Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"I love YOUR Church" My take on Perry Noble and NewSpring Church

I recently read a blog by NewSpring pastor Perry Noble on 10 convictions he has about the Church. Two of the points of his blog caused such a stir in the Christian community that he was led to do a couple of follow up posts on those positions. For years now I have watched the interesting impact that NewSpring has had on churches, ministers , and the culture around my area and beyond. I wanted to blog and comment on some of the things I have seen.

Now with that said, I want to say upfront that I do not have a dog in this fight! I do not attend NewSpring Church , and I am by all accounts an outsider looking in. I have found however that sometimes the perspective of an outsider can be quite helpful and enlightening. I certainly hope that this is the case here.

I remember sitting in a meeting with a group of people about 11 years ago when one of them talked about a new church his daughter was attending. He said "its called Newspring Church, and is primarily attended by college students from the Anderson SC area". One of the others in the room answered with a chuckle and said "well that won't last. Good luck in getting those college students to tithe" Fast forward 11 years and that small Church has an average attendance of over 32,000 weekly and was voted as one of the 10 most influential churches in the world. The impact that NewsSpring Church has had is astounding in my opinion, and is unlike anything I have observed in my lifetime. In 2013 the South Carolina Baptist convention reported NewSpring baptized 6,551 people. If this number doesn't impress you let me put in in perspective. Of the 19,477 people baptized that year, 1 Church accounted for 33% of the total. The next closest Church had 206 baptisms to NewSprings 6,551!

After seeing this information, if you were using the principles of the now old Experiencing God Bible study by Henry Blackaby, certainly you would think that "look what God is doing and join Him" would be the order of the day here. Surprisingly, at least from an outsider looking in, that is not the case. It is quite the opposite as a matter of fact. I hear more criticism concerning NewSpring Church than any other 10 churches combined. If you type in the name Perry Noble on YouTube there are series videos of pastors across the nation from as far as Arizona that bash the ideals, teaching, and principles of Perry Noble. I myself am a speaker and evangelist, and about every where I go I hear people that take the opportunity to complain about NewSpring Church. In the list below I will share some of the things I have seen and heard, and what my experience has been.

1) Perry Noble preaches an easy believe ism and waters down the gospel. I hear this one a lot, so I took the time to listen to some (not all) of his messages. I also went through their statement of beliefs on their website including those on salvation. This is what I heard and read. It starts with Jesus. He loves me and wants to change my life. I have a problem called sin. Sin separates me from God. Jesus came to live a perfect life for me. I need to repent of my sins and turn to Him in faith. Trusting what He did for me on the cross. Then I need to follow Him. Hmmmm I have heard that somewhere before. It was in the Bible. Maybe its because they don't scream it, or they say it with concern, but that sounds pretty good to me.

2) NewSpring Creates Decision makers not converts. In today's Christian culture that seems to be a very dominant issue with today's theologians and ministers. I always wondered who appointed them as value judges on people's conversions? Do I believe that everyone who prays a prayer is converted? Certainly not. However lets look at it this way. Suppose out of the 6,551 people that were baptized at NewSprings that 6,200 were not truly converted. That would mean that only 351 were genuine. That would still be 145 more than the second most baptisms in the state of South Carolina. Wow!

3) NewSpring is just sheep swapping. (They take our church members.) I think this is the criticism that I hear the most about NewSpring. I am not on a church staff presently, but I served on several for over 15 years, and I assure you that church members going to the "Hot" church did not start with NewSpring. Church members have been doing this for many many years, long before NewSpring came around. I looked around their website, and listened to many messages and I have not seen or heard anyone from NewSpring advocate "leave your church and come to ours". Have I been invited to attend NewSpring? Yes I have, and in turn I can say that in my life I have invited many churched and unchurched people to my church. Wouldn't it be cool if we just got excited that at least someone cared enough to invite us TO church?

4) People just come for the show!- This one has always perplexed me. Let me explain. I wonder how many people in the Bible woke up and said "Hey lets go see Jesus and get saved!" I was not there but I bet it was more like. "Hey lets go see this guy who raises people from the dead and ticks the Pharisees off!!" In Jesus' day, He was the show! There was no tv, celebrities, college football, or Duck Dynasty to watch! My point is that even though people may have come to see the show. They ended up following Jesus. Faith comes by hearing, and you can't hear unless you are there.

5) People that go their just get lost in the crowd- (It doesn't lend itself to living out truth.) I am going to answer this one by telling you about some friends of mine who attend NewSpring. Their names are Randy and Carla Morrison. During Perry Nobles overwhelmed series, Randy was challenged by Perry's preaching to put action to his faith (Book of James). He has a care group who helps assimilate new converts into the "following Christ life". One day Randy met "Angel". Angel was a gang banger that had been kicked out of his house by a grand mom who could not handle his drug using lifestyle. While in school one day, another student asked Angel to come to NewSpring with him. He told Angel he would give him a ride not only to youth group, but to school everyday. Angel attend the "Gauntlet" service and gave his life to Christ. Enter Randy and Carla Morrison. When Angel told Randy he wanted to get out of the drug life, Randy began to check into Angel's life. He found out Angel at 17 was living by himself in a motel. He was only supported by the money from his brother (another great story) and the money he could sell from drugs. Randy embarked on finding Angel help. After a month of searching Randy found out there was not help for Angel. God spoke to his heart and said; "you are his help"! Randy and Carla Morrison took Angel into their home to live with them. He is a part of their family now. I don't know about you, but that sure does sound like living out your faith to me!

In conclusion I want to say that I have no problem with disagreeing or even opposing someone on hard fact theological errors and differences. However when the opposition stems from insecurity, jealousy, envy and speculative opinion we can be sure that these things are from the sinful nature. Do I think NewSpring is a perfect Church with a perfect pastor. No I don't. I also don't believe that Church will exist until it is taken up as the Bride of Christ. I'll tell you this. If your Church is about Jesus being the only way to get to God. If your Church brings Him glory. If your Church invites the lost to know Him. If your Church believes the Bible speaks to real life! If your Church brings you into the presence of the living God.

I love Your Church!

**Follow Chris Wells on twitter @Basschaplain

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Critical Questions every Pastor search Team should ask

 A year or so ago my pastor was president of our denomination's state convention. During his tenure one of the things he focused on was how many Churches in our state have had to fire or have their pastor leave due to some conflict. He concluded that our state had one of the highest percentages of Pastors fired in the country. I believe that one of the reasons for this is because often times search teams don't know what to ask a pastoral candidate. Over the last 10 years I have had the opportunity to preach literally across the country. Time and again I see Churches that failed to find the right fit for their Church, and the results are devastating. I will share an example of a church that got a bad fit.

"When we interviewed the pastor he told us that he just wanted to reach people for Jesus. We called him and then it began to change. He started teaching our students in a Bible study. The thing of it was, he told them not to tell us what he was teaching. When pressed for answers the students confessed: The pastor is telling us that Jesus didn't come to die for everyone. Just for the Elect". When confronted the pastor affirmed his teaching and position in Calvinism. When asked why he never mentioned this in the interview, his answer: " I didn't think you would hire me".  The Church split, and is on the verge of closing its doors.

This is not just a Calvinism issue. Failure to ask the proper questions can do major damage to any church regardless of theological practices. The key is to know what your candidate believes, and see if those beliefs are consistent with those of your church. Whether you are Calvinist, Armenian or somewhere in between. Save your church and the Pastoral Candidate by asking the right questions before that person is called to pastor.

Here are 7 Critical questions that every committee should ask. 

1) What is the Gospel? This may seem like a simple question,  however it is amazing the  variety of answers this question produces. Find out if the Gospel is the good news of Christ to a lost world, a musical style, or a social agenda to your Pastoral candidate.

2) Do you believe that Jesus Came to die for everyone? - This is one of the most important questions a committee can ask. This single question asked could save Churches countless heartaches. I have seen churches all over this country from my home town to California that have been devastated by failing to find this out. This one question will tell you where your pastor candidate leans theologically.

3) How Has your Theology changed in the last 5 years?-  We live in a culture that has a pendulum theology. It tends to swing back and forth with the winds of the latest theological jargon and teaching. Make sure you know what your Pastoral candidate believes is consistent with what you believe God wants for your Church.

4) Do you actively share your faith? -   The fact of the matter is that statistics tell us that 90% of all Christians (including Ministers) will never share their faith outside of the Church even one time in their life. The person that leads your congregation spiritually should be active in sharing with people how they can know Christ.

5) Are Evangelism and Discipleship mutually exclusive?- Again the pendulum effect applies. Many Ministers and Churches emphasize one or the other. True discipleship CANNOT happen without true evangelism and true evangelism cannot happen without true discipleship. Its a" both and" not an "either or."

6) Do you invite people to Come to Christ?- Whether its an altar call, a counseling room, a card follow up, or a time he can come see you. People need to know how to respond to God. Ask your candidate if he gives people the opportunity to respond to the Spirit of God in their lives.

7) Tell me what you Believe about the Bible?- The Bible is the primary way God chooses to speak to our hearts. It is unlike any other book that has ever been written. Find out your candidates view on the role of the Bible in the life of a christian.

I am not saying these questions are the end all be all of how to call a pastor, but these 7 should be included in any search. Churches need to be prayerful,  Biblical, intentional, and diligent in their search for a spiritual leader. Don't take for granted that the person you are interviewing shares your Churches values. Find out before you call a pastor!