Perry Noble took a few minutes to coach his congregations on how not to respond to critics last Sunday. Here’s some of what he said (after bragging about asking God for permission to throw over the table of a young woman at a local restaurant who dared to talk about entertainment in church within earshot of Noble):
We don’t fight battles with people that claim to be Christian but don’t like us.
We don’t fight battles with bloggers. We don’t read the stuff, we don’t go on and comment, we don’t do that stuff.
You know why? That’s not our calling. Our calling is to preach the Gospel…and I don’t have time, and neither do any of you, to worry about what people say. We can’t control what they say. We can control what Jesus says to us, and whether or not we’re obedient to it.
Recently we had to release a staff member over him responding to a critic, and he went over the line and confessed some stuff that he did. He said some stuff that he shouldn’t have said. (We don’t have the unabomber. He didn’t blow up anybody’s house. Don’t worry.) And we had to talk to some church members that did some things. And we’re like, “Listen guys, we don’t fight these people.”…
Let me just kind of coach you. If you see people and bloggers and stuff, don’t fight with these people. Because here’s the deal. If we’re wrong, and we’re doing it wrong, God will, like, blow this place up, and they can come celebrate the bonfire.
But if we’re right, if we’re preaching the gospel and lives are being changed, it can’t be stopped. It’s in God’s hands, not ours.
Here’s the video.
In his talk and later that night, he reported this:
I loved coaching our church today on how to respond to critics…we DON’T fight with them (see Nehemiah 6:1-4)…as Rick Warren says…we OUTLOVE them, OUTLIVE them and OUTFRUIT them.
Sounds nice (except for the outlive them bit), but Noble’s proof texting completely contradicts his don’t-fight advice. This passage is a favorite of pastors like Noble, but the problem is that most of his critics are not analogous to Nehemiah’s enemies. As I explained in more detail a few months ago, the differences are manifold.
- Nehemiah was responding to a lie.
- Nehemiah did reply.
- Nehemiah faced real mortal enemies who plotted to take his life.
In calling for passivity, Noble once again paints his critics as enemies of God. So long as he keeps doing that, why would he honestly expect that his followers would take his advice seriously?
At the beginning of his coaching session, Noble acknowledged that he is a controversial character, so we assume that no-one should be surprised that he attracts some criticism. Instead of defending his controversial behaviors and beliefs, his argument to his congregation is roughly as follows:
- People who don’t like Perry are not really Christians. This is the same as his Nehemiah argument. If you criticize Perry, you are the enemy.
- Don’t read their blogs or even try to persuade them that we’re right. Just for context, this is coming from a blogger and major-league tweeter. If you have the truth on your side, where’s the threat in reading other blogs?
- God will stop us if we’re wrong. Coming from a teacher of the gospel, this is the height of irresponsibility. It’s also what Joseph Smith said. It’s what every heretic says. And it’s what Peter said in 2 Peter 2:3: “Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” Peter says that God will “blow up” false teachers, but not immediately. That’s why believers are required to test the truth of what a teacher says, not just assume that because he’s temporarily successful that everything is alright. It’s a fatalistic argument, and one we’ve dealt with before.
Perry’s warning against fighting isn’t terribly persuasive, especially given what else he said. He starts the illustration by asking God if he could fight a young woman at a fast-food restaurant who wasn’t even talking to Perry. The only reason that he didn’t is because God told him, after Noble sent up a quick prayer request, that he couldn’t. He then claims that his critics are sons of Satan, then he tops off the whole performance by wanting to hurl food at the young woman after hearing the testimony another young lady.
If this man were your boss, what kind of response to critics do you think would impress him most?
A while back I asked, When you call us sons and daughters of the Devil, what kinds of passions do you unleash and endorse among your true believers?
Based on his report of misadventure among his staff and church members, the answer appears to be “not good ones.”