How to train a generation of spiritual rebels 27

One of the most personally threatening aspects of NewSpring’s ministry (and a very good reason why I would not be a member) is the way that leaders casually tear down parental authority. As some of you know, I first noticed it with their Parents Are Clueless marketing campaign, but Noble was at it again last weekend. Although I don’t usually watch his sermons, I watched for a couple of minutes after his scoreboard bit and saw this remarkable threat to the parents in his church.

Earlier in the service, it appears that quite a few teenagers who had returned from the church’s week-long youth camp had gone to the front of the auditorium, just near the stage, and had jumped up and down with their arms in the air while the band performed the songs.

Some of you parents, this is going to bother you, and you’re like, “That’s my kid down there, and my kid’s got their arms raised, and they’re jumping!”…

And some of you are like, “I’m going to have to go home and tell my teenager to calm down.”

And the reason you’re intimidated is because your teenager probably loves Jesus more than you. But if you’re a parent and that bothers you, …do you know how many parents in America would kill to have your problem? Like your biggest problem is your kid is passionately worshipping Jesus?

Ohhhhh!

You know, you could calm them down, and God could give you what you want, and that could be his judgment.

I would be very careful.

Let me ask some careful questions.

  1. Is jumping really a good way to measure love? On the basis of a few minutes of jumping up and down, Noble tells parents that their kids love Jesus more than they. Who would have a better handle on that, do you think? A parent who lives with them all week, or a pastor who sees them as anonymous (bobbing) faces in a crowd? It’s safe to say that the kids know how to act at a concert better than their parents, but it’s foolish to be making judgments about spiritual maturity on such a basis.
  2. Why is he usurping someone else’s authority? God tells parents, much more than he tells pastors, to bring up their children in the knowledge of the Lord. Look at the great command in Deuteronomy 6:6-7:

    These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

    In other words, parents are to teach God’s statutes to their children always and everywhere. (Note: whether jumping up and down is proper is not the issue here. The issue is who has the most authority to teach children how to worship God.)

  3. Who risks the most judgment here? Perry Noble just took on the mantle of a prophet and pronounced God’s judgment on God’s people. The parents were merely obeying Ephesians 6:4.
  4. Is how we worship so inconsequential? Noble mocks parents for thinking that how their children worship is worth worrying about. If God is most important in our lives, shouldn’t how we relate to him be the most important thing in our lives? If there’s a problem in how we relate to him, shouldn’t that be the most important problem in our lives?
  5. Doesn’t this sow the seeds of spiritual rebellion? If a parent decided to risk God’s judgment and tried to teach his or her children about spiritual maturity, why would these kids listen? Their pastor has told them that they love Jesus more than their parents, and that their parents are out of God’s will in instructing them. “I don’t need to listen to you; you don’t really love Jesus!”
  6. How does this conform to Malachi 4:6?

    He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.

27 thoughts on “How to train a generation of spiritual rebels

  1. David J Horn Aug 3, 2009 8:19 am

    There you go again with those pesky scriptures….

  2. JT Aug 3, 2009 9:00 am

    A little background:

    Standing in front of the stage during the worship singing is the typical atmosphere at the Wednesday night Fuse service (Junior and High School ministry). At summer camp, Perry Noble challenged the kids to bring that atmosphere back to the Sunday services.

    And I think you misread the part about God’s judgment. It’s clear from the context that Noble said God’s judgment would be giving the parents what they want — a child whose walk with God has been calmed down.

    Oh, and Matthew 10:35 comes to mind.

  3. James Downing Aug 3, 2009 9:38 am

    Isn’t this just more macho bravado from Noble? Basically, every church I’ve ever been in has this same thing happen. Kids go off to youth camp, come back all jacked up and take over the service for a week. There’s nothing bad about that, just pointing out that it’s not unusual. It just makes me wonder how many NS parents are really concerned about their kids jumping in the service. Like I said, I’ve seen the same thing happen after a camp experience in Southern Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches, and those parents were usually quite happy to see their kids excited about God, even if it was just for a short time. I think this is just another of Perry’s strawmen that he loevs to build. He’s crafted himself as a rebel and has to continually create things to rebel against.

  4. JT Aug 3, 2009 9:54 am

    Downing,

    Well, it wasn’t just “Kids go off to youth camp, come back all jacked up and take over the service for a week.”

    They did it again this week, too.

    Only this week, I noticed some of the adults joined them in standing by the stage.

  5. James Downing Aug 3, 2009 10:12 am

    Then I was right. The parents weren’t nearly as concerned about it as Perry made them out to be.

  6. David J Horn Aug 3, 2009 11:01 am

    This is just another example of Perry’s poor attitude and understanding of the Scriptures. Why does he always want to attack/mock other people’s views by implying they don’t love Jesus as much NS’ers just because they are not practicing NS culture? Come on Perry, you can do better than this.

  7. James Duncan Aug 3, 2009 11:46 am

    JT,

    The whole judgment thing is very unwise, especially because it is so ambiguous (not to mention, unwarranted). Perhaps he does mean that calmer kids is the judgment, but, in this instance, why would God judge the kids, who are so in love with Jesus, for the parents’ cold hearts?

  8. jcarl Aug 3, 2009 4:20 pm

    To me the issue is not if the parents are OK with it or not. Or even whether the parents are right or not. To me the issue is this: Is it acceptable for a pastor to teach kids that if their parents question their worship style, it means that their parents have weaker faith than they do? I say that is clearly morally wrong. Three verses come to mind:

    Exo 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

    Mat 5:19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    Mar 9:42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.

  9. JT Aug 3, 2009 10:59 pm

    One’s outward actions are not always a true indication of one’s heart during worshipful singing. I’ve heard Noble make that point enough times to know that he doesn’t think raising hands and jumping up and down is more spiritual than sitting quietly in your seat. He has even used his own wife as an example to make this point.

    Too many commenters on PP miss the context of what really goes on at NewSpring.

  10. Tommy F Aug 3, 2009 11:09 pm

    JT,

    Then by all means, please enlighten us. What was the purpose and meaning of his comments?

  11. Mr. Francis Aug 4, 2009 12:02 am

    Bottom line is dancing is a way to praise God. I think Perry needed to say what he said, because some parent needed to hear jumping up and down is a way to worship Jesus.

  12. MW Aug 4, 2009 2:31 am

    JT,

    I’m with ya on the context thing. The problem is that none of us say things perfectly all the time. I think These blog posts tend to get too wrapped up in the times when the semantics skew the point to those that are just catching the 1 minute film.

    At the same time though, it’s not always bad to ask the question “what does he mean by this?” If you knew him really well you might know what he means by these comments but for people who are “just tuning in” it freaks them out. It’s like the scoreboard comment; why did he have to go there? That wasn’t exactly the wisest and most careful way to say it. I could think of a hundred better ways to get across that point. Perry is blunt and people either like that, are confused by it or hate it. It can be confusing at times for those of us who love his intentions but get thrown by some of his comments.

    If you are reading PN, I love you brother, but the way you say things sometimes comes across rude and arrogant. Love is gentle and kind. Be Kingdom minded.

  13. tara Aug 4, 2009 9:40 am

    i think there’s a time and place for everything, and i watched these two clips in the context of the service. “scoreboard” and this one were right before he preached. just seems a little odd. if he’d like to address these issues i’m sure there’s a way better time AND place. i cant imagine these angry, snide remarks coming right before he’s proclaiming the Word of God. the worship hour should be much more sacred than that….just the opinion of a “preacher’s wife” 🙂

  14. MW Aug 4, 2009 11:32 am

    Tara,

    I agree. Leave out the rants and just give me the gospel. There should never be an us vs. them mentality from the pulpit. That is not being Kingdom minded. If you are confident in what God is doing in your church there is no need to worry about the critics. It just makes you seem insecure when you have to address them that way.

    Preach the gospel with all confidence in Christ and His work in your church.

  15. JT Aug 4, 2009 11:39 am

    Tommy,

    You said, “Then by all means, please enlighten us. What was the purpose and meaning of his comments?”

    Noble was telling parents that they shouldn’t discourage their children from expressive worship, or they might be squelching their child’s faith.

    Yes, Perry Noble is a bit eccentric as preachers go, but it doesn’t take a secret decoder ring to understand the man.

  16. Jim W Aug 4, 2009 12:02 pm

    Well, JT, it must take a decoder ring to understand Perry, because I read his comments and I didn’t get that from them. Must be because I’m old and one of those fuddy-duddies that just doesn’t “get it”. I read someone somewhere that said that Perry is a gifted communicator. Sorry, I’m a teacher-I communicate daily for a living and I don’t find Perry gifted at all. He’s a grandstander and a boaster, nothing more.

  17. Tommy F Aug 4, 2009 2:15 pm

    JT,

    You wrote: “Noble was telling parents that they shouldn’t discourage their children from expressive worship, or they might be squelching their child’s faith.”

    The problem is that he didn’t say that at all. You may have “heard” that with your special PNoble decoder hearing aid, but Noble didn’t even use any of these words, much less in the order you’ve placed them.

    Question: if this is what Noble meant, then why didn’t he just say it like you wrote it? He could have said: “Parents, get used to your children being more expressive in worship. Don’t complain. Parents, your response should be to praise God that your children are worshipping God.”

    He would have avoided this post and all the comments. But, wait. That’s the point isn’t it? He wants you to leave talking about him. He wants to “ruffle feathers” and have people saying: “Guess what Perry said tonight?” ….

    One last question: can you order some of those hearing devices for us? We seem to be hearing different sermons, reading different twitters, and coming to very different conclusions.

  18. KeithO Aug 4, 2009 2:32 pm

    I’m with Downing on this one. It appears parents are not near as worked up about the worship style, so why the strawman and why the lecture directed toward parents?

    I’m also with Duncan, I assume always that I know my child better than a preacher who sees him once a week, and likely wouldn’t even know his name. This point is vital, as church and youth staff particularly should be available to parents, as they should be our partners in the spirtual development of our children. If they are not available, then where is the partnership?

    So what exactly is PN wanting from the parents who allow their kids to be a part of NS, attend there themselves and contribute to his bottom line?

  19. MW Aug 4, 2009 4:29 pm

    KeithO,

    Agree. I don’t have a kid but I know if my preacher ever acted like he knew my kid better than I did I’d be ticked!

  20. JT Aug 4, 2009 8:41 pm

    Tommy F- You said, “can you order some of those hearing devices for us? We seem to be hearing different sermons, reading different twitters, and coming to very different conclusions.”

    Sorry, I can’t order you one. However, you can get one for yourself for free! It’s really easy to get this type of hearing device: You simply listen without assuming the speaker is always in the wrong, stop twisting his words to fit your presuppositions about him, and interpret his statements in context.

    It really isn’t that hard.

  21. Tommy F. Aug 4, 2009 8:55 pm

    JT,

    You wrote: “stop twisting his words to fit your presuppositions about him”

    1) I’d say in this case you are guilty of that more than I am. You are the one who interpreted the words as something he didn’t even say. You are the one who knows what “really goes on at NewSpring.” Here’s how: You begin with the presumption that Perry can do and say no wrong, so you alter what he said to make sure he didn’t say anything offensive.

    2) I don’t assume that he is “always in the wrong.” Perhaps your secret decoder allows you to interpret my words to say things I didn’t say as well. That’s quite a gift.

  22. JT Aug 4, 2009 9:09 pm

    Tommy F.-

    Perry Noble is not perfect. I have no problem admitting he has flaws. I have no problem admitting that he likes to offend people. He says offensive things from the pulpit just about every week. In fact, he started his sermon this week by saying that people would be offended, and that the gospel is offensive to the unsaved.

    I certainly don’t feel the need to protect Perry Noble’s words from offending people.

  23. James Duncan Aug 4, 2009 9:42 pm

    It’s been kind of amusing to see the predictable appeals to context to defend this. The great thing about this and the Scoreboard clip is that the posted video is the entire message. They were little rants before he started preaching, so there is no context out of which these were taken. If we can only interpret this by knowing everything he’s ever preached before, how do you account for his supposed sensitivity to new attenders? How would they make any sense from this?

    There’s a certain point where constantly appealing to context hurts your defense of Noble. If on one Sunday he equates jumping with loving Jesus, but on another says that actions in worship don’t show your love for Jesus, which one do you believe? When do you conclude that perhaps he sometimes doesn’t think about what he’s saying? When are we supposed to believe him and ignore him?

  24. James Duncan Aug 4, 2009 9:47 pm

    JT,

    I’m not sure if you’re being promiscuous with the word “offensive” or if Noble is. There’s a world of difference between the offense of the Gospel and the ungentlemanly, offensive behavior that PN enjoys.

    Is PN saying that if we’re offended at him, we’re unsaved? It sounds like it, but perhaps I’m taking you and him out of context.

  25. KeithO Aug 4, 2009 10:28 pm

    In plain language, what PN said is what he said. If parents have trouble with their kids jumping up and down, then he suggests it may be because they don’t love Jesus as much as their kids. Pick whatever context you want, it doesn’t change what he said.

    My response is even if that were the case, so what? I would hope that my child loves God with all heart, soul, mind and strength. As a parent, that is my highest joy and priviledge to see. Since when has love for Jesus been a contest between christians anyway? And if all I have to do is go up front and wave my hands and jump for Jesus to show him the extent of my love, then how would my behavior compare to missionaries in foreign countries who are laying their lives down (or at best, forgoing conveniences) for the gospel?

    And to take it a step further, if we are going to make comparisons about who loves Jesus more, let’s compare these same missionaries with PN, who gets to preach in a multi million dollar building on the high dollar side of town in a country that allows him to say whatever he wishes in the context of a religious service. Between PN and the missionaires, who loves Jesus more, using PN’s logic?

    Or maybe there is no logic. Perhaps his mouth engaged before his brain fully understood the implications of what he wanted to say.

  26. JT Aug 5, 2009 12:37 am

    So much to respond to, so little time. I’ll try Tommy’s method response-by-number:

    1) Duncan said, “If we can only interpret this by knowing everything he’s ever preached before, how do you account for his supposed sensitivity to new attenders? How would they make any sense from this?”

    I never said you need to know everything he’s ever preached. I said, “Too many commenters on PP miss the context of what really goes on at NewSpring.” I’m not asking that you download and listen to every sermon the man has ever made, I’m just suggesting that if you truly want to understand what he is saying, you ought to pay closer attention to what he says… not just the little soundbites that can be twisted to serve the purposes of this blog.

    Oh, and Noble doesn’t claim any “sensitivity to newcomers,” as far as I know. His preaching style is anything but seeker-sensitive.

    2) Duncan said, “If on one Sunday he equates jumping with loving Jesus, but on another says that actions in worship don’t show your love for Jesus, which one do you believe?”

    Change your “don’t show your love for Jesus” to “don’t necessarily show your love for Jesus” and you’ll have it pretty close to what I said previously.

    3) Duncan said, “When are we supposed to believe him and ignore him?”

    That’s an easy one. We ignore him when what he says is inconsistent with God’s word.

    4) Duncan said, “Is PN saying that if we’re offended at him, we’re unsaved? It sounds like it, but perhaps I’m taking you and him out of context.”

    Actually, that’s a perfect example of you taking something out of context. In this past Sunday’s sermon, he was referring to the offense people feel when they are confronted about their sin. He specifically addressed how the unsaved are offended by the gospel, as well as how Christians are also offended when someone preaches on specific sins that they cling to.

    Here’s the bottom-line of all these context-related comments: If you dedicate your blog to exposing the improprieties of a pastor, it would behoove you to actually listen to his sermons, rather than pick apart his tweets and selected sound-bites.

  27. James Duncan Aug 5, 2009 12:46 am

    Thanks, JT.

    Re #4, I welcome your explanation. The way it was written could have been interpreted as a dig at people who have a problem with PN. I’m glad that it wasn’t.

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