When I read the news that Perry Noble was removed as senior pastor of Newspring Church, it saddened me deeply. Not just because I have been encouraged and equipped by his ministry and leadership podcast, but because it is always hard to see anyone be hit hard in life.
Honestly, I never planned on writing an article about this. I always find the whole process of commenting on someone else's private life a bit intrusive and sideways (to think just because this person is a public figure gives us the right to dissect their life before the masses). Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying all those who have written on the topic are in the wrong or that we shouldn't have dialogue. But it would seem that the manner in which we deal with these kinds of topics can dehumanize the person or group we are speaking about.
So, why am I adding to the clutter of your social media feed if it bothers me so much? I guess it is my hope to give a plea to slow down and not be so quick to react. After reading a lot of these articles, I feel it really boils down to two things that I keep seeing over and over again. The first is the criticism of the megachurch movement and why this is the cause of so many failings, and second being the direct criticism of how Newspring and its leadership handled the situation.
It is human nature for us to ask the question 'why?'. We want an explanation and want to get down to the root of why something happened. And though asking the question 'why?' isn't inherently wrong, it can have its limits and bring about unintended consequences, especially if we go to an oversimplified conclusion.
With the multiple failings we have seen in leadership of these megachurches of late, it can be easy to make the simple link that the issue is the megachurch model and the leader worship that supposedly comes with it. The problem with this approach is that it assumes that all megachurches are the same, deal with the same issues and have the same philosophies. This approach assumes that because a church is big in numbers and successful in numbers that it deals with these problems exclusively and these kind of issues don't happen in smaller churches. The reality is a lot of research shows that the correlations are not that clean cut or that simple. A great book on this is Beyond Megachurch Myths or if you don't want to read an entire book, try starting with this article.
The pressures of ministry are hard on anyone and though I suspect that being the leader of a megachurch would have its own unique challenges, the reason why it is easy to point out the failings of a megachurch is because they are in the spotlight.
I pastored in a small community that saw loads of hurt because of leadership failings in three different churches. The consequences of these failings were felt for years, the struggles of these leaders were real and the people who were effected had the same impact, but you will never hear about it because they were churches of 100 people or less. My challenge here is that we be careful not to jump to conclusions about these situations (especially quick and easy conclusions). Even though dialogue will inevitably happen, let's be careful to not add fuel to an already burning fire.
The most notable example of an article I have seen doing this is from Relevant Magazine. Now is everything that is said in this article wrong? Absolutely not. There is actually a lot that is sobering and thought provoking and I can appreciate those parts. But, I struggle with the seemingly simple correlation being presented of the megachurch model being the cause of all this. As one person put it in the comment section of this article:
"As someone who grew up in Rural Church...there is a fair bit of corruption on that end too. At the end of the day I think megachurch pastors at least have the public spotlight to be held accountable, as opposed to some backroom country club masquerading as a "church." Newspring is a permanent fixture on my podcast feed and while I think they should have put him on Sabbatical instead of firing him, they did it right and it could have been FAR worse."
This brings me to my second observation about judging the leadership of Newspring as a whole, and how they dealt with the situation. Am I defending how they handled the situation? No. Because there is really no information to know for sure how they handled it behind closed doors and that is the point.
I am not so much bothered that people wish to dialogue on how we should handle failure in leadership, but it is the readiness to make quick judgments and dissect when in reality we know nothing that bothers me. We don't know the conversations that were had, the attempts made for reconciliation, the difficult meetings of leadership in how to proceed the work made in weighing the consequences and prayerfully figuring out how they should proceed.
As a leader who has been involved in many of these hard decisions in a church organization, I can tell you that the weight of such things are not easy. Truthfully—no matter how you handle the situation—you will be criticized. There is no ideal way to go about this because the situation isn't ideal. Does this mean they did it right? I don't know. The real question is: would anybody be perfect in the handling of this situation?
The point I am trying to make is be careful to be too quick to lay judgment when we sit on the outside and secure behind our computer screens and not having to live with the consequences of our opinions.
Should there be dialogue in how we should move forward as the church? Probably. Can we learn things from this and grow deeper as a movement? Absolutely. But let's also be careful that our actions and words don't compound the destruction of the situation.
"Many words rush along like rivers in flood, but deep wisdom flows up from artesian springs. ...Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly? ...Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. ...The first speech in a court case is always convincing--until the cross-examination starts! ...Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose." (Proverbs 18)
If we are going to weigh in on the topic, let's use the same wisdom we hope the leadership of Newspring did and put ourselves in their shoes for one second, imagining what it would be like trying to walk through this. Let's bring our dialogue towards understanding, support, prayer and eventually towards healthy and helpful growth through this all. If we were to be honest, this article provides a much better way: 4 Ways to Respond When a Fellow Minister Has Failed. Let us never forget that this involves real people, real life, real failures, a real God, and most of all real reconciling grace!
Drake is passionate about seeing people thrive and come alive--to BELONG, wrestle with what they BELIEVE and BECOME people FULL OF LOVE, FUELED BY FAITH & ADDICTED TO HOPE. Drake is an engaging speaker, writer and an equipper of leaders. He is a life learner and loves being challenged to grow further. One of his favorite things to do is spend a good amount of time at a good café or coffee shop with a good book or engaging conversation. To be able to share in someone else's journey and experience their story is always a pleasure and an honor. He currently serves as the Editor-In-Chief of boldcupofcoffee.com & the Executive Pastor at Gateway Alliance Church.
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