Perry Noble, the 20-year veteran of his own church plant, and senior pastor of largest church in South Carolina, was fired on July 1, and the news was released to the congregation in a statement today.
At the 9:15 am service at the main campus of NewSpring Church in Anderson SC, this morning executive pastor Shane Duffy read the prepared statement outlining the fact of the firing and the reasons therefor.
1. Perry’s posture towards marriage,
2. Increased reliance on alcohol,
3. Other behaviors,
4. Refusal to correct
The issues were apparently a problem over many months, and the elders had met with Noble to address them several times, as per the process outlined in Matthew 18. The issues were “ongoing” and of “continual concern.” However, Noble “chose not to address these ongoing issues and didn’t take the necessary steps toward correcting them…”
The firing was laid under the verses in 1 Timothy 3 regarding qualifications as pastor/overseer. Duffy said that though there are many who are curious as to details, no further details would be forthcoming as they would not be helpful to the Noble family or the church.
God outlined standards for Christians in holy living. He laid out standards for behavior for men, women, families, youths, and children. He also laid out standards for pastors, and these are qualifications for the job. 1 Timothy 3 begins with a warning- it’s not going to be easy.
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
The original Greek word in the verse for ‘noble’ is kalos and it’s defined in Strong’s this way:
beautiful, as an outward sign of the inward good, noble, honorable character; good, worthy, honorable, noble, and seen to be so.
Because the office of overseer is mightily associated with Jesus’ name and care of His sheep, who He loves, the standards clearly state that the pastor must be “above reproach.” (1 Tim 3:2). Many people in today’s liberal and forgiving Christianity claim that no one is above reproach and no one is perfect, wrongly overlooking that portion of the verse’s command. However the standards for pastors do not command the man to be perfect, but to be:
- the husband of one wife,
- able to teach,
- not a drunkard,
- not violent but gentle,
- not quarrelsome,
- not a lover of money.
- He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
- He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
- Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
A man who is all of those things is above reproach. No it’s not easy but it is achievable, as witnessed by the thousands and millions of congregants all across the world who see their own pastors meet these qualifications daily.
Though the news about this unfortunate debacle has focused on the alcohol problem Noble apparently has been having, I would like to point out that the first issue the Executive Pastor mentioned was “his posture toward his marriage”.
I would also like to remind the reader that Noble failed to correct or even take steps to work on these problems, belying an unrepentant heart, no matter what Noble put in his own statement and will say in the future. Perhaps he thought he was too big to fire.
I’d like to further point out that though it is good that the elders took the Bible’s moral qualifications seriously, for too long they ignored the Bible’s doctrinal commands for pastors to “be able to teach” and to teach what accords with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).
Noble has not taught sound doctrine for a while. For example he has been giving sermons based on personal revelations, he opened the Easter service several years ago with the demonic song from AC/DC Highway to Hell, he’s been mentoring and promoting Steven Furtick, a known idolater and blasphemer, and displaying other troubling doctrinal errors.
Perhaps most troublesome is Noble’s refusal to submit himself to his peers and elders who were trying to help him correct his behavior. Rebelling against authority indicates a sinful heart and an impenitent attitude. This was seen even as long ago as 2009 when Noble was called out for the Easter Service Highway to Hell service, and Noble said not only was he not sorry but he would do it again, and better. Sadly these kind of behaviors were seen in other fallen mega-church pastors such as Tullian Tchividjian, Mark Driscoll, and Bob Coy.
Paul goes on in his letter to Titus about why it’s important to be a noble overseer.
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2: 7-8)
And there is the rub. Overseers who fail the biblical pastoral qualifications doctrinally and/or morally, bring reproach into Jesus and give the devil opportunity to malign the faith. This is big. While I never enjoy seeing a man lose his job, and I hate that Noble and his family are in pain, I rejoice that he is removed, for the sake of the spotless name of Jesus. Jesus as the head of the church must always be lifted up as the leader and commander, the author and finisher of the faith. He leads this church. While He has given us some latitude, He does have qualifications for pastors because they are His representatives. It is not harsh to say a pastor must be removed who fails the standards. We do this every day without a second thought in secular jobs in every realm. It is good that Noble was fired.
Doctrinal error is usually the first indicator of inward sin. A man can hide his drinking from his congregation, and apparently Noble did. A pastor’s attitude toward his marriage can be a secret, and for Noble it was, for a while. But when a pastor preaches unsound doctrine, it’s a signal that something is very wrong. That’s why though firing Perry Noble for moral reasons is scriptural (1 Timothy 3:2-3), but I wish churches would take doctrinal error as seriously (Titus 1:9). In fact, Noble should have been removed a long time ago.
In any case, this is a lesson to pray for your pastors. This is a warning to be in the Word so that if something is amiss from the pulpit you will know it. By all means, remember that no one is immune from sin and pastors are often the first target.
So the one who thinks he is standing firm should be careful not to fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)