Having been in the ministry more years of my life than I haven’t, I am exposed to a lot of points of view. Having been in more of an itinerant ministry for the last few months I have had a lot of time to visit churches, and I have visited all kinds, big and small, traditional and contemporary, and blended worship and in between sizes So I share this blog post from the perspective of those two realities. One other ingredient I want to throw in the mix. I read two different blog posts this morning that were exact opposites. One could be described as a reform fundamentalist perspective, and the other was nothing short of emergent and syncretistic. Both found lots of fault with everyone outside their perspective.
Over the last few months I have worshipped four different times at Newspring Church, a multi-campus church with a home base in Anderson, S.C. Last week I heard an Anderson resident criticize the church from two points of view. First, they said, “There is not a single Christian symbol in the whole place.” The other comment was, “I think it is just a cult.” When I had the audacity to ask this question, “Have you ever been to a service there?” I was told emphatically, “No, and I never intend to.”
I have to confess that I have honestly looked for things to be wrong at Newspring with what I see when I worship there. And I am sure someone reading this blog, maybe several some ones will be more than glad to give me a list of faults. I am sure that it doesn’t matter to many what my point of view is, but in this blog post I want to give four reasons that I cannot dislike the church. Each time I have attended the church I have been impressed with the fact that the church has learned a skill of communicating the message to a lot of people in our post modern world. The atmosphere and music lend themselves to attract people who have grown disillusioned with the forms of church that are so often found dotting the landscape. Those that they attract in turn are bringing their lost family and friends like Andrew brought Peter to Jesus. They are inviting them with lines like, “Come and check it out, it’s different.” And guess what? Some of those are becoming followers of Jesus, in fact, a lot of those. Some will suggest that they might not all be real decisions, but guess what, that is true everywhere, and who are we to decide what is and what isn’t. Last time I checked, God has the book of life in His keeping.
Secondly, I have heard good sound teaching from God’s Word each time. Two of the times I have attended in recent months it was their lead Pastor Perry Nobles, and the other two it was a teaching pastor, Clayton King. Both did masterful jobs of dealing with the Biblical text and declaring it in an effective and life- changing manner. Today’s message was on the importance of prayer, and it was awesome. I took notes and found areas of my life that I need to let God really help me correct.
Third, I have two daughters, two son-in-laws, and three grandchildren attending the Columbia campus of Newspring. I have watched their excitement for church increase, and more significantly, I have seen personal growth and move toward more Christlikeness in their lives. What parent and grandparent cannot appreciate that?
Finally, the enthusiasm of the people who are a part of that church family is contagious. The greeting in the parking lot, at the doors, and for that matter everywhere you turn is energetic, heartfelt, and exudes warmth and welcome. The joy on the faces is real. It won’t speak to every person. Some won’t see past their traditional views of what church should be like. Some may succumb to a jealousy that sees them as competition. Are they perfect? No, of course not. Can someone come and get lost in the crowd? Absolutely. But guess what, the numbers I keep reading are that only about 10% of “members” of most churches actually do most of the work. I suspect the numbers at Newspring are much, much better than that.
So let me wind this blog post up this way. What can we learn from Newspring about making our message relevant in the style of our presentation while NEVER compromising the message in the process? How can we celebrate the diversity of worship styles and celebrate those who are successful. Thank you Pastor Perry for the difference you make and for not being distracted from the main thing. Let me issue a caution. Let me offer a caution to other ministers and churches. In my opinion, when you offer a criticism of someone else’s ministry and you pass on points of view that you heard from someone else, well, that sounds like Gossip to me. And when you consider that Satan is the accuser of the brethren, it sounds to me like you might find yourself doing the devil’s work for him.