Two days ago, when this story was breaking, I posted the following news story from Greenville Online at a trade blog I write for people in Christian publishing and Christian retail. A similar story appeared at Slate with raw video from a church member. (I’m assuming here you’ve already read last month’s reports of Noble’s resignation.)
A Christian publishing company has decided to shelve, at least temporarily, the latest book from former NewSpring Church pastor Perry Noble.
The book, “11 1/2 Questions To Help You Date Without Regret,”was originally scheduled to be released to the public Sept. 27.
A spokeswoman for Tyndale House Publishers said Wednesday that the company has moved Noble’s book to “unscheduled status.”
“We plan to review this status at a future date and then evaluate the viability of releasing this book at another time,” publicist Margie Watterson said in an email to the Independent Mail.
Watterson said there is no set date for that evaluation to occur…
Most of the things I post there — and the readership is quite small — don’t attract a lot of attention, but this one led to an exchange with someone — perhaps a rabid Perry Noble fan — on Twitter:
“…all because he made mistakes? See man! THIS is why people don’t want to follow Jesus man. We don’t help our wounded!!! We shoot them! Stupid.
So I want to offer some opinions on this, as my original responses vanished — including something written hastily about not taking advice from someone who had failed in some measure — in the cloud:
- This is about a publishing decision, not about the book itself. The book had already been vetted by Tyndale’s acquisitions and editorial staff. Tyndale is currently keeping three previous Noble titles in their catalog. That is significant. They just may think the timing is bad to launch a new title, especially one that dealers might be skittish about stock right now.
- It’s possible the subject matter of this one is related (directly, indirectly or whatever) to the issues that led to Noble’s resignation and it’s possible that the public doesn’t have all the facts related to the resignation. If it turned out there were other factors and the publishers felt this was the wrong time for Noble to speak to the topic raised in the book, then they would be acting with prudence to shelve the title for the time being.
- This in no way diminishes the content of the book which may be useful, helpful and insightful. Publishing is all about author platform, about the matter of who is speaking. For the reasons above, they may feel this there is, right now, an author credibility issue.
This type of thinking led my correspondent to suggest:
I’d take advice from them if they had success in business before. Trump has failed in the business realm but had success too and that’s how I’d equate noble… Sure he has failed in areas but he’s also had A LOT more success than failure… and also, if someone has failed that means what they say now isn’t valid? A divorced person can’t give insight to a marriage because he got divorced? No! He definitely can. He can tell you the mistakes he made and should’ve changed… and he still speaks truth despite of failure or success. Check the Bible… Full of people that speak and are “failures”
To which I would respond:
- Again, this is a publishing decision that is probably quite on the periphery of any issues the NewSpring board have dealt with over the last several days.
- It’s possible that the type of transparency and honesty that Noble can bring to the book is indeed helpful, but that an update or revision is necessary at this stage, which might involve pulping copies already printed.
- There’s such a thing as too soon. We’ve seen pastors and authors — rightly or wrongly — swiftly restored to ministry. In other cases we’re still in the middle of the story: Tullian Tchividjian, Mark Driscoll, Darrin Patrick, C. J. Mahaney and others come to mind. (There are entire blogs which deal only with these things, so I’m not current on all the stories and names. )
And that’s how I ended my conversation, with this: “So my guess on this one is that you will eventually see copies of the book in bookstores. They’re probably just biding their time.” (I base that largely on Tyndale’s decision to keep the previous three titles in print and online.)
But there is one more thing I shared, and that was a response to the premise that this is type of issue is “why people don’t want to follow Jesus…”
- First, I think that this type of story represents an excuse someone might use for not wanting to follow Jesus when their mind is already made up.
- Second, I think Luke 16 is helpful, where in the parable of the shrewd manager, Jesus says, “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” In other words, I think the seekers, the skeptics, the atheists, the agnostics, etc. recognize a logical business decision when they see it.