For some reason in America, it's weird when somebody stands up and says "I love my church," lamented a megachurch pastor.
But Pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring Church in South Carolina doesn't care.
"Call me weird, call me stupid, call me crazy, call me part of a cult, call me whatever you want to call me. ... I love my church!" he exclaimed to his congregation on Sunday.
Though a recent Gallup poll revealed that around 43 percent of Americans attend church regularly, Noble claimed that only 17 percent are actually attending church every week. Others are going once every three or four weeks "when they need their fix," he said.
In America, the condition of the church is like a valley of dry bones, he said, reading from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel.
"The church was created to be important but here in the 21st century we've actually become impotent," he said.
The problem, he identified, is that many Americans don't "own" the church. Rather, they act like members of The Y and go to the front desk when they encounter problems and take no responsibility.
"You got a bunch of people [who] run to the front desk, report the problem when God has actually called you and me to be part of the solution, own the problem, fix the problem and be the church to the world that so desperately needs the church to be the church," Noble stressed.
NewSpring Church, which has four campuses throughout South Carolina, is doing away with membership class, the pastor announced. There won't be any more "members" at the growing church of over 7,000. "Owners" is the term the church will begin to use for its involved attendees.
"Members have rights but ... owners have responsibilities," Noble explained. "And I want responsible people up in the church."
Hitting out against criticisms that NewSpring is too loud, resembles a concert or is too big, Noble said amen to not being a "normal" church.
"I don't want to be normal when it comes to church in America because normal is dehydrated, normal is dead, normal is predictable, normal is boring, normal is lifeless, and when the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive and I've crossed over from death to life, praise God, I don't want to be normal!" he exclaimed. "I want to be excited up in this place. That's what church is supposed to be.
"Christianity is the most exciting thing that's happened in the planet in 2,000 years and it took the church 2,000 years to make it boring."
Noble admitted that the church has problems and he acknowledged that many believers have rejected the church while still claiming to follow Jesus.
But criticizing the church is like criticizing someone's bride, he pointed out.
"It's so detrimental spiritually to yourself when you begin to criticize the church because that's the bride of Christ. When you tell Jesus that His bride's ugly you're booing the bride. That's a bad place to be spiritually. You don't call a man's bride ugly. You just don't."
Yes, the church has problems, he said bluntly.
"Every church is screwed up."
But he added, "Isn't it amazing that God could love a group of hypocrites like us? Unbelievable!"
"I don't want our church to be a church full of perfect people. We know we're messed up," he said. "If you go out and [find] the perfect church, don't join it because you'll screw it up."
But it's in the midst of that imperfection that many come to hear the message of Christ and walk out changed, he noted.
"We've got to understand, the church was not given to us so that we would have a Sunday option; it was given to us so that we would have a Sunday opportunity to get together and worship the living God as a corporate body and declare His praises so much so that people go 'I want what you've got.'"
"The reason I'm sold out to the local church is I am investing my life in something that matters for eternity," Noble highlighted. "At the end of the day, I love my church. I don't just tolerate it, I love it!"