Pressure, Power, and Perry Noble.

I hate bad news. I especially hate bad news in regards to my fellow pastors.

On Sunday afternoon I started getting texts and Facebook posts about Pastor Perry Noble. Perry was the pastor of Newspring Church in South Carolina. I first heard him as a guest speaker at my church in 2002 while I was living in Texas. Ever since I’ve followed what God was doing at Newspring. I brought my staff to multiple conferences to learn from him and his team. I had the honor of hosting him multiple times at Catalyst Conference.

According to Newspring’s official statement,

“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.”

Some of you don’t have a fat clue who Perry Noble is. Others of you have listened to his sermons, read his books, enjoyed his podcast, an have been impacted by his ministry.

I don’t know Perry Noble well. I don’t know any more information than what has been released. The news, however, made me incredibly sad.

It’s a sad day for the Kingdom of God. It’s a sad day because many have already used this as ammunition against Christians, pastors, and Newspring.

It’s sad for me because even though I have never drank alcohol I can relate to Perry’s struggle.

It reminds me of Justin Bieber. Stick with me on this one.

Years ago when Justin first became a superstar there was an article released about his faith in God. Justin was just a kid. He still had his childlike innocence. The article talked a lot about his faith in God, but the number one thing that stuck out to me was a comment he made to his manager while watching a documentary on Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson had recently passed away and soon after a documentary was released on what was supposed to be his return concert tour.

At one point while watching the film Justin leaned over to his manager and said, “Don’t let this happen to me.” Michael had made some poor choices. His choices made him not end well. Justin’s response was an innocent fear of what fame, and power can do.

Justin later went through an incredibly rough patch in life. While I don’t know for sure why I have my theories.

Power and pressure do not mix well.

As a human becomes more powerful the pressure rises. As a person become more powerful it comes with a lot of perks. It is so easy to put ourselves in God’s place.

With more power comes more pressure.

I feel it.

Perry Noble started Newspring and saw it grow to over 30,000 people in weekly attendance.

As a human receives more power the criticism rises. Because the criticism rises quickly people who support the person in power are held close and those who are critical are kept at arms length.

There is a weight of leadership that is incredibly heavy to bear. Being a pastor comes with a lot of emotional highs and lows. The highs are incredibly high and addicting. The lows are the valley of the shadow of death.

Before I was a lead pastor I only remember a couple of people getting upset with me in my entire life. In the last four years the level of love has increased as I became a lead pastor, but so did the lows. Now, this isn’t a sob story. I love being a pastor. I’m not asking for anything but your empathy. Empathy for any pastor.

The weight of leadership is never ending.

Whether a church is 100 or 30,000 it comes with power and pressure.

A pastor oversees an organization that is run mostly by volunteers. There isn’t a product to sell, so the income that comes in is based on whether or not those volunteers make a choice to financially support the ministry.

Attendance spikes and then decreases often for no specific reason. Staff are hired and then have to be led. Every human is broken so leading is never easy.

The church budget is made off a guess. It’s an educated guess, but when 100% of the money comes from donations from people there is no sure fire way to tell what your profit loss will be for the next year.

I care about every divorce that happens under my watch. I care about the broken families. I carry the weight of loss when those I pastor lose a loved one.

Add to that the pressure of raising a family. People often elevate the pastor to superhuman status. At home he is just a mortal. This isn’t always easy for pastors to deal with.

There is a pressure to reach souls for Jesus. There is a pressure to not offend, but challenge people to their core. Their is pressure to develop new sermons based off material that hasn’t changed in 2,000 years.

Add to that the demons that each pastor is fighting off and you have the need to release the pressure.

Pressure and power.

The more power a person achieves the more pressure they will feel. The pressure leads to the need to cope. Over eating, drinking alcohol, sex, porn, gambling, or addiction are the easiest ways to release some of the pressure. As we all know it’s like putting a band aid on a bullet hole. It doesn’t actually help.

And in light of the news about Perry I have six thoughts for Christians. This is not a post directed at Next Level. My blog’s audience reaches people from multiple churches and my hope is this post will challenge both pastors and church members.

How can we help with the power and pressure leaders feel?

  1. Give practical encouragement. Especially when someone is new to a church the temptation is to say things like, “That was the best sermon ever.” Don’t. A pastor always can use encouragement, but make it realistic and practical. What is really encouraging to me is when someone applies what they are learning. I appreciate hearing, “Good sermon,” but I value seeing life change. Hearing, “That was the best sermon ever” only adds to the pressure. The next Sunday the pastor has to deliver another sermon and how can he compete with the best sermon ever? He can’t.
  2. Make it clear that you don’t want anything from the leader. As power rises so do the requests. Everyone wants to be a part of success. One thing that is incredibly helpful to me is when people check in with me with no agenda and no strings attached. I have a couple of people who text me regularly just to see how my week is going. I know these men don’t want anything from me. The text isn’t followed up with a request to do something. That is so life giving.
  3. Give permission to fail. Now, I’m not talking about a moral failure. Leaders should be held to a higher standard in regards to morality. I am talking about failing with leadership decisions. The truth is no one has a crystal ball. Most leaders are doing the best they can. One thing that goes a long way is when people understand that not every decision will be a home run. Whether it’s a teaching series, a staff hiring, small group curriculum, or something else allow for some failure. Not every sermon series is going to connect with everyone. When something is not your cup of tea don’t make a stink about it. If the small group curriculum, sermon series, staff hiring etc. is consistently good allow for the one or three misses. The most criticism I received on a sermon series was also the one I received some of the best encouragement on. Some programs, ideas, and decisions will be a swing and a miss. That’s okay.
  4. Respect days off. The pressure to lead is unrelenting. When a person gets upset it is easy to type an email and dump it on the leader. Save those emails for the work week. Dumping them on days off means the leader is now carrying that pressure when he should be spending time with the family. This also goes for great requests. I love eating lunch out with people from the church. Love it. Friday and Saturday are my days off and I choose to say no to those requests. Find out when the day off is for the leader and help protect it. If you want the leader to be at his best he needs healthy ways to release the pressure. He needs some days off.
  5. Encourage him when he leaves. I took two Sundays off to go to Israel. When I came back I was incredibly encouraged by the people at Next Level. Here is what I heard over and over again, “I’m so glad you took this trip. The guest speaker last week was awesome, but we missed having you.” What that communicated with me is life goes on when I leave. I’m still missed, but when I’m not there things are still great. At times good people put pressure on the pastor by saying well meaning things like, “I hate when you go out of town the speaker is never as good.” Those well meaning comments add to the pressure.
  6. Pray for pastors and leaders. Leading is not easy. The pressure to lead increases the temptation to sin gloriously. Pray for protection. Pray for grace. Pray for your pastor to have accountability and a safe place to take care of his issues. Pray for God’s protection. And when the leader disappoints you…pray.

My heart is sad for Perry and Newspring. I’m sad because it seems it is almost impossible to make it to old man preacher status without a scandal. I was convicted on how I’ve been self medicating with food over the last few months. I am encouraged by how amazing the people at Next Level are.

Christians can help with the leadership burden. I want to apply this list as I interact with my pastor friends. I am praying for Perry.

What other things can help with the pressure of power? What are some of your thoughts about the list? Which one are you encouraged to try this week?

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Rob Shepherd

I am the full-time husband of a wonderful woman! I love being married! We are proud parents to twins, Hayden and Reese. In my spare time I am the pastor of Next Level Church. I have a relationship with God and it is an adventure. Oh and I wrote a book. It's called Even If You Were Perfect Someone Would Crucify You.

25 Comments

  1. July 11, 2016

    So sad to hear this news.

    Reply
  2. Frank
    July 11, 2016

    Thanks Rob. Good article. My words of affirmation would be too deep, too dark, and too long for me to tell personal stories. Let me just say that as a pastor who has been in ministry for 27 years “I Need You, Jesus”; as the song says.

    Reply
    • July 13, 2016

      Frank, I’ve often thought about getting a few pastors together to share war stories in front of a church congregation. I think most church people have no idea about the wounds caused from being a pastor. Thanks for giving so much for 27 years. You rock!!!

      Reply
  3. Karen
    July 11, 2016

    This is the best blog ever. Just kidding. Thanks for being real. It’s nice to see you want to keep a balance and know that the struggles are real. The list makes a lot of sense. Anyone in a leadership role is going to get criticism, unfortunately. And the enemy tries hard to bring down God’s warriors. PFP today (Prayers for Perry today). I think spending time with God, meditating on His word, and being prayerful is so amazing, and very helpful, especially if I do it before opening my mouth. Mother Teresa once said, “We all long for heaven where God is, but we have it in our power to be in heaven with Him right now, to be happy with Him at this very moment. Being happy with Him now means, loving has He loves; helping as He helps, giving as He gives, serving as He serves, rescuing as He rescues; being with Him for all the 24 hours. ” 1 Cor. 13. And it can only be done by being constantly renewed with His word.

    Reply
  4. Lauren Cory
    July 11, 2016

    I’ve never listened to Perry Noble preach but I saw the news this past weekend. It seems like it was handled appropriately and Biblically, but I do mourn with the Christian community and Newspring over this. I know that if this happened to a pastor that I was close with or followed like you, Stu, or Steven Furtick, that it would profoundly affect me. But you’re right – pastors are still human, and we should never make them into celebrity status, but continue to pray for them, encourage them, and support them. I will be praying for Perry Noble and his family and Newspring definitely. And even though I am not a part of Next Level, I am praying for you as well in your leadership position.

    Reply
    • July 13, 2016

      Lauren, thank you for your prayers!!! The leadership of Newspring is amazing. They have a great system there and they handled this with a lot of maturity.

      Reply
  5. Mary
    July 11, 2016

    Just this morning as I was scrolling through Facebook and read Pastor Freedy’s post from yesterday, I thought of how thankful I was to have had him as a guest speaker at NLC otherwise I would not be friends with him on Facebook. I am thankful that you were able to go to Isreal and I am thankful to have heard Steven and Feddy preach in your absence.

    Praying for you and all of our leaders especially in our churches and our government.

    Reply
  6. Kim Daugherty
    July 11, 2016

    I think two things we can do. First is to minimize pastor worship. Don’t get me wrong- pastors are great and deserve our respect, but when we start putting them on a pedestal we aren’t doing them or ourselves any favors. It puts unnecessary pressure on the pastor and means we’re putting our faith in God’s servant instead of God himself. Secondly, we can jump in and see where we can help. Churches always need help. ALWAYS. By helping out, we’re taking pressure off the pastor to be in all places and do all things. When things go wrong, we look to the pastor for accountability, but a pastor can’t do all the things in the church. We need to do our part.

    Reply
  7. Randal
    July 11, 2016

    Growing up I was often annoyed by the preacher/pastor/priest presenting himself – inadvertently or intentionally – as someone who doesn’t ever struggle or sin or doubt. The pastors to whom I have gravitated are those who will freely admit to not being perfect, to having struggles…to being just like the rest of us sinners. That authenticity is so so that neither he nor the congregation begin viewing him as perfect, but rather as someone trying to lead from the trenches.

    I think your list of things we can do is pretty good and I’d like to think I do a decent job of following those principles.

    I agree with Kim above that we as parishioners need to step up and volunteer, to fill gaps where we see them so that the pastor has more time to focus on being a pastor. I also think that we as a congregation can help the pastor by taking time during the week and before a church service to spend time with God so that when the pastor preaches, we are ready to hear.

    Reply
    • July 13, 2016

      Randal, your points are most excellent. Thank you for being someone who texts me just to check in.

      Reply
  8. Bill Haun
    July 11, 2016

    Well said. Life is all about the bounce. God always has your back. Your Moral compass is inherit. Being a Leader requires Humility “all things through Him”. Dreams not Memories. As Dr. Gibbons so eloquently says Focus on What you are becoming not what you’ve been.

    Reply
  9. Michelle
    July 13, 2016

    To add to all the above Perry couldn’t go to a simple restaurant without someone tweeting where he was and in minutes the place is bombarded! On top of that because his ministry is growing so fast he is a target for haters who say all kinds of horrible things about him, his family, the church – and much of this from other so-called-Christians. He and his family even get death threats!!!! Can you imagine the pressure.??? Please Please Please pray for this Man of God!!!

    Reply
    • July 13, 2016

      Michelle, I am praying. I’ve been burdened for him all week.

      Reply
  10. July 13, 2016

    As a PK (pastor’s kid), I appreciate these points more than you know. I am thankful that at 32 years of age, I can say my father has led his ministry with integrity. He has always made our family his priority second to his relationship with Christ. It took some time for our churches to get used to the fact that this is how my father approached ministry but they soon respected or accepted it. The 4th point about days off is spot on. I’ve always shared with some of my young pastor friends to put their family vacations on the church calendar so VBS isn’t scheduled the same week – as the pastor is expected to be there and wants to be there. I would also say that the pastor’s family is elevated to superhuman status too. His wife is expected to lead the women’s ministry (even if that isn’t her gift) and the children are to be leaders in their respective ministries.

    Now that I am no longer in the same state as my parents, I seek to support my pastors in the way that we needed to be supported.

    Ministry is hard but it is worth it when the focus is off the one doing ministry.

    I, too, am praying for Pastor Noble, his family and his church family. May his best days be before him.

    Reply
    • July 13, 2016

      Melody, thank you for the comment. Your points are amazing! I especially like “put their family vacations on the church calendar…”

      Reply
  11. Joe Blackmon
    September 15, 2016

    Perhaps since Perry is no longer pretending to be a preacher, he will have time to stop, reflect, and perhaps study those texts her so mercilessly twisted. They can lead him to repentance and faith so that he can become a Christian.

    Reply
  12. Rebecca Bennett
    September 16, 2016

    This is sad…I was a member of calvary church ft Lauderdale so I know how devastating it is…we still pray for pastor Bob…

    Reply
  13. March 10, 2017

    This is a really good post. As a former pastor I can say “Amen.” I think part of the problem is the way we do church. It sets pastors up for burnout. The whole culture needs to change but that doesn’t seem likely to happen. The megachurch phenomenon just feeds the beast.

    Reply

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