james duncan

When We Find Ourselves Lost

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Maybe you’ve had the joy to be following the current stink going on between the NewSpring Church in Anderson , SC, Perry Noble (PN) it’s Pastor, and a local college prof named James Duncan (JD)… if not, here’s a couple of links that will (slowly, it’s quite a read) catch you up to speed: James Duncan’s Story: Holy Rage At The Spring and the Church’s recent Announcement. I appreciate the friends who were posting last week and put me onto the story.

I’ve read the story from JD’s side and I read the church’s announcement. I have gone through some of JD’s older posts to pick up some of his blog style and thought process. I watched some video clips and I’ve read some things that PN has produced.

I’ve gone thru this multi-day process of incredulity and shame, disbelief that Christians are out acting this way… PN and NewSpring seem to have failed their responsibility to lead with the Spirit of Christ from the top down, in some ways, and it opened the door to horrible things being done to JD and his family. (If only half of the things actually happened as JD sees them happening, it’s truly deplorable.) Also, having read thru JD’s blogs, he has exhibited a true proficiency (he is a communications prof) to nit-pick, spin and negatively portray PN and NewSpring no matter what they’re saying, and also forgets the Spirit of Christ in his blogging content.

NewSpring is a huge church that seems to have been relatively quickly built (10 years) on a tightly controlled, highly charismatic-personality-centered, high-budget, attractional model. OK. It seems to also have been built on things like enthusiasm, faith, service (local and global), evangelism, creativity, technology and high energy.

JD seems to be a concerned, learned and invested observer. I actually found myself shaking my head at most of his criticisms because they seemed far less founded than JD thought they were. OK, straight up… I don’t agree with hardly anything JD writes. But then, I don’t do church completely like PN and NewSpring either.

Where are things today, by my distant view from sifting the internet? PN doesn’t seem to have paid attention to aspects of his staff and staff behavior, and probably let his gifted hyperbole and sense of humor set the stage for some major misunderstandings among his staff at NewSpring. So, a few staffers and volunteers under PN were not prepared psychologically or spiritually for a challenge like JD and they responded way off the chart of appropriateness. The level of personal responsibility that PN carries for these circumstances is a “your guess as good as mine” thing until a jury is asked. But, I would bet you money that it hurts his soul right now. I see his actions and words as full of denial, hurt, fear and frustration… none of this fits his view of what he wants to be spending his time or the church’s time talking about. And I’m sorry, the church announcement was a hit job on JD’s credibility, well crafted and cleverly written. Didn’t look at all graceful.

JD is off and running, and seems to be enjoying himself, blogging, doing interviews, etc. I hesitate to call this “self-fulfilling prophecy,” but he sort of started the whole internet stalking game here, running down every usable quote from NewSpring staff to spin and blog and denigrate. But of course, he’s just a blogger, so his intentions are always pure and honest and calm, non-violent and selfless. Sorry, I was being a little facetious there. He just doesn’t seem to get it that his claim of PN and NewSpring’s responsibility to address his concerns is more than a little spurious. They are not obligated to answer every critic, nor to address every one of his complaints. Get used to it. So he offers to co-write a book with PN to adress his own concerns, and then is surprised when PN say no thanks? Prideful.

I’m just frustrated that both sides have failed to regulate themselves any better than this.  And I’m sorry JD  asked for loads of dough. Since they were at the point of lawyers and blah, blah… he could have presented a case for damages and pursued the point of restoration. Were there damages? Absolutely! Horrible things seem to have been done to JD. But then he also gave them a $3million “silent” option? What? Looks bad. Looks as “mafia” as the things done to him. Purchased silence, hm? How do all the claimed higher ethics and morals mesh with putting a price tag for silence on the truth?

Here’s the metaphor I am thinking about for this today… it’s like when a four-year-old continues to heckle an eight-year old sibling until the older sibling strikes out physically and then the younger gets to play the “He (she) hit me!” card, assuming the bigger, stronger siblings inherent culpability. So, JD gets to stalk and riddle PN and NewSpring with accusations and blog entries (which I think is not necessarily good), and then gets to play the “NewSpring hurt me!” card when the response from the NewSpring staffer and volunteers is absolutely bad and wrong? Truth of the story… both siblings need a spanking.

This is a story of today’s church in America. This is a story of Christians in today’s age and culture. This is a story of facing the lostness within our churches, our souls, our words and our energies. Not the kind of lostness that means we’re not Christians, but the kind that shows we  often still struggle to know it means to be found. So far, the only moral I can see to the story is that when I’m being naughty I need to be sure to insulate myself with 1) a blogger’s inherent rights of free speech, criticism and verbal stalking, or 2) a rigid church structure and loads of lawyers thru which I can establish some plausible deniability. I’m still trying to make up my mind which I’ll choose.