I have, in the past, posted various critiques and complaints about Perry Noble and Newspring Church. Many messages that I have received have been along the lines of “well, if you weren’t there, you can’t actually say what happened,” etc. This morning my father and I took a visit to Newspring Charleston so that we could witness first hand what all the hype is about.
Upon parking, you are met by a literal gauntlet of greeters. I was greeted at least 10 times before I got to the door. Newspring Charleston rents out part of the North Charleston Colosseum, and from the moment you park they begin directing you into the building via a human aisle. Clearly Perry knows how to motivate people to volunteer: These folks are up early to load everything into the venue, and stay late to load everything out. That kind of dedication is certainly impressive, and I commend them for it.
Perry Noble himself was visiting the Charleston campus today. I was going to try for a picture, but I was unable to catch him. He’s both taller and skinnier than I had imagined from videos online.
Worship consisted of a typical alt/rock 6 piece. It was well mixed and well performed. The lighting was clearly cued well, and the whole performance flowed smoothly. I want to stress the word performance: It was a rock show. There’s no getting around that. The question I have is when we sing Exalted One as a congregation, who should be the one exalted? Jesus, or the guitarist who can rip a solo? Now, clearly I’m not saying we shouldn’t play skillfully, but isn’t there a difference between performance, and worship in spirit and in truth?
The sermon wasn’t delivered by Perry, but by Brad Cooper, the Student Director for Newspring church. The sermon was entitled The Other Side. The text was Mark 4:35-5:20, where Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee, calms the storm, and heals the demoniac of the Gadarenes. This is really a beautiful passage, and for a while Brad Cooper was expounding well on the depth of the text. Just as God brought Joshua into the promised land from the Gadarenes side of the Jordan and so fulfilled His promises to His people, so Christ crossed back over to the Gadarenes, bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God to those who dwelt in darkness, and so fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham.
This passage has so much power in it that I was nearly drawn to tears as the word was read: My Jesus commanded the winds and waves and they obeyed their Creator; my Jesus commanded the Legion and they had to ask His permission to even enter animals unclean; my Jesus delivered a man from his sins for the glory of God; my Jesus went and turned the entire economy of a town upside down with a simple visit. My Jesus is glorious.
But Brad Cooper, as accurate as his initial exegesis was, did not reach the same conclusions about his Jesus. Brad Cooper’s conclusion from the text was that since Jesus did all of this in pursuit of one man, we should go invite everyone to Newspring’s upcoming House Party series. He turned the text from ultimately pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, to pointing to Newspring as a church. I was so pained to watch Jesus made so little of, and to see Newspring church made so much of. To watch sin be completely ignored? To hear Jesus cheapened to nothing but a panacea for the symptoms of sin, rather than the disease itself? What would possess someone to preach a sermon so devoid of power?
My point in writing all of this isn’t to oppose Brad Cooper or Perry Noble or Newspring church, it’s to make an appeal to them: Please, reexamine your ministry, in light of the Scriptures, and see if what you teach is truly the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the good news of the Kingdom of God. I am nobody. I just have a blog on the internet (I don’t live in my parents basement). But Jesus is Somebody. Jesus is Glorious, and He will be Glorious whether it’s in your obedience or in your disobedience. Newspring, if you read this, understand it to be an encouragement: You have such zeal; it’s truly inspiring! But don’t forget that zeal must be for the things of God or it’s worthless, and the things of God are found in the person of Christ. Make Christ your focus.