Another ignoble and gratuitous slam at the church 53

This week, Perry Noble is telling pastors how to avoid an affair, and this morning he’s recommending that they pay more attention to their families. Fair enough, but early on in his piece comes this reference:

Too many pastors … let the expectations and demands of needy, clingy church people (notice I didn’t say Christians) DRIVE them to a place of insanity.

A few questions:

  1. Isn’t everyone needy?
  2. Shouldn’t Christians be clingy?
  3. Does being needy mean you’ve lost your salvation?
  4. Does going to church (thus becoming a church person) make you lose your salvation?
  5. Wasn’t the one sheep of the 99 that the shepherd went after somewhat needy?
  6. Isn’t it a pastor’s job to care for the needy?
  7. What does Noble have against Christians who go to churches other than his own?

53 thoughts on “Another ignoble and gratuitous slam at the church

  1. James Duncan Aug 26, 2009 5:27 pm

    This has been an interesting discussion. The length and heat generated here is also amusing and frustrating. It’s amusing because it’s so predictable that when PP highlights a dumb tweet or comment, everyone goes nuts. When PP deals with something with a bit more substance, there’s generally crickets. I published two posts today. The first one on feeding from the Word is my favorite, and asks a couple of substantial questions. This becomes the one, however, that sucks up all the oxygen.

    I suppose there’s not much I can do about what you choose to read and respond to, so let me address some of these issues, since you’re all here. Perhaps I can cover ground quickly by explaining what I meant by my numbered questions.

    1) We are Christians because God gave us the ability to realize our absolute neediness and dependence on a savior. Even after salvation, we still need the sanctifying help of the Holy Spirit. A mature Christian knows that we can’t do this on our own. In other words, all Christians are needy.

    2) (Ryan seemed to get this). We cling to the Savior. Beyond that clinging, there are times when we need to cling to God’s servants. I imagine Paul was pretty clingy with Ananias after meeting with Jesus.

    3) and 4). The answer is No, but this is what Noble is implying. He makes a special point of not calling needy believers Christians. He calls them church goers, which he pointedly contrasts with being a Christian. It’s not that we’re reading something into what he said. He said that the needy were not Christians, and that churchgoers were not Christians, and he wanted to make sure when knew what he was saying. Appalling.

    5) The point is that in this case the shepherd abandoned the 99 safe sheep to rescue the needy one. Needy souls matter. Oh, the response that this sheep was not needy but lost doesn’t fly. Does God abandon us after we’re saved? Anyway, PN’s saying that these needy churchgoers are lost, so doesn’t he owe them his best efforts?

    6) Yes, it is the pastor’s job. Part of the way he cares for the needy is by feeding us God’s Word (the point of my earlier and favorite post today). I don’t think it stops there though. The apostles were concerned with the physical and emotional needs of the people in their care. Paul even gives Timothy advice on what he should be eating and drinking.

    Some have pointed out that Perry can’t visit everyone who is sick. I agree, but I have two responses. First, perhaps this argues against megachurches. The Bible doesn’t put a limit on how large a church can grow, but perhaps when a pastor starts putting walls between himself and the crowd, the congregation is too large.

    Second, although a pastor can’t visit everyone, that doesn’t mean that he should visit no-one. Jesus visited the sick. He dealt with needy and clingy (literally) people. At times he was moved and astonished by what he saw. I would think that there is tremendous value to a big-star pastor spending time holding someone’s hand as they pass into glory, or sitting around a table with a family after a devastating loss, or having lunch with a father after he lost a job. Jesus didn’t visit with everyone who came to see him, but he did visit with enough downtrodden (needy and clingy) people that he was disparaged for it. If pastors see Jesus as their example, shouldn’t they try it as well?

    7) I still don’t know the answer to this.

  2. BW Aug 26, 2009 7:48 pm

    This really upsets me.

    People who cannot devote themselves entirely to the care of the sheep, like a shepherd of old, should not be ministers. Chris Roseborough has played clips of Perry saying stuff like this before on Fighting for the Faith. There is no excuse for refusing to visit people at the hospital, when you are the Pastor, and offering them Word and Sacrament, especially if they are dying. This ought to be pastoral malpractice. And if his church is so big he can’t tend to the needs of all then yes, I think this is a big knock against megachurches. What did Christ tell Peter? “Feed my sheep!”

  3. JT Aug 26, 2009 9:06 pm

    Duncan,

    You said, “perhaps this argues against megachurches. The Bible doesn’t put a limit on how large a church can grow, but perhaps when a pastor starts putting walls between himself and the crowd, the congregation is too large.”

    Mark 3:7-10

    You also said, “Second, although a pastor can’t visit everyone, that doesn’t mean that he should visit no-one.”

    Agreed.

    But whoever said Noble never visits his sick congregants, never offers comfort in their grief, and never preaches their funerals?

    http://www.independentmail.com/photos/galleries/2009/may/27/firefighter-mike-hunt-funeral/

    http://www.independentmail.com/news/2009/jul/03/memorial-service-set-monday-slain-anderson-teacher/

  4. JT Aug 26, 2009 9:08 pm

    Oh, and I’m still awaiting the scriptural justification for one pastor providing care and comfort for a local church.

  5. James Duncan Aug 26, 2009 9:32 pm

    JT, who said PN doesn’t visit? Perry, mainly.

    (A few high-profile cases that appear in the local paper may not really show him in the best light in this argument.)

    I wasn’t the one who argued that one pastor should do it all, so I won’t be providing those references. It wasn’t long ago that I was trying to convince a NS apologist of the necessity for deacons, which are obviously ordained for things like comfort ministries.

    Jesus could have outsourced all his personal care to his disciples while he did the more important things like coming up with red-letter sermons. He didn’t.

  6. James Duncan Aug 26, 2009 9:47 pm

    One more question (though not necessarily for you, JT):

    How does a Noble-trained pastor know the difference between an unsaved sinner, a churched person (bad), and a “Christ follower” (good) when they ask for help?

    I mean, do you have them complete an application form and check the appropriate box before you show compassion?

    Sounds a little like a certain parable Jesus told about neighbors.

  7. Tommy F. Aug 26, 2009 11:17 pm

    JDuncan,

    Good question. Here’s the answer, although Seth and his friends will vehemently deny the accuracy of this report… All NS member are given a decoder. It serves two functions:

    1) It helps them determine what Perry really meant whether in church, on his blog, or through his tweets (rather than what he said/wrote – which is how the rest of us hear/read him).
    2) It helps them determine who is needy and clingy.

    It’s a real timesaver throughout the week, but especially on Sundays and in home groups.

    If Perry can’t waste his time on needy people, then why should his sheep? What’s good for the shepherd is good for the sheep, right?

  8. Ryan Aug 27, 2009 12:19 am

    James, I got a kick out of this – “How does a Noble-trained pastor know the difference between an unsaved sinner, a churched person (bad), and a “Christ follower” (good) when they ask for help?

    I mean, do you have them complete an application form and check the appropriate box before you show compassion?”

    It is indeed interesting.

    It doesn’t excuse his behavior or tone in these messages, but I think it should be noted that NS staff (including Perry) do perform some weddings/funerals/hospital visits/care visits. But they obviously can’t do it all, and I assume the reason they make blanket decisions about funerals/weddings in particular is how would they decide who to help/visit? I know we say we want that, but the truth is, if PN did visit some people, and meet with some people, then everybody else would be man he didn’t visit with them. Not defending, just saying.

    Also, I’m very very very intrigued about the “case against megachurches” because I’ve always been weary of them myself. I would love to hear a discussion on (and maybe blog post) on the solution(s) to that. What do you all propose to do to keep a church from growing so large?

  9. keitho Aug 27, 2009 8:18 am

    I think we are straying a bit into how many visits, weddings, funerals, etc. are acceptable for a pastor to do. I do not question the care network that NS has put together. I have every reason to believe it is an effective one. But I was told at NS new member orientation that the senior pastor did not make hospital visits, do weddings or funerals. So I would have to assume that if and when he does, it’s a close friend, confidant, or a high profile person.

    But back to the main point. His reference to needy/clingy people is just downright appalling, no matter what he meant by the words that eventually got strung together in the sentence.

  10. JT Aug 27, 2009 12:57 pm

    Duncan,

    You said,

    “I wasn’t the one who argued that one pastor should do it all, so I won’t be providing those references.”

    …but you also said,

    “First, perhaps this argues against megachurches. The Bible doesn’t put a limit on how large a church can grow, but perhaps when a pastor starts putting walls between himself and the crowd, the congregation is too large.”

    ?

    • James Duncan Aug 27, 2009 3:23 pm

      JT,

      ?

      I don’t follow your argument here. Criticizing a pastor for doing nothing (except high-profile publicity events) is a long way from insisting that they do everything.

      Heh, I’m the moderate in this debate. NICE!

  11. JT Aug 27, 2009 4:34 pm

    OK, but the second statement that I quoted sure sounds like you think that churches shouldn’t grow so big that the pastor can’t pastor all his sheep.

  12. Tommy F. Aug 27, 2009 6:30 pm

    The Noble defenders on this post seem to have one main issue: he can’t possibly have coffee with everyone in his church, or perform every wedding, or bury everyone, so … the argument goes, he gets a pass. Sure, I agree that he can’t do everything.

    But, this argument sets up a false alternative: either he does it all, or does nothing. All or nothing? C’mon. Argue the substance, not false dichotomies.

    What a preposterous defense. I can’t believe that you can’t see the arrogance of a pastor basically saying: I’m your pastor, but I won’t behave like one. I preach. I blog. I tweet. I eat. I cash my paycheck. If you want more, then go find someone else to be your pastor.

    And remember the image of a pastor-shepherd would have been very significant to the 1st century. In the gospels a shepherd was so devoted he chased after 1 lost one, and in another episode laid down his life for his sheep. The image here is striking, and doesn’t work at all compared with Noble’s shepherding.

  13. Arielle Aug 27, 2009 8:59 pm

    Being on a pastoral staff myself at a church (yes, I am a girl!) I totally get what Perry is saying! If you would look at what he is saying instead of trying to bust him on something then you might understand! It’s people who want you to go to their house because they have a freak’n hang nail who drive us NUTS!! It’s the times where you get 3-4 stupid phone calls like that when you really need to be studying that really will drive a pastor to insanity… maybe you should be in that position once or twice and you will figure it out instead of blogging about it!

    • James Duncan Aug 27, 2009 9:07 pm

      Arielle, I’m quite sure there are people that drive you and Perry crazy; however, Perry says that because of that, they’re not saved.

      Do you agree?

      Does God strip us of our salvation just because we get too annoying?

  14. James Downing Aug 27, 2009 9:33 pm

    Sheep can be quite annoying at times. Always needing to be fed and protected from predators…I don’t see how that excuses you from taking care of them. It’s usually the needy ones who need you most. Of course the ones that have it all together don’t require as much time.

    And Arielle, maybe I’m in that position. I do other things than just blog for 10 minutes a day.

  15. JT Aug 27, 2009 10:40 pm

    Tommy,

    There is no false dichotomy here. I’ve already argued against the assertion that Noble never visits the sick, etc. He clearly does provide “care ministries”, just not to every member of his church.

    And you all keep bringing up the story of the shepherd leaving the 99 to find the 1 lost sheep. While I don’t disagree with the view that pastors should show compassion and minister to those who are a part of the body of Christ, Jesus was actually describing Himself as the shepherd. The parable of the lost sheep has nothing to do with church structure or the responsibilities of ministers.

    At the risk of completely hijacking this discussion, let me take it a step further and say that scripture does not support the idea of some super-elder who teaches, comforts, visits, etc. See Ephesians 4:11 & Acts 6:1-4.

  16. James Duncan Aug 27, 2009 11:28 pm

    JT, if shepherd only applies to Jesus, why did he ask his disciples to feed his sheep after he left? Who would do that, if not a shepherd? (Perhaps he meant for the sheep to use the late-night drive through at Taco Bell.)

    Why did Paul warn the church to be on the lookout for devouring wolves? Who’d be responsible for fending them off, if not a shepherd?

  17. Tommy F Aug 27, 2009 11:28 pm

    JT,

    Nice try. Wrong on 2 counts.
    1) Perry brags about not visiting sick people and not going to weddings and eating bad food with strangers. PP didn’t initiate this conversation, he did.

    2) Look again at Eph 4:11 (thanks for reminding me by the way), where Paul links shepherd with teacher. Notice the punctuation ties them together, rather than separating them – like you seem so keen to do. The role is pastor-shepherd, or teacher-shepherd. Not Preacher on Sunday, blogger 7 days a week.

    Ultimately, Perry is doing himself and NS a disservice by not being actively and regularly involved with everyday needs of his congregation. You can farm out all sorts of ministries, but his insularity makes him weaker, not stronger, as a pastor. He wants you to think just the opposite, though. If he met regularly with people who lost their jobs, do you think he’d be so happy to tweet about Ruth’s Chris, a place most folk never visit once, much less every quarter? Speaking of food….

    Arielle,

    Have you ever gotten a call for a hangnail? Again with the ridiculous arguments? Pulleeez, what a ridiculous argument.
    And Perry doesn’t visit sick people so he can study (apparently you missed the newsflash: he’s not supportive of Bible study). He apparently was busy today at the Cheesecake factory. Ok, I admit he probably studied the menu a bit before ordering.

    • James Duncan Aug 27, 2009 11:43 pm

      The discussion on pastor’s roles is interesting, but that wasn’t really what caught my eye in the original PN statement, and I’m a little surprised that it hasn’t attracted much attention in these comments.

      PN refused to acknowledge that needy churchgoers are Christians. He’s pronouncing anathema on people with ingrown toenails. It seems like something straight from the world of Monty Python.

      You’d think that a pastor of a church whose sole focus is on bringing people to salvation would have a smidge more understanding of just what salvation is.

  18. JT Aug 28, 2009 12:51 pm

    Duncan (& Tommy),

    You said, “JT, if shepherd only applies to Jesus, why did he ask his disciples to feed his sheep after he left?”

    I never said shepherd applies only to Jesus. Please re-read my statement:

    “While I don’t disagree with the view that pastors should show compassion and minister to those who are a part of the body of Christ…”

    Notice the “I don’t disagree…” part? That means “I agree…”

    I said that the parable of the lost sheep referred to Jesus. Those using it to argue that a pastor should abandon the 99 in his flock to attend to the needs of the one lost sheep are mistaken about this parable’s meaning.

    Tommy said, “Perry brags about not visiting sick people and not going to weddings and eating bad food with strangers.”

    I’m not sure I’d call it bragging. What he is doing is correcting his flock when their walk with God centers on their relationship with their pastor.

    If anybody would applaud Noble’s attempt to keep NewSpring from becoming even more pastor-centered, I’d think it would be the folks here at Pajama Pages.

  19. MW Aug 28, 2009 5:28 pm

    Wow, these are great comments!

    I think it would be impossible for Perry to meet all 11,000 members needs in his church and should deligate. A pastor of a church that size WOULD go insane if he tried to do that alone, but it really irks me that he makes it sound like he doesn’t care about their needs at all. The job of a pastor is to shephard his flock. That includes feeding, guiding, caring for the lame and needy, searching for the lost, and disciplining those that disobey God’s word.

    It’s interesting to me that he has so little time for his people. A friend of mine went out to seattle to Mark Driscol’s church which is about the same size as NS and said Mark came up to him in the hallway and said, “you are a visitor aren’t you? I haven’t seen you here before.” That statement floored my friend. Of the thousands of members he has in his church he spotted the one that wasn’t one of his own sheep. a Shephard knows and cares for his flock. Mark talked to my friend for 15 minutes before church started. He said that it was the coolest thing he’s ever seen a pastor do. That one simple thing, making time to get to know your flock every sunday, makes a world of difference to people.

  20. JT Aug 28, 2009 11:01 pm

    Two points:

    1) I see Noble speak with church-goers on an almost weekly basis, prior to the service. Show up to NewSpring early and head towards the front left of the auditorium. He’s the tall redneck with the bald security guy standing next to him.

    2) While I agree with Noble’s in his argument against “needy” church-goers monopolizing the pastor’s time, I also recognize that he would probably avoid his controversy if he toned down the “I don’t want to eat food I don’t like with you” bit. It’s not the most gracious, humble way to put it. In fact, it actually detracts from his argument, as those who hear this get so shocked by the tone and language, that they miss the truth behind it.

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