Noble, Furtick and many other church leaders are often eager to invoke the example of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem to justify their refusal to engage critics. Nehemiah is asked to meet with his enemies outside the wall, and replies in Nehemiah 6:3
I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”
Leave-me-alone leaders use this example to convince themselves and others that they are doing the right thing by staying on the wall and ignoring everybody who points out problems.
People are hating on you. They are attacking you. They are flat out lying about you. They’ve never been to your church and they attempt to judge your character by listening to selected portions of your sermons. (Which would make them superficial!)
Pastor…church leader…don’t come down off the wall!!!
Noble uses the idea to encourage Rick Warren:
Keep up the incredible work…and not to come down off the wall & get tangled up in the web that the enemy seeks to spin through detractors.
Maybe you’re a pastor squaring up with a carnal deacon board, trying to pursue a God given vision in the face of tremendous scrutiny and opposition.
Stay on the wall, Nehemiah. That deacon board can’t stop you. God is fighting for you! Dream, implement, preach, evangelize, cast vision.
It will come to pass.
There are a number of problems with hiding behind Nehemiah 6.
- Jerusalem is not analogous to a church. Nehemiah was building a wall that served as a real physical defense against its enemies. By the beginning of chapter 6, the wall was strong enough to withstand an assault, though the doors were not finished yet, so he was racing the clock. Nehemiah’s enemies needed to draw him beyond the walls to be able to attack him. If Perry Noble wants to think of himself as Nehemiah, why is he building a wall to keep people out of church?
- Nehemiah was responding to a lie. Nehemiah’s enemies falsely offered to talk, but they were really trying to kill him.
- Nehemiah did reply. Four times Nehemiah engaged them by asking them to justify their request. He wasn’t so busy that he couldn’t respond; he was wise enough to know when he was being deceived. Nehemiah 4 also details how Nehemiah responded to complaints from his own people, even removing people from the work on the wall.
- Nehemiah faced real enemies. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem were setting up an ambush to kill Nehemiah. Chapter 4 tells us what their motives were, then chapter 6 details the means of their conspiracy to defeat Nehemiah and attack Jerusalem.
The problem with using Nehemiah’s wall as an excuse to ignore criticism is that it’s unnecessarily divisive. It says that critics are lying mortal enemies of the church. Rather than framing Christian critics as being outside the wall, it would be more accurate and constructive to consider them inside-the-wall co-workers looking for the best way to perform the task.
On many occasions on this blog I’ve been asked to affirm that Noble and I are on the same team. I’ve answered in the affirmative.
What do you think Noble and Furtick would answer if the same-team question were asked of them? Their use of Nehemiah 6 suggests that they would say no.