Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Premier Preacher fall’s from grace!

               I recently read several Facebook posts and articles that stated Rev. Perry Noble the former senior pastor at NewSpring Church, a mega-church located in Anderson, South Carolina had been removed by his board over Alcohol related issues.

               I have been an Alcohol and Drug counselor for over 25 years, and involved in pastoral ministry for over 35 years, I have seen dozens of pastors stumble for various reasons. Alcoholism is one of those things that have destroyed many pastors’ ministries, and marriages.  However, with the changing culture I’m totally surprised that they didn’t come up with another reason.  When I did my doctoral dissertation several years ago, and asked pastors about the perception of alcoholism and alcohol use, I was amazed at the number of pastors that thought it was OK for their members and themselves to drink.

               The question that we all must answer is when does it become a problem? I ask four questions of my patients. (1) Has drinking affected your family and friends (2) has your drinking affected your finical situation (3) has your drinking affected your legal situation and lastly (4) has drinking alcohol affected your health, either your physical health or psychological health. If you answer yes to anyone of these then you need to take a serious look at your drinking habit. Why people drink alcohol has as many answers as people who drink. However, the reality is that alcoholism (or drunkenness as the Bible calls it) is a problem that needs to be addressed.  There will remain a debate of the various views of the sin concept of drunkenness verses the disease concept of alcoholism/addiction.

               How the church responds to Pastor Noble and others in the church will be an interesting lesson in love, forgiveness, and helping.  I see the church from both the pastor’s side and counselor side, and I believe that there are three things that must happen.  Keeping in mind these are my own opinions!
  1.  The church must be willing get their head out of the sand, and to accept their role in this problem. I feel that role will be to have an open discussion of our views of alcoholism. This includes the stress factors we place on pastors, what we are teaching the individuals within our churches, and how we view alcohol consumption both privately and at social events around the country.
  2.  The church must be ready to help! I have watched too many churches condemn alcohol and drug addicts, without as much as a prayer for the individuals suffering from the illness or problem.  Sadly the likely hood of most churches providing treatment or in most cases even supporting the person going to a recovery 12 step program is out of the question.  The church has turned this problem over to the Para-church ministries like rescue missions, teen challenge, and secular counseling agencies. Without a doubt we have missed some of the greatest opportunities for ministry.
  3.  The church must be willing to not judge, but support individuals that need help. Let me be clear I’m not saying that alcoholism/drug addiction or any numbers of other addictions are not bad and out of the will of God for individuals lives. However, as a church we have come to make exceptions for a number of sinful or as some simply put bad judgment until it comes to alcohol/addiction and other peeves.

I can hear the critics now of this blog post, your making this all about the church.  As a pastor, alcohol and drug counselor, and having grown up around alcoholics in reality in some ways is it all about the church.  We have failed society but changing God’s word to mean what we want it to say, we have allowed sinful behavior to be accepted as just poor judgment, and we have failed to hold each other accountable for our actions.  Then when an individual’s world starts coming apart, we rip them a new one.  Some individuals have embraced us, and our self-righteous position. 

Folks, I don’t know what Life Spring Church did or didn’t do to help Pastor Noble prior to his being asked to step down.  I hope and pray that they did more than make demands. However, that doesn’t excuse us from showing love, support, encouragement, and providing a loving shoulder for him and his family through this difficult time. I have learned the hard way from church members, patients/clients, and family we are only one crisis or problem from being an alcoholic, drug addict, physically sick, or maybe even mentally ill.  It is time to get our head out of the sand and start being a part of the solution and not continue to be a part of the problem.

        While reviewing the blog post with a colleague and friend, he shared some unique insight that I had not thought of at the time of writing this post.  One of things that we often overlook is the number of pastors that have grown up in alcoholic and/or dysfunctional families/home’s and were able to find an escape through the church and their personal relationship with Christ.  However, if a person has not truly addressed the root cause of the addiction in themselves and their family they are destined to repeat the patterns themselves.  This could be in the form of using Alcohol or drugs, or other compulsive, sinful behaviors such as sex, food, drugs, shopping, pornography, gambling, and etc.

Remembering the sin of the father affects the child, and as a church we need to provide a safe and loving place for people to heal and find emotional support when addressing the physical illness, but when addressing the addictive destructive of the use of alcohol.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Wow, what a week it was and isn’t even over yet!

            Four young Black Men killed by police officers, 5 police officers killed, and at least two innocent bystanders and demands for justice from all sides. In each case there are already accusations that it was about racism, political leaders have made up their minds and are calling for various outcomes. Some will demand the prosecution of police officers that are involved; others will demand stricter gun control.  Some will hide their head in the sand. Across America this same week dozen of people died as a result of violent acts of individuals. Some of it is was self-defense, other was premeditated murder. Regardless of the outcome individuals are dead.

            Before preachers, social activists, and politician, and the guy of the street starts re-acting and saying things that could incite others to make unhealthy choices we need to STOP and ACT,  I believe that there are three things we can and must do using the Acrostic of ACTS.

1.     Ask Question … We will only find the facts when we ask questions, as a Alcohol and Drug counselor I teach my patients there are three sides to every story, your side that you believe is true based on your facts or perception of the event; the others person beliefs based on their perception or facts of the event; and then there is the TRUTH based on a clear overview of the events from a discussion and observation of what happen. 
a.      What happen?
b.     Why did you do what you did?
c.      What did the other person do?
d.     What did you see?
e.      What do all the videos that are available show?
f.       What do the other witnesses say?

2.     Challenge … I have to challenge my thinking, realizing that my pre-determined assumptions of the events may not be accurate.  I remember listening to friends in the past when there was officer involved shootings, the assumption from the minute the news broke was that the officer did something wrong.  No investigation, no facts, no questions, just an assumption. However, let’s be clear there are those on the other side of the fence as well, the assumption that the person being shot did something to deserve it.  Growing up I was taught by my father, a retired Air Force Sargent, don’t assume anything.  “When you assume, you make an Ass-of-u-and me”
It is time we lose the assumptions, and time we rely on the facts.

3.     Talking it out … Several months ago I heard a prosecutor in a case belittle and criticize an officer involved in a shooting of an unarmed black man. Over the years I have had the upmost respect for that particular prosecutor, around where I live. However, that day it went out the window. He watched a video, and has assumed he had as all the answers. He didn’t allow the investigation, he didn’t hear the facts, and he assumed he had all the answer.

How are we going to stop the stereotyping of black men as being criminals and police officers being corrupt and trigger happy. That every white person that disagrees with the African American community is racist, I’m going to step on a limb here.  It is time for the Pastors and other religious leaders of America to quit acting like selfish self-center brats, promoting a personal agenda that is destructive, and step up and be the man of God, you have been called to be.  Sunday morning at 11:00 remains the most segregated time in America, I realize that some communities this is due to the population being overwhelming one group of people. However, have you ever sat down in your community and talked with the other pastors, or are you assuming you know what he thinks.

When the church as a whole steps out of the business of condoning sin; including the sin of racism, only then will we see the heart of America change. When pastors, preach the love of Christ for all mankind then America will have a chance to change the course of our current history.  Some would argue this isn’t a pastors or church issue, and I would argue that clearly it is as throughout history the church has been the moral compass of the nation, how the church goes the nation goes.

There is an old children’s’ song “Red, and yellow, black and white they are all precious in HIS sight” … WE NEED TO STOP THE HATE, ANGER,  AND VIEW HOW PRECIOUS WE ARE FROM GOD’S LOVE.

Sad day in American history!

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