August 12, 2020

The Sad State of Pastoral Thinking

By Chaplain Mike

Every time I think I see a ray of hope in the evangelical church, I come across some pablum that reminds me how many asylums across the land have been taken over by the inmates.

Take this recent example of pastoral “insight” from Perry Noble, published in the Christian Post. Please.

The wise Pastor Noble informs us that there are arguments against the kinds of ministry being promoted today that “sound spiritual but are actually stupid.” Three examples of criticism he says he has heard are:

  • ”The Church Is Not A Business But Rather A Hospital For Sinners
  • ”Too Many Churches Are Just Chasing Cool and Relevant
  • ”Too Many Pastors Today Are Obsessed With Dressing Cool And Shopping At Buckle

Noble trots out a few adolescent-style “answers” to these criticisms:

  • On #1: ”Hospitals are businesses too, and the church should be the “best ran business” (sic) of all!
  • On #2: ”So, what should we be chasing — ”uncool, boring, predictable and meaningless? Quote: “Somehow I believe that the church is supposed to be reaching kids WAY better than Disney — they have a mouse — we have the MESSIAH who gave His life and rose from the dead. Our message is SO much greater and should be told in the most effective way possible.”
  • On #3: ”“Honestly, I was not aware that surrendering to ministry meant that I also had to surrender to the pleated/cuffed khaki, sweater vest, comb over club!”

This is what passes for ecclesiology and pastoral theology these days?

I hereby sentence Perry Noble to solitary confinement until he memorizes everything Eugene Peterson has ever written about pastoral ministry.

Sigh…

Comments

  1. Well, coming from the pastor whose church played “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC in their sanctuary on EASTER SUNDAY, what could we honestly expect? This guys is a fundamentalists who thinks he isn’t because he’s hip. His rhetorical style is condescending, and unfortunately, the vast majority of evangelical pastors I know (quite a few) are about as open as this to the reconsidering of their traditions, even though they consider themselves “non-traditional” (an oxymoron imo) and “innovative”.

    I had the pleasure of minimal email correspondence with Spencer a couple years ago where I asked him his advice on understanding worship and planning it with depth. His response is something I wish ALL evangelical pastors would consider seriously: “READ MORE ROBBERT WEBBER!” (caps mine)

  2. I do not think there is anything wrong with the “businesses” side of church. Churches do, after all, have to balance checkbooks.

    The other two responses are so silly and superficial that it only serves to vindicate the detractors. The “need” to be hip and relevant is so deeply assumed, that many people never think that there might be another way. Here’s an ironic quote:

    “Church should not be a place where people come and see what life was like on this planet during the 1960’s and 70’s…but rather a place where people encounter Jesus Christ and the preaching of HIS Word in an environment in which they understand. (One does NOT have to be sacrificed for the other!)”

    …sigh… it was the 60s and 70s when people decided that things need to be “hip” in order for people to come to church! That’s when the endless cycle of being relevant started!

    I have a very bold argument against the need for the Christianity to reform itself with every new generation “in which they understand.” I attended a Catholic university for grad school. I went to mass. Mass was very old and traditional. It was filled with, and partially staffed by, COLLEGE STUDENTS.

    Yes, believe it or not young people can understand things other than what’s on the jumbotron!

  3. There isn’t a whole lot of substance to this post either though:

    “Perry Noble doesn’t do pastoral thinking very well…here are three examples I don’t analyze all that much but just rhetorically question about their depth. Sigh.”

    Why is Noble and his American evangelical pastor-ship dangerous? Why is his thinking “adolescent”? What’s wrong with his ecclesiology or pastoral thinking?

    • John, do you really think it’s worth our time to do an in-depth analysis of this? It’s sufficient to point out the pothole so that the driver can avoid it.

      • But if you’re going to consider anyone who says anything slightly stupid a “pothole” then you are never going to be happy about anyone. Perry Noble does some good work and says some good things. He also says some silly things. That doesn’t mean he is a pothole or an example of everything that is wrong with evangelicalism.

        Its one thing to disagree and even to say that, but this post seems more like something a watchblogger would post.

        But what do I know?

    • Ok, from one John to another, I’ll take a stab at answering. The lack of depth comes from the fact that each of the issues he defends are marks not of the church but of the surrounding culture. Perhaps harmless ones if they played a minor role in the church, but very often they are elevated to a major role. For example, being cool is often seen as a means of attracting worshippers and the lost, and the business model is often seen as inherently good and self-justifying.

      Yes, no pastors are perfect but the imperfections here point to a much larger issue in evangelicalism, and it’s one that often hinders the ability of the church to reflect and be an example of that other Kingdom which Jesus calls us to.

  4. #1: A hospital is a business??!!
    Well, in America maybe, but in most other countries a hospital is a social service where the first question you’re asked is “what’s your problem” and not “how much money do you have?”. I know, I know, it’s a weird concept.

    #2: O relevancy, what crimes are commited in your name.

    #3: Mr Noble buys his jeans at Buckle.Cool. Fine for him. Of course, one could think that a Christian would use his money differently and adopt a non-consumerist lifestyle; but we’re not even close to here.

    Nothing to do in those circles. they can not be reformed because they do not see thei spiritual misery.

    • And none of us are consumers, right? We all buy off-brand, thrift store or Walmart clothes so no one in our churches will think we are trying to be hip. (Takes tongue back out of cheek.)

      Really?

      • Hope you got your tongue back all right. It might be a revolution in your world-view, but you can buy things without being a “consumer”, that is someone swallowed by the consumerist mindset of our societies.

        In my family, we actually buy a good 90% of our clothes to the Red Cross or other equivalent thrift-stores. This is not only because in my country, pastors are underpaid, but also because we have adopted a voluntary simplicty lifestyle.

        I hope I did not sahke your world too much by suggesting that following Christ implies one things or two in our daily lives.

    • The hospital reference struck me as odd, too. I’ve been around numerous missionary hospitals and can tell you that they decidedly were not and will never be run as a busiiness.

      We are all consumers, the only question is whether our consumption, our possessions, and the rest of our daily lives are surrendered to God.

  5. Another pimp prostituting the church…..

    There is a lot of that going around lately. Here is a video that contrasts two very different pastors.

    http://www.newreformationpress.com/blog/2010/08/10/a-jarring-contrast/

    • I agree 100 percent with your overall point, but I will pick three small bones with the video:

      1. The fellow contrasting the “mature” and “immature” styles (as he terms them) is himself employing the style he calls immature.

      2. The “mature” pastor featured in the video says that sinners have been elected to run the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod? I’ll never fully understand Lutheran politics. :p

      3. The ‘mature’ pastor and the ‘immature’ music video were addressed to different audiences and their messages were disseminated under totally different contexts. Shouldn’t we be comparing apples and apples (like, speech in church vs. pop culture outside church) rather than apples and oranges?

      • BTW … Scratch point #2. It rewatched the video and finally realized what that the speaker was calling himself a sinner, not others. The splices of video interrupt each other so frequently that I didn’t understand the point he was conveying earlier ….

        Foot, meet mouth.

        • “Shouldn’t we be comparing apples and apples (like, speech in church vs. pop culture outside church) rather than apples and oranges?”

          We are comparing apples to apples. Those clips summarize the essence of each man’s view of their jobs as pastors. Their philosophies will be fairly consistent regardless of context.

          Pastor Harrison was for years in charge of the Mercy ministries of the LCMS. He helped feed, clothe, and bring medical help to literally hundreds of thousands in the Name of Jesus. I can say confidently that he wouldn’t be caught dead doing a ‘gangsta rap’ video.

    • Like Danielle says, it’s not really fair to compare some sort of goofy promotional video with an actual sermon or whatever. On the other hand, I know a lot of people who went to the Hillsong conference that video was made for, and now I’m officially afraid.

  6. This reminds of this website http://www.alittleleaven.com/

    Besides many other articles spread out on the internet and blogosphere this website also allowed me to leave prosperity, ‘modern hip and enlightened’ etc evangelicalism and seen how it was corrupted with WoF and other heresies

  7. Very disappointed to see iMonk falling into the watchdog blog category.

    • It wouldn’t hurt to remember that Michael was first quoted in Time speaking about Joel Osteen. He was speaking about this type of thing for years — albeit with far more discernment and grace than the “watchbloggers” did.

    • Critique of the evangelical circus has always been part of iMonk. Call it what you will. IMO we have a fundamentally different ethos than the “watchblogs.”

  8. His commentsare mostly just ad hominum attacks on those three statements. He makes no apparent effort to unpack them, to find any nuance, to affirm whatever might be helpful in them. I’m wondering if this article was first in his blog or something, he seems to be speaking to his home boys, but I’m not sure about that. Random questions for Mr. Noble , whom I’ve never read or met until today:

    1. What does it mean to be “effective” for the LORD and in ministry ?

    2. In what ways is the church “an organization”, and in what ways in it UNLIKE any other organization, and why does this matter ??

    3. What are the inherent dangers, if any, of chasing fashion and being hip ? Are these dangers real or any different for a pastor/leader ?

    4. What are the hallmarks of a Jesus-shaped leader ??

    There….now I’ll just sit by my phone/fax/laptop and wait for the response….

    PS to Chap Mike: do NOT follow the link where he has LEADERSHIP underlined…. it will only piss you off further; you’ve been warned.

    GREG R

  9. The pastor in question is partly correct on some of his most basic point: Yes, the church has a business side and ought to be run on a sound financial basis (if possible, and it isn’t always). Yes, the church should be relevant to the needs and vocabularies of modern people.

    The rub, I think, is that he believes drawing priorities and language from business and marketing is simply a no-brainer. If we believe the church is aspiring to be something other than a mere business or entertainment machine, then we simply have to have a way to discuss the church in more robust terms — terms that can correct, challenge, and be in productive tension with our dominant cultural assumptions. Otherwise, we unconsciously make church into just another institution that reflects our commercial values and social assumptions.

    I suppose we can argue endlessly about the best way to promote this end, but it strikes me that there is a serious danger in (1) not caring about finances or relevance, and that you have a good message that reaches no one due to its incomprehensibility or your institution going bankrupt; (2) caring so much about your business model and your relevance that you meet people where they are but can’t take them anywhere. One of the things I really like about liturgy is its ability to be easily comprehended, while still being so deep that there is somewhere to ‘go.’ A little kid can get the basic point; a professor can meditate on the mysteries.

    Of course, I have my own biases: I am sure there are those who feel that liturgy is so inherently out of touch that they ‘just don’t get it.’ I have seen people unfamiliar with it draw a total blank when confronted with a liturgy — as happened when I studied abroad with a crowd of evangelicals in England and they attended an Anglican service. I think part of the problem may have been some residual anti-Catholic assumptions; the main problem, however, was a total lack of exposure to the cultural form. I suspect that there are more and more people like this (unchurched people, some evangelicals, etc.) in our neighborhoods than there used to be.

  10. we simply have to have a way to discuss the church in more robust terms — terms that can correct, challenge, and be in productive tension with our dominant cultural assumptions. Otherwise, we unconsciously make church into just another institution that reflects our commercial values and social assumptions.

    Just excellent, Danielle. Very well said, and my word to Mr.Noble or those who follow him would be: how ARE we challenging the paradigm of “church as just another institution” ?? Where are those points of tension, what boundaries need to be acknowledged and tended ??

    Great post .

    • In a word, the issue is pragmatism. There is very little thought about what is biblical, theologically sound, Christ-exalting, or culture-challenging (and very little ‘thought’ about much else either). The only question asked in most evangelical churches (by most ‘deep thinking’ pastors) today is: What works?

      But this is the legacy of American evangelicalism. Os Guiness points to pragmatism as one of the great ‘scandals’ in his little book ‘Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do about It’ (which, unfortunately, is short on the ‘what to do about it’ part).

      • Not only that, but an almost completely institutional approach. It’s programs, public meetings, promotion, entertainment, events, experiences. You heard him, he wants the church to out-Disney Disney. Church as theme park. Is this why Jesus died?

  11. The modern church seems to confuse “relevant” with “cool and hip””. I’m certain God and His Word do not need our help to be “relevant”.

    • As a wise person once said, the only way to be always relevant is to focus on the eternal.

    • One could also argue that nothing is more irrelevant to my true needs than to be ‘cool’ or ‘hip.’

      Trivia, Noise, and Mediocrity, under they everlasting gaze we tred….

      • your first sentence is a non sequitur….. what drives a lot of hipness, mine included , is actually insecurity masquerading as “taste”.

        • Although fundamental needs may be behind my desire to be ‘hip,’ does not mean that being ‘hip’ actually addresses those needs?

          Still, point taken. Touche! 🙂

    • I always figured if God said it, it’s probably relevant!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Repeat after me, everybody:

      NOTHING GETS OLD-FASHIONED FASTER THAN OVER-RELEVANCE.

      Type example: Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Coolest, Hippest, and Most Relevant TV show of The Sixties. Viewed in 2010, how well has it aged? Now imagine if THAT claimed Cosmic Importance as the Words of Eternal Life…

      • Actually RMLI ages better than many. I tried to watch a few episodes of Murphy Brown a few years ago and came to the conclusion that much of the humor only made sense if you were living in the times. Waaaaay too many inferences to “current” events.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Not familiar with Murphy Brown; only remember the big “Murphy Brown vs Dan Quayle” media dust-up and references to “the dancing baby.” I tend to shy away from EVERYTHING that’s “hip” and “the in thing” on TV. (I was following Babylon-5 while everybody around me at work was breathlessly gushing over Seinfeld like Bella over Sparkling Eddie.)

          Repeat after me again, with added corollary:

          NOTHING GETS OLD-FASHIONED FASTER THAN OVER-RELEVANCE.
          EXCEPT PRETENTIOUS OVER-RELEVANCE.

  12. Shel Boese says

    I enjoy reading Internet Monk AND GUESS WHO…Perry Noble. He’s not leading the kind of church I am or would, however his “lists” are fun, entertaining and often contain good leadership points. I have reposted links to many AS WELL AS Internet Monk.

    This particular list though DID make me cringe. The level of reflection was low – even by Perry’s standards.

    So be generous in the spirit of your critique – but critique away.

    • I’m as discouraged about seeing this on Christian Post as I am to read the content itself. The schizoid state of evangelicalism is never more clear than when you find this article at CP right below commentary by Chuck Colson (yesterday) or Al Mohler (today).

  13. So in short, Perry Noble is saying that we should reach and impact people for Christ in the most effective way possible, without changing the message.

    And the problem is…………………………????????

    • Rick, come on. You don’t think the message is altered? IMO it’s unrecognizable as having anything to do with the real Jesus.

    • Rick, he said NOTHING about “without changing the message”… maybe it was implied; I think he assumes that what’s OK for business/Disney is OK for the church, I mean it’s like ‘effective, dude….’. I think we are asking him and those who read him to ask the question, HAS the message been changed when we choose a particular medium. Isn’t that a fair question ?

      • I think that is not only a fair question, but a fundamental one when it comes to discussions like this. I would love to see Chaplain Mike devote a few posts to this specifically (maybe he has).

  14. I have to go to work. I hope to keep somewhat involved in this discussion. Please restrain yourselves from fisticuffs.

  15. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really think, judging by the language of the CP article, that the writer was really trying to make a serious, lengthy, analytical case. I read it as a sarcastic response to statements he found too absurd to take that seriously. Maybe it wasn’t the greatest approach, but (and I’m not a reader of CP, but I’ve read plenty a blog rant on the web), but, having not read anything else of this man’s, nor having heard him speak, I’m not sure assuming he’s a total moron (which, for all I know, he could be the Barney Fife of Christianity) just because he gave a short, inarticulate rant about things he considers foolish.

    Now, yes, I could pick apart his statements to some degree, but I can’t really fault a guy for dripping with sarcasm when I’ve done so myself. I’m just saying, anyone who puts “Ummmmmmm…….” in his entry really isn’t trying to be horribly in-depth – and certainly isn’t trying to get into a 95 Theses.

    Just saying…

    • Rephrase: I could pick it apart in a rebuttal and be pretty tongue-in-cheek about it. Again, I just don’t think someone’s emotion-inspired rant demands correcting, because on some level the speaker knows he’s exaggerating.

  16. His comment about shopping at Buckle cracks me up. Isn’t Noble nearing 50? I mean, he’s free to shop anywhere he likes, but he doesn’t see the self-evident problem of a man his age trying to buy clothing from a star targeted at the 18-25 y.o. demographic, it’s rather telling. It’s like your friend’s mom trying to be cool and hip – it just ain’t happening…

    I’m not the type that has a problem with a pastor dressing casually at all, but I do think it’s rather ridiculous when I see grown pretending that they’re still in high school or college. That’s me trying to sound spiritual. It’s just something I noticed a lot. I think a lot of pastors see themselves as something akin to rock stars. They have to be on the cutting edge of fashion, or else people will forget about them.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      His comment about shopping at Buckle cracks me up. Isn’t Noble nearing 50?

      Here in SoCal, that’s called “Fifty Years YOUNG (TM)!”

      Well, the image I’ve always had of that entire generation (and I’m in that age bracket) is an Eighty-something Michael Jackson, plastic surgery long gone south, standing in his playroom in his footie-jammies screaming at the mirror “I’M YOUNG! I’M YOUNG! REALLY! I AM! I’M YOUNG! I’M YOUNG! I’M YOUNG!!!!!!”

  17. Hospitals were not always businesses, and that in large part they have become that to the despair of many a good physician, us seelsorgers ought to bemoan the same fate happening to the church.
    We might though be a little cognative of the fact that there are bills, and costs associated with the operation of a church, just as there has always been an expense involved with hospitals.
    As far as how a pastor dresses… I wouldn’t say there is anything wrong with shopping at “buckle” though I never have. My salary doesn’t pay for that.
    I am reminded though of the humurous “how to become a bishop without being religious” and having three suits of varying condition, including one for fishing in.

  18. Clay Knick says

    Spot on, Chaplain Mike!

  19. SearchingAnglican says

    It’s not just the evangelical churches. I am involved in a diocese wide search for a new bishop, and last Friday we had the opportunity to meet with all three final candidates. One candidate, when asked about how to think “out of the box” (a cringe-worthy phrase in and of itself), provided the example that he no longer talks about Evangelism (because that word scares Episcopalians…which is true…and makes me laugh). Instead, he talks about Marketing in his congregation, because essentially they are the same thing and the business term is much more palatable to the folks in the pews.

    WT*? As a professional marketer/communicator, I about flew out of my chair. Evangelism is about relationship, marketing is about influence. Completely different end game. How terribly damaging to the life of the church if we reduce our faith community to some sort of transaction-based value proposition?

    • And that’s exactly why all the previous comments about “…but the church IS a business” are mostly off-target, IMO. Just because handling an organization within this broken world requires legal financial decisions and oversight does not mean that the church needs to be considered like a classic “business” by the leadership or the members. So are most churches businesses in the eyes of the law? Sure, but does that imply that it needs to be a for-profit enterprise that involves seeking of success for the sake of monetary gain? Hell NO!

      You’re absolutely right. Too much focus on a business model means that evangelism = marketing. Caring about people is a major part of evangelism, but you don’t need to give a rats ^&* about people to utilize “Marketing”.

  20. Miscellaneous, spontaneous, advantageous side comment:

    “out of the box” (a cringe-worthy phrase in and of itself)

    Sweet! Another person who hates that phrase. Do you also hate “comfort zone”? 0=)

    • Edit: Sigh. This was supposedly going under SearchingAnglican’s post. *mutters about technology*

      • SearchingAnglican says

        YES. “Comfort zone” is a biggie…and my current priest and another member of my vestry LOVE that one.

        Nails. On. A. Chalkbord.

        Signed,
        Also a Kaci, but spelled Casey

  21. Chaplain Mike
    I think you just moved the pothole here. Now it’s a time sinkhole.
    My question is why a pastor thinks he needs to drop a Benjamin on a pair of jeans. Poor stewardship comes to mind.

  22. One need only to go to Perry Noble’s church’s website. http://www.newspring.cc/ and watch the most current sermon on I Love the 80s where the “worship” band opens the service with a Poison song, “Nothing but a good time”.

    Of course this is the same church that used AC/DC music and Perry was carried to the stage in a coffin one time as well to start his sermon.

    I think its sad that this man has been given some sort of credibility within the evangelical world just because he was able to use the latest church growth methods to draw a large crowd.

    I always go back to Spurgeon….”entertaining the goats or feeding the sheep”

    • Great quote from Spurgeon! Haven’t heard it before, but sums it up nicely. Thanks.

    • At least they haven’t ‘changed the message’ LOL!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      One need only to go to Perry Noble’s church’s website. http://www.newspring.cc/ and watch the most current sermon on I Love the 80s where the “worship” band opens the service with a Poison song, “Nothing but a good time”.

      Now THAT’s straight out of The Simpsons, specifically the time Bart doctored the hymnals with “In the Garden of Eden, by I Ron Butterfly”.

      Of course this is the same church that used AC/DC music and Perry was carried to the stage in a coffin one time as well to start his sermon.

      Not only “Simpsons did it first”, but ALICE COOPER WAS DOING THAT WHILE PERRY WAS JUST OUT OF DIAPERS!

  23. Being 18, I don’t know much. But I do think that there are problems with both sides of the argument. On the “cool and hip” side (which, contrary to what most people think, we young people think that people who try to be cool and hip are pathetic), I do believe that those people go into it with good intentions. But, I have a sense that, because of American society and the “American mindset” that is blasted into a info-mania culture, people are more interested in results over refinement, i.e. quantity over quality. While we should try to reach as many people as possible, we can’t make everyone into a robot. This is obvious in the fact that most young people (in polls and surveys I’ve seen) are attending a megachurch, yet not becoming actively involved (I attend a megachurch, so I’m not knocking them; it’s not the institution that’s wrong, per se, but the general attitude within the institution). They go in, take in, and go out. Become robots.

    On the other side, I feel like most people criticizing the “contemporary movement” are really just power hungry, and, while having good surface intentions, in reality, they want control. I think Rick Warren said it best, when he tweeted yesterday, “Your wisdom, not your age, matters in leadership. Age only matters if your cheese.” I think they pull the “we’re older; we’re right” card, just because they want power.

    I can’t say that I’m right. I will go ahead and admit that I have a fairly poor attitude about adults and the church. I’m starting college next week; what do I know? But I do know what the general attitude amongst my generation is.

    But, I would also like to criticize my generation for being absolute punks to adults. Yeah, we might think they’re wrong, but they still are humans, and, in order to promote community, want some respect, we should give it to them. Whatever promotes the Kingdom of God. If it means going to a potluck, let’s do it. We’ll get along better and have better community, which is Biblical.

    To be quiet honest, I have no idea if my post is just a ramble or you all can see the connections haha. It makes sense in my mind hahaha.

    • You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders. What is your opinion of people who are more than twice your age pretending to “speak your language”? I guess that’s what I see when I read responses like Noble’s. I don’t have any issue with rock music, tattoos, or most of the stuff that comes up in these critiques in and of themselves. To me, though, efforts to be ultra-relevant just come off as cheesy more than anything. Does that bug you? To me it’s the old cliche that if you have to put that much effort into being cool, hip, or relevant, you probably aren’t any of those things.

      It’s like one of my wife’s roommates in college who spent several hours before a party trying to pull off the “grunge look”. If being grungy requires that much effort, something is wrong. And that’s what I see in a lot of modern evangelism. Instead of just simply being ourselves – we are simply putting on another mask. To me, there’s not much difference between hiding behind rote tradition and hiding behind being cool for being cool’s sake.

      Now I’ll admit that there are plenty of people who criticize Warren and other for all the wrong reasons. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t good reasons to critique ideas out there. I think one thing I always look for is the spirit behind the critique. Is it mean-spirited and caustic, or is said out of a genuine love for people?

      • “What is your opinion of people who are more than twice your age pretending to “speak your language”?

        I was wondering about this too, if you wouldn’t mind commenting.

        I remember really disliking the more overt attempts at it. First, adults never could quite pull it off. Second, it seemed like a form of talking-down. I wanted to be respected and to have a real conversation; the adult trying to cater to me seemed to be telling me that I couldn’t be expected to pay attention unless they made a lot of noise and broke the concepts down to soundbites. Third, the language and perspectives they used never felt like me own, but a bit like a knockoff of the cool teenager culture depicted on TV, something with which I had never really identified. The cool kids in school made my life rather miserable; I was the was the kind of kid who read poetry, wanted to save the earth, and might have become goth, if I had to pick a trend a gunpoint.

        Then again, I was a weird kid! Therefore a bad case study.

        I should also mention that I never experienced the “hip and with the kids” approach in my own youth group. The group was run by a nice older lady and the pastor’s wife, supported by the “Ministry Team” — a group of kids in the youth group who helped plan and execute everything. As a result, the adults sounded like adults and the kids sounded like kids and we all more or less communicated. I only observed the more strained attempts at relevance in all the workbooks and videos the youth group used, at large youth events, and in college.

        • If they’re seriously into it and can legitimitely (sp?) pull it off, go ahead. Most can’t. 99.99% of adults just need to stop embarrassing themselves and admit that they need a student’s help. We’re much more likely to listen to our peers than a well-intended adult (as sad as it is to say that…)

    • Like Phil said, I think you sound find.

      My former youth pastor (I’m a twentysomething now) lived by the philosophy that kids could see straight through any attempt to wow them. Mom and I were just talking about that the other day. Honestly, we had metal folding chairs and concrete and a bag of toys (literally – baskeballs, frisbees…that kind of thing) and ran together in a pack of about 60. Good times.

    • ” I think Rick Warren said it best, when he tweeted yesterday, “Your wisdom, not your age, matters in leadership. Age only matters if your cheese.” I think they pull the “we’re older; we’re right” card, just because they want power.”

      Be careful about your agreement with this statement. It’s chic to dismiss older people who question the direction of the church as out of touch or lacking wisdom – oftentimes a sign of a childish person who is guilty of the very thing he’s apparently wise to. Sure some of them are wanting power, but I may be more suspicious of Warren’s motives than many of those “older” people he is referring to. I think I question Warren’s theory of Christian leadership more than anything.

      • One might also observe that Warren’s statement is also a powerplay.

        In fact, everyone making an argument about anything is making a powerplay, even (especially?) those who claim they are not.

      • I would be the first to say that an older person would be much better at making an informed decision than me. But, I still agree with Warren on this. Because what about some guy who is a Buddhist? If he’s old, should I listen to him just because he’s old? No. But, you can’t just believe that anyone who says they are a Christian is a Christian, so you’ve got to discern sound truth from lies. It doesn’t matter what there age is; they might be flat out wrong.

  24. I’ve never missed Michael Spencer more than today.

    The website is still up but the Internet Monk is no longer with us…

    🙁

    • SearchingAnglican says

      If you have a problem with this post/topic, please take your concern to Jeff Dunn or Chaplain Mike via private email. That is a much better way to handle conflict, not launching critique cloaked in sadness about a voice we all deeply miss.

      There are many, many good things about the current Internet Monestary, even if you disagree with the tone/topic of this post.

      • Really. So y’all can comment up and down the walls of iMonk all day long in critique of Noble and Crew, but one guy laments the fact that he feels the website has changed in a direction he doesn’t like and you tell him that he needs to handle it in a different way or else shut up?

        Pot, meet kettle.

    • Michael would have eaten this guy for lunch…

      And left no bones.

      • Maybe but he would have given the guy a closer look than just one post before he grabbed a knife and fork.

        Anyway, this isn’t really as much about you as it is about me. Some people like Arnel Pineda, I’m just not so easily satisfied.

      • And that’s a bragging point? The fact that Christians would brag about a Christian eating another Christian for lunch and leaving no bones oughtta sadden us all. Christians do things wrong, just like everybody else. We mess up, we screw up, we believe wrong doctrine, we say things that are not Scriptural, and a million other sins. But for one Christian to punch another in the face over the fact that a ministry method or a belief is wrong is not at all appropriate, the way I read the Bible. (Yep, I could be reading it wrong, but that’s how I read it.)

        I need to shut up. I don’t have time to waste arguing these points, really. Sorry I said the first word. Really.

        • Bernard: I think I see the point you are making but I think your posts say more about your take on how profitable, or unprofitable, this whole genre of post is. M.Spencer had these kind of posts here and there, and Chap Mike is following (more or less) that path. Once in awhile, we hold up the absurd (as in IDEAS, not people, though the Holy Ghost Hoakie Poakie…….don’t get us started…..)

          I’ll throw out a gentle suggestion: don’t read this kind of “watchblog post” if it pushes all the wrong buttons in you. wait a day or two (or less) and we’ll be onto something you feel is worth discussing. That’s my unsolicited 1cent worth.

          Thanks
          Greg R

          • Not sure how one would know before reading a given post that it is a certain type of post 🙂 I think you mean to say that I simply shouldn’t respond to something I don’t like. That type of implicit self censorship seems unfair when the post was written in critique of a given person who is simply doing what he believes to be right, just like you are.

            My point is that any advice to me to simply keep maintain silence doesn’t sit well, as it undermines the right of the site to have posted the attack in the first place.

            I don’t mean this “hatefully”. I’m not Perry’s biggest fan, I’m not sure I’m even a “fan” at all. His attitude grates on me, I think he dismisses some critiques in a fashion that reeks of pride and self-satisfaction, and I’m not impressed by those who brag about their church in a way that implies everyone else is “doing it wrong”. There are “features” of NewSpring that would make me very angry if I were a part of the church.

            But neither do I bash him publicly. I would LOVE to sit down with him personally and talk some things through, but I honestly doubt that would ever be possible or likely. I’m a nobody in his world, and God is certainly able to put wise men near him to direct his path. I pray that any errors he teaches may be corrected through the gentle and powerful leading of the Holy Spirit. If God is able to bring Perry to salvation, He is able to grow him just like he is me. I’m quite sick of Christians trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit for Him.

            Perry and I most likely couldn’t minister or work at the same church. Yet I have absolutely no interest in damaging his ministry or his church. God has plenty of ways to do that if it’s necessary. I’m gonna keep my mouth shut, because goodness knows I’ve made a lot of mistakes. A LOT of mistakes. Thank God for grace and forgiveness.

        • Bernard, I really do hear what you are saying. However, I do think there is a place for prophetic critique within the church, especially of those who make such a spectacle of themselves, don the hat of “leader,” and put material out for public consumption on prominent media sites. There is a place for calling the ridiculous for what it is. The entire Biblical tradition of the prophets that reached its climax in Jesus was filled with people saying not very nice things in order to call God’s people back to sanity. We don’t do it all the time here at IM, but we also don’t avoid it. We try to pick our battles and point out examples that are representative of broader concerns. My point about Michael “eating them for lunch” was not intended as macho posturing, but my vivid way of saying I don’t think things really have changed all that much around here. If anything, we’ve toned it down.

          I’m truly glad you’ve joined the discussion and I appreciate the pushback.

          • @Bernard, if you are still reading (and I hope you are) You misunderstand me. I’m not squelching anyone, if you have a beef with this kind of post, speak your mind. I’m making an appeal to your logic: Mike Spencer was known to unashamedlly post this KIND of thing a time or two. Now Chap Mike is doing not-so-roughly the same. Nothing has changed, if you didn’t like it back then, you won’t like now, you won’t like it 10 yrs from now. Very doubtful that you are going to convince Chap Mike and friends that this kind of post is a colossal waste of our time (see the comment about the prophetic above). In suggesting to not read this type of post, I was trying to spare your blood pressure and spleen, but if you’re bent on a rant, go ahead.

            All rants are welcome, but again, I for one do NOT see this as a waste of time OR a statement that I’m better than , or less imperfect than Mr. Noble (or you).

            We had a bundle of your type of comment when the Ted Haggard thread was running. In retrospect, I’d say “appeal all you want, but you are wasting your bandwidth….. looking at different booths in the circus is just what we do here.

            If you’ve read this far, thanks for your forbearing
            GREG R

        • I think you should perhaps read the Corinthian letters, for that is exactly what Paul is doing – critiquing, in very harsh terms (‘superapostles’, ‘false apostles’ ‘deceitful workers’) those teachers who have gotten a foothold in that church and implemented a model of ministry and teaching (based on that of the contemporary Sophists) that he sees as antithetical to the Gospel. His issues with them were not primarily theological but methodological (see Bruce Winter, ‘Paul and Philo Among the Sophists’ and ‘After Paul Left Corinth’).

          Now we should be careful that we are not mean-spirited or overly critical for the sake of being critical, and we are all somewhat myopic, but to be critical of ministry methods and philosophies that some of us believe have seriously undermined the church in our culture is not in itself ‘unchristian’. Some would see it as an attempt to steer others away from those methods to more biblical methods and philosophies. (Boy this sounds pedantic!)

  25. Wow!!!

    I tell you as an agnostic and former evangelical Christian I keep reading and hearing stuff that drives me farther and farther away. Look at it like this….at least he is honest about the church being a business. Chuck Colson, James Dobson, and so many others couldn’t admit it.

    I tell you the greatest arguments for atheism/agnosticism today is the evangelical church. You look at how troubled it is, how condescending and arrogent it is, and how grace is a myth. Leaving Christianity and throwing it away was one of the best decisions i made.

    • Eagle: there are places and relationships where grace is NOT a myth; maybe you’ve already found a few (I hope). Keep searching, it’s a pain in the parchesi box, but Jesus STILL has the words of life, and the power to back them up.

      Blessings on you and yours
      (and forgive us for some infighting/whining on this thread) we are broken and need a nap….

      Greg R

    • Eagle: Look to the Scriptures. What man is tearing asunder, God will not stand for. As greg says there are churches that understand and teach grace (but beware, it is not a cheap grace and churches that teach this are putting people in great danger).

      You must consider this:

      Did you leave the Evangelical church or did you leave the truth? If you deny the truth (Jesus) you are in eternal peril. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the American Evangelical church has the corner on Christianity, and that your rejection of it gives you a superior position.

      • Ron-

        I’m oppossed to manipulation and subjective twisting of religion where guilt is used as a tool to control people. I also have concerns with both the message and the messenger. First I’d like to know why some people divorce the two and give God a pass for the %^$@ mess that exists today. Why do people exonorate him? Also while the message is subject to spiritual abuse and manipulation many horrific messengers populate and skew the message across the country. Mega churches as I leanred are nothing but a business!! Driven by numbers and concerned with results in speciffic areas, they are nothing more than creations of the American culture. The Nobles that exist in the country today are incredible. They exist from Seattle, to Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. they are very much in charge and popular. The messangers that exist today don’t have a lot of grace or love. Grace is a myth, I say that becuase I’ve been hit on the head by a 2′ x 4″ while confessing my sin, while others lived decitful lives to get ahead and fit in the culture. Also as someone who spent a chunk of time in the Mormon church I began to notice disturbing similarities between the Mormon culture and evangelical culture. Now this may be going off tract but let me post something that I recently read from a former evangelical acquintaince.

        “My wife and I have experienced miracle after miracle over the last three months, and we are praising God for each miracle ahead of us. I am starting this blog as a place to record those wonders. This blog is an honest opportunity to give God all of the credit. The writing will never hold up to the wondrous things that are happening, but this will be a good place to the the story.”

        I’d love to ask the above person how a person going through a spiritual crisis fits into that enviornmnet. What about an alcoholic? Someone who is gay? Someone living with the shame of past mistakes? No I’m tired of religion, God and all the crap that goes along with it.

        • Eagle,

          You and I both can contribute to the observation that there is much wrong in the evangelical landscape, but the old maxim “do not through the baby out with the bathwater” provides good counsel.

          We must always go to the Bible when confronted by such problems as you describe:

          Ephesian 2: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 l in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air,

          The Bible is clear rthat the Devil has a peculiar reign in this age. Even though his power is restrained by what God permits, it is a serious power nonetheless. The problems any of us experience are due to our own natural self and the struggle against the flesh and the dark spiritual forces that would have us in their grip. Everything is under seige from this curse whether individuals or organized churches. You ask how could God subject the world to such things? That I cannot answer nor should we demand one, but it will be revealed when God says its time. In the meantime he has provided a way for us to be at peace and that is through the Prince of Peace.

          You complaint isn’t really against the evangelical church; it’s against God. You are angry at Him, and have unmet demands. A very human condition.

    • I also left Christianity, but not for Agnosticism or Atheism. However, I don’t think it’s fair to see the fact that there is infighting in the Christian community as a sign that it isn’t true. Anytime you gather more than 1 person together, there will be infighting. Whether it’s the prom decorating commitee, a Dungeons and Dragons group, or a group of co-religionists.

      It’s just human nature–I’m sure at some point in our evolutionary past, it was beneficial to us for survival to have independence of thought, unlike say bees. Even today, it’s that ability to be independent in thought that give rise to new inventions and technologies.

      • “It’s just human nature–I’m sure at some point in our evolutionary past, it was beneficial to us for survival to have independence of thought, unlike say bees.”

        Good grief.

    • I hope you haven’t confused the evangelical church with Christianity as a whole. They are by no means the same thing. Evangelicalism is sort of a ghetto in a lot of ways and I’m pretty much with you in regards to leaving it, but for me there continues to be something utterly compelling about the person and message of Jesus, and there are followers out there who really get that. Here’s hoping and praying you’ll find Him as compelling as I and many others do.

  26. I have always appreciated Michael Spencer’s essay Those Magnificent Young Men and Their Pastoring Machines as a thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of these issues. (If I didn’t manage to do the link correctly, the essay can be found under the “Essays” tab in the menu bar ((20th essay down in the “Essays For and About Evangelicals” section)

  27. In the past I had a few interchanges with Michael… okay, disagreements. But, I will tell you as an attendee (and member) of an Evangelical church, I’m starting to see many of Michael’s wise observations. We live in a contract oriented culture, and live like it in the church – and it has led to a church attending populace that is delivered and only drinks milk for who dare suggest we receive something that is not pleasant to us? God is a covenenting God, but we will have none of it. So we get sophomoric responses from the Pastor Noble’s out there.

    • Yours is an interesting thought, and it ocurred to me that Noble seemed (to me) very out of his element talking about what is”very stupid”, unless he wasn’t really serious in critiqueing ANYTHING, just blowing off steam. It’s not just him, but anyone, IMO, who wants to circle the wagons around the business model as church is not going to play well with those who dare threaten to jack with that paradigm. His response may be more self defensive impulse than anything else.

      A lot of what I write is fishwrap, and I’ll admit it, but if you go out on a limb and call anything ‘very stupid’, at least make a case for what you’re saying. That irked me more than his particular views as if, as a pastor/leader/blogger , a thought out position wasn’t even needed.

      • A thought out position these days seems to be arguments for why we want to be like the culture or emulate its practices. The point is we are like the culture, which sadly means we don’t want to grow up or want to be looked upon as savvy enough to see a good thing such as a slick business model.

        The gospel is anything but. It is wholly different from what man has crafted. The western church (I mean evangelical as the world sees it) is in a precarious position, and I say that because what is it offering? Not much it seems. At least not different in the sense of what I see in the scriptures. I desire to be in a relationship with God and others that is “other than”. The model I see from Noble and other well-known operations seems “just like”.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      …it has led to a church attending populace that is delivered and only drinks milk for who dare suggest we receive something that is not pleasant to us?

      Even the milk would be an improvement on some congregations I’ve heard about. The ones that even spit out even the milk and demand Candy Candy Candy…

  28. For crying out loud, Mike, he wasn’t preaching a sermon, he was typing a guest post. I doubt they even wanted exegesis, but rather, something everyone could understand. You’re coming off as a bit elitist.

    • Which is why I didn’t do an in-depth analytical piece about it. Just pointed and said, “Silly.”

    • Enoch Chee says

      The column title points to 3 arguments that are “stupid.” By labeling them as stupid (in the largest font in the column 🙂 ), I would think that Perry Noble is the one being elitist. So I think if he can throw a hard criticism, it’s fair that his opponents can rip up his article.

  29. The problem is not so much in the lack of biblical critique the evangelical world as a whole directs at such things, it’s that evangelicals don’t even seem to aware of any of the cultural critiques. If there are prophetic voices critiquing such things they exist outside the church.

    As another example of this take a look at the latest “Global Leadership Summit” that Willow Creek is organising. One of the people they have speaking at the conference is Jack Welch. I look forward to the lessons Neutron Jack has to share on church growth – maybe getting rid of the bottom 10% of your congregation every year is the way to go? My point is not about one individual, but about the ethos of a movement who don’t seem to realise that you have to filter the wisdom of the world through scripture in order to find out what is common grace and what isn’t and what applies to the church and what is clearly outside it.

    • Amen.

    • “getting rid of the bottom 10% of your congregation every year is the way to go” sounds crazy, but I have read the blog of one extremely prominent evangelical leader who promotes something very similiar

      • I find it ironic that this is being called “advice”. Most churches I have been a part of find this happening automatically with absolutely no need for intentional effort towards it’s accomplishment. I’d call it more of an observation.

  30. Ummmm…what’s “Buckle?”

  31. On relevance, it would seem Pastor Noble has never heard of the Dean Inge quote “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”

  32. When I ponder the possiblity of being truly relevant as opposed to being merely hip, I can’t help but think of the TV show M.A.S.H. It never really tried to be hip but it always sought to be relevant. People said is was really about Vitenam. Maybe. But more than that it was really about war and human nature and conflict and community and yes, love and grace — in other words, bigger, even eternal, themes and lessons and issues. That’s why you can still buy the full series on DVD today in almost any major store.

    It’s a lesson a lot of evangelical churches today could take to heart.

  33. I’d love to see how Noble would respond to Skye Jethani’s The Divine Commodity.

  34. I an attempt to be relevant from evangelicals. But from the “Blue Like Jazz” and “Evolving in Monkey Town” branch I see a real partnership with “coolness” or pop culture. But what is the motivation of each group. As long as they are doing this out of a motive to glorify and live for Jesus then let them be. If Jesus get obscured then each group must unclutter their lives (mission).

  35. I can’t believe the number of people whose comments here basically boil down to this: “Hey, that’s not very nice! That is so wrong for Mike to point at Perry and say anything bad about what he’s doing or saying.” People! FOR REALS? Do we take Jesus seriously? Would he “be nice” to a “naked emperor”? Anyone taking issue with Chaplain Mike’s observations here is contradicting themselves.

    • No, I’m not contradicting myself. I’m arguing on behalf of an attitude.

      Yes, I take Jesus seriously.

      You are not Jesus. Neither is Chaplain Mike. You are both human. If either of you have the right to call Perry Noble out for teaching wrong doctrine, I have just as much right to call you out for public attack of a brother. At least I’m talking directly to you instead of hosting a blog somewhere to critique you.

      Let Jesus handle His own relationship with Perry Noble. Perhaps the rest of us need to shut the heck up about Perry Noble and start talking more about Jesus. I know I don’t exalt Jesus in my own life like I should, and I want to work on that. I’m imperfection personified. I refuse to climb up on a pedestal and act like I’ve got it all figured out, because I know I don’t.

      Chaplain Mike – thanks for allowing my voice. I’m sorry to be a contrary mule. I’ve always enjoyed iMonk, it’s helped me through a lot of things. I appreciate you keeping it up and all the work you do. But I’m backing away a bit as I simply don’t like fights of this nature.

      • If I may quote a little from the venerable Douglas Wilson:

        “This is our sin: we suffer fools gladly. And when anyone dares to rebuke the folly, revealing it for what it actually is, then we rouse ourselves to rebuke the one who dares to do this thing. Let someone write a trivial and inane novel about holy things, a novel bad enough to make your back teeth ache, and yet everyone sits there as solemn as a judge.”

        A major problem I see in the church is that we are too afraid to say anything if we see something amiss. Love does not know cowardice. There is no one so sacred they are above critique. Things said in public are open to discussion in public. It is not an attack to call something silly (I think), and nothing was said about Perry’s relationship with Jesus.

        • I understand, Miquel, what you are saying. You make valid points. I’m not going to argue this endlessly, because words often fail me. You are correct – no one is above critique. I critique my pastor every Sunday, and I sometimes disagree with him. I do not, however, run to a blog and post my disagreement. That is very inappropriate. At some point, the same applies to Perry Noble. We don’t attend the church he pastors. He will answer to God for what he does, and at some point we need to leave it at that and stop trying to make sure the world knows how bad this man is.

          That said, y’all feel free to carry on as you feel appropriate. Seriously, it’s not my call. I just expressed my disappointment. I’ll try to not interfere needlessly in the future. 🙂

          • Bernard, again I’ll say thanks for your pushbacks. But I will also reiterate, when someone puts their words out there in a public forum, they are subject to critique. If Perry Noble just said these things in his own church, then I would not think it necessary to comment. But when he is held up and published as an example of leadership and pastoral wisdom, I have a right to publicly dissent, especially since it’s my discipline he’s talking about.

  36. I learn something new here every day. I had never heard of the store, Buckle, before.

  37. Wall Street Journal April 13, 2010
    The Perils of Hipster Christianity
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111704575355311122648100.html
    This might be of interest…

  38. This just sounds like 3 extreme claims informed more by pious sophistry answered by 3 extreme responses filled with equally immature presumption and arrogance.

    There is very little day light between the attitude/mindset of Mr. Noble and the people who typically raise the complaints he believes he’s so effectively answering.

  39. to be honest…

    what people take to be an attempt at “coolness” may simply just be an expression of the particular cultural context/setting of the persons in question. (e.g. the Hipster Christian book that just came out)

    It’s actually really annoying to me that people would problematize someone wearing a pair of glasses that are in fashion or assuming that because someone buys clothes from Urban Outfitters that they are a slave to trends and inescapably idolatrous.

    this is really no different in principle than Pensacola Christian College (Fundamentalist par excellence) banning “cargo pants” from their dress code because it was, at the time, “current” in fashion and therefore hopelessly worldly.

    can people be slavishly hip? of course.

    but it’s all the attitude/mindset…something we can’t really see or know from afar and without relationship.

    It’s not been demonstrated that there is an inherent problem in the wearing of hipclothes or the “not wearing” of the hip styles, etc. etc….but THAT assumption seems to be what’s at play…

    • Not only cargo pants, my brother, but pants with any external seam or stitching at all. No external pockets, and I’m pretty sure that no external manufacturer tags or logos were allowed. Trust me, I know – I was there. 4.5 years.

      But there are watchblogs about the heresy of PCC, too, so, I guess nobody is safe, no matter how careful they are to be perfect in their own eyes.

  40. Clay Knick says

    Check out “Thieves in the Temple” & “Hipster Christianity.” They both address this issue.

  41. Perry Noble sets up three life-like strawmen and proceeds to feel like a man by tearing them apart. And I’m sure the crowd went wild. There in lies not only the problem with preaching but the problem with community.

    • My old English professor said good written communication should be efficient and effective. You, sir, get an A!

      • I actually didn’t have much time to elaborate this morning when I posted this. Perhaps that was a good thing.

        It just seems like a lot of preachers are taking cues from the talking heads on radio and T.V. on how to gain a following through inflammatory and fallacious statements.