It seems like we can’t go too many days without hearing about a pastor or church leader who has fallen and succumbed to one sin or another. This Sunday evening, as our church was preparing for the first night of Vacation Bible School, we learned about Perry Noble, the pastor at NewSpring Church.
Noble, whose church boasts campuses all over South Carolina, was removed as pastor at NewSpring effective July 1. The stunned congregation heard the news on July 10.
NewSpring’s official statement tells the story from the church’s point of view:
Perry has made some unfortunate choices and decisions that have caused us much concern. Over the course of several months our Executive Pastors met with and discussed at length with Perry these concerns regarding his personal behavior and spiritual walk.
Perry’s posture towards his marriage, increased reliance on alcohol and other behaviors, were of continual concern. Due to this, the Executive Pastors confronted Perry and went through the steps of dealing with sin in the church as outlined in Matthew 18.
Because Perry chose not to properly address these ongoing issues and didn’t take the necessary steps toward correcting them, he is no longer qualified, as outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and the church’s bylaws, to continue as a pastor at NewSpring Church.
The church allowed Noble to release his own statement as well, which included the following:
What we’ve seen the Lord do over the past 16 years has been a modern day miracle. However, in my obsession to do everything possible to reach 100,000 and beyond – it has come at a personal cost in my own life and created a strain on my marriage.
In my opinion, the bible does not prohibit the use of alcohol, but it does prohibit drunkenness and intoxication. I never had a problem drinking alcohol socially, but in the past year or so I have allowed myself to slide into, in my opinion, the overuse of alcohol. This was a spiritual and moral mistake on my part as I began to depend on alcohol for my refuge instead of Jesus and others. I have no excuse – this was wrong, sinful and I am truly sorry.
Noble says there was no infidelity or abuse in his marriage, nor were there problems with pornography. He chalks up his failing to the pressures of increasing numbers at his church. He is currently under psychiatric care and will seek Christian counseling to help him with his issues.
It’s a truly sad situation, and of course, many of us are praying for Perry and Lucretia Noble and the folks at Newspring, but what can we learn from it?
If you’re a pastor or any other type of church leader, surround yourself with people who will address any issues they see in your life with honesty. Be teachable and open to advice, and stay humble.
Church leaders should never become unhealthily concerned with numbers. Yes, numbers represent souls, as I’ve heard many a pastor say over the years, but when we become focused on increasing our church rolls over making disciples, we subject ourselves to the same pressures to which Perry Noble succumbed.
If you’re a church member, pray for your pastors and church staff. Love them, support them, and be honest with them if you see unhealthy patterns in their lives. Never put pastors on a pedestal – far too many pastors become something dangerously close to idols for their congregations.
Finally, we as Christians must think about the way we look at alcohol and addiction. As Ed Stetzer puts it:
…evangelicals must start dealing with addiction in both an honest way and a redemptive way. Those who are beginning to hold a more open position on the consumption of alcohol should be careful that in their quickness to embrace freedom and liberty, they are not ignoring dangers and even blind to how this can hurt the opportunity to reach our neighbors.
But on the other side of the issue, even those who have long held a position against any consumption of alcohol at all must start addressing addiction in a way that is more open and transparent. After all, the gospel we proclaim is exactly what brings the freedom we long for, and it should mean that we don’t have to hide anymore.
Regardless of where we stand on the issue of alcohol, we should look at addiction through the most compassionate lens possible. We should always be sensitive to addicts and their loved ones, and we should never allow our freedom to cause others to stumble.
If you believe you may have a problem with alcohol, don’t be afraid to seek help. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or – better still – Biblically based plans like Celebrate Recovery exist to help people break chains and find freedom.
Finally, pray for the Nobles. Pray for NewSpring. Pray for other church leaders who may need to seek help, because healthy church leaders develop healthy churches, which make healthy disciples.
Image via YouTube screen capture