NewSpring has announced it is starting NewSpring College, a two-year program that will cost you $4,000 and most of your free time. Starting next fall, NewSpring College will offer its students two years of courses and grunt work, after which they are rewarded with a letter of recommendation to — drum roll, please — NewSpring Church.
Before you can complete the online application, prospective students have to upload a three-minute video to YouTube telling how they met Jesus, why they feel called to ministry, and why they want to go to NewSpring College.
What is this? American Idol?
This is all information that could more profitably be included in the written application. Wannabe ministers have just one minute each to talk about their salvation and calling. The only reason to ask for a video is so that they can screen applicants based on physical appearance (age, gender, weight, beauty, race) and personality. I can’t imagine any real college trying to select candidates on such dubious criteria, and they’re opening the door to serious and potentially illegal discrimination.
The application also asks for links to students’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and blogs. This is surely for ideological screening. How many times has the student retweeted Noble and linked to NewSpring material? God forbid that they have ever linked to or liked blogs like this one.
That kind of screening would be fine for a job application, though for an educational institution, it’s more problematic. Are students going to really learn anything new, or are they expected to just memorize NewSpring dogma? In a research paper on the early church, do you think a NS College student is likely to be allowed to point out that there’s no biblical warrant for secular songs in worship, for prohibiting children from hearing the sermon, or for holographic preachers? To ask the question is to answer it.
A Job You Pay For
Beyond wanting demographic and ideological uniformity in the classroom, the other reason students’ social media have to be vetted is that this really is a staff position, though one that the students pay the church for. Outside of class (and we’re not told how much time they’ll actually spend in class), NS College students must attend all NS staff meetings, conferences, and Sunday services. They also have to help the church in its community outreach projects, participate in a small group, and meet regularly with other NS staff.
These extracurricular demands even trump students’ part-time jobs.
Your school schedule will take precedence over any outside event. Exceptions for individual schedules cannot be made.
That includes Christmas and Easter. Students have to stay in Anderson to participate in all the church’s Christmas activities and are only released to go home on Christmas day.
These students are also expected to perform physical labor for the church. From the application form:
While fulfilling your responsibilities at NewSpring College, you may be required to perform physical labor such as moving chairs, lifting, pulling, pushing, and cleaning or general office labor such as typing, talking on the phone, writing and sitting.
If you’re disabled and make it past the video, this is where you lose.
NewSpring’s Own Cemetery
I you listen to Perry Noble for any more than about 20 minutes, you’ll catch his deliberate slip of the tongue where he describes seminaries as cemeteries. He has taken some pride in the past about his own and his staff’s lack of seminary training. Now we see that Noble didn’t object to seminaries as seminaries, he objected to them because they don’t teach what he teaches. Now that he has created one that will, it’s OK to be a seminary student again.
The NewSpring seminary will be its own cemetery where real college degrees go to die. I know from personal experience that more than a few college students are tempted to leave four-year degree programs prematurely, even in Christian ministry, to join NewSpring’s staff. Now that NS has its own “college,” that siren call will be even more irresistible.
Calling what they’re doing a college is disingenuous. Students will not be able to transfer any of their NewSpring work to other educational institutions, and their diploma will only be recognized by NewSpring itself. In truth, this is a two-year apprenticeship program, which would be fine and honorable if it were recognized as such. More accurate terms might have been simply school or Bible college (the difference in that it’s understood that some Bible colleges don’t award accredited degrees). But to call it a Bible college, it would have to teach more of the Bible than it promises to.
An Introduction to Depth
Noble routinely rails against people who want to “go deep” and learn more from the Bible than they get from his sermons. Not surprisingly, the NS College curriculum has been designed with an anti-depth philosophy in mind. Here’s a summary of the 13 courses they will offer:
- Three on leadership and personal health
- Two on Christian beliefs
- Two on communication and culture
- Five on the Bible
- One on Acts
- One on Ephesians, with an emphasis on personal spiritual formation
- One 90-day Bible survey
- Two Testament surveys (one on the OT, one on the NT)
One class is called New Testament Intro, and it’s described as “an in-depth course on the major themes of the New Testament.” (The OT class is described in similar terms.) In most other colleges, an intro course on major themes offers breadth, but certainly not depth, though everything becomes clear when you see how Noble understands depth:
DEEP is NOT knowing a lot of information.