The Greatest Show on Earth
Sunday morning should be the most entertaining time of the week.

Last December, David Fitch challenged the popular trend known as "Experiential Worship." Fitch said, "?we can no longer be naive that a ?religious experience,' like the one sought in a rock concert worship service, provides immediate access to God." And Shane Hipps has asked us to think more critically about using technology in worship. This week, we welcome a new contributor to Out of Ur. Perry Noble is the Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina. He not only endorses the use of technology to create experiential worship services, Noble believes Sunday morning should be the most entertaining experience people have all week.

From time to time we will have a church leader call NewSpring wanting to know what in the world we are doing to reach so many people. I have had this conversation with many people, and I have seen many walk away either discouraged or disappointed because I did not give them a magic formula. The bottom line is that if a church wants to impact a community it takes work.

For far too long the church has been lazy?that's right?LAZY. We have sat back on our butt and done nothing, asking God to "do it all" while claiming to be "led by the Spirit." And then people walk into our boring, lifeless, and predictable services and we give "God all the glory," or all the blame!

One of the things I have realized from reading Scripture is that Jesus was far from boring. He created experiences for His followers - experiences that they never forgot, and the church should be doing the same.

Today I sat in a room for two hours as our creative team talked about the next several Sundays. We spent 10-15 minutes just discussing how to conclude the sermon for one service this month. We are serious about Sundays and the experience that is created for people coming in our doors.

I have heard pastors say that our process leaves no room for the Holy Spirit and that we are not open. Quite frankly if someone ever says that to my face I will have to be restrained from punching him in the throat! I am sick and tired of pastors and church leaders blaming their laziness and lack of preparation on the Holy Spirit! One of the things we have discovered at NewSpring is that the Holy Spirit is always at work - even during sessions where ideas are brainstormed and well thought out.

If someone attends NewSpring, we give them this promise - we take church seriously. Everything you see is done with a purpose. We are serious about Jesus and serious about as many people as possible meeting Him. Therefore, we are willing to do all that we can to reach people!

December 18, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 84 comments

Aussie Christian

October 03, 2007  12:38am

"Today I sat in a room for two hours as our creative team talked about the next several Sundays." - I think is the 2 hours was spent interceeding for the people and the meeting itself, it would have truely been "the greatest show on earth". Do you really think that people are going to stick around for a show in any enduring way. Do you want a crowd or disciples? True that "laziness" can be attributed to many a sloppy church service, but more of the hard work should be in prayer and intercession, not JUST in creative planning. Hillsong is one great example where I've seen both done in balance, fantastic church service and experience, yet truely quite often deep spirituality. Yet, they fully pack a church just for a prayer meeting and not the worship service. Seriously, why is such a writer given this role as a UR contirbutor? Do the editors of this website have any quality benchmark before posting a contribution?

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January 25, 2007  9:51am

I'm also a member of NewSpring, and I enjoy the services every week. But there is something missing from the sermons when it comes to the discipleship of Christians. My wife and I have been members there for almost 2 years. She enjoys the services immensely and looks forward to attending every week. But here is the problem. While I cannot say for sure because only Jesus knows the heart, I do not believe that my wife is saved. She enjoys going to NewSpring, and highly recommends it to everyone. But she has absolutely no interest in the things of God outside of that one Sunday morning service. She's not interested in reading the Bible, listening to other sermons, watching any Christian broadcasts, or doing anything else to try to grow in the word. And when we aren't around other churchgoers, she does not exhibit any beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors that you might expect from a Christian. And I don't believe that it is a matter of her just being an immature Christian, because she does not seem to have changed in either her attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors since her "conversion". My problem is, how can she sit under Biblical teaching every week for almost 2 years and yet never realize that she is not the Christian she claims to be? Maybe because the teaching is always focused either on people who know they are lost, or on "saved" people who want to improve their marriages, families, finances, etc. I'm not saying that NewSpring doesn't preach the true Word of God, because I absolutely believe they do. I'm just saying that "saving" people cannot be the only goal. It doesn't matter if you baptise 1000 people a year if the conversions aren't real. And we can't know if they are real because we never learn what the Bible says about how a real Christians should look, or think, or feel, or behave. I continue to go to NewSpring because my wife will go there, when she won't go anywhere else. And I continue to pray that someday the Holy Spirit will use one of Perry's messages to speak to her. But for myself, I get my feeding of the word through podcasts by John MacArthur, Lon Solomon, and Greg Koukl so that I can hopefully grow more and more like Jesus every day. I just wonder how many other people at NewSpring are in the same boat as I am.

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January 15, 2007  9:27am

I stumbled across this post as I was blog-surfing (is that what you call it?), and I would like to comment as a member of NewSpring Church. I first began checking out NewSpring in 2001 after being invited by a very enthusiastic attender. I had been a Christian for only 1 year, and was discouraged at the lack of churches out there that seemed REAL to me, i.e. not just dressing up in a suit/dress on Sunday morning and calling everyone "brother" or "sister" so-and-so. I knew many of these people from work and school, and they sure did a 180 on Sunday. The watered down, wimpy Jesus served up in the sermons didn't seem much like the One I had met only a year ago, and I was hesitant to place myself in a ministry that was a major turn-off for me so recently, and for many of my friends that were lost. When I began attending NewSpring, they were renting an auditorium at a local college. There was a small band, a few lights, and Perry. Not the huge mega-show all of you are criticizing in this post. I was not drawn to the "show", because there wasn't one. I came back because for the first time in my life, I heard a pastor speak with truth, relevance, and without fear of his congregation. I heard the voice of God more clearly through Perry than any other speaker I've ever heard. I was caught up in the Holy Spirit as the music played, and I knew the words to sing to God because I'd heard them on the radio. I was greeted, fed, seated, and challenged by some of the most sincere people I'd ever met. That's what brought me back, and the story is true of my friends that also attend NewSpring today. I got involved by volunteering in the Children's Ministry (I was impressed that they HAD one) and I was amazed at the commitment of the small few who volunteered there each Sunday. We are reaching kids for Christ in a creative, relevant way when most churches let them sit in an adult service asleep or wreaking havoc so that the few adults who are actually listening are distracted by their behavior! NewSpring has grown big, built a building, added new lights, sound, and other creative elements, but the experience is the same as their beginnings - TRUTH is spoken, WORSHIP is open to everyone, and LIVES ARE CHANGED. That's why creativity and entertainment are important. They draw lost people to a place where they can meet Jesus and fall in love with Him. I leave NewSpring each week not feeling empty after a "cool show", but CHALLENGED and SET ON FIRE to live my life for Jesus Christ each day. I am 100% behind Perry because he has the guts to stand up for truth and not be afraid of the critics who are happy in their "holy huddles". It does not take MONEY to create an experience, only an open door for God to reach people.

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January 15, 2007  8:06am

Matthew 28:19 commands us to "go and make disciples of all nations". How are we doing this with only 75 or 80 people, the same ones that were there last year? How are we doing this if we do not speak the "language" of those we must communicate with? Yes, you may send some dollars to missionaries, but what about the family next door? What are YOU personally doing for the Glory of Christ pastor, leader, Sunday school teacher, pew sitter? But don't get mad at me for asking, for Jesus will be asking that same question. I do not need your answer, but He will. Are you putting it all on the line? Are you swimming upstream? Perhaps I am biased, as I actually attend Perry's church (NewSpring), and I have never attended a service where the Gospel was not preached at the speed of light, with passion and intensity! Yes, growth is in the thousands, but the people who have been attending since 1999 are also growing significantly. Family problems are being resolved, children WANT to go to church, lives are being changed. Is that happening in your church?

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January 04, 2007  8:03pm

I am the worship leader at a Pentecostal Holiness Church where we average about 80 people on any given Sunday morning. We are mainly contemporary-worshipping church on Sunday mornings, but when Sunday nights roll around, the 14 people who actually show up are almost exclusively over 60 years of age and I sing hymns. Not the worship team, just me and the pianist and the bassist. That's it. They congregation doesn't sing. I sing. They don't participate, they spectate. Now, which service do you think I look forward to all week long? Probably the one that actually involves people getting involved. Our Sunday morning service reaches so many more people. They are younger, busier, have a lot of demands made on them and their time. I do not blame a lack of discipleship for their not attending Sunday nights (they turn out heavy on our mid-week meeting night, too), so don't even go there-these people love the Lord. My dad pastors a congregation in Southern Maryland whose ages are very diverse. They have totally eliminated Sunday night services because of the schedules people have to keep. Do you see where I'm going? The "American Church" has to make some serious adjustments if we are going to remain RELEVANT. This is the Western Church, not China or India. If you spent one week in Kenya working with missionaries you would understand, this country runs on its own unique time table. We are an over-worked, over-stressed, over-whelmed society. We are so ambitious and driven. Nothing wrong with that, but what do we have to offer a society that is experiencing all of this? Precious Memories and Farther Along are not going to be as meaningful to the 35 year old mother of three who has a household to run and a presentation due on Monday morning at the office, not to mention PTA at 730 that night and a husband who cannot find his own shoes in the closet. Who can fault her for enjoying "All Things are Possible" or, "How Great is Our God"? Her kids probably love the interactive Children's program and the pre-worship fellowship in the Family Life Center that involves donuts, juice and occasionally a little pre-Sunday School basketball. I'm not saying escapism and entertainment is for ALL attendees, but I am saying, KEEP IT REAL! Keep it real for EVERYONE. Jesus has been keeping it real to a innumerable amount of people for a long time, and He is the one who empowers us for our calling. Let Him do what He needs to do. Whatever that may be for whomever is in need of it.. All of this, of course, IMHO Blessings to you all! Jennifer In Galax, VA

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January 04, 2007  3:02pm

"Why? Because it has lasted for centuries (and the Church has remained intact and unchanged for two millennia)." Actually, it is the culture that has remained relatively unchanged for the past two millennia. But, in the last 50 years, the culture has drastically changed and it hasn't all been bad. What isn't bad, the church can take advantage of. The last thing a person wants is to think that their religion is not currently relevant, and pastors who delivers sermons that are boring and useless are doing a great disservice to their congregation. Liturgical services are nice in a bubble, but in the real world, they are hard to integrate. Not so with Perry's church. "however the reason why so few do has as much to do with the worldly attitude and un-crucified carnality that characterizes so many Churchgoers today as it has to do with supposed pastoral laziness." True, but Perry was speaking directly to pastors. The last thing a pastor needs to do is throw up his hands and say "if only these people were spiritual enough, then we'd have a good church". Come on!!! The pastor is accountable ONLY for what HE does. He can deliver relevant, insightful, corrective sermons, an environment where worship is easily achieved, and challenges for people to grow and become better christians. He can't MAKE anyone do anything. This was Perry's point to pastors...DO YOUR PART and quit whining about the's YOUR responsibility to do everything YOU can to guide the people. He's doing a great job of holding up the mirror to all the pastors out there. If you're doing right, GREAT!!! If you're not, get it together man!!! Nathan

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Emily, 17

January 03, 2007  2:34pm

These churches need to realize that maybe the lost people of the world are looking for something DIFFERENT. Maybe such people have come to see that the answer is not in consumerism, quick fixes, or whatever false hopes that society throws at us. In this way, Christianity should be set apart. It should be IN this world, but not OF this world. It is sad to see that so many churches, in attempt to become accessible, forget that the real reason for many coming to Christianity is because it holds something that the world does not, because (not although) it is different. Maybe the solution is found in historic Christianity, not in any new experiments that are made up today to make up for a weak foundation. The question is whether people will write it (this historic Christianity) off as outdated, even though is has withstood the test of Time, because they do not want to admit they were wrong in the first place. Forgive me if I have said anything out of place.

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Jeff B

January 02, 2007  10:47pm

I too believe in exerience. I believe people must experience Jesus Christ in our church services, through worship, Through His Word and through fellowship with other believers. However my question for the Pastor is... If Jesus Shows up and says "I am going to be checking out your people in their private lives to find out if you have been equipping them, To find out if you have been giving them what it takes to do the work of the ministry". What will He find? Then again thats probably a good question for a lot of our churches in America.

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January 02, 2007  4:46pm

I am a 'Johnny come Lately" to this post but after reading the article and the numerous responses I have a few random questions and comments of my own. Whose choice was it to include the jpg of the Clown? The Rev Noble's or the editors at CT? The same applies to the link from the front page "Is Your Worship Service a Circus? All of these factors as well as the "Throat throttle" comment helped contribute to a bad case of "Bad Blog Syndrome" BSS for short Perhaps you should have considered the primary target audience of this article... Evangelical Christians. Some of us feel left out in churches like this. Are we using the wrong terminology here? Shouldn't we be using words such as "meaningful" and "transforming" in stead of entertaining? (Not that I think that this is not part of your vocabulary) Why do so many evangelical leaders use the concern for the lost as a justification for their innovative methods? As if they are saying "How dare you question us, we just want to reach the unsaved!" Are numbers the only way or predominate way to measure success? What qualifies as boring? Liturgical worship? Blended Worship? The quiet setting of a Quaker prayer meeting? Non-Seeker Services? Expository preaching? ???? Can we conclude that there are many formats and models of "doing church" including Contemporary, Traditional, Seeker and Blended and ok ok ok maybe even Emerging instead of cryptically implying that it must only be contemporary in format in order to be relevant? We this be another issue that divides Evangelicals into a thousand more pieces?

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Emily, 17

January 01, 2007  9:35pm

In the Orthodox Church we use the same Liturgical service every Sunday, and I can honestly say I am far from bored with it. There is more meaning found in it than I could ever hope to find in some "entertainment experience". Why? Because it has lasted for centuries (and the Church has remained intact and unchanged for two millennia). Because the Church, as established by Christ, is timeless. It does not have to conform to the passing fads of the world. And it will remain so- because it holds the Truth. Not because it's flashy and "fun"- the path we are called to take as Christians can hardly be called that. We'd be deceiving ourselves. I am not saying that other churches are wrong- I do not know where else God has bestowed his grace. But I do know this: you don't need lights and mirrors to attract people- only the Truth. Because it will remain the same as it has through eternity when all else falls away.

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