A Church with vision

I like learning from a wide variety of people. In just the past couple of days I’ve posted comments on what I’m learning from a Pakistani Muslim college professor and two leadership types from out west. Another person I’ve been learning from lately is Perry Noble, pastor of New Spring church in Anderson, South Carolina. Perry and I are very different. He’s a southern redneck by upbringing. Though I was born in California, my home town is in Illinois – though I’ve never lived there, since my dad was in the Navy while I was growing up. He’s a baptist (though apparently not very well behaved) and I’m a methodist. He talks about making a 790 on his SAT and I have advanced degrees. His church was planted less than ten years ago and already has thousands, mine is 150 years old and we have about 200. Sounds like a big difference, doesn’t it?

But what we have in common, I believe, overcomes the differences. Here are the most important things I see us having in common. 1. We’re centered on Jesus. 2. We’re called (to put it mildly) to build up the Body of Christ so that more people might come to faith in Jesus.

I like Perry’s passion for Jesus – and passion for the people Jesus died to save. I like his sarcasm. I work hard quenching my sarcastic streak, but I still feel it on the inside. I listen to his Sunday messages from time to time, listened to his presentations at New Spring’s recent Unleash Conference, and read his blog. If you insist on only learning from people who are entirely civilized, prim and proper, forget Perry Noble. If you are – or want to be – passionate for Jesus and for people, you might consider taking a peek.

Perry recently had a post entitled, “15 signs that you (or your church) lack vision.” Here are his points with my comments (Perry’s words are in bold):

#15 – No one is ever challenged to radically rearrange their lives to be a part of what God is doing. In my church I get the idea that it’s easy to take “radical life re-arrangement” as something only for pastors and their families. I really want my people to get a vision of what God wants to do in Pittsburg, Camp County, Texas – and to the ends of the earth. Then, having seen that vision, catch God’s passion to rescue people through Jesus and join in the work. But too often we settle for playing church. “Good sermon, pastor.” I don’t care if you think it’s a good sermon. Is God speaking to you? Will you respond? Will you say yes to him? Will you take his agenda as your own?

#14 – God hasn’t asked you to give something up. I’ve had to give up living in a house of my choice and in a community of my choice. But God has blessed me here so I’m ok.

#13 – Everyone in your church is perfect. (If you are truly reaching lost people then you will discover that ministry is messy.) We’ve progressed to the point that we have some imperfect people, but I’d like to see us get to the place that we revel in having them around, and love them no matter what. A truly healthy church will have plenty of sinners around.

#12 – Nothing in regards to how you lead has changed in the past year. I’m learning all the time. I feel like I have so much more to learn.

#11 – When your youth group wants to do something you make them have a bake sale in front of Wal Mart–but when your senior adults want to do something the church covers the cost; after all, they are tithers! (And that same church will wonder why “the youth don’t come to church anymore.”) We support the youth ministry, but I’m don’t think we do it to the degree that they always feel supported and valued.

#10 – You always find something wrong with ministries that are seeing fruit. I want more fruit! We’re too happy doing what we’ve always done. I know my conservative bent gets in the way.

#9 – You can do everything you have in front of you WITHOUT the help of God AND others. My constant prayer for the church is that he would do something in our midst that is only explainable as the work of God – so that outsiders will be attracted to Jesus. I pray at the same time that we will let him do that, that we won’t insist on having all the resources in sight, in the bank, or in our pockets before we step out and obey.

#8 – You spend more time on other churches websites than you do reading your Bible. Conviction time for me. I need more time in the word.
#7 – You think the answer to every problem is, “If we just had more money.” God’s blessed us mightily in terms of finances in the past few years – well beyond my wimpy expectations. Too often I think in terms of what they say about investments, “Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.” God is faithful – you’d think I’d’ve learned that by now.

#6 – No one has ever left your church. A few have, but I think it’s the wrong people. I’m probably too “nice.”

#5 – You continually call other churches begging them for money. Hey! I’m doing ok on this one!

#4 – You allow people with money to dictate the way you spend your time and the direction of the church. I think we’re ok on this one too. I want to listen to the people who are listening to and obeying God.

#3 – When you go to a conference and come back and announce “we are changing everything” because you have received INSPIRATION not REVELATION. I’ve been to enough conferences over the years that I’m mostly cynical. If I could get the rest of my leadership to go, it might be different. Too many times what I brought back was “crazy preacher ideas,” and people just humored me, knowing reality would knock me down soon enough. I’ve learned the hard way that I need to listen to God, not just the latest expert.

#2 – You’ve never spent sleepless nights wondering, “How in heck are we going to do this? Seriously, I told our church we were going to do WHAT?” Plenty of sleepless nights, plenty of agonizing over responding to God and seeing him move.
#1 – You worry more about keeping the people in your church happy then you do about pleasing God and speaking the truth. I think most of our leaders are primarily desiring to see God happy. We still have much to learn in regard to how that actually works out, but I think we’re on the right track.

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4 Responses to A Church with vision

  1. Jeff says:

    Perry’s committment has challenged me as well. He is a little kooky, but his passion is contagious. I would love to see more UMC’s care about reaching the lost like New Spring.

  2. Richard,

    A challenging list. Not bad for a red-neck. Thanks for ministering to my red-neck people of East Texas. Shoot me an email and I’d love to catch up on the past 20 years(!)

  3. Great list. Thankfully, he is as hard-hitting with us pastors as he is with our churches.

  4. Jason says:

    I think it is a good list and actually agree with it. But, I think some of the direction gets lost when it comes to Perry. There are a few other things to understand about reaching the lost for Christ rather than giving a step by step on how to improve your view of yourself and life. I feel his biggest passion is not for Christ, but for life. That might be confusing but if you listen to him, you can hear how its about helping you, not the Kingdom of God.

    He wants to “make the name of Jesus famous”. Well, how many famous people do you know? And of the famous people in the world, how many do you really know? I think many want to proclaim Jesus but don’t want to know Jesus. We need to remember that it is not the stories we tell, how humorous we are, or entertaining. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that comes from readying the Word of God that bring the lost to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. All that other crap is just fluff that does a good job at getting people through the door. No matter how many come through the door, only the ones God chooses to touch with the Holy Spirit are the ones who will be saved, not the ones that were moved by your story telling/ comedy act.

    I encourage you to check out http://www.lanechaplin.com. He does a critique on a Perry Noble sermon. Listen and see how much you agree. You might figure out what is missing.

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