ANDERSON, S.C. — In light of Perry Noble’s recent firing from South Carolina’s NewSpring Church over admitted alcohol abuse, a pastor in California is sharing about his personal struggle with alcohol and warning Christian leaders not to “flaunt” their perceived personal liberties.
As previously reported, Executive Pastor Shane Duffey announced to the NewSpring congregation on Sunday that Noble had been removed as senior pastor effective July 1. Duffey stated that Noble “had made unfortunate choices and decisions that have caused much concern” and made him “no longer qualified to serve as pastor.”
He also read a statement written by Noble, who expressed his remorse for his life choices.
“I never had a problem drinking alcohol socially, but in the past year or so I have allowed myself to slide into, in my opinion, the overuse of alcohol,” he said. “This was a spiritual and moral mistake on my part as I began to depend on alcohol for my refuge instead of Jesus and others.”
“I have no excuse; this was wrong, sinful and I am truly sorry,” Noble continued. “For those who are disappointed in me, let me assure you no one is more disappointed in me than myself. I realize that I cannot continue to do effective ministry if this issue in my personal life is not adequately addressed.”
Noble also posted a video message to social media on Wednesday, during which he advised that he will be checking into a treatment facility.
“I am taking steps to get better,” he said. “I am serious about fighting for my wife and my daughter, and I am serious about following Jesus. That has not changed.”
Noble said that he believes NewSpring made the right decision to remove him as pastor, noting that as a result, “God has gotten my attention.”
In light of the news report about Noble’s abuse of alcohol, Shane Idleman, pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, is now sharing his own story and the lesson he learned from behind the pulpit—as he too once viewed alcohol as a liberty.
“Alcohol is a dangerous liberty,” he wrote in an article for the Christian Post. “I learned this lesson the hard way, even as a Christian involved in ministry.”
“I could have a beer or two on special occasions, but because of my past problem with alcohol as a young adult, the addiction was always ready to take hold of me again. It took an embarrassing situation, and a subsequent relapse for me to realize that my supposed ‘liberty’ was really an opportunity to awaken a dormant addiction,” Idleman outlined.
“I apologized to those I affected. I also told my wife and a few trusted friends that I could no longer exercise this liberty; it was too easy to digress beyond the boundaries of responsibility,” he explained. “God used this situation to reveal my blind-spots.”
He expressed his concerns over what he sees as a growing problem in the visible Church, including with the “flaunting” of one’s perceived liberties.
“The trend of young Christian leaders consuming alcohol on a regular basis is alarming. Many will look back and regret the damage that was done to lives, churches, and their own testimony,” Idleman stated. “We often flaunt liberty and laugh in the face of God’s grace by posting our favorite beer brands and wines on Facebook, all under the guise of ‘exercising liberty.’ If you’re in any position of leadership, please don’t do this.”
“We cannot calculate how many people are affected by today’s social media. A person with 500 ‘friends’ may be encouraging dozens to stumble. It is the selfless motivation of love that keeps us from causing others to stumble (cf. Romans 14),” he noted.
Idleman said that those who see alcohol as a liberty should keep it private lest they cause others to fall into sin.
“A few years ago, I attended a conference where pastors were encouraged to meet at a pub after the general sessions. A few of these pastors could exercise their liberty, but why publicly? I wondered how many people at the conference stumbled because of it,” he explained.
“Personally, I believe that abstinence should be practiced by most Christians, especially if they drink often and in excess (these can be signs of alcoholism),” Idleman opined. “And this is especially true of leadership. The list of men and women who have lost a great deal because of alcohol is proof enough that liberty has limits.”