In his first Anderson sermon in more than a year, ousted NewSpring Church founder Perry Noble touched on his rehab for drinking and on facing down his internal Goliaths.
Noble said his time in rehab, and nearly losing everything, may have been worth it for just one person.
A man he called Frank, a pseudonym because of the anonymity of rehab, came to Noble and asked for a memorial service for his mother who died. Noble said he gave a short memorial, just the two of them.
Afterward, Noble said, he asked the man about his plans for the afterlife and he was able to bring his friend to Jesus.
His service Wednesday, wrapping up a month of revivals at Powerhouse Christian Church, was important for people to hear because Noble has seen real struggles, said the Rev. Lenny Gaines, founder of the church.
Gaines, introduced Noble, who needed no introduction to the crowd of supporters, many of whom wore NewSpring shirts and shook Noble's hand.
"God is a God of another chance, and another chance and another chance," Gaines said.
When Noble took the stage, and caught a water bottle someone tossed to him, he quickly addressed his own demons, to applause and shouts of support from the congregation.
He said people had no idea of how much of a problem drinking alcohol had been for him but he learned quite a bit from his fall.
The past year, Noble said, had taught him more about God's mercy and gifts than the previous four decades of his life.
Bouncing between jokes that left the crowd laughing and short but personal stories about his recovery, he grabbed the congregation from the first moment.
Thomas Jefferson Warwick III said he was one of the first 15 members at NewSpring Church and he came to support Noble.
Noble stuck with a theme of overcoming obstacles, using David's fight with Goliath as an anchor to his sermon.
Gaines said Noble's public struggles — he was ousted a year ago from the church he founded, with alcohol being cited among other reasons — have given him insight.
"He has a renewed spirit and is excited about teaching Jesus' message," Gaines said. "This is someone who, people said 'failed in God' but has come out with an even bolder message of encouragement."The two have a lot in common and have become friends over the past few weeks, Gaines said.
"He's not just a guest preacher," Gaines said.
Noble founded one of the nation's largest churches in an Anderson apartment in the late 1990s. Gaines too has seen his church grow, from three people in a room in 2003 to a building that can house 350 people.
Noble has preached at several other churches since he was fired on July 1, 2016. Congregation members were told the well-kept secret on July 10, 2016.
He delivered a sermon Sunday at Elevation Church in North Carolina.
NewSpring is the largest church in South Carolina and has a weekly attendance of more than 30,000 at campuses in 15 cities in the state.