There is a well-known saying circulated among believers about the nature of sin. “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, it will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you more than you want to pay.”
I thought about those words as I read an interview with Perry Noble who resigned his pastorate of the church that he founded sixteen years ago, NewSpring Church in South Carolina, because of a drinking problem. Perry speaks openly about how his growing dependence on alcohol to help cope with the pressures of pastoring cost him that very pastorate, and strained his relationship with his family. His counselor advised him to share some “extremely unwise decisions” he had made.
“I chose isolation over community,” Perry said. Shame and the fear of discovery caused him to withdraw within himself and from the life of the church, the very people whose help he so desperately needed. “I was a hypocrite” he said, “I preached, ‘you can’t do life alone’ and then went out and lived the opposite.”
The most hurtful decision Perry said was “choosing alcohol over his wife…and daughter.” Retreating into himself he deprived them of a needed husband and father. This almost cost him his family.
Another bad decision was not asking for help. Perry admitted, “I chose to remain silent.” Of course this goes hand-in-hand with isolation; whom can you speak with if you withdraw from their company?
I have already addressed whether drinking alcohol is a sin back when the news of Perry’s resignation became known and will not readdress it here. But drinking had become a sin for Perry when it became a substitute for his dependence on God. He knows “I’ve been forgiven for the sin, but I must now deal with the consequences.”
This is the heartbreak of sin, the consequences. A pastorate lost, a family almost destroyed, and a tarnished testimony seen by all. I think Perry would admit sin took him father than he wanted to go, made him stay longer than he wanted to stay, and cost him more than he wanted to pay.
Perry’s story is painful to write about. He had critics in the church and enemies without, but this is not the time for those who were jealous of him for building a home Bible study into a megachurch to gloat, or for his critics to kick him while he is down.
Paul enjoins us when he writes, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted,” Galatians 6:1.
I think Perry has learned his lesson and been forgiven, and I pray his return to the Gospel ministry will be attended by even greater success than before.