In July 2016, pastor Perry Noble was fired from NewSpring Church in South Carolina, a megachurch he founded. Last Sunday, Noble returned to the pulpit at another megachurch, Elevation Church, in North Carolina, at the invitation of pastor Steven Furtick. This leads to a difficult question. Should Perry Noble, fired for personal behavior, be allowed back into the pulpit?
In a Facebook post, Noble thanked Furtick for standing by him during his darkest hours. “In July 2016 I thought I would never preach again! I allowed myself to be deceived by the enemy and depended on alcohol more than Jesus! However . . . during this entire time, Steven Furtick hasn’t been someone who ‘had my back,’ but rather has stood by my side and been a source of encouragement and friendship, and has been willing to tell me what I needed to hear.”
Following the Saturday night service, Noble continued, “Last night he allowed me the honor of returning to preaching on the stage at Elevation – and what I thought was dead came to life again. In life the ‘who’ that stands with you really does matter – and I am more thankful for Steven and Holly than they could ever imagine.”
But should a disgraced pastor who was fired for his own addictive behaviors be allowed back into a pulpit – any pulpit?
Noble addressed that. “Jesus brings dead things back to life – if you are doubting or disbelieving, I understand – I’ve been there. However, if you are dead, then God is not done. His plans for you are still greater than you could have ever imagined!”
When NewSpring, a church of 30,000 people, dismissed Noble, they cited his “unfortunate choices and decisions,” and placed him under psychiatric care.
Last month, Noble hinted at a return to ministry. He says he has completed successful rehab and suggests biblical precedence for a quick return to ministry in the persons of the Apostles Peter and Paul, who each made grave mistakes, but preached the Gospel soon after.
“Peter denied Christ, and 50 days later he preached the Gospel to Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost,” he noted. “Paul, who was murdering Christians, came to Christ in Acts 9 and immediately starting preaching the Gospel.”
Noble’s message was received by a standing ovation of worshipers at Elevation Church. But the debate will not end there.
Should Perry Noble have been allowed back into the pulpit? Do his admitted “bad choices” and addictions disqualify him from ministry on a public stage?
That is a discussion for another day. It is not my desire to judge Perry or Steven, nor to attempt to offer black-and-white conclusions in matters that remain gray in the Scriptures. But I will say this. I have met both Perry and Steven, at various conferences in their churches. I found both men to be genuine, transparent, and authentic. To say Perry Noble is permanently disqualified from public ministry is to say both men missed God on this one. I, for one, am not willing to go there.
When choosing between grace and law, I tend to choose grace. Whether my position is the product of my theological training, godly wisdom, or my own personal failings, I can’t say for sure. But I do know this. When I read Perry’s closing statement on the matter, it felt right.
“If God has put something in your heart, don’t sit around and wait for the approval of people who don’t believe in you in the first place. Do what God called you to do.”