Perry Noble, senior pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina, wants to see God do "big things" in his church, which is why he and the members of his congregation have been praying all week with the hope of seeing 3,000 people become saved during this weekend's services.
The "Pray for 3K" campaign was first mentioned three months ago, but it officially began last Sunday when Noble preached a sermon titled "Going for the Big Ask!" Each day since that time the church's blog has featured daily posts advising members how to pray so that the church can see Pentecost-sized numbers of people come to faith in Jesus Christ this weekend, Aug. 24-26.
Noble spoke with The Christian Post on Friday to talk more about the campaign and how he overcame the desire to keep his 3,000-person goal a secret.
CP: Tell me about the "Pray for 3K" initiative, how did it come about?
Noble: It's honestly been something that I've always dreamed about ever since I became a Christian. If you read through the Book of Acts, in Acts chapter two, the first time the Gospel was ever presented, the Bible says 3,000 people got saved.
Some people argue and say, "Do numbers matter?" And I'm like, well, they counted them then, and so something happened there so significant that somebody said, "Let's count these people that are coming to Christ." And I always thought, man, that would just be awesome to be a part of something like that. And so it was like one of those things you almost put on your bucket list, like hey, before I die I would like to see 3,000 people come to Christ.
And it just hit me a few months ago, actually while I was on my sabbatical, why wait? Why wait until "one day" if it's something that's biblical, it's not bad, a lot of people are going to get saved, why not just go ahead and pray and prepare for it and just try our best to go for it today?
CP: What was the main point behind your "Going for the Big Ask" message last week?
Noble: Actually, there were only two points to the message. "Ask them," which means let's go ask our friends and family members, let's go ask them to come to church next week because we're going to have a service that presents the Gospel, and then let's "ask Him," meaning Jesus, to do what he does and save people next Sunday.
A lot of times we'll pray for people but we won't invite them to church or won't talk to them about Christ. And then on the flip side a lot of times we'll go talk to people and invite them to church, but we've never prayed for them. And so I think it's not an "either-or," it's a "both and." You've got to be willing to ask of them to come to church and then ask Him to do something significant in their life.
CP: How fundamental has the idea of asking God for these big things been to the growth of your church?
Noble: We've been going about 12 years. We've always just kind of prayed. I call it "pray big" ... Let's ask the Lord to provide us with some land to build this campus on. Let's ask the Lord for the right staff to come into a particular position and fill it.
But this is the biggest "ask" we've ever called for. We've really planned and prepared and prayed for this, and my prayer is that it would be inspirational to the [universal] Church ... Hey, we really can attempt great things for God.
And then it would be inspirational to every person that comes to church. Let them be a part of asking the Lord to do something significant, and then He does it, and then they're like, "Oh my gosh. If He can do that for the church, then I need to pray for big things in my life as well." So I think the church wins, I think the individual in the church wins, and so we're just really excited about it.
CP: On an average weekend, about how many people attend NewSpring campuses for services?
Noble: This fall, so far, I would say we're averaging around 18,000 a weekend.
CP: Have you had a chance to research what the highest number of salvations was in a given weekend at NewSpring Church before?
Noble: We saw 1,000 people one time. There was a weekend within the last year that we saw a little over 1,000 people come to Christ.
CP: So this is obviously the biggest you've ever asked for, is that intimidating at all to you?
Noble: Oh yeah, absolutely ... The thing I thought at first was, "I'll pray for this privately and I won't let people know that I'm asking for something like this." But the more time I spent reading my Bible, praying ... I was like, the only reason I would not say this out loud is because I'm afraid that if I say it and it doesn't happen, it makes me look bad. Maybe it makes God look bad, or whatever.
And then I realized, the Lord doesn't need me to defend His reputation. He's going to do what He's going to do, and all through the Scripture He invites us to ask Him for big things. Jesus did it in John 14, John 15 and John 16 ... Jesus said in John 14:12, you'll do greater things than me, just ask.
So I was very intimidated but I'm like, you know what, I'm just going to say it. And at the end of the day if ... we're asking for 3,000 and 1,500 get saved, Oh darn! We're still 1,500 people short, but 1,500 people received the Lord. So I don't think it's bad, but I'm like ... I just really, really want to ask big for the rest of my life.
CP: I've had the opportunity to follow your blog posts this week, which are guiding the members of your church on what to pray for, specifically, each day. How do you motivate such a large group to pray fervently?
Noble: I think the big thing is: Keep it simple. I think one of the mistakes I've made as a church leader in the past several years is I've tried to give people too many steps, but the more simple you make it, everybody can kind of latch on to that.
So this week I said, hey, let's just go one week ... I would love for it to be a lifestyle change, I would love for people to do this for the rest of their life, but, hey, the way you eat an elephant is one bite at a time. So, hey, let's just for one week do everything possible to ask people to come to church, and then ask Jesus to save them. And even the person that's sitting in the congregation every Sunday that's got so much on their plate, they can at least nod their head and go, "You know what, I can do that. I can do that for one week. I can ask one person to come to church with me, and I can ask Jesus to save them. Yes, I can do that for one week. Sign me up."
CP: I know one of your big sayings is "found people find people." Can you speak about how prayer, combined with human effort, work together to see people come to know Christ?
Noble: I think it's imperative to understand that both of those things work together. Because if we pray for something, and we pray for somebody to receive Christ, but we're not willing to [share] Christ, then what we're saying is, "God, I want you to do all the work, but I'm not willing to partner with you in doing it." Which I think is basically a slap in the face of God.
On the flip side is sometimes we'll go out and try to do all this stuff on our own strength and our own ability ... and the problem is we never actually ask God for any direction, any help, anything. And so I think it's imperative that both of those things work together. And it seems to be an idea that I think our people really grabbed onto.
CP: What kind of message are you going to be preaching this Sunday, then, anticipating having a large group on non-Christians at all of your services?
Noble: Every church has what I call its "geographical challenges." So we're in the Southeast, we're basically in the state of South Carolina. And so one of the things I felt like I wanted to do was preach a message that I felt like everybody could connect with, Christians and non-Christians. So it's all coming back to a message on the cross, because you could be the most irreligious person on the planet, but if you live in the state of South Carolina you've seen a cross, you probably have a necklace or a pair of earrings with a cross on it, you've seen it.
But really explaining what the cross is and why it matters to us, what Jesus did there and why it matters – I think it's going to be one of those messages. And it's going to connect, I think, with people that have been in church for 50 years and the people that have been in church for 50 minutes. It's very simple. It's very direct. It's very to the point, and it calls for a specific response at the end for people to surrender their lives to Christ.
CP: Is there anything else you feel you should mention about this weekend?
Noble: Just that I hope that churches are really encouraged by it, to just ask God for big things in their church. I really think so many times we're afraid to ask for big things or we're afraid to articulate it, but the real reason why is because we're so obsessed with our own reputation. That was the case with me. And then, of course, I'm hoping that 3,000 people's lives, eternities, are altered and that we see God just do something that's more amazing than anything we've ever seen.