Doing Ministry In The Twenty-first Century

New_Spring_Church_Greenville_2Another pastor has been asked to leave his church—a megachurch, no less, so there’s lots of attention to his failings and his firing. I’m referring to Perry Noble, pastor and founder of NewSpring Church in South Carolina, who confessed to an ongoing overuse of alcohol.

Apparently he’s been trying to grow his church to a membership of 100,000, and the stress got to him, such that tension developed in his marriage. He turned to alcohol to alleviate the problems and of course, alcohol became one more problem on its own.

Noble’s statement said: “What we’ve seen the Lord do over the past 16 years has been a modern day miracle. However, in my obsession to do everything possible to reach 100,000 [members] and beyond – it has come at a personal cost in my own life and created a strain on my marriage.” (“Perry Noble enters treatment centre”)

I have to ask, was the church growth he referred to, a modern day miracle or a result of his obsessive activity? I don’t think it can be both. Either God does the work or man’s marketing techniques does the work.

I can’t help but contrast Pastor Noble’s obsessive work to grow the size of his church (which apparently is more like a denomination “which claims 30,000 members across 17 cities” [“How Perry Noble’s Alcohol Firing by NewSpring Compares to Other Churches”]) and that of George Müller a hundred and fifty years ago. The latter wasn’t trying for great numbers. He wasn’t obsessive about growing his ministry. He continued building orphan homes as God enabled because the list of children who needed a place continued to grow and grow and grow.

The only thing Pastor Müller worked tirelessly at was prayer. And preaching God’s word. He didn’t care if he was talking to a small group in Australia or a large church in Chicago. He preached, during the last eight or so years of his life when he felt called as an itinerant preacher, to any and all churches that invited him. Further, from the beginning of his work with orphans and with support for various other Christian endeavors, he laid his needs before God and did not publicize them.

Today’s churches seem to have capitulated to the organization and the marketing mechanisms used by corporations. We have boards that oversee churches, made up of pastors from other churches, not from a group of elders within the church body. We want celebrity pastors who Tweet and livestream and do Facebook, all for the purpose of growing the size of the “ministry.”

Gone, it would seem, is dependence on prayer and gone is the centrality of God’s word. Now “ministry” means seminars on addiction and dealing with autism and job loss or infertility or any number of other heartbreaking and difficult situations people might encounter.

Does no one still believe that the Bible is actually relevant to our times and our problems? Why are we so quick to look to the devices the world has manufactured, to cope with our hurts and sins? Why don’t we pay attention to Scripture instead?

In fact, shouldn’t we be so plugged into what the Bible tells us about how we ought to walk and please God, that we don’t find ourselves falling into the pit created by following the world’s way of doing things?

The Church should be like a hospital, I think, for those outside. But for those of us inside? We should be all about healthy habits that keep us from getting sick. What would we think of a hospital that spends the majority of its efforts and resources treating the nurses and doctors who worked there?

Of course Christians fail, we stumble, we fall, and we need people with whom we can confess our sins. We need people who will walk beside us so that we aren’t adding sin to sin. I’m not suggesting the Church should not provide a support system for those who need help. But that’s the thing—prayer, relationships with other Christians, a study of God’s word should be a regular part of our lives, allowing room for the Holy Spirit to work.

Churches need pastors who faithfully preach the word of God, in season and out. We need to hear the full council of God’s word, not just messages from favorite passages, hop, skipping, and jumping through the text based on a topic. That’s the way important passages get skipped. That’s why we don’t address addiction in the church or divorce or premarital sex. There are lots of other topics the church simply lets slide—apparently the marketing strategy says talking about a lot of “old time” topics isn’t appealing to the target audience.

I wonder if God’s heart isn’t broken by us going off on our own to do His work without Him.

Published in: on July 20, 2016 at 6:25 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. BTW, I kind of choke at the line identifying Perry Noble as the “founder” of NewSpring Church. That a pastor could “start” a church and be identified as the founder sounds more like corporate America than the Church of Jesus Christ. Paul addressed this when he warned about following Apollos or him instead of following Christ. The message was clear: the only personality driving the church is Jesus. But that doesn’t seem to be the way the Church is working today, at least in western society. But we’d know this if our pastors would preach the Bible!


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  2. I am a member at new spring and the goal is not to reach 100,000 people to join the church but 100,000 people with the Gospel. At our church, excepting Christ and being baptized does not make you a member. That’s a different process where you were ready to take your Next step and participate. The Bible is preached there. I write for the devotional book blog each month. Your article has a lot of good points to think about but some inaccuracies too with some strong slants assuming motives of others. Maybe you should watch some of the sermons and then rewrite this with more facts and less of those assumptions about my church.


    • Melissa, I’m happy that the Bible is preached at NewSpring. I don’t doubt your word. But your former pastor’s statements triggered my thoughts—not all of them about NewSpring; not even most of them. I don’t know what kind of sermons you hear and listening to a couple won’t really answer the question.

      I do know that the popular trend today is to do the hop, skip, jump method I mentioned above, hitting on favorite topics which pastors think their congregations need to hear. But that approach leaves us impoverished in areas that the pastor might not realize is a source of need. Especially in a large church (mine had 6000 in attendance weekly, not so very long ago), the pastor doesn’t know the people.

      God knows them, though, and He’s given His word to speak to us about all kinds of things that we desperately need. Would that pastors were willing to set aside what they want their congregants to know and would simply preach the word of God without fear.

      Yes, fear. Some are afraid that we’re losing the younger generation, that we’re presenting Jesus in a way that turns off the world, that people are leaving the church.

      Well, adding more people to the Church is not our responsibility. Being ambassadors is. Being disciples is. That’s what I’d like to see our leadership focus on by preaching the Bible, not by implementing the techniques of business.



  3. “Does no one still believe that the Bible is actually relevant to our times and our problems?”

    I do! I do! Can you see me jumping up and down in the back here? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha-ha! Yes, IB, it’s clear from what you write that you do, and I have any number of friends who do. But in the leadership of our churches, do we still believe this? I’ve been blessed with a Bible-believing church all my adult life, but we’re going through our struggles, too. And as I listen to what others say about their churches, what I learn from researching NewSpring, my heart breaks at the direction our western Christianity seems to be taking. Would that our churches would not lose our first love!


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