In November of 2010 Perry Noble and Shane Duffey released a leadership podcast entitled Ignoring the Jackass where they took great delight in belittling and literally demonizing bloggers who dared criticized Noble’s teaching or NewSpring’s methodology. This was almost a full year after they took the Maxwell story public and months after we had filed our suit, meaning that both Noble and Duffey, as well as NewSpring itself, were defendants in a case where their staff had taken their teachings to heart and tried to destroy one of Noble’s critics.
You might have expected, if they thought that what Maxwell and his friends did was wrong, that they would have changed their aggressive rhetoric. Not so. The fascinating thing about this podcast is that it represents Noble’s advice to other pastors and leaders. A year and a half after they’d come after me, Noble shows no signs of having learned anything as a leader.
(For NS readers, as you continue reading consider how much risk Noble and Duffey are putting NewSpring in with this kind of talk. Wouldn’t you expect that they’d have a duty to keep quiet at least until after the case was resolved?)
The partial transcript reproduced with commentary below is taken from Noble’s leadership podcast.
To introduce the idea of the jackass, Noble and Duffey start with a quote from their 2009 Unleash conference.
Ignore the Jackass. In Greek, jackass is translated blogger.
Perry says the Lord gave him this idea. He continues, still from the 2009 conference, by criticizing bloggers who copy and splice parts of sermons.
Who has time for that? The jackass. You’re watching right now. There’s a reason you have time to do that. You have no friends. The reason you have no friends is you’re a jackass, and I will say that to you. Everybody in this room had wanted to say it to you, unless they’re jackasses. That’s your problem. That, and you’re either demon possessed or oppressed, because when a move of God is working and people are getting saved and lives are getting changed, who would criticize that? God or Satan? Ask yourself that question. ‘I’m going to blog about you.’ I don’t read it. I don’t. If we ran out of toilet paper, I’d have someone copy and paste it and we’d use it for that, but that’s about it. That’s what I think of your blog.
This is really as close as Perry ever gets to arguing his position, but it’s a typically abusive and irrelevant ad hominem attack. Although these were in the early days of Pajama Pages, Noble was aware of this blog, so much so that he sent his youth pastor as an emissary to meet me to try to stop it. He was also very aware of my friend Chris Rosebrough, who was sitting in the audience and at whom Rosebrough says Noble was looking as he delivered the taunt. A couple of points about what Noble is saying here:
- Mob mentality. Noble assumes every one of the several thousand pastors in the room agrees with him, which, if you’re Rosebrough, was probably intended to be threatening.
- Malevolent motivations. Claiming that other believers are demon possessed is a terribly reckless assertion for such an influential pastor to make, unless he really thinks that his critics are unbelievers. By framing his enemies as outside the family of God, it makes it much easier for his followers to bare their fangs against them.
- Movement morality. Noble assumes that he is proven right by results. Every false teacher in history worth the church’s attention has always had mass conversions with life change. That’s not to say that Noble is ipso facto a false teacher, but a lot of flash and activity doesn’t give you a free pass to do and say anything; based on Paul and Peter’s warnings, it puts you first in line to have your message carefully examined by other believers.
- More mistruths. He said he doesn’t read blogs, but did habitually read this and other blogs like it. He read them so much that managing his reactions to them became a problem.
- Miserable muck. Was it really necessary to drive home the point by talking about Perry’s bathroom preferences, which say more about Perry than it does about the bloggers, I think.
After playing the Unleash clip, Duffey describes Perry’s talk as “very provocative.” On one hand, Noble and Duffey will admit that their speech is provocative, yet on the other hand they grow faint at the thought that other people might object to what they say. Perry enjoys the buzz that his bad-boy, anti-church antics create, yet won’t allow space for other Christians to push back.
Noble says it’s too easy for people to criticize now because of the Internet and because they can do so anonymously. Sure, but this is a claim made on a podcast that is distributed to pastors around the world through . . . the Internet. And, yes, some criticism is done anonymously, though savvy Internet readers take that into account when they sift through information online. I don’t know of a single blog that’s critical of Noble that is written anonymously.
Next, this question from Duffey:
The people that I’ve seen who criticize you and/or our church really come at you from two ways. They either criticize how you teach scripture (PN: Sure.), or they criticize the method we do church. (PN: Yes.) Tell me which of those two, if either, sting the most?
If bloggers are focusing on preaching and church methodology, things are working properly. This is good news. What’s more important in a pastor’s duties than the way he preaches and the way he leads his church?
Most of our conversation until this point has probably centered around bloggers, or people outside the church, hating.
Where’s the hate? This claim is so tired and lazy, but surely it cannot be hateful to criticize a pastor’s handling of Scripture or his methodology. You can’t get 20 minutes through a Noble sermon without hearing him criticize the teaching or methodology of other churches. If the mere existence of criticism is hateful, Noble… Well, you fill in the rest.
Noble says of bloggers:
Most of the time all these people want to do is tear down. In fact, I would say [that] all they want to do is tear down and kill and destroy. Somebody else wants to do that. No, seriously. Who is the accuser of the brethren?
Here we go again with the demonizing. What did Paul do when he found false teachers? What did Luther do when he found corruption? Sometimes tearing down can be a positive thing.
Instead of blogging, Noble wants disputes to be resolved quietly:
If you have a problem with someone, try to have a conversation with them, either through email, either through letter, either through a phone call.
Words not to live by, apparently. I contacted Noble by regular mail and email well before the harassment happened to see if he wanted to meet. His response: a phone call behind my back to my boss.
Duffey then notes to Noble that “one of the worst things about giving attention to some of these jackasses is the distraction and the toil it takes on the church,” to which Noble gives this example:
What I used to do is, I would read something that somebody said about me or our church in a negative manner, and I would literally get up from my desk and I would walk down the hall and I would go in about five or six offices, and I would go, “Can you believe what so-and-so wrote?” And everybody was like, “No,” and I’d pull it up online and I’d show it to them, and then everybody on the hall is P.O.’d for the rest of the day, angry. And it wasn’t the critic’s fault; it was my fault. As a leader, I was focusing my staff … on incredibly negative, draining stuff rather than, “Guys, this is what people are saying, but this is the mountain we’re climbing. This is the hill we’re taking. This is what we’re called to do.” And God rebuked me for that as a leader. He was like, “You are a fool.” And I had to repent of that sin and come back around and go, “You know what? I’m wrong, God. I’m sorry. I helped focus people on the wrong thing, rather than Jesus, his Gospel and the mission he’s given us.”
Remember how he said that he didn’t read this stuff and would only use it for toilet paper? One of these statements isn’t true. Not only did he read them himself, he got so worked up that he would go through the office and stir everyone else up as well.
One of the questions we had going into the case was how Maxwell and his friends came to know about Pajama Pages and be so worked up about it. You don’t suppose that he learned about it from work, do you?
(Another side note to NS readers: Did you notice how Perry acknowledges “fault” for his staff’s angry reactions? In the middle of a case about his staff’s angry reaction where their official defense was that it was the critic’s fault? Does it concern you just a little that there was nothing governing him to keep these kinds of damaging and potentially expensive outbursts to himself? Is this how a leader should demonstrate self-discipline?)
Lest anyone think that Perry doesn’t want to hear anything negative about himself, he reassures us with this claim:
I want to hear unfiltered criticism from people who love Jesus, love this church, love me, and have everyone’s best interest in mind. That person can always, always be trusted. But if they don’t have those four qualities, I don’t have time for them.
Doesn’t have time? Not even for “a conversation with them, either through email, either through letter, either through a phone call”?
Anyway, after saying he wants unfiltered criticism, he describes a four-level filter.
- Loves Jesus. Not a blogger.
- Loves this church. NewSpringer.
- Loves me. Staff member. No one else is allowed to know him in any closer sense than a man on a stage.
- Everyone’s best interests in mind. Agrees with Perry, to whom God has entrusted the vision for the church. If you disagree with Noble, you disagree with the vision, which means you disagree with God. To see how this unfiltered criticism works, just ask Tony Morgan.
Duffey starts to bring the podcast to a close:
Before we check out, I just want to give you one more opportunity to share whatever’s on your heart in regards to critics and/or jackasses – I just want to see if I can say that one more time – while we’re doing this.
Then Perry makes this remarkable admission:
I have done some things. I have taken some shots at people on my blog, or I’ve taken shots at people as I’m teaching, or I’ve taken shots at people as I’m doing certain things that are kind of – I don’t ever call them out by name, but, like, everybody knows who I’m talking about – but I’m even getting convicted of that. That’s just not right. I’ve got something to say to somebody, I need to man up, or woman up. You need to man up and you need to go and say that.
That would indeed be good if Perry were being convicted of taking shots against unnamed targets, though it appears as though the conviction wore off quickly. As I noted most recently here, Noble defames Christianity in general when he attacks the church without naming names. When he calls bloggers satanic without specifying whom he’s talking about, he leaves the reasonable impression that all bloggers who criticize him are demonic. So, yes, it would be good to see him “man up” someday.
Duffey then puts the lid on it:
That’s it for today. We’ve covered everything we could about jackasses, so don’t… (PN: You said that word again. That’s awesome.) I got it in one more time. So ignore those.