Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Pastoral"? Perry Noble and Kevin DeYoung, a study in contrasts

First, endure this from pastor Perry Noble (ht Joe Fleener):


Then, read this essay on caring for the sick and dying, by pastor Kevin DeYoung.

Then remind yourself of what "pastor" means (shepherd), what that person is called to do, and tell me:
  1. Which of them sounds more like the "shepherd" of Ezekiel 34:2-10?
  2. Which of them sounds more like the "shepherd" of John 10:11-15?
Two objections, and responses:

First, I do grant that it is a weakness that I have not listened to the entire talk from which Noble's blast is excerpted.

However, I would counter, first, by reminding all that it is not necessary to have heard and/or read everything any public figure has said or written in order to critique one part of his speaking or writing. Further, I would point out that Noble repeatedly assures his hearers that he is not joking, and repeatedly refers to himself as a "pastor." He underlines and underscores and bolds and italicizes and capitalizes every word. I cannot imagine how this could be other than his apologia pro vita sua — by which I fancily mean a defense of his lifestyle as a pastor.

Second, I do not grant that it is unfair to lay a pastor against Christ by way of comparison.

A pastor is called to be a shepherd, like Christ (Ephesians 4:11), he is called to be an under-shepherd of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-4), and he is called to take Christ for his model (ibid, plus 1 Corinthians 11:1).

There are so many things that are so ugly about this that I know I can't fully express them at once. Let me focus on one.

Hiding, falsely, behind Jesus and the Gospel.

What I find particularly ugly is how Perry Noble, like other "bad-boy" pastors, is hiding behind the Gospel in a bad way. How many of these bad-boys have said, virtually in these words, "I just have to be foul, arrogant, obnoxious, ungodly and impure because I just love Jesus so much, I just love preaching Jesus so much, and I just love preaching the Gospel so much"? The implication is that any critic of their obnoxious, harmful words or behavior must necessarily be someone who doesn't really love Jesus, and doesn't really love the Gospel.

Take Noble, here. Noble couches this preening, arrogant, abusive tirade in terms that to think otherwise would be to lead people to think that he can save them, and to say "Instead of needing me (to pastor you), you need the Gospel." He tries to make folks feel that, if they think their pastor should actually pastor them, they should be ashamed and feel like godless, Gospel-denying idolaters.

Such is a false dichotomy. It is true that the Gospel should be central to all Christians. It is true that Christians should not worship a man (which, ironically, is I think a side effect of tirades like this, which bring 2 Corinthians 11:20 to my mind). It is true that Christians should look to the Lord and to His Word for the conduct of their own lives.

But it is not true that they shouldn't hold their pastors to the Word as well.

Further, all should lament the premature prominence given to such speech-givers by pastors who (by contrast) have paid their dues and earned a degree of respect. As usual, I couldn't say it better than m'man Phil Johnson already did, when he wrote that
the public "mentoring" of bad-boy pastors by men who have earned a degree of respectability is a Really Bad Idea. If you're a famous pastor who truly wants to be a help to a young foul-mouthed narcissist rock-star pastor, it would be better to do it privately and withhold your public affirmations of the punk pastor until he gains enough maturity to actually meet the biblical requirements for eldership.
Amen.

52 comments:

Sheldon said...

If Perry Noble believes half the things he said in that video, then he is a disgrace to the position of pastor and elder. As a pastor myself, I am heart broken that people are subjected to that in the name of reaching the lost.

In addition to the scriptures you mentioned, what happened to loving the saints (1 John), whether they agree with you or not on every jot and tittle, or our love for one another as believers being one of the primary identifying marks of us as disciples of Christ (John 12:35)?

Again, I am heart broken and angered by this callousness toward the saints in the name of better positioning to reach the lost.

Sheldon said...

That second verse should read John 13:35......sorry.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

A hearty amen!!!

Thanks, Dan!

DJP said...

There was some song with the refrain "too sexy for my ____" (varous articles of clothing, as I recall).

This vid's refrain could be "Too big to be a pastor, too big to be a pastor..."

Scooter said...

Ok, so he says that he doesn't have time for people. Then why is the church paying him so he doesn't need another full-time job?

His comments will be such a comfort to those saints who are loathing and desperately trying to mortify their flesh or to those whom providence has dealt a heavy hand. God forbid a couple serve chicken and rice to their pastor because they need money to keep the electricity on.

DJP said...

I know it. Doesn't that make you think of 2 Cor. also? They're sitting there, listening to him say "you are a waste of time and an interruption to me, and your food isn't good enough for me."

Those poor people. But they're also enablers. God help us.

Just Jules said...

Thank you so much, Dan. This is absolutely heart-breaking.

Just Jules said...

Rather, thank you for examining and addressing this topic, Dan. I wish that this sort of behavior was confined to "bad boy" pastors, but it's not.

BrettR said...

Lost in this mess is how good Kevin DeYoung's essay is in its bringing honor to showing up and being there whether a body bag is involved or not. Great job, PASTOR DeYoung.

DJP said...

Amen, Brett. That's the proper order to read, isn't it? I went from Noble's sneering rant to DeYoung's pastoral reflection; like rinsing something horrid out of your mouth with something delightful.

Robert said...

When will people stop claiming to be pastors/elders when they obviously don't meet the qualifications or want to fulfill all of the responsibilitites that come along with the job? I guess the flipside of that question is when will people read the Bible enough and follow what it says so that they are not willing to accept that people like this are biblical pastors/elders in the first place.

DJP said...

Sentence #2 is the key, Robert. Couple it with big-name pastors NOT loaning credibility to the unqualified.

Just Jules said...

I do want to balance my thoughts on this with the fact that many pastors can neglect their families while serving their congregation, and that church members need to respect that their pastor is also a human being.

Does that make sense?

Daryl said...

It occurs to me that many of these bad boy pastors went to seminary and then planted a church, thereby bypassing the whole qualified-pastor-who-is-called thing.

And I I planted it, I can call the shots...apparently.

And we see the fruit of that.

DJP said...

It certainly does, Jules. But that isn't what he says, as I know you know. He rags on the quality of their food, and their concerns. It's a dismissive, arrogant sneer, not the reasonable note that you suggest.

Just Jules said...

You're absolutely right, Dan. Heartbreaking.

Sir Brass said...

Dan, as a layperson, I can say that it is encouraging and pastoral for a pastor to express his love for his congregation for all they do for him. It feels like we're actually involved in HIS life, and aiding him in walk with the Lord as he does so powerfully with us as he preaches the Word. It's pastoral to let the sheep know from time to time that you (the pastor) appreciate them for all they do (even if sometimes you are served a not-so-good casserole and swallow each bite with a smile).

Nothing says "discouragment" like a supposed 'shephard' who beats the sheep. It also provides a poor witness.

As opposed to the example Kevin DeYoung provides in the specific context of visiting the sick and dying. Though many of those principles can be put forward as a good approach to just being a pastor (without forgetting the explicit duty to preach the whole council of God faithfully).

I think I can keep my "Five Pointer Card" and still say that PN's attitude DRIVES people away from Christ. I mean, who wants the gospel he's offering if that's what it results in? Associating that with Christ' name is shameful and boarderline (if not full blown) blasphemy as it tells lies about the character of our loving Lord and Savior.

DJP said...

Another connector-point between Noble and Driscoll that you call to mind, SirB, is the chest-thumping. So much effort and energy seems to be devoted to "Yeah! that's right! I be bad! I be bad!" — which, under criticism, flips instantly to "They just hate me because I love Jesus and preach the Gospel so good! < sob >"

Just Jules said...

I had the same line of thought, Sir Brass.

How many people have walked away from the organized church because of men like Noble? How many believers are actually just staying home on Sundays?

Robert said...

Jules,

I agree with your thoughts on the pastor and his family. Of course, one of the biblical qualifications for being a pastor/elder is baing a good shepherd of your own home so those being a pastor/elder should go hand in hand with spending enough time with your family.

Just Jules said...

Robert:

Absolutely, and I think the congregation should enable and support their pastor in his role as husband and father as well as shepherd.

But, as Dan pointed out, it seems that Noble holds his congregation in contempt.

Phillip said...

When we call a man our pastor we are effectively saying, "I want this man to preach to my family and friends at my funeral and the message I am hearing right now is what I expect and want him to give to them."

But forget qualifications for pastors for a moment, lets just park on John 13:34-35 for a while. Next stop is Gal 5:16-26.

Bad boy "pastors" may be hiding behind Jesus and the Gospel, but whether they realize it or not they're playing with an open deck.

Perry Noble needs to swallow his own medicine. If he doesn't have to care for those in his church then they shouldn't have to care about him and should all up an leave for greener pastures.

Eric said...

In the vein of bad boy pastors, Steven Furtick's bio on the Elephant Room website notes that he is "a young voice in the Church with wisdom beyond his years". I wonder if he wrote his own bio or if James McDonald describes him that way. And of course his bio also includes the obligatory reference to being "visionary".

Another good reference for pastoral attitude in contrast to Noble is of course Paul's pastoral letters. I dare say you won't find anything slightly resembling Noble's attitude in Paul's letters.

Sir Brass said...

Dan, when I think of a good pastor, I think of my own and his actions.

We annually present him with a pastoral gift, and I remember what he said last year. He said that he had the best job in the world, to be among the people of God. Not that he got to lead us (though he does), not that he gets to teach us (though he does), etc., but that he gets to minister among us. He's been doing that for 35+ years and without any mealy-mouthed wishy-washy sermonetes either. That matches more with the heart it seems DeYoung wrote his article with than the temper tantrum PN was in when he presented that rant (btw, that rant isn't new, so it's not like PN recently beat his sheep with that particular hammer).

Contrast that with the bad boys. Night and day. East and West.

Frank Turk said...

You know: at 1:27 he says, "show me one scripture reference where Jesus says,'I will die for my church so that they can know their pastor.'"

He's right: I got nothin'.

I do have this, though:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

I mean: it says something when you care nothing for the sheep.

And then there's this:

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Which, of course, is not Jesus -- but it is a demonstration of what Pastoral care looks like.

And my favorite in this vein:

But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

The joy of the Apostle is in those whom he has found and fostered for Christ.

Unless, of course, they are serving food he doesn't like and they make him uncomfortable. God forbid that.

Paula said...

A shepherd who hates sheep ought to find another line of work.

Our church went from under 200 to close to 500 in just a couple years, most of the increase due to refugees from seeker-sensitive churches. One of these churches had a specific agenda item of marginalizing the older demographic. Some of these senior saints were elders and deacons in these churches and their families had worshiped there for generations. You can't imagine the devastation and pain.

Does Noble think about where the people he offends end up? Is he worried about their salvation? Or are only the cool people worth his time and effort?

Really, it seems like a dose of the Good Samaritan story is in order. Who is Perry Noble's brother? Only the hipster? How about the marginalized 80-year old man whose wife has Alzheimer's and can't be left alone? You know, the one who would never set foot in a church with rock music? Does he know how few churches that man feels comfortable in these days?

A "pastor" cannot pick and choose a demographic that he likes and relates to any more than a shepherd can decide to only care for a few select sheep in the pasture. They are all worthy of his love and attention.

On Sunday our pastor was preaching about the marriage supper of the Lamb and shared that he struggled with looking forward to it at times because wedding days are very long days for him. He arrives early at the church to unlock it so the families can decorate, he's on his feet for several hours for the wedding and before and after, then the reception, where the food is not always his favorite and all the requisite socializing - it's a very long day and he must still prepare for Sunday services when he gets home.

Knowing his cantankerous personality, we all chuckled, but it made me very grateful for this man who has done the work of a pastor faithfully for 30+ years, even when it wasn't fun and even when he didn't feel like it. God will surely reward him for his faithfulness.

When we first started attending the church a few years ago, our Pastor's son (an adult with a family of his own) substitute taught our Sunday School class.Throughout the class, he fluidly moved between calling his father "my dad" and "Pastor." It spoke volumes to me that our Pastor's son, who knew him better than anyone, thought of him as "Pastor" as well as "Dad." Words do have meaning and I think he really honored his father with those words.

Just Jules said...

Frank:

Your comment was a slam-dunk.

Brad Williams said...

I shall share an anecdote, you may apply as you see fit.

There was a pastor once who did not care for the sheep of the church. A meeting of the church was called in order to beseech the pastor to take more time to visit the sick, the elderly, and those in need.

The pastor replied, "You cannot tell me what to do. I don't work for you; I work for God."

The church said, "Very well, see if you can get God to sign your next check for you. We're not going to."

~The End

I would say more, but I am provoked in my spirit.

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

Wow… as I listened to Mr. Noble speak I couldn’t help but think about John MacArthur who recently completed preaching through the entire New Testament… verse by verse. If you go to this link:

http://www.gty.org/blog/B110918#.ToNl082P_EA

you can actually see him complete the book of Mark, and the NT, receive a standing ovation, and then… thank his congregation for making it such a joy. IOW, he immediately credits his congregation for their part in what he has accomplished.

Months later on September 18th he is officially honored for his accomplishment and once again gives credit to his congregation. In fact, he talks about the Thessalonian church and how much joy it gave to the Apostle Paul and then says that he, John, believes that his church is the Thessalonian Church of Southern California. What a complement, and what love John MacArthur shows for his church. You can listen to that here:

http://www.gty.org/resources/Sermons/90-413_Gratitude-for-a-Faithful-Church#.ToNb3M2P_EA

I highly recommend it.

Personally, I found it impossible not to get a lump in my throat as I listened to how much John MacArthur loves his flock. I feel sorry for Nobles congregation, but as Dan rightfully pointed out, there are consequences for enabling someone like Noble in the first place.

Just Jules said...

I appreciate Paula's analogy of the disenfranchised 80 year-old man and that pastors are not afforded a demographic.

But, as to the man has to get up early to unlock the doors, spends a chunk of the afternoon on his feet, eats catered chicken cordon bleu and wedding cake and makes small talk with Mrs. Nesbitt about the flower arrangements, followed by a few more hours of work before he can call it a night?

Quite frankly, that's called doing your job and it's what each and everyone of us does each and every day.

Just Jules said...

Don't get me started about the full-time pastors who also hold down an additional full-time job.

/end rant

Robert said...

Frank FTW.

Just gonna throw this out there and offer myself up to get lambasted. Did anybody notice how Noble looks like he just rolled out of bed in the clothes he is wearing? I just find it funny that almost all of these types of guys don't put forth any effort to dress like they are setting themselves apart to prepare to worship God when they preach. I'm not trying to get legalistic...I certainly think what is most important is whether you are prepared on the inside. However, I can't imagine these guys would stroll into court or a business interview dressed like this out of respect for the people they were going to address. Shouldn't they have more respect for God?

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

Robert,

Maybe that’s what he means when he says it would be a bad thing if he came to visit someone in the hospital… because he doesn’t exactly make a priority of cleaning himself up… just a thought. ;-)

Mizz Harpy said...

Perry's comment that pastors leave after two years because they are sick of visiting the sick and eating bad food is dead wrong. I can't think of a single church where this has happened and can only think of the excellent pastors who shepherded churches for 5 to 25 years visiting shutins and the sick, preaching sermons and eating whatever meal was served to them.

I used to raise sheep and sometimes I wish some pastors could spend time working with sheep helping with lambing, feeding, breaking ice in the winter so they have water, spending nights or afternoons with the sick ones, shearing, walking out to find the strays and beating back stray dogs, crying when the favorite dies. Clothes, particularly coat cuffs and hems get covered in a dirty, greasy layer of lanolin. I won't even describe how dirty boots get when the snow is melting. Shepherds smell like their sheep. How long would some of these guys last?

Marla said...

I've seen this clip several times, and the quote that strikes me is "see that guy on his face before Jesus?". I can't imagine Perry really worshiping the Lord like that if he cannot even show love to his children. When does PN get on his face? Maybe only in his imagination -- it is difficult to think he'd be humble after this rant. Sad.

The comments about enabling him were right on. Doubly sad.

Sir Brass said...

You know, I will give PN credit for this.

Knowing him and not Jesus will send you to Hell. He's right that the church has always been about Christ and knowing Him (which means having been born again and trusting in Him for the forgiveness of sins). And he's right about not caring if someone flippantly criticizes the music. If that's all they're concerned about at his church, then they probably are shallow.

But NONE of that excuses him from disregarding his duties as a pastor to preach the Word carefully and accurately, and to shepherd his flock. None of the excuses he gave, though not all that incorrect as facts, justify for a single moment his attitude towards the people of his church.

The folks at newspring really should follow his advice and go back to their former churches.

Chris H said...

Every single time - without exception - that Noble opens his mouth I am reminded of the song from Petra: Sometimes God's children should be seen and not heard.

If Noble would go and DO the things that honour God, perhaps he would be less inclined to SAY things that do not honour God. You know... like ministry. :P

That last part is facetious, but a wise person once said we'd know the tree by the fruit it bears, and it's as true for me as it is Noble. It is only by God's good grace I'm not given a stage on which to constantly dishearten, discourage, and disenchant a flock like Noble seems intent on.

MSC said...

Frank,
To add to your passages, I am reminded also of 1 Thess. 2:7-8:

"But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us."

And Acts 20:20:

"I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house."

Paula said...

"Quite frankly, that's called doing your job and it's what each and everyone of us does each and every day.

Oh my, that didn't come out the way I meant it to sound! Our pastor is a bit of a curmudgeon - lifelong fundamentalist Baptist. One of the benefits of knowing and having a relationship with your pastor is understanding the heart behind statements like that. We have such affection for him that everyone smiled at the story, knowing that despite his grumbling, no one is more joyful than he is when a young couple is married in the church. No matter how many lukewarm chicken picattas he has to eat. : ) He even buys a new tie for each wedding to match the wedding party and wears it every year on the couple's anniversary.

But on the serious side, I think it's OK for a pastor to admit he is human and that not all parts of his job are equally enjoyable or spiritually uplifting. I'm guessing unlocking the doors before a wedding and dealing with stressed out parents and in-laws arguing about the decorations probably isn't on any pastor's top 10 list. I'm OK with that.

Kevin DeYoung admits that he finds visiting the sick and dying "scary, hard work." I think that's OK to admit. The important thing is that you are performing your duties faithfully and with a good attitude, whether or not it's your favorite thing to do. Those are choices we all make as believers.

Kay said...

One has to ask what on earth he thinks the purpose of the pastoral role actually is.

Larry said...

No Perry, actually I think we DO understand how little you care.

VcdeChagn said...

I know I'm a couple of days late on this, but the only thing I think of when I see the video is this:

I have five sons 8 and under at home. I'm working hard to train them not to be selfish brats. Why would I want to go to a church where the pastor is less mature than my 8 year old."

If I lived in East Lansing though... :)

Penn Tomassetti said...

I don't even know who this guy is, but its hard to be surprised when the Lord predicted "hirelings" like that.

I also listened to his video on tithing that showed up next. I just hope his congregation gets some sense and leaves, but perhaps that's why he's there, to please their ears.

Dave Sherrill said...

I can't bring myself to watch the ignoble video. Very much appreciate the link to DeYoung's advice.

Solameanie said...

Frank, will you please stop throwing Bible verses at us? Men like Noble have more important things to do, like ministry. ;)

Seriously, I'm trying right now to get a mental image of Mr. Noble's ministry. I kind of have the misnamed "Ministry of Love" from Orwell's 1984 in mind, but maybe that's too harsh. Now the tone police will get me.

DJP said...

This blog is a Tone Police Free zone.

Chris H said...

Did you take Noble out for coffee before you... held him accountable to Biblical standards?

I'd like to see you, Frank, and Noble having a beverage of some kind.

DJP said...

I never do anything until I've had coffee.

Rita Tomassetti said...

what is sad is that these people have this man for a pastor, who does not emulate Christ AT All with his attitude. And his generalization about pastors leaving after 2 years just because they visit their members is soo...ugh...don't even have words for it. The church I used to go to in the DR was founded 30 years ago, the main pastor is still there and the other pastors were chosen from the congregation and have been there since it was founded...look at John Piper, John McArthur, the church I go to now, etc etc etc....these pastors are still preaching in their churches and I'm sure they've visited many of their members...But the best example of all is Christ himself who visited people's homes.

Paula said...

"But the best example of all is Christ himself who visited people's homes."

Yeah, but I heard the tax collectors made a nice foie gras, so how bad could it have been. No chicken and broccoli casserole for Jesus!

Thomas Louw said...

Don't Worry Dan Noble has no time for coffee he is to nobel for that.

He needs all his time to study:)

Thomas Louw said...

You know who "Nobel" reminds me of.

The bully at school.
I have watched a few video clips of "Nobel" he always seems looking for a fight, any kind of fight.

This is the second clip that he defends himself and what he does?

I get that you may defend yourself... check that defend the truth you have preached the right thing you have done but, defending why you have not done shepherding and defending why you don't inform the church why/when you not preaching must be qualified.

Coming out on stage like Mike Tyson and picking a fight with your sheep who just wants you to pastor them...now that is the right way to roll(tongue in cheek)

He really has this aggressive look on him when he speaks.

Well sure Jesus was "aggressive" I'm thinking when He cleaned out the temple and when he told Peter "Get behind me Satan" but, did Jesus pick a fight with Thomas when he needed faith and asked help?

No! He opened His arms and showed Him His wounds, Jesus corrected Thomas but, with love and tenderness.

"Nobel" really lacks a lot of Jesus’ manner and love in this vid.