Shut up, they explained 70

I don’t know what kinds of questions Perry Noble is having to answer in his world, but if you survey the comments on this blog you’ll find a number of challenges to my position. While we await Noble’s explanation, I’ll offer this personal defense.

You deserve it.

It has been quite chilling to see this response in the comments, though it’s not surprising that some NS members interpret Noble’s statements and actions as endorsing this view. The comments tend to take the same shape as NewSpring’s statements–they do acknowedge that Maxwell went too far, but they’re not sorry that it happened to me.

This is the attitude that sustained Maxwell’s campaign and why so many NewSpring insiders didn’t see enough wrong with what he was doing to throw a flag on it. Sure, Maxwell may be bad, but Duncan is worse. He deserves what he gets.

NewSpring’s lack of curiosity about how badly I might have been harmed suggests that I deserved whatever I got. On October 30, I had emailed Jason Wilson, NewSpring’s executive pastor, to ask for a meeting with Noble to to tell them what had happened, and suggested that Noble’s reassurance to his congregation that they not worry about Maxwell’s actions told me that they really didn’t know what he had done. On October 31, Wilson sent this response:

If you feel that there are other situations that may cause us to “worry” that have not been addressed, please let me know via email.

Note the quotes around worry. His message was that they still weren’t worried. Would you send an email detailing the serious and profoundly personal complaints that I had to someone like this? Me, neither.

You started it.

This is an argument more suited to an elementary school playground, but, because it still appeals to some, I suppose I need to answer it. Here’s an example of that sentiment from the a comment from “Bob.”

By your own admission this whole series of events began two years when ”˜you’ initiated your opinions and criticisms against NS. You took issue with a billboard sign and some of the youth activities at this church which offended your personal sensibilities. In response, you submitted an article to a local newspaper and started a blog campaign about this church. It was your prerogative to do so. From there it’s apparent that things snowballed, escalated, and got very ugly on both sides.

Has the thought ever occurred to you that if you had simply said nothing and not concerned yourselves with NS and its activities, then none of this would have happened to you, your family, or them?

If you really want to go back to the beginning of the beginning, it was when I and many other Andersonians were subjected to NewSpring’s very public and disheartening attack on parenthood on the main roads in our city. I attempted to talk to Noble about that by emailing a friend in the church, then, when there was no response, by communicating with him in the same public forum that he was using (he on the highways, me in the newspaper).

(An aside on meetings. If you happen to scan through some of the discussions on this blog, you’ll see that a common attempt to cut off debate is to lecture us on the need to communicate with Noble face to face. If you can’t say this to Perry’s face, the lecture goes, you shouldn’t say this in public, to which I respond that I have attempted to meet Perry to say these things to his face. May we forever put to rest the idea that Perry Noble will ever meet with a critic? If he won’t take a meeting with someone who is complaining of criminal harassment from his church’s staff, or won’t meet after he has found that claim to be correct, he will never meet anyone at any time for anything. As it is, the whole meeting thing works against me whatever way I present it. If I say there’s a wall around Noble that I can’t breach, I’m accused of not even trying and told to shut up. If I say I’ve taken a run at the wall and dashed myself against it, I’m accused of being a celebrity stalker who just wants Noble to pay attention to me, so I should go away and shut up.)

The key issue here is forum, not chronology. As much as Noble wants to characterize bloggers as jackasses, he’s a pretty big one (blogger, that is) himself. He uses his blog to daily lecture pastors around the world on how they can build a church like his and have a ministry like his. Noble is more often to be found talking to other leaders on his blog than his own flock, though he realizes they are reading too. This is a man who is using the Internet to redefine the church in a way that goes much beyond his own particular church.

An important part of Noble’s redefinition–he calls it reformation–effort is tearing down the traditional church. You don’t have to look far on his blog or listen long on a Sunday to see him besmirching the honor, motives or practices of other churches in the community. Pastors are commonly described as prostitutes, and churches as elitist country clubs that give the middle finger to their community. Church goers (not his own, of course) are characterized as religious bigots who don’t know Jesus.

So long as Noble never offers specifics about who he’s talking about in these moments (and he never does), these anti-church and anti-Christian rants stand against every other church and most believers.

This is why I’ve always imagined that Pajama Pages is playing defense. I am trying to argue for the beauty and integrity of the local church in general. If you search through these pages, you’ll see that I never identify my own church; I’m arguing for all churches, not just my own. I love denominations for their mission of preserving important truths and modes of worship, even though I don’t agree with them all. I love the different styles of worship and preaching that you’ll find in churches all over town, even though I wouldn’t personally enjoy or endorse all of them myself.

This is a bad witness.

The idea behind this objection is that people will be less likely to come to salvation if they see disputes in the church. We should keep our disagreements hidden. (For NSers who embrace this position, you’ll need to ask Noble why he wanted this on the front page of the paper.)

Disputes aren’t ideal, though they’re nothing we need to be ashamed of or try to hide. The New Testament epistles are full of public disputes including instances where Paul calls Peter out as a hypocrite, condemns a particular group of teachers, and reports on persecution at the hand of a specific person. Unless we’re prepared to hide the Bible from the world, we need to acknowledge that personal and theological disputes and debates have always been a part of the church and were so important and profitable that they’re part of Scripture.

But they don’t help us with evangelism, you say. It sounds like a good theory, but I’m more concerned with what God says about that. If you will, read through 2 Timothy 3 with me. In verse 11, Paul reminds Timothy of the persecutions and sufferings he has endured, often at the hands of other believers whom he refers to as evil impostors. (Shush, Paul, we’re not supposed to talk of such things.)

In the next sentence, Paul instructs Timothy on the value of Scripture.

From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation though faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:15-16)

All Scripture includes the bits about nasty disagreements, which, according to God, can bring people to salvation. Paul doesn’t say, “All Scripture, except for the stuff that will make the unsaved folk wonder why we can’t get along, is God-breathed and useful.”

NewSpringers, if there’s a rule against disagreeing, what will you do when a flaming heretic comes into town and draws a crowd of 30,000 people? Will you say anything? If so, when would you start? If not, why wouldn’t you care? And, no, I’m not saying that Noble is a heretic, just that there are times when it’s important to speak up. You and I might have different triggers, but I hope that you do at least have a trigger.

There are some controversies that aren’t worth engaging, though the example of the church fathers shows us that there are times when public disputes are necessary and profitable.

You and your blog are full of hate.

Again, this is a complaint that is modeled by NewSpring’s leaders. Look at that Duffey-Maxwell conversation again, and you’ll see it. Duffey’s response to Perry Noble’s assistant, who wants to make me a “_____ dog on a chain,” is:

don’t read… he just hates on Pastor Furtick, @bcoop & @perrynoble… i’m in really good company!

I can be ignored and insulted because I hate. It’s also after this comment that Maxwell goes searching for his gangland beating posse.

Noble uses the idea that his critics are hateful to justify ignoring what they say.

If you are willing to ignore those who hate you then you can truly focus on THE ONE who loves you, called you and knows you!

The idea that I was a hater, clearly communicated by the church’s leadership, was likely what motivated Maxwell and friends to start their hateful campaign in the first place.

Not that hate is justification for any of this, but I am curious exactly how Noble and his supporters find hate in these pages. Surely the fact that I disagree with him is not hateful, for that would make him even more hateful than me (he publishes more “hateful” words that disagree with me to more people).

For those who find PP and me hateful, I invite you to scour these pages for examples of hate. Comments by others don’t count, and you can’t just say “all of it,” because it’s not all about Noble or NewSpring. The whole blog is fair game, but I’m especially interested in examples from before May 21, when Duffey was so sure I hated everyone.

The comments are open for you to show us what you find. Go for it.

UPDATE: After seven days and 70 comments, there is not one instance of someone pointing out anything hateful on this blog. For all the times I’ve been accused of hate and all the words that I’ve published on this blog, I would have thought someone would have come up with something.

The silent response is somewhat reminiscent of this other challenge I gave to Perry Noble’s fans.

70 thoughts on “Shut up, they explained

  1. PastorJason Dec 15, 2009 10:16 pm

    Melanie wrote “We have the same games (PS3, Wii) in the children’s ministries at our church and we are NOT a “rich church” and have between 150-200 attenders currently.

    You don’t have to be rich to prioritize ministry to children and put things in the budget that will draw them in. Big misconception there. Lots of stereotyping going on here.”

    I would ask, what is the need to have those things to “draw them in”… when did the Bible stop being enough to draw in God’s people to the temple? Answer: The Bible is STILL solely sufficient to draw them in… In adding the worldly elements of entertainment such as Wii and PS3 and similar items are not attempts to draw in God’s elect but to draw in the goats in hopes that they become sheep.

    But what you attract them with is what you have to keep them with. Years ago youth ministers started bringing Nintendos and such into their youth rooms and now those youth are adults who have to go to “big church” on Sunday morning and they need that same hype level. They were never taught to treasure the Word of God in their hearts and so they need a band to play AC/DC music or for the “pastor” to appear cool and relevant.

    Imagine if any church that had those type of entertainment draws tossed them out in favor or more Bible study or coming up with even more exciting ways to study the Word and praise God!

    The misconception behind these “outreach” efforts is that church is for the unsaved. That’s incorrect. Check the book of Acts for starters… Church is for God’s people to gather together and worship God and be taught from the Word so that we can hit the streets and fulfill the Great Commission in our towns, jobs, schools, etc…

    Now do we want, in our churches, to be welcoming to the “seeker” who comes in as a guest or off the street… absolutely… we want to welcome them and show them Christ with our actions as well as our words. But the day that churches began tailoring themselves to the unregenerate was a sad day in church history in deed.

  2. Josh Dec 16, 2009 12:04 am

    I want to ask a serious question: While I recognize the difference between believers seeking forgiveness of other believers are we not as followers of Christ to forgive whether it’s asked for or not?

    I think of the verses that state:

    “Forgive as you’ve been forgiven”
    “Bless those who curse you”
    “pray for your enemies”
    “consider it all joy when you suffer trials”

    Forgiveness doesn’t require someone to seek forgiveness. Reconciliation probably does. I’m not really sure what Duncan wants out of NS at this point. I’ve said before they should apologize in some way, and that they should make some financial recompense. He should forgive them either way, but reconciliation would require at lease an acknowledgment by NS that Duncan was wronged. Doesn’t sound like that’s forthcoming.

    The bigger issue for me, as someone who is neither a champion of NS nor a friend of Duncan, is that NS has created an unhealthy environment for dissent and open thinking. If PN is teaching God’s word, he shouldn’t fear any of his listeners comparing what he says with God’s word. His emphasis should be on fidelity to the bible, not blind loyalty to him or NS. Reasonable minds can disagree, but as long as we agree on the basic premises, there is plenty of room for dialogue. In my own life, I have learned a great deal from a few people that I vehemently disagree with on certain points. That’s what happens in the marketplace of ideas, and it’s a great thing.

    Noble has created an environment where an employee and volunteers thought he would be impressed or amused by coarse, disgusting twitter messages about another professing believer. Maybe PN never saw these messages, but the very fact that Maxwell would direct these messages to Noble is telling about Maxwell’s view of what Noble would approve. Noble’s only statement about what happened was his admission that a NS staffer “crossed over the line” but not in the unabomber way. I’m curious when Noble thinks Maxwell crossed the line? The first gay porn email? The second? The computerized phone calls at night?

    I think PN has many admirable qualities. I am very disappointed in his and NS’s handling of this affair. I have followed this blog, with regular comments, for six months or so. Though I have agreed with Duncan often, I have disagreed with him as much. I call them as I see them and I really enjoy a good debate. The idea that he or Noble would think that I hate either one of them because we disagree on an issue is hard for me to fathom. (I’m pretty sure Duncan doesn’t feel that way, and I’m sure I’m not on Nobel’s radar, but I wonder if commenting on a critic’s blog makes me a jackass, too?) You cannot please everyone, as Noble surely knows. But it’s foolhardy to assume that anyone who disagrees is simply a “hater.”

  3. The Highland Host Dec 16, 2009 3:11 am

    Demonising those who criticise you is a very dangerous thing to do, it means you are practically mandated not to listen to them!

    And I don’t care how much you disagree with someone, the whole business of Maxwell’s behaviour is so far beyond the pale that it ought to have been shut down months before it was. No Christian has any business doing that sort of thing. Ever. In a big church like NewSpring there will always be people who are too attached to the pastor, and mentally unbalanced with it. It is part of the job of the pastoral staff to make sure those people don’t bring the Church into disrepute. This is a two-way street, after all. We are supposed to be above reproach, and while no church can control what others say about them, they can certainly control what they say, and since we know members of the the NS leadership followed the obscene Twitter account, they should have said that it was utterly unacceptable.

    I write as a pastor of a small Church, and I can say that no pastor should dismiss all critics as evil. It seems to me that NS has confused thinking people are intellectually wrong with thinking they are morally wrong. This is quite understandable in our postmodern culture, where the category of intelletual error is not properly appreciated, but should have no place in the church.

    Of course, it’s also a lot easier than actually making a substantive response to anyone. Which is probably why Gail Riplinger’s sycophants act much like Perry Noble’s.

  4. Jim W Dec 16, 2009 8:38 am

    I like what Pastor Jason has said about the games for the children.
    A couple of further thoughts: If the kids are involved in games, when are they hearing the scriptures? If they are hearing the scripture, are their minds engaged with that, or thinking about nothing other than getting back to their games?
    So, why exactly are the games there?

  5. kim Dec 16, 2009 11:34 am

    Glad you said something about some of the awful comments you’ve gotten. That’s what I thought while I was reading some of your other posts. How is it possible that they place this at YOUR feet!? I came across your site just today, also doing research on emergent material. Sorry to see you won’t be blogging since I just now found ya, but totally understand the reasoning.

    God bless you and your family, and I am so sorry that you all had to go through all this. I still can’t get my chin off the floor.

  6. DH Dec 19, 2009 2:08 am

    To all those people who dont think NewSpring should be held accountable:
    I work in surgery. What if your precious Perry had surgery and I willingly did something while he was asleep to cause him pain, either physically or emotionally, or both.
    Would you not expect him to come after me..to go after the system that I work for? Even if they did not know my intentions, I promise there would be HUGE consequences for my actions. I bet you there would be a rally, or some big ass prayer service for him. You wouldnt be saying, “oh perry just forgive and forget.” You would be coming after me and the system with pitchforks and a very large amount of money in mind. Wouldnt you agree?

  7. Diane R Dec 19, 2009 1:34 pm

    I’ve studied the postmodern “emergents” for 4 years now and frankly, I find that the so-called “loving” postmoderns are not. Many of them (not all) are very hypocritical, dishonest and hateful. You summed it up nicely in this paragraph above,

    “An important part of Noble’s redefinition–he calls it reformation–effort is tearing down the traditional church. You don’t have to look far on his blog or listen long on a Sunday to see him besmirching the honor, motives or practices of other churches in the community. Pastors are commonly described as prostitutes, and churches as elitist country clubs that give the middle finger to their community. Church goers (not his own, of course) are characterized as religious bigots who don’t know Jesus.”

    That probalby is one of the best descriptions of these churches and the movement as a whole that I’ve seen. Sadly, you haven’t studied these people enough because some of us who have could tell you how to fight them “postmodernly” without being hateful like them (and I don’t think you were). You cannot beat them with “traditional” methods. You have to “outpostmodernize” them.

  8. Missy Dec 20, 2009 5:58 am

    As a member of New Spring I would like to reach out to you and your family and tell you how sorry I am for the pain that you and your family have been subjected to. There is no excuse for the actions of Maxwell and the others. I do not agree with how our pastoral staff handled this problem and do not feel like the statement the church put out on this matter is the “whole truth”. With all that said, I can share with you that Christ has and is working through New Spring. My husband and both of my children were saved and baptized at New Spring. We love our church home and enjoy worshiping and growing in our faith there. The events that have taken place have shaken us to the core and I pray for you, your family, and our church.

  9. Tommy F. Dec 20, 2009 4:24 pm

    Missy

    You wrote: “I can share with you that Christ has and is working through New Spring. My husband and both of my children were saved and baptized at New Spring.”

    This is great news.

    How can you have such a positive viewpoint of NS, if you: “do not agree with how our pastoral staff handled this problem and do not feel like the statement the church put out on this matter is the “whole truth”.”

    So, the church lied publicly and the pastoral staff handled this issue incorrectly, and yet you: “We love our church home and enjoy worshiping and growing in our faith there.”

    This is like an employee saying that they love Enron and enjoy working there, even though the execs made some poor decisions. Shouldn’t you just leave?

  10. Josh Dec 21, 2009 12:10 am

    I think she means that she disagrees with how the pastoral staff handled its dealings with Duncan, but she feels the positive qualities of NS outweigh leadership problems manifested in their ham-fisted handling of the Duncan scandal. Hopefully most people will resist the urge to bail out on a church the first time they disagree with something the pastors do. Personally, I have other problems with NS, but if this was the only thing I probably wouldn’t leave either.

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