Today’s interview is with Perry Noble, founder and senior pastor of NewSpring Church, a multicampus church whose mission is to reach 100,000 people in South Carolina with the gospel. Noble’s first book, Unleash! Breaking Free from Normalcy was a New York Times bestseller. His second book, Overwhelmed? Winning the War against Worry, gives a candid account of Noble’s personal struggle with depression, and offers key insights into unlocking the chains of anxiety and despair, and living a joyful life focused on Christ.
1. In just 12 years, your congregation has grown to more than 30,000 people—what makes your church unique?
Honestly, this is a really hard question to answer. Our average attendance is 32,500 people, and we don’t believe there’s one specific thing that’s been the driving force in our growth. We believe God is working through people who work in our church. We can’t say it’s just all God because that implies that God is absent in other churches who aren’t growing like we are, and we don’t believe that’s true at all.
When we started NewSpring, we wanted a church where we could be excited about inviting our friends and family, and they would feel comfortable coming. Now 14 years later, we’re still focused on getting people excited about inviting friends and family to church, and we have a vision to reach 100,000 people for Jesus across the state of South Carolina.
2. On your blog, you never shy away from voicing your opinions on controversial subjects, like affairs within the church, treatment of homosexuals, and oft-ignored sexual sin. How do you stay motivated to continue sharing your concerns when there are so many outlets for critics to tear you down?
I honestly think one of the biggest problems in the church today is that it’s obsessed with answering questions no one is asking. Most people just aren’t struggling with understanding deep theological issues, and because of that we want to engage people like Jesus did—meeting them where they are and bringing them to where they need to be in a relationship with him.
People will always get offended—it’s inevitable. The question we have to ask is: would we rather offend religious people or lost people? When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, he offended the religious people at the same time he healed a lost person. I will take that trade any day of the week!
3. You started preaching about your personal struggle with depression about two years ago—what was your congregation’s reaction?
I was overwhelmed (in an awesome way) with an amazing amount of encouragement and support by my church when I shared my struggle with depression. Through sharing my experiences, I also realized this was something a lot of other people were dealing with. We did a series in 2012 called Overwhelmed, and it was by far one of our most viewed series online.
4. You’ve said Americans are “the richest and most depressed people in the world”—why do you think that is?
I think people are searching for fulfillment and meaning through their own efforts—jobs, money, cars, kids, hobbies—whatever the next big thing might be. The reality, though, is we’ll only be truly fulfilled when we have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
5. So often, when people struggle with depression, their knee-jerk reaction is to get medicated—what are your thoughts on this?
I think if someone is legitimately struggling with depression they need to ask for help immediately. For so long, I thought I should be able to pray away how I was feeling or snap out of it and if I did tell anyone what was going on, they would think I was a bad Christian or didn’t really love Jesus. That’s just not true and only by speaking up and asking for help was I able to see this. I don’t think anything is wrong with medication if it’s something a doctor recommends. If you needed medicine to fix your heart you would take that, so why wouldn’t you take medicine to help fix your brain?
6. So many Christians are feeling weighed down by depression and stress—what can the church do differently to help people?
Depression is a very real issue and it has impacted everyone—either it’s happened to us or someone we know. I think the church needs to talk about this issue and help people understand what the Bible says about overcoming fear, anxiety, and stress. The church should be a place where people meet Jesus, find hope, and have the courage to ask for help!
7. You’ve said, “Four of the godliest people in the Bible struggled with depression.” Why is it that churches don’t address this more often?
Depression is dark and lonely, and there is a misconception that Christians shouldn’t struggle with depression; if you love Jesus, you should just be able to pray it away. But that’s just not true!
Many times, if things are messy, the church doesn’t want to talk about it.
8. How can we use pain for our benefit?
In most cases, people will identify with your pain more than they will your success. Sharing stories of your past and where God has brought you from could help someone take the next step with Jesus. If God can use my pain for someone else’s progress, then I want him to use it!
9. What’s the number-one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
My hope is that this book brings people to a place of victory where they are hopeful, not despairing; peaceful, not anxious; and free, not overwhelmed! Depression, anxiety, and fear are very real struggles, however, in Christ we can overcome it! I am living proof that it is possible to overcome being overwhelmed.
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Stop being held back by life’s everyday struggles, and learn to overcome stress and anxiety. Get Perry Noble’s new book, Overwhelmed? Winning the War against Worry, and discover how to live a joy-filled life that’s free of depression and focused on God.