Reflecting on the forced resignation of a mega-church pastor in South Carolina, Roger Lovette says serious problems follow any time a church is built around a particular individual. Pastors and congregations must remember that the church belongs not to them, but to Jesus Christ.
Since I have been back in South Carolina the last four years, I have heard the NewSpring Church mentioned often. They have 30,000 members and about 17 satellite churches. Right now they are building another satellite for worship in Clemson. I know some pastors who grit their teeth when they say the NewSpring name. I have never attended a worship service there, but I have observed their worship services on the internet.
Every pastor enjoys the spotlight. But we have to remember whose church this is — Christ’s. We also have to remember we really are not Jesus.
Almost every time I hear the church mentioned, I also hear the pastor’s name: Perry Noble. Newspapers recently carried large detailed accounts about Noble’s forced resignation. The charges are a mite fuzzy, but it seems he has an alcohol problem, some marital difficulties, and has been charged with “inappropriate behavior.” The news releases say that he is under psychiatric care. His wife has been quoted as saying that she supports the resignation.
You cannot build a church — any church — around a particular individual. Almost every time this happens, serious problems follow. Mr. Noble was called not the Minister or the Pastor but really the CEO. Whatever happened to the biblical terms? Remember Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral? Just to name a few. The rock on which you build any church is not the pastor. Why? We all have clay feet. Some feet are clay-er than others. But if we begin to believe all the good things many say about us, we are headed for a fall. The spotlight is mesmerizing and often intoxicating. It is very easy to get lost in the trappings of ministry.
Families suffer. Marriages suffer. The person suffers. The church staff suffers. The church suffers. I cannot rejoice in this church’s embarrassment or this man’s demise from his ministry. Thousands that followed him will be disappointed and devastated. Many will drop out of the church entirely. Unbelievers on the outside will say: “See. We told you what church was like.”
This man obviously had real talent and much charisma. Most of us clergy could not build such an empire. The church has done a lot of good. They provided school supplies for disadvantaged children in many schools. They have attracted hundreds of young people who did not attend church. At Christmastime, the church has provided each student in several Title One schools with a pair of shoes. Some of these children will never forget those pencils, backpacks, and shoes. Years from now, they may not remember NewSpring by name, but they will recall that back in a hard time, there was a church that really cared for them.
Paul says that we always have the treasure in earthen vessels. And earthen vessels are not much. When we mix up the treasure and the vessel, we are in trouble. Every pastor enjoys the spotlight. We love shaking hands at the door and being told we are so great. But we have to remember whose church this is — Christ’s. We also have to remember we really are not Jesus.
Pray for our brothers and sisters at NewSpring. Pray for Perry Noble and his family. We are not to rejoice in the wrong but in the right. We’re all in the same boat — standing in need of prayer.
This article originally appeared in Roger Lovette’s blog, “Head and Heart.” Used by permission.