not in category mode for script check
by Ed Stezer
By now, you’ve probably read that Perry Noble is no longer the pastor at NewSpring Church.
The Rev. Perry Noble, who started NewSpring Church nearly 20 years ago, is no longer its senior pastor.
Early in Sunday's 9:15 a.m. service, Executive Pastor Shane Duffey announced that Noble had been removed as pastor on July 1… after Noble "had made unfortunate choices," and that the board members had confronted Noble on numerous occasions regarding his use of alcohol.
I don’t know what the “unfortunate choices” are and won’t speculate. I grew up around alcoholism, though, and there were plenty of those “unfortunate choices” that were connected to alcohol.
But, I do want to stop and think about the one detail that NewSpring has been clear about: alcohol issues and pastoral ministry, and, though we don't know all the details here, I'll include a bit about the struggle of alcoholism in Christian ministry.
Obviously, the view of many Christians has changed toward alcohol. A few years ago I shared an a bit on the change. Here are some excerpts:
It appears that views of alcohol are changing among some evangelicals.
Now, many conservative evangelicals have been moderationists for a long time—so an anti-alcohol sentiment is not universal among evangelicals. Sometimes observers will see "Northern Evangelicalism" as moderationist, with "Southern Evangelicalism" being abstentionists, and there is a good amount of truth in that geographic reality. However, it is still a bit more complicated since Wesleyans, for example, are concentrated up North, and you cannot be a covenant member of a Wesleyan church if you use alcohol as a beverage.
But, with that new openness comes an old danger— alcohol abuse and alcoholism. And, I don’t believe that those newly discovering this liberty toward alcohol are prepared for this new danger.
It's not a secret that I don't drink beverage alcohol. Part of that comes from a heritage of alcoholism that inspires this post. I've seen it up close and know alcoholism's destructive power—yet, many evangelicals have not. But, more evangelicals may be exposed to the destructiveness of alcoholism if acceptance grows.
In other words, Lutherans and Anglicans are more accustomed to dealing with the dangers of alcohol addiction, while some evangelicals are not. But, if this trend continues, they are going to have to be. If you go to a recovery group meeting, you would not be surprised to see a Lutheran in a collar; you’d be very surprised to see an evangelical pastor in skinny jeans.
In a few years, it may no longer be surprising.
The above article included an interview a southern evangelical pastor at a well-known church. Here were a few of the questions and his answers:
Tell us how you viewed alcohol and how those views changed over time.
I grew up in the South. I was taught that alcohol was "of the devil" but tobacco was a gift from God.
My family didn't drink. I never had alcohol until college—never partied much there. I discovered in graduate school that it was good for "relaxing." I was around a lot of folks who seemed to use too much of it, and that bothered me… Later, I planted a church that grew very quickly—a glass of wine became the way to relax in the evening.
How could you tell (and when did you realize) you had a problem?
Alcohol became more of a need than a want. As success and stress increased, the need for it to "relax" become more of a habit than an occasional thing. I started to hide it from family. I made promises to never drink during "work time," which of course, began to shrink.
My family and a couple of my staff expressed concern in a loving way, but I said I could "handle it" (major flag!).
What is unique about being an alcoholic evangelical pastor?
Never thought it would happen to me, and most evangelicals view any form of alcohol as evil to begin with. However, that attitude has changed somewhat, and most of the "church folks" I know drink socially. However, I had a temperament/physical make up that didn't allow me to do that.
Simply put, my friend found that an openness to alcohol combined with a propensity to addiction, in a culture that hides drinking, is a dangerous combination.
Instead, 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. D.L. Mayfield wrote a Christianity Today cover story that addressed this very issue. In that article she wrote this convicting sentence: “With every picture, tweet, and event that centers on alcohol, I wonder: Isn't anyone friends with alcoholics?”
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.
Recently, in Relevant Magazine Zach Perkins explained:
At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but for some reason, it's not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For example, it's OK to bug Frank about his smoking, but John's alcoholism is more hush-hush.
And yes, in many churches, a person's addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn't crushing them every second.
Now, I don’t know all of the story, but Perry is my friend, has been my friend for some time, and will continue to be my friend. And, yes, I have reached out to him, and I love and pray for him.
But, there are things for all of us to consider in this moment, so let me encourage all of us to remember these three things.
1. Perry Noble did not have an alcohol problem because he did things that upset some Christians.
Lots of pastors—innovative, contemporary, traditional, and liturgical—have struggled with alcohol. The Bible says that “wine is a mocker and strong drink a brawler” (Proverbs 20:1).
Let’s pray and weep because alcohol mocked again, and let’s not feel the need to join in that mocking. The world will do that enough.
2. Perry needs your prayers, not your “I told you so.”
I get that Perry’s approach to ministry has—at times—been a lightning rod, and I’ve discussed that with him, but this is not the time for such comments or speculation.
His church and his pastors will sort out the details, and we should trust the Lord in His guidance of that process. They don’t need any of us being armchair pastors, speculating on how we think this happened or what we think they should do.
We have one role right now as fellow Christians, and for many of us, as fellow pastors. That role is to pray.
Please join me in praying for Perry, Lucretia, their children, and NewSpring—let that be your focus.
(Quick update: since posting this artice, Perry and I have talked and he is getting help from a psychiatrist and is taking steps to address his alcohol dependence.)
3. You do not need to struggle alone.
If you are a pastor struggling with alcohol or any other addition, you don’t have to struggle alone. There are ministries and resources like Recovering Redemption, Celebrate Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, and more.
If you need someone to contact you personally, send us an email at email@example.com and Mark Dance, who leads our efforts with pastors, will get you in touch with someone who can help. (You can also use theLifeWay Pastors contact page.) Your name will be kept confidential and pastors of all denominations (and none) are welcome.
Or, if you prefer not to even share that information, call the Focus on the Family Pastor Care Line 844-4PASTOR.
You don’t have to suffer alone and it won’t end well if you don’t get help. You do not have to hide. Alcohol isn’t freedom, and hiding isn’t the way out. We can stand together in the power of the gospel and see the way forward in hope.
Mark's note: I have connected with several struggling pastors since this post went out 24 hours ago. All of them are eager to change, yet afraid of being exposed. Please don't hesitate to send them my way.
This post originally appeared on Ed's blog on July 11, 2016. Dr. Stetzer (Phd) has more degrees and credentials than I have room for here, but his most important one is as my friend. Oh, and he is the new the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.
I would covet your prayers for the next 5 weeks as I bear down to finish writing my first solo book. It is entirely focused on the two Great Commandments, which Jesus said are the "the greatest and most important commands." (Love God & neighbor) The book will be available in about a year since I have a collaborative funeral sermon project with my childhood pastor Paul Powell which will be published first.
I will become virtually inactive on social media in July so that I can concentrate on this wonderful task. That of course includes this blog. I will be posting some fresh posts on my site from guest bloggers however during this time.
Also, thank you for praying for my ministry to pastors. Our Pastor Date Nights and Roundtables are booked almost entirely through 2017, along with several other exciting speaking engagements which will take me (and sometimes Janet) to over thirty cities each year. We are very grateful for the privilege of serving pastors, spouses and seminarians through LifeWay.
Thank you friends!
Hopefully when mentoring becomes a more established norm for pastors, a standard term will evolve. Until then, we will continue to use awkward terms like protégé, mentee, or disciple to refer to people being mentored by an older and/or more experienced person.
Mentoring is already the established norm in Scripture, even though the term is never used there. Moses prepared Joshua to fill his sandals, Elijah walked Elisha through the paces of a prophet, and Paul wrote the pastoral epistles for Timothy, Titus, and other pastors he was equipping.
Even though the Bible has a lot of examples like these of mentoring, it does not articulate a clear game plan on how to pull it off. When pastors don’t know what to do, they typically freeze up and do nothing. I am praying that this post will inspire you to take your first few steps toward mentoring.
Initiate a Casual Meeting
Online dating is something I have never experienced since my first date with Janet was in 1985. I have talked to several singles who use these popular sites to save time, money, and heartache on the sometimes painful process of dating.
Perhaps LifeWay will create a mentoring matchmaking service that will save you lots of time and energy! Just in case that doesn’t happen (it won’t), take a non-committal first step of sharing a cup of coffee or a sandwich. Wait until after your first meeting to determine whether God is leading you to invest in that person regularly.
Help Them Get an Early Win
I can’t tell you how many times I have made the mistake of leading without first listening. After carefully listening to what this younger leader’s greatest challenges are, help him/her overcome one of those particular challenges.
One church planter I am mentoring asked me to give him feedback on his sermons because he is relatively new at preaching. Sometimes mentees need equipping, and sometimes they simply need encouragement. A mentor is both an encourager and equipper. He or she can also be a coach, or a parent figure, depending on the age dynamic. You don’t need to be a genius to help someone through the challenges that arise in life, home, or church.
Put Them on Your Calendar
To read the rest of this post, please go here.
by Chris Martin
In a 2001 journal article (I was 11 years old, for perspective), Marc Prensky, a thought leader in the educational technology world, coined the term “Digital Natives” to describe young people who do not know a world without video games, computers, Internet, and more. You are a Digital Native if you were born after 1980—so that would include all Millennials and every generation that follows.
For instance, I was born in 1990, and I was sitting on my dad’s lap as he worked on his computer from home for IBM by 1993.
I don’t know a world without video games. I had a cell phone by my freshman year of high school, and I even got mine later than many of my friends.
Prensky, primarily concerned with the ways in which the 21st century educational system was not equipped to educate 21st century students, wrote, “Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.”
For you, there may be no great or important distinction between life online and offline. Your identity in the digital realm and your identity in the world of flesh and blood are one in the same. You may have different representations of that identity, but you make little distinction between them. You move seamlessly between face-to-face interaction and digital interaction through messaging or e-mail. In fact, you may prefer digital interaction, finding the face-to-face somehow unnatural or intimidating. Your mobile phone is part of who you are, and without it you feel like the world is moving on without you. You enjoy television and surfing the web, and especially enjoy doing two or three of these things simultaneously. You can switch back and forth between them as easily as you can change your socks.
The question church leaders should be asking concerning Digital Natives is, “Is our church equipped to intentionally engage Digital Natives?” The gospel is always the local church’s message, but the methods by which we communicate this message change over time.
Are today’s church members the people our churches were designed to shepherd? Among many churches, they are not. But they should be. Here are just five ways you can be thinking of Digital Natives as you lead your churches:
1. Don’t discourage technology use in worship.
Obviously, there’s a line, right? We don’t need guys watching the beginning of the football game in the sanctuary. But, at the same time, pastors and church leaders need to be courteous to those who read their Bibles, take notes, or otherwise use their phones wisely during the worship service.
Consider having your congregation text in questions while you preach about difficult, or controversial issues. Whatever is appropriate for your church, do it. All I ask is that you don’t shame the people using their phones, tablets, or other technology devices in church. Most of them aren’t on Facebook.
2. Get your church on social media.
I am a social media professional, which is still sorta scary to say at times, but it’s true. I work with social media every day at my real job, and I’ve written a lot about it on the blog here, here, and here, specifically. Your church needs to be on social media in some form. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more: use them.
This can be very overwhelming, especially if you’re completely new to the concept. If you’re unsure of where to start and social media seems overwhelming, Darrel Girardier’s blog is the perfect place to start.
3. Start a church blog.
Consider starting a church blog. Or, perhaps if you don’t feel your church needs one, maybe your pastor could set one up for himself. Whenever I get the opportunity to pastor, I will set up a blog as an extension of my ministry to my church and the community. The focus of the blog will be confined to my church in my city.
In the same way, perhaps you can set up a church blog through which you post updates about the ministry of your church, address questions people have, or other similar uses. Feel free to email me or grab me on social media if you want more ideas here. I’m happy to help.
4. Encourage using technology to grow spiritually.
In point one, I mentioned how we need to not shame people for using their phones in the worship service. We could go a step further and encourage the people in our churches to use apps like FighterVerses or the ESV Bible app as tools to support their spiritual life throughout the week.
Thanks to the gifts of many people, many apps are out there that can help you grow spiritually, especially when it comes to spiritual disciplines like daily Bible reading and verse memorization.
5. Teach your church how to use technology wisely.
Finally, and this is no small point, your church needs to have a theology of technology. Truly, the best book I’ve ever seen on this subject is Tim Challies’ book I referenced above, The Next Story. In the link above, I linked to the older copy of the book, which is the one I own. Click here for an updated, 2015 version—it’s probably smart to grab the newer one considering the rate at which technology changes.
Technology, like social media, is a completely neutral tool, like social media. It’s a hammer, and hammers can be used to build houses or bash peoples’ heads in. Technology can lead you down dark roads if you’re not careful, but it can be a huge benefit to the kingdom of God as well.
You are doing your church a disservice if you aren’t teaching them how to think theologically about technology.
Digital Natives are filling your churches. Or, perhaps the bigger problem is that they aren’t. Preach the gospel, definitely don’t change that, but consider how you might adapt to the Internet generation.
Read more about Millennials, social media, and ministry and MillennialEvangelical.com.
BIO: Chris Martin is an Author Development Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources. He earned his bachelor's degree in Biblical Literature from Taylor University and is almost finished with his Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes regularly about how the Church can reach millennials at his blog, MillennialEvangelical.com.
I was born into a family of golfers, so I have tried really hard to like golf. I prefer hobbies that do not tempt me to say or do things I will regret later. One thing I do like about golf is the mulligans. Mulligans make those terrible shots disappear into thin air.
In Genesis 35, we see Jacob in desperate need of a mulligan. He has wasted the last decade of his life and God gave him a chance to start over by moving back to Bethel. Eventually you will need a life or ministry mulligan, too. Let’s retrace Jacob’s footsteps back to Bethel.
Get Up and Go
God initiated Jacob’s restoration by telling Jacob to, “Get up! Go to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there (v. 1).”
Jacob had lived in Shechem for ten years instead of Bethel, which was in open defiance to God’s instruction. His family paid for his disobedience (Gen. 34). Fortunately, Jacob got another chance to “get up and go to Bethel.”
I love it when God gives us a mulligan!
If you are stuck spiritually, you might want to consider making an aggressive spiritual move. Get up and go back to where you started when you fell in love with Jesus. Initiate a spiritual homecoming by building a new altar to the Lord.
Clean Up Your Act
Jacob’s family closets were full of foreign gods. If they were going to start over in a new place, they needed to re-prioritize what to pack. Jacob said to his family,
Get rid of the foreign gods that are among you. Purify yourselves and change your clothes (Gen. 35:2).
We moved twice in the last year. Once from Arkansas into a rent house, then again nine months later into our permanent home. Each move made us rethink what we really wanted to keep, give away, or throw away.
Spiritual house cleaning is usually not a quick or painless process. But if you want to get off of dead-center spiritually, you may need to aggressively get rid of some of your old baggage. After they cleaned out their closets, they buried their idolatry under the oak of Shechem.
What’s in your closet?
Bring it out right now and bury it under the the cross of Calvary. If it is something that needs to go to the dump, ask a friend to help you follow through.
Build a New Altar
Jacob did return to Bethel, where he had made a covenant with God thirty years earlier (Gen. 28). The old altar was in rubble, so he rebuilt it. Jacob had basically wasted the last 30 years of his life obsessing over his job at the expense of his relationship with God and his family.
Instead of giving up, he got up, cleaned up, and rebuilt his life based on the original covenant (plan A), which God was giving Jacob (Israel) another shot at.
Jacob’s ministry mulligan is a great reminder that God is more interested in what is ahead of you than what is behind you.
God appeared to him again after he returned from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him (Gen. 35:9).
The key word is “after.”
Jacob got a new start, and with it a new nature, a new name and a renewed promise to bless his family and property. So many great things were on the other side of his obedience. It is no different for you and me.
Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions (Ps. 39:7-8).
What does God want to do in your life this summer, or in your church this fall? In your church? In your city?
In golf, mulligans are rarely and randomly given. In ministry, Jesus compels us to grace instead of guilt. Is it time for you to go back to Bethel for a spiritual homecoming? Get packing, friend!
“What is the one resource you would recommend to young leaders?”
This question was posed to me by a seminary student during a pastor’s roundtable I hosted last year.
“LifeWay doesn’t sell what you need most, which is a mentor who is about ten years older than you.”
My answer was well received that day because Millennial pastors in general are eager to have mentors. This trend is encouraging because healthy pastors will surround themselves with mentors like Paul, friends like Barnabas, and mentees like Timothy. The Rainer on Leadership podcast addresses six areas where Millennials are asking for help.
If you are interested in initiating a mentoring relationship, consider these six important components:
- Humility. The mentoring process begins with a conviction that you actually need a mentor. Barnabas mentored Paul, who mentored Silas, Timothy, Titus and many others. Pastors usually start their ministries as eager learners, until subtle pride slips in and convinces us that we have more to teach others than we need to be taught. We are hardwired to help others and can sometimes be resistant to receiving help. The result of our resistance will be an absence of learning and growth.
- Initiative. The initiative for mentoring usually starts with the mentee, not the mentor. I regret making the arrogant mistake of not pursuing this important relationship during certain seasons of pastoring when I needed mentoring the most. I often justified my lack of initiative with excuses of busyness or exhaustion. Ministry leaders make time for the people who are important to us. Mentoring requires energy that we are often in short supply of, but it also provides energy that we so desperately need.
To read the rest of this post, please go here.
Every pastor needs a Barnabas, a Paul, and a Timothy in their life. Barnabas was a mentor and peer to Paul, who was a mentor to Timothy. These three relationships have become firewalls for me against isolation, loneliness, and spiritual drift for three decades of ministry.
I'll write about Timothy and Paul in the next two weeks, but today we will focus on what a Barnabas-type friendship looks like.
A Barnabas Will Be Supportive
Barnabas was a Jewish priest from Cyprus, whose real name was Joseph. The Apostles preferred to use his nickname, which is translated Son of Encouragement (Acts 4:36).
Every single pastor and ministry leader needs a Barnabas who will speak words of encouragement into our lives and ministries.
A Barnabas Will Be Unselfish
Barnabas sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36-37).
You have enough takers in your world. A Barnabas is the type of friend who will think of your needs as more important than his own (Phil. 2:3).
A Barnabas Will Be Loyal
When the Jerusalem church leaders sent Barnabas to Antioch to preach, he took along a risky new convert named Saul (aka: Paul). Paul had a reputation for persecuting Christians before his conversion, and few assumed Paul was really a Christian. However, the Apostles trusted Barnabas, and Barnabas trusted Paul. Otherwise Paul may not have gotten his first ministry opportunity (Acts 11:22-30).
A Barnabas Will Be Mature
When the church at Antioch began to grow exponentially through the conversion of Gentiles, the leaders in Jerusalem got a little nervous. They sent Barnabas to check it out, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith (Acts 11:24).
We all need a confidant to share victories and defeats with--someone to talk us off the cliff of ministry suicide when we are on the verge of a tantrum.
A Barnabas Will Be Humble
Paul was a good writer and speaker, yet there was no evidence of Barnabas doing either. Most Christians are not called or gifted to take up the pen or microphone, so we may be tempted to assume that our gifts are inferior to those on stage.
Somewhere along the way, “Barnabas and Paul” became “Paul and Barnabas.” A change that Dr. Luke subtly, but intentionally makes in the book of Acts.
A Barnabas Will Be Bold
Barnabas was more than just a nice guy. He didn’t back down to Paul when they had a sharp disagreement about Mark (Acts 15:36-39). Sons of encouragement don't look casually beyond our weaknesses, they walk through those challenges with us.
Some lead best from the stage, while others like Barnabas, lead best from the shadows. While Barnabas is not credited with having written a word of the New Testament, through his impact on the lives of the Apostle Paul and John Mark and their subsequent influence on other writers, it is possible to say that Barnabas had a significant role in sixty percent of the New Testament. That would make him truly an “unsung hero” of the New Testament, a background guy who shunned the spotlight.
This post is dedicated to Craig Miller, who died on June 12. Craig has been a great friend and Barnabas-type encourager to me for 33 years, as well as to thousands of other pastors, missionaries, and church leaders. His legacy lives on through his family and ministry Thirst No More.