Elgin residents Marcus and Chanelle Sharper showed up a week ago at NewSpring Church in Columbia for just their second attendance, unaware that they, along with the congregation, were about to be broadsided by a beam, not exactly from heaven.
The couple and their two young sons, invited by one of Chanelle Sharper’s co-workers to attend service at NewSpring’s Northeast Richland campus, heard through that Sunday sermon broadcast live from the main campus in Anderson that church founder and Pastor Perry Noble had been removed.
But this Sunday, the Sharper family showed up again at NewSpring, to the message that the church – with its main Upstate campus, plus 30,000 strong in satellites statewide – will carry on.
“We are moving forward with the Good News. … People need to hear it,” said interim Senior Pastor Clayton King, who succeeded Noble last week.
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King, in an energetic sermon, called for everyone to “come to the table” – an allusion to the Gospels – and get to know one another face-to-face, rather than relying on social media.
The message of unity was a welcome one, following Noble’s firing.
And in spite of the controversy with Noble, the Sharpers like what they’ve seen at NewSpring’s Northeast Richland campus, which meets at Spring Valley High School.
“We like the way that it is not a traditional service – they use a lot of technology, tying in the many campuses,” said Marcus Sharper. “I like the idea of having the unified church model where everybody is getting the same message.”
In the traditional church, be it in the Baptist denomination, Presbyterian or Methodist, as the Sharpers are current members of, the message can differ significantly intra-denominationally, from one messenger to the next depending on the pastor’s agenda, Marcus Sharper said.
Everybody getting the same message is important to the Sharpers, they both said. “I think they take the universal approach and not just one way of delivering it,” said Chanelle Sharper, noting the family has not left its Methodist roots to join NewSpring but instead is “taking it nice and slow” for now, simply exploring.
Noble was fired by the church’s board of directors over concerns regarding his personal behavior and spiritual walk, according to a posting on the church’s website, www.newspring.cc.
The church also posted a statement from Noble, who said he would seek both spiritual guidance and psychiatric treatment.
“In my opinion, the Bible does not prohibit the use of alcohol, but it does prohibit drunkenness and intoxication,” Noble’s statement on the church website read. “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.”
The Sharpers said they appreciated NewSpring Church’s open way of publicly disclosing the issue and the resulting changes to their congregations last week, even if the matter caught them by surprise.
“They ... advised the members (called owners by NewSpring Church congregants) not to get involved in any of the social media stuff that could bring a negative light on the situation, and that really, it is just life – life that happens and things change,” Marcus Sharper said. “I was really impressed by that, too.”
Attendance this week at the Northeast Richland church seemed comparable to previous weekend services, some at the church said.
NewSpring Church has 17 campus locations in South Carolina, including three in the Columbia area on Broad River Road, Augusta Highway in Lexington as well as the Northeast Richland location.
Pastor Robbie Green, of the Northeast Richland campus, declined comment, citing Sunday at a day for worship.
“Our focus on Sunday is to serve people attending our church well,” said Suzanne Swift, a church spokesman in an e-mail Sunday. “We don’t want anything to interfere with people coming to church and hearing the gospel presented each week.”
More than 300 people were saved at the church’s various campus sites on Sunday before evening services, Swift said. Worshippers sang and freely raised their hands in praise during the Spring Valley service, reinforcing some of the parishioners’ comments that the church’s mission is mainly about a man who knew no sin.
“In the past week, we have been so overwhelmed with so much positive support of our church,” Swift said. “We understand people still have a lot to process, but today has been a great day at church.”
The Independent Mail contributed.
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398