A vision of congressional-strength hypocrisy 24

Perry Noble was at it again a few days ago, criticizing other pastors for drawing a paycheck.

Unfortunately for some church leaders passion isn’t their motivation…a paycheck is…and because of that their vision is “always for sale!”

The curious thing about this particular complaint is that, while PN is probably the highest-paid pastor in the state, he earns his money precisely from selling his vision.

Selling vision to the congregation is one of the highest priorities a pastor can have, according to Noble.

My advice…get alone with God–develop a vision…a GOD SIZED vision.  Share that vision with people–challenge them to get on board.  The ones that can’t–let them leave–it’s ok, people walked away from Jesus, they will walk away from you as well.  AND then continually cast that vision over and over and over again.

Do you suppose if Noble changed his vision radically, he’d still get his paycheck? Not that that’s likely:

When you cast a compelling vision…it will fire some people up and piss some people off…

And the ones that are pissed are usually the most vocal.

But you can’t allow the pissed to trump the passion God has placed inside of you!

AND…you’ve got to understand that there are people ON BOARD!  People DO BELIEVE in the vision God has placed IN you.

Yesterday I picked up Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church book for a series of posts I’m developing for next week, and found this instruction to pastors that helps us understand why Noble is such a visionary.

People give to vision, not to need. …It is not the neediest institutions that attract contributions but those with the greatest vision….

If your church is constantly short on cash, check out your vision. Is it clear? Is it being communicated effectively? Money flows to God-given, Holy Spirit-inspired ideas. Churches with money problems often actually have a vision problem. (p. 202)

Did you catch that? Vision is a money-making device, completely divorced from actual need.

So, Noble complaining about pastors being paid for their vision is like Obama and Pelosi complaining about people flying in private jets.

Just a little rich.

24 thoughts on “A vision of congressional-strength hypocrisy

  1. JT May 2, 2009 6:49 am


    I understand many of your criticisms of Noble and Newspring. However since I’ve started following your blog, it appears you are now just trying to ‘get’ Noble by pointing out any and all discrepancies or minor errors in his statements, even if there is none.

    There was nothing at all hypocritical in the statment that you’ve quoted above. He is clearly criticizing pastors who are willing to sell the vision and direction of their church to the biggest givers.

    This blog is at its best when you thoughtfully critique the appropriateness of NS’s strategies. It’s at its worst when you stoop to misrepresentation to get your man.

    • James Duncan May 2, 2009 9:29 am

      JT, I appreciate your nice words. I am glad the blog has some value to you.

      I don’t think this particular post is misrepresenting PN or picking on something minor. First, it is another example of the straw man that PN keeps picking on. What churches is he talking about where pastors sell the vision for a paycheck? If it’s a denominational church, those leaders are going to constrained by the creeds and government of that denomination to make prepaid vision changes quite difficult. If it’s an independent church, I would assume that members have been attracted to the existing vision of the leader, so why would there be a need for change?

      Second, I think the Rick Warren quote makes this a substantive and insightful piece (if I may say so myself). Of the many things we know about PN, one is that he talks about vision constantly (ask Tony Morgan about that), and another is that he has imbibed deeply from Warren’s philosophy.

      Warren says vision makes money. Noble says the vision of other churches shouldn’t make money. That is an interesting contradiction.

  2. Seth Wright May 2, 2009 4:53 pm

    I have been following this blog for a little while but I finally feel it is time to speak up. I do attend Newspring and am even a member of Newspring. Tho I do not always agree with what they do or how they do it, the results and blessing by God cannot be ignored. Tho you may disagree with things that they say or do, the number of people they have saved since opening their doors (over 5,000) and the number of life changing stories speak for themselves that this is a movement of God. That he is blessing what they are doing. And I know its not suppose to be about the numbers but I am included as one fo those 5,000 people saved by what God is doing at Newspring. Just because you don’t agree with the way they do things doesn’t give you the right to consitantly attack them. If you spent the time that you spend critiquing Newspring to do something constructuve or to advance the kingdome of God by showing love to others through actions and words you might could actually make a difference in the world. Be part of the solution, not in sync with the enemy. but, on to the main reason I am posting,

    The statements do not contradict each other. Perry is refering to churches who change the vision when a big time giver threatens to leave or when pastors change the vision of the church not to what God wants but to what the big time givers of the church want. Rick Warren is talking to people who are in struggling churches or planting churches. As advice for the future. I have read the book as I plan to plant a church in the future, and fully understand the difference between the 2 statements. Another thing is that at the start of this section is not about vision, he already covered that, its primary focus is thoughts about financing you evanglism strategy, not the vision. What perry said verses what Rick said is not contradicting, they do and don’t go together b/c of the context each one of them is meant to be taken it. one is about pastors holding onto the vision God gives them and not giving in while the other is for struggling churches or giving practical advice to pastors.

  3. James Duncan May 2, 2009 6:16 pm

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, Seth. I’m glad you dropped by.

    I praise God for your testimony of God’s grace.

    I also appreciate your treatment of the numbers argument here. You reference it, while understanding that it’s not a slam-dunk answer. It’s not an illegitimate argument, but it’s not as strong as some think.

    Can you point to a specific church where the vision was sold to major donors? Perry Noble doesn’t have a great deal of experience in other churches and he dropped out of seminary, so I don’t know where his knowledge of churches beside his own comes from. I really would like to know what he thinks he’s talking about beside the simplistic caricatures he frequently serves up. His description of the church is quite foreign to many of us NS outsiders. I’ve had much wider experience in the church than PN, and I haven’t seen a church like this.

    Regarding Warren, I don’t think I misrepresented him. Although he is offering advice that can be used by church planters, it’s offered from the perspective of a highly successful pastor (why else would planters be turning to RW for advice?). Warren says this is what works for us, so you should see if it works for you.

  4. Seth Wright May 3, 2009 7:35 pm

    Perry’s experiences with church pastors selling out is from all the sit-downs, one on ones and coaching networks he has either put on or heard first hand. He has spoken to hundreds of pastors on a personal level across the country, so even tho he himself may or may not know of churches who’s pastor has shold out, he has heard other people say the samething. I have been to a few conferences and I have also heard other pastors talk about selling out the vision along with that statement being in several church planting books that I have read. So whether or not he knows a specific case, he has heard others speak of it going on. And even though he didn’t finish seminary, he does know a great deal. And I have friends who have experience of the pastor having to give in to the demands of the people, and not follow what He felt God wanted him to do and so pretty much gave up, and what ever the people wanted, he did. I even know a few friends fathers who have done it before and my friend said they could tell a difference in his preaching and his passion.

    And Perry is talking about churches where the people, not the holy spirit decide the vision of the church. Rick Warren is talking about people who give to the vision of the church, that if the vision is clear and understanable, people will want to give and be apart. I dont think these 2 statements go against each other at all.

  5. Seth Wright May 3, 2009 7:43 pm

    And I do understand that God blesses churches in so many other ways than just numbers. Each church has a specific group it can reach or a specific thing that it does best. I know several smaller churches that aren’t growing in terms of numbers rather they are making a difference in the lives of the community and sharing the gospel with others.

  6. James Duncan May 3, 2009 9:02 pm

    Thanks, Seth. That’s a decent answer.

    What you describe sounds quite likely the source of PN’s perspective. It does point to one of the inherent weaknesses of vision, which will be the topic of the “Leaders’ special Bibles” post that I foreshadowed in today’s post.

    The most important issue is not so much whether the leader and the people (however you define that, but I assume that means elders and deacons in many cases) have different visions, but which one has God’s vision. I can well imagine leaders coming back from one of Perry’s conferences and announcing that the church is going to start acting like NewSpring. You’ve got to believe that there’d be many elder/deacon boards who would quickly shut down the vision and be happy to see the leader leave if he insisted on following it through. How can you know who is doing God’s will in such a dispute?

  7. Seth May 3, 2009 11:18 pm

    While at these conferences that Newspring holds, they make sure to tell people, all do all conferences, that they should not and try to be exactly like Newspring because no 2 churches are exactly the same. They should however, prayerfully seek what God would have them do in their church. So the at whether or not the pastor prayerfully seeks what God wants him to do, and then the deacons/elders do the same, God will reveal what should be done. Also, John Maxwell talks about changing the mind of deacons/elders in the book, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He gives tips for helping to change the minds of poeple who are set in their ways when he knows that the change is what God wants done.

  8. Seth May 4, 2009 4:41 pm

    We know when he speaks to us, either it be through reading scripture or when he speaks to us. If you have ever heard God speak to you, Which since you are a Christian I assume you have, Then you just know. He has spoken to me numerous times from the point of calling me to salvation to the [oint of telling me to go into ministry. He always wants to talk to us and communicate to us, the real question is whether or not we choose to take to listen.

  9. James Duncan May 4, 2009 6:30 pm

    So when God tells PN to play Highway to Hell, we “just know” that that’s God? How does he recognize his voice, since I assume it sounds quite different from the one we hear from reading Scripture?

  10. Seth May 4, 2009 8:11 pm

    Coming from someone who hears God, you just know. And since peope who aren’t saved are on a highway to hell, I think the song is appropiate, it made people think and got people in the midset. And that might not have been Perry’s idea, it could have been Lee Mcderments, He is the Worship Pastor and I do know that once he has the message topics, he slects the songs. So even though Perry does sign off on the final idea, it is also a group effort and decision. And I had several friends and family with me, people who have been in the “traditional church” their whole lives, and said that it was some of the best preaching they have ever heard. But, When God speaks, you just know its him. Have you never heard from God?

  11. James Duncan May 4, 2009 8:25 pm

    Seth, I thought I’d heard from God when I heard him say, “What fellowship can light have with darkness?” I was also fairly certain I was hearing from him when he said, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”

    I thought I’d heard him, but apparently not. Must have been someone else.

  12. Tommy F. May 4, 2009 9:47 pm

    Seth: what JDuncan is getting at is: how does one know it’s God’s voice rather than just a (good or bad) idea or merely indigestion?

  13. Seth May 4, 2009 11:00 pm

    It doesn’t go against who God is and what he says. That is how you know. I know because the things he tells me Iwould never do or consider unless He puts it in me or gives it to me. Do you guys remember the last time God spoke to you? How was it for you guys?

  14. Tommy F. May 4, 2009 11:43 pm

    Seth: What do you mean when you write: “who God is and what he says”? Do you mean the Bible? Your pastor? Friends? Family?

  15. James Duncan May 5, 2009 12:15 am

    Seth, I just told you of a time this evening when God spoke to me. Do you think it wasn’t enough? Boring, maybe?

    You say you know it’s God because you wouldn’t consider or do what he tells you otherwise. Isn’t that dangerously circular reasoning? Whatever you do, no matter how off the wall, had to have been God. In other words, the more outlandish and unpredictable, the more obviously from God.

  16. Tommy F. May 5, 2009 9:37 am

    Seth: Imagine hearing a leader defend a statement, vision, or plan by saying: “I know because the things he tells me I would never do or consider unless He puts it in me or gives it to me.” And when someone questions the plan or vision, the leader replies with: “these ideas sound outlandish and crazy, but they’re really not because they come from God. And since they come from God you ought to obey, follow, and believe in the vision.”

    I’d say this sounds a lot like cult mentality. Seriously. So, how is your statement different than a cult leader who uses it as a basis for teaching and instruction?

  17. Seth May 5, 2009 10:39 am

    Yes, I do mean the Bible. The things He speaks to me will not contradict them nor would it be something that is sin.

    Also, what do you consider cursing? yes the Bible says not to curse but the words they wouold have cursed with in the times of Jesus are different from today. So do you go by what society has deemed cursing or do you go by the bible because many curse words today arent even mentioned in the bible.

    I never said anything about forcing anyone to believe the vision. Thats adding words to what I said. The defference is exactly what I said, when God speaks to you, it doesn’t go against the Bible and it isnt sin. Obviously when someone calls himself God as a leader of a cult, thats a sin and goes against the Bible. That is also why when people preach and teach on vision giving, they make sure to include lots of prayer, not just alone but with the congregation also. And not everything that comes from God has to be outlandish, crazy, and big.

  18. James Duncan May 5, 2009 12:52 pm

    On cursing, I think that BAMF has always counted as cursing.

    Do you really want to say that you have a lower standard for cursing than the world? If a word is not in the Bible, you apparently feel free to say it as much as you like.

    Remarkable, but not surprising.

    On hearing from God, I think I stand on solid ground when I say that NOTHING that comes from God is outlandish or crazy.

  19. JT May 5, 2009 12:59 pm

    I really think that the problem that many people have with Perry Noble isn’t that he promotes a vision, but rather the way he does it. Every pastor or ministry leader promotes a vision. Twenty years ago they didn’t call it ‘vision.’ Back then it was a ‘plan.’ Same thing. Find a pastor without a plan and a passion, and I’ll show you a dead (or dying) local church.

    Theologically, NewSpring is in-line with most evangelical churches. The concern I keep hearing is over Perry’s methods. And here’s the rub- Noble tries to shock and offend, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when he is criticized– he is asking for it! The purpose of NewSpring’s “unchurchiness” is to get people talking. And it’s working. And whether you are skeptical about the sincerity of the numbers or not, nobody can deny that many people are being saved and growing in faith at NewSpring.

    Let’s get to the bottom line here. NewSpring’s unofficial slogan is that they’ll do anything short of sin to reach people for Christ. The debate over NewSpring is essentially this question- Are the leaders of NewSpring sinning in the way they lead the church?

    I’ll offer up this as an answer– Of course the leaders at NewSpring are sinning! But so is every other pastor in the world.

    So I’ll offer up this second fundamental question- Are the sins of the NewSpring leaders enough to warrant creating division in the body of Christ? I don’t believe so. I often hear Noble preaching something that makes me uncomfortable, or that causes me to think, “Isn’t there a more gracious way to make that point?”… but I do not hear heresy in Noble’s preaching.

  20. JT May 5, 2009 1:04 pm

    James Duncan-

    You said, “On hearing from God, I think I stand on solid ground when I say that NOTHING that comes from God is outlandish or crazy.”

    What about Abraham being told to sacrifice Isaac?
    Noah to build an ark?

    And then there is this one:
    The Eternal Word becoming flesh?

    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself! 🙂

  21. James Duncan May 5, 2009 1:47 pm

    Apology accepted. I knew you (or someone) wouldn’t be able to help it. It was a trick. 🙂

    The key to the trick is determining who is defining crazy and outlandish. God’s person, Word and actions are perfect, normative, and, by definition, sane. If we don’t understand them, we’re the crazy ones, not God.

    The more serious point is that God’s Word is the standard against which we do measure outlandishness and insanity. Grace is amazing, but not outlandish. Ditto Isaac, Noah, the Incarnation. (Perhaps that should be megaditto.)

    Singing Highway to Hell on Easter. Yes, that is outlandish and crazy, even by Biblical standards.

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