Paranoid pastors prohibit proper perspective 10

As this blog gets older, it has become quite noticeable how impossible it seems for any committed NewSpringer to criticize their church. Note, for example, one commentator’s tortured defense of Brad Cooper’s use of Bad A** Mother F****** to describe the church, as well as another’s commitment to confront sin and quick backtracking on that commitment.

The blind loyalty to corrupted leaders makes more sense after you read Steven Furtick’s perspective on what it’s like to lead one of these modern churches.

I think most leaders struggle with a measure of paranoia. For some it’s a fear of abandonment. For others it’s the looming threat of betrayal. Whatever form it takes, the power of paranoia can be paralyzing….

Leaders shouldn’t be oblivious to the loyalty level of those he leads. But it’s equally detrimental to give precious attention to reading into everything everyone says, approaching every day like it’s a witch hunt, consistently putting our team members on trial.

Because the fact is, there will always be someone saying something undermining about you. People (you included) are not perfectly loyal. And when you see that disloyalty in a tangible form, by all means, act on it. Don’t tolerate it. Be decisive and severe.

Furtick is here advising fellow pastors to stop their paranoid witch hunts, because they’re certain to perceive disloyalty somewhere if they’re looking for it. Notice also the Morgan Solution (TM); slightly imperfect loyalty demands severe punishment.

As I’ve said before, that’s just brutal.

It’s also a consequence of thinking you can arbitrarily redefine church government, and by redefine, I mean ignore it and substitute absolute authoritarianism.

Noble said a few days ago,

I believe each church must wrestle with the Scriptures and personalities that are present and allow the Lord to show them the best way to structure for maximum effectiveness.

I see how the New Testament describes a church led by elders and deacons, but not any talk about how it’s all negotiable if you have an irascible or ADD leader.

When followers must completely sell out to the leader’s vision, they dare not question it publicly. The dogged insistence on emotional compliance with vision even seems to infect Noble’s mid-level leaders. Note this account from NewSpring’s Creative Arts pastor:

I had a meeting scheduled with a person on my team to discuss programing and communication flow on Sundays. As we went through the nuts and bolts of those things I sensed a frustration level in this persons demeanor. This led me to think that this guy wasn’t fully bought into the vision of our church and I began to question him – strongly – on his buy in level.

Slightly questionable body language earned this team member a first-hand look at NewSpring’s enhanced interrogation techniques.

Beyond even the vision, it seems evident that they also won’t question the leader’s behavior lest they be shunned or disciplined later on. NewSpringers constantly assure us that this is not about a man, but they betray themselves with their convoluted excuses for the man’s (and, by extension, his hirelings’) poor behavior and language. If this was all about Jesus, what harm would there be in acknowledging specific examples when your man falls short?

It’s also interesting that Furtick assumes that paranoia is a normal part of leadership. I haven’t seen that quality in leaders of most churches that I’ve been a part of. (They’re almost certainly hiding it from me, but perhaps I’m just paranoid.)

There seems to be a political parallel here. Look through history and you’ll find that the more tyrannical and authoritarian the regime, the more paranoid the leader, and the more obsessive the leadership is about not tolerating criticism or complaints.

Pastor Furtick, if paranoia is a problem, perhaps you might try changing your system of church government.

Don’t worry, be happy.

10 thoughts on “Paranoid pastors prohibit proper perspective

  1. Johnny Burns May 19, 2009 12:45 am

    Jim Jones?

  2. Matt May 19, 2009 1:19 pm

    Good alliteration.

  3. Albert May 21, 2009 4:43 pm

    I found Duffey’s reaction to this person’s non verbals is very disturbing. I read Shane’s post several weeks ago and I remember thinking that it closely resembles Orwell’s “Thought Police” concept. One tiny sign of distrust or, in this case, a decreased “buy-in” level of the church’s vision has severe consequences–namely, the questioning of one’s loyalty to the church or being removed from an upper leadership position at NS.

    People like Noble and Futrick have some of the same characteristics described in Orwell’s prophetic novel “1984.” When you think about it, Noble and Futrick solidly compare to Big Brother and the Inner Party Members in that they are constantly watching out for the survival of the “vision.” This means monitoring peoples agreement level, or “buy-in” level.

    Maybe Orwell wasn’t that far off….

  4. James Duncan May 21, 2009 9:36 pm

    The irony is that they boldly advertise their heterodoxy with traditional churches, but won’t tolerate any within their own.

  5. Rusty Garrett May 23, 2009 10:05 am

    As I sit here and read through some of these comments, especially by James Duncan, I am amazed that this is coming from a Professor at Anderson University. Scholars will tell you that “context” is king. There is much danger in lifting words out of context to promote your own agenda. (Please read in full the Creative Arts Pastors comments for better understanding)

    Consistently, Professor Duncan takes out of context the words of devoted Christ Followers to attempt to discredit their ministries. Even this mode of operation was used by the Pharisee’s in their attempts to discredit the vision and ministry of Jesus. The Bible clearly states that where there is no vision, the people perish… and, a house divided against itself will fall.

    If I were on the Board of Anderson University, it would certainly grieve me that one of my own Professors was creating disunity within the body of the church as a whole. Foundational truths are NON-NEGOTIABLE…ie: Jesus is the way, the truth and the life… no one comes to the Father, but through Him; the inerrancy of scriptures, etc. But, the various methods are NEGOTIABLE and used by Christ to draw men unto Himself. The amount of time that Duncan spends extracting phrases, methods, etc (usually out of context from the whole) would be much better used fulfilling the Great Commission… that all of us are called to do.

  6. James Duncan May 23, 2009 10:59 am


    Any time you quote a part of someone else’s work, you open yourself to charges that you have taken them out of context. To the extent that I did not cut and paste the entire Furtick or Duffey posts, yes, I did indeed take something they said out of its full context (though I would have had to have violated their copyright to avoid that charge). The question is, did I present their words in a fashion that materially altered the meaning of what they said? I don’t think so, though I invite you to tell us exactly what they did mean by the words I have used and how I have changed the meaning.

    Here’s one other reason why I think your charge is unfair: I consistently link to the articles I’m quoting so that any reader can see the words in their full context. You explicitly invite everyone to read Duffey’s full post, though I implicitly extended the same invitation by creating the link when I wrote the post. That’s something that Noble and Furtick rarely do when they engage ideas they disagree with. Interestingly, when Duffey complained about me on his Twitter account, he actually deleted a link to my blog and specifically told his followers NOT to visit the site. Fair? I think not.

    I write this post, not as a professor, but as a Christian and a member of the body of Christ that I perceive as being brought under attack by some of the teachings and behaviors of the men I criticize. From my perspective, this is about preserving unity within the body of Christ. If it makes any difference to you, it’s all done on my personal website. It’s in my name. I pay for it all myself. This has nothing to do with anyone else.

    Finally, I have not criticized any of what you classify as the nonnegotiables, nor have I suggested that Noble and I disagree on any of them. You do say, however, that methods are negotiable. If that’s true (I don’t think it is, BTW), why be upset with what I’m doing? Am I not just negotiating? If you want to engage in a negotiation, why would you be surprised that not everyone embraces every single one of your proposals?

  7. Tommy F. May 23, 2009 1:40 pm

    Rusty Garrett: Aren’t you a realtor? If so, you should know a lot about negotiations.

    JDuncan seems to be working through (ie negotiating) proper methods and language, etc for ministry. He certainly hasn’t tried to discredit their ministries by making up stuff or false charges. He simply quotes them in their own words – sometimes extensively – and refers readers to the context (blog, links, twitters, etc), so readers can make their own judgment. The term discredit implies that he’s raising false accusations. He’s merely putting a spotlight on NS – its methods and ministers – and asking important questions.

    The funny thing about your complaint about context is it is entirely ironic. BCoop, etc always lift songs and snippets from worship and focus on one aspect of the event. Talk about taking something out of context. You should begin with the example set by your leadership.

    You seem intelligent, so I am surprised you actually never defended NS – or clarified the context for us. Is there a place where JDuncan misquotes NS? What context are we missing when BCoop calls your place of worship bamf (look it up if you need it defined)?

    Also, this bit about unity is ironic. PNoble constantly disparages other churches. He does it on his twitter feed, his blog, at conferences, and weekly in his sermons. He’s one of the most divisive pastors around. To hear PNoble tell it – other churches are clueless. Unity? Please.

    Would you like to actually defend NS on the points raised by Pajama Pages?
    The “Go away” defense hasn’t worked so far.

  8. Sara Grumbles May 23, 2009 1:46 pm

    You criticize James Duncan for “creating disunity within the body of the church.” Are you not a member of a church where this is done on a regular basis?

    Example: Seminary=cemetary

    cracks on deacons and pastors that get paid (because of course, your pastor doesn’t get paid. That justifies his criticism, right?)

    making fun of pews, stained glass, steeples, crosses, etc…

    saying the “old woman” who keeps children personally knew Moses (I wasn’t aware that being old was so offensive to NewSpringers. Maybe you all know where the fountain of youth is?)

    Maybe you should examine the disunity championed by your own church before you criticize honest debate on this site.

    Also: I’ve said this before on this blog and it is becoming exhausting. Colleges and universities are prime real estate for the practice and exchange of ideas and criticisms. So, it would make sense that James Duncan has opinions and then chooses to voice them. That being said, Anderson University has nothing to do with this blog, as explained on the side bar. Do you expect the University to fire or reprimand James Duncan because he isn’t a fan of Newspring’s methods? Are you assuming everyone else and AU is a fan of Newspring? Please answer me on this subject. I’m interested to know your thinking.

  9. James Duncan May 23, 2009 3:00 pm


    You might be encouraged to know that I sent an official reprimand to the head of PP’s Translation Department this afternoon. After a careful review of their recent work, I found that the charge of out-of-context commentary is quite justified.

  10. James Duncan May 23, 2009 3:11 pm

    Sorry, Rusty, that last bit was tongue in cheek, but this bit is serious:

    My compliments on identifying yourself with your real name, rather than the all-too-common anonymous. You have a recognizable and respected name in our community (TF picked up on that), so I applaud your forthright manner of engaging this debate.

    There should be more like you.

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