Perry Noble Series

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Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, Greenville and Florence, South Carolina. At just nine years old, the church averages over 10,000 people. Perry wrote an article on why some churches don’t grow. Perry’s article can be found here: http://bit.ly/rWxbxj

This is not intended to be a personal criticism of Perry (I don’t know Perry and I’m assuming he’s a great guy with a great multi-site church) but because his reasons why some churches do not grow are shared by many I thought I’d respond to these popular attempts to explain why churches don’t grow and the underlining assumption that if these reasons can be corrected then the church will grow.

Perry Reason #8: Selfish Attitudes  

Matthew 20:28 says it all…and if we are going to be more like Jesus we’ve GOT to serve others rather than expecting the church to be our servant all of the time.  When a person (or group of people) refuse to embrace that a call to follow Jesus is a call to serve…then we’ve lost sight of who He is and eventually we will make being a Christian all about Jesus following/serving us rather than us taking up our cross and following Him!

Dave: Well I guess I don’t have much of a problem with this one as long as Perry is speaking to Christians in general and not pastors specifically but since his article was found on http://churchleaders.com (under the link for pastors) I’ve got to assume he’s addressing pastors.

There must be pastors out there who think the church exists to meet their needs and to serve them…but I’ve never met one.

What always amazes me is the degree of service and sacrifice most pastors are willing to make in order to pastor their people. Most pastors are over-worked, underpaid, go the second mile (not to mention the third and fourth mile), turn the other cheek, say yes more than no, are underappreciated, take the blame, and don’t get the credit. If selfishness on the part of pastors is a reason why many churches don’t grow then how does one explain the majority of selfless pastors, who despite their sacrifices, still have small churches?

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Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, Greenville and Florence, South Carolina. At just nine years old, the church averages over 10,000 people. Perry wrote an article on why some churches don’t grow. Perry’s article can be found here: http://bit.ly/rWxbxj

This is not intended to be a personal criticism of Perry (I don’t know Perry and I’m assuming he’s a great guy with a great multi-site church) but because his reasons why some churches do not grow are shared by many I thought I’d respond to these popular attempts to explain why churches don’t grow and the underlining assumption that if these reasons can be corrected then the church will grow.

Perry Reason #7 Disobedience to the Scriptures

Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:48, John 20:21, Acts 1:8, II Corinthians 5:16-21, Luke 19:10…I could go on and on…but we MUST understand that Jesus didn’t come to earth, live here for 33 years years, give HIS life for us and then return back to heaven to intercede for us so that we could get in really little circles and talk about ourselves and condemn those who are not as good as us.  We are called to REACH PEOPLE FOR GOD–PERIOD!

Dave: I’d like to start out by thanking Perry for supplying all you pastors out there with these scripture verses since I’m sure you’re unaware of them. And as I said in my last response, “On an unrelated note, I know that online etiquette changes from time to time but the last I checked, spelling words out in CAPS is your way of yelling. Perry, why are you yelling at me?” Also, I appreciate Perry reminding all of you ignorant, obviously off-tract, pastors out there the reason why Jesus came to earth.

I know there are many church-goers that need to be reminded of the purpose of the church but I don’t know one pastor who does not eat-sleep-and-drink “reaching people for Jesus”. Having a passion for outreach and developing good ways to reach people is still no guarantee that your church will grow. It’s hard and slow to reach people even when you have a passion for reaching people. You probably will not reach many people if you don’t have a passion for reaching people, but every pastor I know wants to, and is trying to reach people.

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Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, Greenville and Florence, South Carolina. At just nine years old, the church averages over 10,000 people. Perry wrote an article on why some churches don’t grow. Perry’s article can be found here: http://bit.ly/rWxbxj

This is not intended to be a personal criticism of Perry (I don’t know Perry and I’m assuming he’s a great guy with a great multi-site church) but because his reasons why some churches do not grow are shared by many I thought I’d respond to these popular attempts to explain why churches don’t grow and the underlining assumption that if these reasons can be corrected then the church will grow.

Perry Reason #6: Unwillingness to Take Risks 

When our focus becomes to play it safe rather than to do whatever it takes to reach people far from God…it’s over.  NOWHERE in the Scriptures did God ever ask anyone to do anything that didn’t involved an “oh crap” moment.  We’ve GOT to be willing to embrace the uncertain if we want to see the unbelievable.

Dave: Wait, what? Isn’t “crap” a euphemism for….

Anyways, John Wimber (the founder of the Vineyard movement) used to say, “Faith is spelled r-i-s-k.” Risk means that there is a chance what you’re going to try might not work. The larger the church the easier it is to recover from an idea that didn’t work. The smaller the church the more detrimental it can be to the morale and forward movement of the church. This is why it’s so important that we don’t take a risk for the sake of taking risks. We should do our homework, research why we think the idea is a good one and might succeed… oh, I need to include something about prayer and feeling led of the Lord to take the risk as well. The pastor who moves slowly and wisely might look like he/she is unwilling to take a risk when that really isn’t the case at all. I understand why some pastors are cautious about taking risks. If you try what the “experts” tell you to do, or not do, enough with no results, you become more and more cautious. However, having said that, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t know any pastors whose “…focus becomes to play it safe.” Of all the pastors I work with and know who have smaller churches, they are all risk-takers.

If you have a church that goes from 0 to 10,000 in nine years it means you’ve had a string of successes. I could come up with a list of why a church grows to be humongous but it would carry about as much weight as a list for why others don’t…and believe me, that’s not much weight. The churches I pastored fell a little short of the 10,000 mark but if I had somehow managed to go from 0 to 10,000 in nine years I bet I would have felt pretty confident, bullet-proof, Supermanish. (It’s a word, look it up.) Risk looks less risky when you pastor a small city.

On an unrelated note, I know that online etiquette changes from time to time but the last I checked, spelling words out in CAPS is your way of yelling. Perry, why are you yelling at me?

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Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, Greenville and Florence, South Carolina. At just nine years old, the church averages over 10,000 people. Perry wrote an article on why some churches don’t grow. Perry’s article can be found here: http://bit.ly/rWxbxj

This is not intended to be a personal criticism of Perry (I don’t know Perry and I’m assuming he’s a great guy with a great multi-site church) but because his reasons why some churches do not grow are shared by many I thought I’d respond to these popular attempts to explain why churches don’t grow and the underlining assumption that if these reasons can be corrected then the church will grow.

Perry Reason #5: Lack of Prayer 

Many times we work so hard putting our ideas together that we actually think there is no need for the supernatural power of God to be involved.  Prayer should not be the good luck charm that we stick at the beginning or the end of what we do…but rather it should be our constant desperation to see God do the undeniable among us. Intense desperation often brings undeniable revelation!

Dave: I work with pastors, a bunch of them, I’m entering into my sixth year of coaching pastors and I can’t think of one pastor who thinks, “…there is no need for the supernatural power of God to be involved.” And maybe it’s just me but it seems a bit insulting to infer that some pastors regard prayer as a “good luck charm.”

Could a “lack of prayer” be the reason why some churches don’t grow? Of course, but prayer, in and of itself, is no guarantee of numerical growth. I know churches that don’t have an emphasis upon prayer and they are growing. Others have an emphasis upon prayer and they’re not growing or growing slowly, or are in decline. If prayer was the key to church growth most of our churches would be bursting at the seams. Our nation is filled with praying, not growing churches.

Is your church a praying church? Then keep praying. Is your church not a praying church? Then start praying. Is your church praying for growth but not seeing any? Well then…welcome to the club. Any church that is a praying church is a successful church, even if it remains small.

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Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, Greenville and Florence, South Carolina. At just nine years old, the church averages over 10,000 people. Perry wrote an article on why some churches don’t grow. Perry’s article can be found here: http://bit.ly/rWxbxj

This is not intended to be a personal criticism of Perry (I don’t know Perry and I’m assuming he’s a great guy with a great multi-site church) but because his reasons why some churches do not grow are shared by many I thought I’d respond to these popular attempts to explain why churches don’t grow and the underlining assumption that if these reasons can be corrected then the church will grow.

Perry Reason #4: Manufacturing Energy 

If a program is dead in a church…then it needs a funeral and the people need to move on.  Investing time, energy and money into something that is dead will not revive it.  Celebrate the fact that “that” program had its day…and then move on.  AND…quit trying to fire people up over events that you would not attend if you were not on staff.

Dave: “…it needs a funeral and the people need to move on.” Every program is made up of people, somebody is in charge, someone invested in it, it was somebody’s “baby” at least for a while. It’s true, “If the horse is dead, by all means dismount.” but this needs to be carried out wisely and in a sensitive manner taking into consideration those who will be disappointed by the decision to close the program down. “…the people need to move on.” reflects an attitude that will backfire on you, especially if you lead a smaller church where typically, relationships play a bigger role than they do in a church of 10,000.

“If the horse is dead, by all means dismount.” but let’s poke it with a stick and make sure it’s really dead and not just sick or asleep. Many ineffective programs can be revived.

The assumption with Perry Reason #4 is that if we rid our church of all ineffective and dead programs, and replace them with effective and alive programs, our church will grow. I bet, however, that many of you reading this are thinking, “I’m not aware of any dead programs in my church and we’re not growing. I think what we offer is pretty good but we’ve been experiencing no growth or slow growth for some time.”

It’s true, some programs need to be closed down, some programs worked for a time but no longer work. Dead, ineffective programs certainly don’t help the mission of a church. But before you announce the funeral ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are we sure the horse is dead?
  2. What criteria will we use to determine death?
  3. What criteria do we use to determine life?
  4. Who will be negatively affected by putting the horse down?
  5. How might we put the horse down in a way that is sensitive to those who loved the horse?
  6. Are we blaming the horse for our lack of growth and is this fair?

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Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, Greenville and Florence, South Carolina. At just nine years old, the church averages over 10,000 people. Perry wrote an article on why some churches don’t grow. Perry’s article can be found here: http://bit.ly/rWxbxj

This is not intended to be a personal criticism of Perry (I don’t know Perry and I’m assuming he’s a great guy with a great multi-site church) but because his reasons why some churches do not grow are shared by many I thought I’d respond to these popular attempts to explain why churches don’t grow and the underlining assumption that if these reasons can be corrected then the church will grow.

Perry reason #3 Passionless Leadership 

When a leader does what he/she does for a paycheck and not because it’s their passion…it’s over.  I’ve said at this site before…I want difference makers not paycheck takers.  AND…also…it is hard to be passionate about a place when a persons average stay at a church is two years or less.

Dave: You’ve got to have a pretty large church accompanied by a pretty large paycheck before you’re going to be tempted to “be in it for the money.” Rod Tidwell just called and wants to know where the money is? (see, Jerry Maguire) Show me the money!

The vast majority of churches in America are at or under 100. Those that can pay their pastors a full time salary are usually still underpaying their pastors. The remaining churches are led by bivocational pastors.

I guess all I’m asking is, where are these pastors who are in it for the money? I don’t know any. And if they are out there…how would one know? It’s not like a pastor “in it for the money” is going to come up to Perry and say, “Oh, by the way…I’m just in this for the money.”

Now I agree that we need to be passionate about our call and ministry. Most pastors of slow-growing, no-growing, or plateauing (is that a word?) churches are passionate and dedicated to their church and the Kingdom of God. So apparently “passion” is no guarantee of church growth.

I’ve gotten all worked up about this and need to find a paper bag to breathe into.

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Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, Greenville and Florence, South Carolina. At just nine years old, the church averages over 10,000 people. Perry wrote an article on why some churches don’t grow. Perry’s article can be found here: http://bit.ly/rWxbxj

This is not intended to be a personal criticism of Perry (I don’t know Perry and I’m assuming he’s a great guy with a great multi-site church) but because his reasons why some churches do not grow are shared by many I thought I’d respond to these popular attempts to explain why churches don’t grow and the underlining assumption that if these reasons can be corrected then the church will grow.

Perry reason #2 The Focus Is on Trying to Please Everyone. Perry says: 

There is NO church on the planet that will make everyone happy every single week…and…according to the Scriptures that isn’t really supposed to be our obsession.  Too many times we become so concerned with offending people that we actually offend Jesus.

Dave: Well I’ll give Perry some credit, he does have a point…to a certain degree. First, I don’t personally know any pastor whose “focus is on trying to please everyone”. If we’re honest, however, we would all admit that we struggle with this a bit. I’ve had pastors of smaller churches shamefully admit two things to me:

1. “I’m a “people-pleaser” by nature, it gets me in trouble sometimes, I need to work on that.” And…

2. “I wish this wasn’t the case but in the back of my mind I know if I displease someone they might leave. If they leave they will take their money with them. If they are significant givers this could affect my paycheck and right now my family is barely getting by. If they leave they will leave a hole behind in their ministry that we will struggle to fill. If they leave they might take someone with them. I know I shouldn’t think this way but it’s hard not to.”

Now I’m not saying this is true of Perry, I’m sure it’s not, but if you’ve got a church of 10,000 you can afford to be cocky, have a “my way or the highway” kind of attitude. You can offend a lot of people and have many leave before it will affect you personally. When a large church is in decline they start laying off staff. The senior pastor is the last to go. Plus, I can guarantee you that a large church, especially one of 10,000, is very “market-driven” which is nothing but a more acceptable way of saying, “focus is on trying to please everyone”.

But it all comes down to this. If trying to keep everyone happy is the reason why some churches don’t grow then how does one explain the lack of growth or the slow growth of those churches (the majority of smaller churches, I might add) that are not focused on keeping everyone happy?

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Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, Greenville and Florence, South Carolina. At just nine years old, the church averages over 10,000 people. Perry wrote an article on why some churches don’t grow. Perry’s article can be found here: http://bit.ly/rWxbxj

This is not intended to be a personal criticism of Perry (I don’t know Perry and I’m assuming he’s a great guy with a great multi-site church) but because his reasons why some churches do not grow are shared by many I thought I’d respond to these popular attempts to explain why churches don’t grow and the underlying assumption that if these reasons can be corrected then the church will grow.

Perry reason #1: The Vision Is Not Clear

If people don’t know where a church is supposed to be going…then it will attempt to go everywhere and eventually wind up nowhere.  (Interesting experiment–ask people this coming Sunday at your church, “What is our vision” and see if people give you the same answers or different ones.)

Dave: What about the churches that do have a clear vision and aren’t growing? Granted, a pastor and his leaders need to know what they will focus on and why (vision), but what if the reason why people cannot articulate the church vision is because they don’t really think about such things, or simply don’t care? Oftentimes those who want to know “What is the vision of our church?” have a bone to pick.

I think “vision” is important. I believe that the “vision” needs to be written down, i.e. vision statement. I regularly help pastors and their boards do such things. Now don’t shoot me for what I’m about to say but our focus on vision statements and mission statements have come from a western business model introduced into the church through the Church Growth Movement of the 80’s and 90’s. I’m not saying this is bad, all I’m saying is…remember the origins.

I once heard a denominational leader say, “If your church isn’t growing it’s because you do not have a clear and well articulated vision.” Notice the two assumptions with that statement:

1. The vision needs to be articulated to the people.

I’m not sure this is as essential as we’ve been led to believe. The rank-and-file are looking for good teaching, good worship, a loving community, something decent for their children, and some kind of outreach focus. Sure, the “vision” might be what’s driving some of those things but many pastors and their churches do these things intuitively and their people follow along happy with their experience and feel no need for a six part sermon series entitled: “Where we’re going in 2012, our vision statement for the future.” The second assumption…

2. If you have a clear and well-articulated vision your church will grow.

I know a lot of churches and I talk to a lot of pastors that have a clear, well-articulated vision but are still not experiencing much growth. So what’s up with that?

So let me summarize. The pastor and his/her leaders need to know what the church is going to focus on and why. People are probably less interested in the specifics of this than we’d like to admit. And, assuming that the lack of a clear vision is why many churches do not grow is an assumption.

What do you think?

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