In April of 2009 I heard Todd Friel on a Wretched Radio podcast rail against a pastor for playing “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC during their Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday for you sticklers) service. He played the clip and then railed on the man for 45 minutes, calling his worthiness to preach the Gospel of God into question because of his choice in music. I, as a good listener, agreed with this presentation, because he made some very good points about what church is and is not about and why it’s so important to take things seriously when discussing the resurrection of our Lord. His presentation taught me that Perry Noble filled his sermons and services with bad teaching and worse illustrations. He would go on in later podcasts over the last few years to state that Perry Noble is a wolf devouring the flock who loves the goats and hates Christians, that his anger and swearing problem excludes him from the role of pastor, and that he only knows how to crush the souls of growing Christians.
Fast forward to a couple mornings ago: While on the way to work I listen to different podcasts of different pastors or discussions, as well as the sermons from my church so that I can give them a deeper listen at a later date and spend more time on it. I had been focusing on a specific series that I wanted to listen to in order and, as a result, I ended up getting a few weeks behind on my other podcasts. To that end, I finally got to the podcast from 9/4/11 when pastor Mark was on vacation. They had selected a section from the Elephant Room which was attended by some of the heavyweight pastors in different corners of Christian orthodoxy to discuss a number of “elephants in the room” where there may be room for disagreement and to define the lines between them as well as to see where they share the same focus and intentional drive toward preaching and teaching their flocks about Jesus and His gospel. The podcast I listened to was entitled Elephant Room – Culture in the Church vs. Church in the Culture. Now, after hearing pastor Mark discuss this at the 20/20 conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2009 (Session 1: 7 Views of Culture, Session 2: The Doxological View of Culture) so I was interested in hearing where he stood in regards to these other pastors.
For what it’s worth, and this really deserves its own post so I’ll be brief, I wholly agree with his view that all things in culture can be addressed by the three-fold view whereby we either receive that element of culture within the Church, reject it, or redeem it for the glory of Christ. If you’d like to learn more, listen to the above links.
So, back on topic, I listened as the pastors brought up Perry Noble’s use of that song to open his resurrection Sunday sermon and listened to him defend himself for most of the conversation. He seemed to me to be very arrogant in his decision. Through listening to the process by which he came to the conclusion with his leadership team that it was something that they wanted to do and the fact that they had prayed over it intently, I began to see it in a different light. The pastors all weighed in, most of which stating that they would not do the same in their services, and a couple times the conversation got very heated, but I think that he explained himself well.
After hearing the conversation between these pastors and Perry Noble regarding this incident, and listening to him defend himself and his intention, I can understand his hostility when he is approached on the subject. I know that he’s fielded angry emails and that his ministry has been attacked relentlessly because of this. In the week after the famous service he posted a four part blog entitled “Four Reasons People Attack” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) because of the intense backlash he received from people such as Todd Friel as mentioned in my opening paragraph. All of which are biblical and accurate.
So, what is my take on all of this? I do agree that he’s a Christian who is seeking to preach the gospel and to see hearts changed for the glory of God, and that is his role as a teaching pastor for the church that God has provided to him.
He may have a different approach but that’s the wonder and glory of God that He uses means and ways that we’d never consider. Of course, while I understand that God saved people from that church in that instance, not through that song or its use, but that He redeemed it for His glory in the salvation of the elect present, I’m not going to prescribe that for every church.
What I found interesting is that instead of approaching culture with his church and redeeming it, he’s created a new Christian culture in his church that desires that kind of bright display and reminder of previous sin which then is met with, what I can assume to be, a good sermon at or exceeding the same level of interest and satisfaction. In much the same way that Mark Driscoll has created a sub-culture in Christianity that seeks after his style of direct, pull-no-punches teaching, and MacArthur has done the same in his, from what I can see from the outside, stuffy and linear dispensational hermeneutic.
If pastor Perry’s sermon has been followed by, as Todd Friel alluded to, wishy-washy teaching focused on now neat it is that they sang a song about how awesome it is in Hell and how fantastic it will be to get there, then I’d still stand firmly against that message and all that it stood for. Instead, however, he spoke boldly on the reality of Hell, and used it as a tool to preach the good news that God has provided salvation for His elect from the eternal fires of Hell for those who repent of their sins and trust in Him alone for salvation. What Christian can shake their fist at that? If you’d like to listen to the sermon itself you can find it here and the study guide here.
Will he open a series on Ecclesiastes with “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, and, if so, will that be sin? After hearing him speak on the matter, I am not so sure I’d be the first to jump to that conclusion anymore. James MacDonald, in responding to the flood of responses from the people in the wake of the podcast that I listened to above responded on his blog today by saying, “Isn’t it awesome to know that Perry Noble wanted to confront and dethrone religiosity? Isn’t it also awesome to know that he has a team of people who review his ideas and pray together about what the Lord wants them to do?” There is a deep fire for the Gospel of God in the heart of Perry Noble, and a desire for intentional confrontation that brings about a change of heart and mind for the cause of Christ. While I cannot agree with all of his methods, I do agree that Jesus is the king of the universe, that He is the only one who can bring about salvation in the hearts of men, and that our job is to preach the Gospel to all men and women using whatever means are necessary as long as it proclaims Christ as the eternal victor over sin in the struggle for the souls for His elect.