post entitled, “Four Problems the Church Has GOT to Deal With.”

Now, I do not know Perry Noble. I have never heard him preach. I’ve only seen him in a few video clips here and there. Just to be clear, I am not attacking Perry Noble. I have no axe to grind with him. I am not a watchblogger ready to bring him down.  I am only responding to what I have read in this article. My concern with this article is that Noble produces a number of false dichotomies as problems the church must address. The first is the most egregious.

Noble begins by saying the first problem the church has got to deal with is . . .

#1 We are answering questions no one is asking.

“I’m glad that we can debate theology and know terms that make us seem intelligent and cause other people to scratch their heads; however, at the end of the day people are not asking about the five points of Calvinism, the trichotomy or dichotomy of the Spirit or the peccability/impeccability of Christ! They are asking “why is my life falling apart?” Or, “how do I get past the fact that I was sexually molested when I was eight?” Or, “how do I, as a single mom, lead and provide for my family?”

Too many people are so obsessed with their theological labels, I believe, so that they don’t actually have to do real ministry!”

The false dichotomy: In this case, there are two. First, there is a false distinction between theological issues and the questions people are asking. Second, there is a false divide between concern for theology and passion for ministry. I agree that there can be a kind of theological nitpicking which can be counterproductive, but how can the questions Noble asks in the end of the paragraph be answered apart from solid, biblically faithful theology? Further, “real ministry” is intimately linked to solid theological reflection, contrary to the impression Noble gives in this paragraph. In fact, I would say the best, most passionate and most eternally effective works of God we have seen in church history have come from people whose hearts and minds were deeply theological. Yes, there are also people out there who would rather debate than live out theological implications, but theology is not the enemy. Simply put, are the questions Noble says people are asking going to be answered by us apart from theology? And are the questions they are asking even the most important questions?

#2 We call laziness “authenticity!”

“The church is the bride of Christ–established by Him, purchased by Him and pursued by Him! We have the promises of God and have been empowered by HIS HOLY SPIRIT! We should be doing things BETTER than Apple, BETTER than Disney and BETTER than Google! There is WAY more at stake with what God has called us to! And “Spirit Filled” should not equal poorly planned, thrown together and poorly executed! And…no one should say, “I’m doing this for Jesus” and then follow it up with a half-hearted, piss poor effort. When it came to redeeming mankind Jesus did not search the back corners of heaven to find some under-challenged angel who had nothing to do…HE came, HE did it, HE paid for the sin of the world!!! HE GAVE HIS BEST…His followers should do the same!”

I agree wholeheartedly with Noble’s first two sentences in this paragraph, but for the life of me I can’t fathom how he jumps from that good statement to competing with Apple, Disney and Google! Is it “the show” which draws men and women to Jesus, or is it the very Holy Spirit to which Noble referred in his first two sentences? Is it possible that God uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong? Is it possible that He often works through weak vessels so that we don’t boast in ourselves but in Him? Did the church in Acts experience God’s power because it could carry out worship services that would compete with anything the Roman Empire could offer, or was it the work of the Holy Spirit? I’m all for giving our best, but sometimes our best is carried out in the place of weakness, the obscure place, the place of suffering. Is the missionary in the Muslim world not giving his best because he can’t compete with Apple? Is the pastor who is living with and loving a rural community unworthy of his calling because he doesn’t have smoke machines and custom video clips? Let’s give good effort, by all means, but let’s aim at the right things, like glorifying God, not outdoing Google.

#3 – We use “discipleship” as an excuse to not do evangelism.

“I’ve heard too many churches say that they are not reaching people because they are too busy making disciples. A few things to consider here…

ONE – EVERY disciple in the Bible was an evangelist!!! There is not one example of one of the original disciples that formed some sort of holy huddle and gave the rest of the world the middle finger! It is IMPOSSIBLE to become a DISCIPLE if EVANGELISM isn’t a part of the process!

TWO – I have found that every time people in a church says something like what was mentioned above it is simply because they do not know anyone that is lost!!”

Another false dichotomy. Jesus puts evangelism and discipleship together in the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). In fact, you could say that you can’t have one without the other, because a true disciple will evangelize and a true evangelist will want to see, not merely converts, but followers of Jesus. Noble points this out in the paragraph but seems to say many churches are ignoring it. I for one have never heard a church say anything like what  Noble says at the beginning of this paragraph. Most churches want to reach out. Many find it difficult. That a church finds it challenging to reach people is not the same as giving “the rest of the world the middle finger.” There may be a variety of reasons why some churches prosper in reaching people and others are less prosperous. But a focus on discipleship is not one of them. In fact, where people are truly being discipled, where true spiritual growth is happening, there will consistently be a greater passion for evangelism.

#4 – We are becoming political and neglecting the prophetic.

“Let me be very clear…Christians can and should have political opinions! (Have you ever noticed that those who criticize Christians for having a political opinion always seem to have their own political opinion?) We should vote (and if you don’t then keep your mouth shut when it comes to our country and how it is led!) We should pray for our leaders as the Scriptures clearly teach.

However, the churches main goal should be to declare the Gospel, NOT advance an agenda of a particular political party!!! We should declare God’s message, God’s Word, God’s truth and in God’s way (see John 13:34-35!) Churches than get in bed with politics always wake up the next morning to find their lover gone!!! We should NEVER use the platform God has given us for an agenda other than HIS!!!”

I agree with the core of this paragraph in that local churches can easily let politics take center stage and our true focus gets lost. But even here I see an interesting contrast to the first paragraph. In the first paragraph, Noble wants to address the real-life questions people are asking instead of bunkering down into our theological foxholes. But when it comes to politics, we are to make sure our involvement is not taking precedence over the Gospel. I wish he’d said this on point number one so that we could see more clearly that it is the Gospel which is at the heart of dealing with all the every day issues we face in our lives.

Now again, I do not hate Perry Noble. And I’m sure that if he or someone from his church came to this blog they’d probably laugh at me as the pastor of a little church with 180-200 people on Sunday morning. They’d probably say, “Look at the scoreboard! We’ve got 10,000 people over several campuses and lives are being changed. What are you doing?”  Well, I don’t know what’s going on at NewSpring and I’m not on a crusade to undermine anybody. But Joel Osteen’s church is the largest in the country and he seems to be merely preaching nothing more than the false gospel of self-help. So what does the scoreboard really tell us about fidelity to the Lord Jesus and the Word of God?

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