Perry Noble serves as the Pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC. They have six other churches under the NewSpring umbrella that have over 20,000 in attendance. I get Perry Noble’s blog posts in my e-mail because he gives some very practical advise for leaders in churches—and doesn’t skirt around very many issues. He gets right to the point!
That said, Noble said something in a recent blog post entitled, “Four Problems the Church Has GOT to Deal With.” The first? We are answering questions that no one else is asking. Here is his explanation:
I’m glad that we can debate theology and know terms that make us seem intelligent and cause other people to scratch their heads; however, at the end of the day people are not asking about the five points of Calvinism, the trichotomy or dichotomy of the Spirit or the peccability/impeccability of Christ! They are asking “why is my life falling apart?” Or, “how do I get past the fact that I was sexually molested when I was eight?” Or, “how do I, as a single mom, lead and provide for my family?”
Too many people are so obsessed with their theological labels, I believe, so that they don’t actually have to do real ministry!
I am not sure of Noble’s past experiences, but here I believe he makes the mistake of saying that we can only do one or the other. We can either lean entirely theological and doctrinal in our understandings, or we can lean entirely practical.
But do they have to be mutually exclusive? No, they do not! But there is an even more pressing issue:
Who is/are the one(s) who ultimately determine what questions should be answered? More to the point, just because people aren’t asking the questions, does this mean there are things they still shouldn’t know? Sure, humans start with themselves—but this show their fallenness! Our entire problem is that we start with self.
Now, granted, when we start getting into the fine minutiae of certain types of theology, then the Apostle Paul gives us a good word here: “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). In reflecting on this passage, D.A. Carson explains:
Undoubtedly there is some common understanding between Paul and Titus on these matters that is a little difficult to probe. Paul is certainly not saying, for instance, that every question about the Law is a waste of time; he himself elsewhere discusses the subject. But controversies calculated to divide Christians without producing any gospel strength or moral improvement are “unprofitable and useless.” One begins to suspect that those who are stirring up such strife have invested so much of their own egos in their eccentric positions that they can neither be corrected nor back down.
In this sense, Noble is right. If we are more concerned about our theological labels than we are about our ministry in Christ, then yes. But if he is saying we should only answer the questions people are asking, then it’s our job to direct them to the questions they should be asking—about the character of God, the condition of their soul, etc. It is then we can come along with the theological meeting the practical for a well-rounded gospel-centered atmosphere.
In this line, I would recommend Mark Driscoll’s Death by Love: Letters from the Cross. In this book, Driscoll discloses some very disturbing and dicey issues from men and women in his church, then plugs in a sturdy and solid answer with a good theological framework.
What we think and know about what the Scriptures teach about God (theology) fuels our practice. I know that I am simply a Baptist pastor of a church of about 225-250 people, whereas Noble’s churches number in the tens of thousands. But I don’t believe that someone is simply correct based on numbers, but on how they line up with Scripture.
What say you? Is Noble right and I’m off-base, or do you have issues with Noble’s assertion?