Indecency in church 23

No, this is not from an MTV set.

Worshiping at Newspring

It’s worship at Newspring Church.

This doesn’t (or shouldn’t) require much commentary, but there’s a verse that head pastor Perry Noble, who wasn’t a part of this service, loves to titillate his audience with, though he appears not to have grasped the point of the passage.

Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you. (Deut 22:24)

Besides being good public hygiene, the point of the regulation is to emphasize the holiness of God. Our sin and refuse are incompatible with his incorruptible nature. God demands holiness.

I’m sure that sometime in the series the preacher is going tell his congregation that they should not corrupt themselves with illicit sex because our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Which is true.

But if our bodies deserve respect as God’s temple, how about God’s temple as well?

What’s on stage here is execrable and indecent. And it’s not just in the camp, it’s in God’s temple.

Bury it. It stinks.

23 thoughts on “Indecency in church

  1. Blake Butler Mar 6, 2009 11:17 am

    I’m not sure I follow. I’m pretty sure I understand the context of this passage, but I think that in this scenario the point of the blatant in your face message is to bring out the excrement in one’s life so that the temple can be holy and set apart. This series is for high schoolers who experience the temptations most every day. The church must be as Paul said “all things to all people” so that we can continue to cultivate life change. Yes it is offensive, but so is what’s going on directly outside the walls of the church only amplified. To my knowledge over 50 youth have given their life to Christ during this series, and have thus been able to bury their excrement, the church and the kingdom is growing because of this offensive language.

  2. James Duncan Mar 6, 2009 11:47 am

    You assume the church is ours to change and use however we see fit. The church is Christ’s, and he cares how it is used and misused.

    The church cannot be all things to all people. First, Paul is talking about himself, not the church. When Paul talks about the church, he wants decency and order.

    Second, Paul elaborates on what he means by all, and none of the examples require him to engage in or embrace sin (a Jew, under the law, not under the law, and weak). Paul does not give you permission to act like Larry Flint to win the hearts of horny teenagers.

    Finally, whether this is inside or outside the walls does matter. Excrement happens, as does sin. The point is that it should not be in the camp and left on display. Just because it happens outside the church does not mean that we should exalt it on our altars.

    If the argument is that this happens outside the church, why not present the cover girl as completely naked? What line would that be crossing? I’m not advocating it; I’m interested to know for what reason Newspring wouldn’t do that.

  3. Brad Mar 6, 2009 1:15 pm

    perhaps… you should actually watch the sermon…. and read along in your Bible… and ask God to give you eyes that truly discern…. You waste all your time making “arguments” while real life is blurring by your head and people (not living in a buble world) are dying without Christ….

    your attack has no merit…

  4. James Duncan Mar 6, 2009 2:46 pm

    Actually, I did watch the sermon, but the content of the sermon is not my point. If it was all about the sermon, why even have the set and the magazine covers there in the first place? It appears that they are an integral part of the presentation to you, so I’ll work from the same assumption.

    How we treat God’s house is not a waste of time. I would have thought it somewhat central to our life of worship, especially if you’re a church leader. Paul certainly wasted a lot of time “arguing” about it, as did Moses (and God).

    The bottom of your magazine advertises this series as the most shocking ever. If there’s nothing to take offense at, why claim that it’s shocking?

    You wanted shock. I was shocked.

    Mission accomplished.

  5. Blake Butler Mar 6, 2009 3:08 pm

    Your argument stands; the church is not all things to all people, but members of the church- the body, are. You are very right as well Mr. Duncan the church is Christ’s but I have a hard time believing that Christ is focusing so heavily on methodology that he doesn’t see life change happening. Knowing your background as an educator you know that grabbing the attention of your students is vital. I think this media accomplishes that task of grabbing attention, but it doesn’t embrace sin as you alluded to. Embracing sin would entail fornication on stage, and agreed, if that ever happens on stage I’ll probably look for another church. Until that time I’ll rejoice when one comes into the kingdom. The church has to adapt or die.

    Christ gives us the Great Commission and tells us to simply spread the gospel. He doesn’t give us guidelines or parameters on how to do this. He does give us the Holy Spirit, and I have no burning in my gut about reaching people for the gospel using the culture that is being shoved down their throats.

  6. James Duncan Mar 6, 2009 4:17 pm

    Not embracing sin? Let’s read the headlines on the magazine:

    • 12 reasons to do it before you’re in the 12th grade
    • Let out your inner bad girl and still get a respectful guy
    • 10 no-fail seduction secrets. Get her exactly where you want her
    • Undress her with your eyes without getting caught

    There is nothing redeeming in the content of the magazine, which contains no repudiation of the attitudes and behaviors it advocates.

    It’s all sin, all embrace, all the time.

    Evangelism is not a blank check for immorality.

  7. James Duncan Mar 6, 2009 4:31 pm

    Let me try to preempt an objection to the last argument. You can defend the content of the magazine by saying it’s ironic; it advocates the opposite of what it says on its face.

    I totally get that, and I enjoy good irony, but God’s house is not the place to play with sin, even (especially) in an ironic fashion. If we make an exception for irony, where would we stop? Perhaps we could replace the cross with a golden calf to show that we “get it” about not worshipping idols.

    Being hip and cool and culturally with it will never diminish God’s demand for holiness. The church, and especially the focal center of worship, is not the place to fool around with and advertise sin.

  8. Tommy Frederick Mar 6, 2009 10:47 pm

    I have a lot to say, but the points can be summed up here:

    1. I think this thread would be helped if someone from the planning/leadership side of this service responded. I would think that they’d be ready and able to defend their decisions and in addition to engaging culture, engage their critics. The response (from Brad – the speaker?) “your attack has no merit” would be much more helpful if it came after a substantive reply, rather than appearing as a dismissive quip which seems to have an “I don’t have time to actually reflect on these decisions” feel to it.

    It’s ironic that Brad is not in favor of arguments: his sermon is a sustained argument, right? I could be wrong, of course, but maybe someone at NS would like to shed some light on this thread, and point out the errors in the points made by JDuncan. The attention is welcomed when it’s positive, but any negative reactions are dismissed. Why? Why not reply and persuade the readers?

    2. They are explicitly using sex to sell the service. This reinforces the very thing they should be trying to stop & they are simply giving in to the culture that they appear to be preaching against. A church that uses sex in this way cannot be counter-cultural. It would have been better to have nothing on stage then to a gimmick. And furthermore, the use of these props were fairly predictable. What they should have done – if the goal is shock value and getting people’s attention – is had a red sports car, some scantily clad women, and a garden hose, with bubbles. I wonder if this would be offensive to the NS staff (refer to point 1, above).

    3. Blake wrote a number of things that center on methodology:
    “Embracing sin would entail fornication on stage, and agreed, if that ever happens on stage I’ll probably look for another church. Until that time I’ll rejoice when one comes into the kingdom. The church has to adapt or die.”
    The operative word here appears to be “probably,” which is unfortunate. The commitment is blind and truly absurd. Consider the logic: I am committed to my church, and if it engages in fornication, then perhaps I’ll consider leaving. Of course, if it is just offensive, then I’ll stay and rejoice. This truly is “the end justifies the means” evangelism. Why leave? If people are saved why quibble with the means? Why not praise God that someone was creative enough to draw more people? In fact, why not emulate Larry Flint? He’s been pretty successful and knows how to draw in a crowd.

    Also, “adapt or die” is perhaps even more problematic. I wonder if this is how God views the church. Imagine a divine injunction to Christians: “you’d better adapt to the culture around you – or you won’t succeed.” This sounds odd, or at least it should in light of the Israelites and the early church, who had a very different view on their involvement in culture.

    Regarding methodology Paul said: “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23). This message was not welcomed by many, but it was (long term) very effective. I find it odd that we judge success in ministry by attendance. If this is the criterion: Go Mormons! Currently, many churches think they need to attract more people to be successful. Paul’s preaching was repellent. Apparently, dead Messiah’s are not attractive. It was not attractive. It was offensive, not because of a fake magazine cover, but because it spoke in direct opposition to the culture. This service is quite a reversal of the 1st century. It appears that they believe the message is not enough; gimmicks are required (refer to point 1, above).

    4. I wonder if this post would be helped by reflections on 1 Cor – especially ch 14 – which deals with controversy in corporate worship. Does this use of culture edify the entire body (no pun intended), or does it put attention on a few? Not: does it draw people in, but rather: does it glorify God and does it build up?

  9. Brad Mar 7, 2009 1:27 pm

    2 words: NEW COVENANT ….. ‘God’s House’ has changed…. are we okay with hearts being desecrated???? as long as buildings are kept reverent???

  10. Nick Mar 7, 2009 8:35 pm

    Brad that is not a part of the argument. it is actualluy rather crazy to even rationalize your theology and practice by using “2 words: NEW COVENANT”. That is just silly. Look, what you win them with is what you win them to. Win them with the Glorious powerful merciful and just God, then you will have people who will long for Him as He is. But as soon as you winthem with anything other than God (magazines, cool topics, shock and awe) then you will groom a people who long for the nest thrill and not for a deeper knowledge of Christ. You cannot argue with that. What you win them with, is what you win them to!

  11. James Duncan Mar 7, 2009 9:29 pm

    Brad, I appreciate your reply, though I’m not sure I understand your argument.

    On its face, one might interpret it to be repudiating the Old Testament as well as claiming that there is no physical church. That seems to be what you’re arguing, but your actions suggest that you don’t believe that, given that your sermon was based on a text from Genesis and was preached in a physical church, for which you minister.

    Based on what I think you are saying, your two-word argument is very troubling. Before I comment on that, I’ll pause a moment in case I’m misinterpreting you. If I am, could you please elaborate and correct me (and Nick)?

  12. Brad Mar 7, 2009 10:33 pm

    JD… and any others for that matter.. since i was just made aware of your location…. how about this… if you’d like to discuss any of the above over a meal… or coffee… the offer stands… on me….

    I just feel the conversation @ this venue lends itself to personal pride and posturing….

    @ any rate… JD… you have my email.

  13. James Duncan Mar 7, 2009 10:45 pm

    Sounds like a good idea. I’ll email you.

  14. Rob Grumbles Mar 8, 2009 8:20 pm

    Things I heard & saw in my small group during the SEX-ED, because of the boldness of NS’s Youth Ministry to do the things they do to attract, lead, inspire, teach, and love every child that is a part of the ministry:

    “I want to change. I know I’m capable of serving God better”

    “Because of last weeks service, I realized God wanted me to stop looking at porn on the internet. I told my dad i struggled with it, and needed his help to change. He told me he was proud of me and wished he had been that brave when he was my age”

    “I’ve already asked two friends to help me, by encouraging me, and sending me Scripture everyday, to help me get over my addiction to masturbation and porn.”

    “I can’t look at a girl without lusting, and I can’t stop. I just thought it was something I would have to deal with forever, but now I know it’s possible for me to change, and I want to.”

    “I feel so guilty for looking at porn. I always have, even before I was a Christian. Now, I understand why”

    “Masturbation is so unsatisfying, but being obedient to God is. I need help with this.”

    -also, a youth in my small group had been praying for his friend Sean to accept Christ for a while now.
    -Sean finally surrendered his life to Christ, and is already having a huge impact on his friends. It happened to be during the SEX-ED series.

    These are 8th graders. Middle schoolers. What we do every week at Fuse is not for you Mr. Duncan. It’s not for you Nick. It’s for these kids. I can’t express to you how clearly I can see Christ at work through this ministry, and even more so through these CHILDREN. My entire middle and high school careers would have been easier, less painful, and much more Christ-glorifying than they were had I had accountability like the kids in my small group have formed. They realize Christ has called them to be more. They realize Christ has set them free from sexual immorality. They realize they don’t have to be a slave to sexual immorality.

    You know what they don’t care about… You know what I have never heard in my small group?

    “I can’t believe they used that magazine advertisement. I can’t believe they used articles just like the ones all these teenage girls and guys read everyday, and would have seen somewhere else, if we hadn’t seen them in church.”

    I started going to NS Youth (as a youth) in 6th grade when there were maybe 25 of us on a good night. Now, I get to stand back and watch over 600 hundred teens raise their eyes, their hopes, their hearts, and their hands to God.

    Why do so many of you have to do be like the Pharisees? Dr. Duncan, my sister respects and admires you a lot. Because she does, I hold a certain level of respect towards you myself. It breaks my heart to see you tear down the church that finally brought Christ to a level I could understand. Because of NS’s boldness and willingness to teach and preach GOD’s Word, with God-glorifying-motives, I accepted Christ, and now can begin to minister to others.

    But now you’re attacking the part of the church that I hold dearest to my heart. Jesus, in Scripture, again and again shows us how important children are to Him. I can promise you, Brad Cooper puts everything he has into accurately and passionately reaching the youth, with the primary intention of making Jesus’ name famous.

    If Jesus was so dissatisfied with our youth ministry, do you not believe He would STOP BLESSING US SO RICHLY! He’s dissatisfied with the way the Christians in America have been using their financial blessing & what is He doing? Look at our economy. Do you not think, if He was so upset that we were making the bride of Christ so unholy, he would not DEFEND HIS BRIDE. OF COURSE! As it stands, He’s still doing amazing things in this ministry. Almost 300% growth in the last year! God is moving in this ministry!!! God is IN CONTROL of this ministry. & for you Nick, to say it isn’t about numbers? OF COURSE IT IS! Every SOUL on this Earth was handcrafted by God to bring glory to HIM! Christ calls us to make disciples of ALL nations. All – 100%, In full, Every single bit – That’s a number in my book. Of course, churches need to attract more people! That is not the only thing that limits a church to being successful, however. Attend Newspring, and you will obviously be blown away to find out that Newspring defines its success in making the name of Jesus famous (whether it be accurately teaching Scripture, or reaching an entire community for Christ).

    I’m only 18. My knowledge is so finite. So, so, so limited. But you know what I am smart enough to realize?

    Sometimes, I wonder if men like you are attacking this church because you feel it in your heart that Christ has told you to. Christ’s spirit in you is telling you “anywhere you see God moving and saving and changing lives, vocally attack it”. You’re so concerned with holiness in a church, but what about holiness in yourself. If you love Christ so much, why are you trying to hinder His movement in this community? Your motives seem so self-satisfying to me. It truly disgusts me.

    Newspring serves Christ. I feel confident in saying, no man will ever be known as “the man who revealed Newspring’s true motives, and brought down a church that wasn’t serving Christ!”

    I’m confident in my church. But more than anything, I’m confident in my Savior. He WILL bless this church if this church serves, provides, teaches, preaches, and leads the way it does. Our church is NOT going to change.

    If you’re going to attack a ministry, attack us as a whole. From every small group leader, to the person who presses Spacebar to make the next few lines of Scripture come up, to the children who come expecting to leave with a better knowledge of how much their Savior loves them and wants the best for them (not that any of us will ever know just how much He loves us.”

    I will never understand guys like you.
    I pray for ignorant people who try (without meaning to) to limit the movement of God. I pray for myself, for this same reason everyday, because everyday, I go to bed with the guilt that I didn’t do everything in my power to make Christ’s name more famous.

    I don’t mean any disrespect. I’m standing up for what I believe in. I’m sure a man of your integrity appreciates that Dr. Duncan.

    With love,
    Robert Grumbles
    1 Corinthians 16:13-14

  15. Micah Mar 8, 2009 11:51 pm

    Ephesians 5:11
    “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”

    I find it noble (no pun intended) that Newspring is addressing such an important issue with their youth. The salvations that Blake mentioned during this series is staggering… over 50, that’s amazing!

    I was at another church two weeks ago who sought to do the same thing with similar methods… the tagline was “We talk about sex everywhere else, so why not the church?” which was followed by a video montage including clips from Never Been Kissed with Drew Barrymore slipping a condom over a banana, scenes from Scrubs with explicit dialogue, clips from music videos with very scantily clad lapdancers, and Fireproof.

    This was followed by the youth director taking all the boys into a room and talking about pornography… stating how he couldn’t even watch the superbowl this year because of the commercials.

    A lot of good came from that service too, but I find it discomforting that in situations like this we tell young men to guard their hearts and somehow demonstrate this point by displaying lustful material.

  16. Tommy F. Mar 9, 2009 7:59 pm

    I’m interested to see the turnout from the 3/7 post by Brad inviting us to a discussion. It appears we have a fairly equal number of people questioning NS and those defending them. If Brad’s offer is real, then he could post a place and time for any interested to hear the dialogue.

  17. TC Mar 9, 2009 11:56 pm

    I would love to hear this conversation/discussion!

  18. Mark Mar 11, 2009 11:15 am

    I was struck by Brad’s Robert’s main ‘evidence’ of God’s pleasure:

    “Do you not think, if He was so upset that we were making the bride of Christ so unholy, he would not DEFEND HIS BRIDE. OF COURSE! As it stands, He’s still doing amazing things in this ministry. Almost 300% growth in the last year! God is moving in this ministry!!!”

    With the right strategy, you can ‘win’ people to anything, and the younger they are (less discerning, less experienced, MORE VULNERABLE), the easier.

    To Brad Robert, and others who glory in the multitudes ‘saved’ by questionable means…who do you say THESE people are:

    “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'” (MAT 7:21-23)

    To me, they appear to be energetic, powerful, successful, committed followers of Christ. They also appear that way to themselves. But, for all of their ‘passion’ and ‘high energy’ and ‘success’ and ‘humility’ (“in Your name”), Jesus reports to us that they missed heaven – that they were ‘saved’ only in their own minds. Why? Because of their “practices”, or perhaps their methodologies.

    I have wrestled long with this passage that Jesus gives us of actual, future events. I wish more would. It might make us more considerate of our “practices.”

    God has not called us to be successful, but to be righteous. He has given us His Truth to win people with as well as to. Substitution and/or mingling of right and wrong has never been OK with God (in either covenant). (1KI 12:26-33; 2CO 6:14-18)

  19. Mark Mar 11, 2009 12:26 pm

    Correction: The above-citation and question referenced Brad when they should have referenced Robert.

  20. Johnston Mar 12, 2009 8:55 pm

    I am a teenager that also struggles greatly with lust and sexual sin. It is everywhere in our world today and it’s hard to avoid temptation. It is definitely the most prevalent sin that I struggle with, but the girl on the magazine cover still did not cause me to lust. She is hardly showing any skin and I just found no lust in it.

    Secondly the way Newspring goes about preaching the gospel is completely scriptural. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 it says:

    “I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

    Paul realizes that he must make his message relevant and applicable to each audience he is trying to reach, yet still only use God’s word in doing so. This is exactly what Newspring does. They present the scripture in a more modern way, yet everything said is completely from scripture and done only to bring glory to God. Newspring has completely changed my life and hundreds of others lives. That is what a church is meant to do. Bring others to Christ. Jesus’s final command to the disciples was:

    “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching the to obey everything I have commanded you.” -Matthew 28:19-20

    If we are Christians then saving others should be one of our main goals and by putting the message in a relevant form that people can understand, it attracts more people to the kingdom of God. We live for the sole purpose of bringing glory to God, and one of the best ways to do that is to bring as many people as possible to God by whatever means necessary, as long as it doesn’t involve sinning. We have to be willing to modernize so as to bring new people into the Kingdom of God. If we don’t then the world will see the Word of God as just an outdated religion and it definitely is not. God is awesome and will always be awesome, and it’s our job to tell the world about Him.

    • James Duncan Mar 12, 2009 9:40 pm

      Someone please tell me again how this is an example of using God’s Word?

      • 12 reasons to do it before you’re in the 12th grade
      • Let out your inner bad girl and still get a respectful guy
      • 10 no-fail seduction secrets. Get her exactly where you want her
      • Undress her with your eyes without getting caught
  21. Matt Mar 13, 2009 2:34 am

    Johnston,

    Man I’m sorry to hear about your sexual sin, I struggle with it too. But to justify provisions for a temptation on stage with “It didn’t cause me to lust” doesn’t hold much water.

    I understand what you’re trying to say, but someone else besides you might lust. We shouldn’t even flirt with that kind of disaster. Sin is serious, not sarcasm.

    Grace and Peace.

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