Scare Quote Explosion: “Pastor” Perry Noble’s “Church” Launch “Sermon” a Total Mess
Perry Noble was known for primarily three things, prior to self-destructing in his personal life due to alcoholism and bad marital decisions (and now divorce). He was known for (1) being the pastor of a mega-church, NewSpring, (2) playing Highway to Hell for Easter worship , (3) for his theology that was sooooo bad it earned a rebuke from his denomination.
When Noble refused to go away and later announced the beginning of a new church plant, it forced the hand of his former church to formally denounce him as spiritually unqualified (Noble agreed with them, but continued anyway). Even still, mega-pastors like Steven Furtick have continued to embrace him, along with a legion of online followers.
With his divorce announcement literally just a few weeks behind him, Noble took to Facebook for the “digital launch” of his “church,” Second Chance “Church.” We’ve reviewed it so you don’t have to have a brain injury.
Noble began his sermon from a cluttered, low-ceiling living room, and would go on to tell his cyber-audience that the “hands-up” emoticon means “amen.” He repeatedly interacted with the various emoticons throughout the message.
He began his sermon saying, “So I’ve screwed up, now what?” From the beginning volley of nonsense, Noble deflects from the Gospel and neglects to preach it. Noble repeatedly refers to sin as anything but sin. While calling sin “mess-ups,” or “screw-ups,” Noble refused to call it “sin.” Of course, Jesus did not die for screw-ups. Jesus died for sin. He died for sinners, not just for screw-ups.
Using a bizarre sushi and guacamole/wasabi analogy, he likened an accidental ingestion of a condiment – which he called “messing up” – with sin (which he also called “messing up”). According to Noble, we have to learn from our “screw ups” like he had to learn not to think wasabi was guacamole.
Noble’s attempt at exposition began at about the 4.15 mark. Turning to the book of Jonah, he looks at Jonah’s “mess up” and assures his online congregation that second chances are for all people, not just some people. He made himself into Jonah within about a minute and a half. Noble gave several reasons why people run from God, including, “fear, doubt, pain, a misunderstanding,” but did not include “sin” in that list. He encourages people to be empathetic with those running from God rather than criticize.
At about the 8 minute mark, Noble refers to Christians who are judgmental with “scare quotes” (he does that multiple times). These are the “Christians with rocks,” Noble says, as he refers to the Pericope Adulterae – the infamous John 8 passage which the vast majority of Bible scholars believe to be added to the Scripture without warrant of inspiration. Most expositors are very, very careful with the passage and do not preach from it, and if they do, will add strong caution that it simply does not belong in the Text. If the reader is curious on this point, take out your own study Bible and look at the marginal notes for John 7:53-8:11 and see for yourself. Noble says this is what happens (judgmentalism) when “religion trumps relationship.”
At 8.55, Noble makes a strange and vague reference (it sounds like an inside joke with himself), humors himself, and gets distracted. No one in the comments among his listening audience seemed to get the reference, either. He really does look and sound like a man who is coming apart at the seams.
Noble then turns the storm of Jonah’s story into an allegory about storms in our life and losing hope. Obviously, none of this in the Holy Text, and Noble does not actually read from the Bible until he has paraphrased the story up until about the 11 minute mark, and then quotes what appears to be The Message. Noble continues to draw parallels between himself and Jonah, saying that Jonah was suicidal, demanding to be thrown off the boat. Noble made headlines for saying he contemplated suicide after being fired from NewSpring.
At 13.25, Noble says that the great fish was a symbol for God’s grace which catches you when you are still running. Noble then likens Jonah’s time in the whale with our problems. Please note how far a departure this is from Jesus’ interpretation of the passage.
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:38-40).
Jesus says that Jonah’s time in the great fish for three days was a foreshadow of his time in the grave. In the Scripture, its central characters point to Jesus. In Perry Noble’s world, every central character points to him or the audience.
At 19.19, Noble made the sermon about Jonah being given “a second chance,” being vomited up on the sea shore. Noble says this “blows up the myth that if you blow on your first chance, your second chance can’t be great.”
At 20.47, Noble says that this all means those people who have told him to leave ministry are wrong. At 20.54, Noble says someone told him to get a job at Target, which he found revolting. To which he responded during the sermon by taking God’s name in vain in response to having to get a real job.
At 21.34 Noble says that “middle aged white people” are the worst on Facebook and are the “mean girls of social media.”
At 22.32 Noble says that Romans 11:29, “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” applies to him in ministry. Romans 11:29 speaks not of vocational Christian ministry, but of the call of the Holy Spirit unto salvation. The word is κλῆσις (klēsis) and speaks of God’s choosing of a sinner for salvation. Noble though, narcissist that he is, makes it about his calling to ministry because – after all – he can’t work at Target.
Noble then gave three quick points: (1) Connection (2) Correction and (3) Community.
Noble made a passive effort to relate the first one to Jonah’s story. The second two had no link to Jonah whatsoever. Noble went on to say that there will be a physical location for the church that is TBD (to be decided), staffing opportunities (he then goes on to say there aren’t any (because he’s broke), and volunteer opportunities.
He ended with an appeal for money.