Perry Noble: What Grace Begins …

“Bill Hybels coined a phrase years ago that is true of me: The rate at which I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me."

How did you react to the chaos of your youth?

After my mom died, I started down a pretty intense path of rebellion. Between the ages of 12 and 18, I sinned very well. I think I broke every commandment but one—I didn’t kill anyone, but I wanted to. I became addicted to pornography when I was 14 and was sexually promiscuous. Just about everything you could do as a rebellious teenager, I did it. I wasn’t afraid to get hammered on the weekends or during the week, for that matter. I was just that guy.

When did you come back to the church?

When I was 18, there was this guy who sat in front of me in my English class who invited me to his church. He was like, “Hey man, why don’t you come to my church and play basketball in front of a lot of hot girls?” That was an invitation I found hard to turn down.

Is it safe to say you weren’t really pursuing God?

[Laughing] Thankfully, God was pursuing me. The youth pastor gave me this paperback NIV because I came to the Bible study four weeks in a row. I had tried to read the Bible a couple of times, but all I had was a KJV, and I would always get confused. After I started reading the NIV that night, I couldn’t put it down. I remember thinking that this was the most interesting book I had ever read.

When did you become a Christian?

The funny thing is that I thought I was a Christian. When I was 5 years old, we went to a Baptist church where the pastor would preach for an hour and a half on four topics: drinking, cussing, smoking and Elvis Presley. After one of his sermons, I walked the aisle to pray. The pastor, who was a humongous man, thought I was praying to receive Christ. I was crying, and he thought it was the Holy Spirit, but I was scared to death. I always thought that was my conversion experience. I was going to heaven because that guy scared the hell out of me. I finally came face to face with the fact that I had never truly made the decision to trust Christ with my life. So on May 27, 1990, I said, “All right Lord, here’s my life. I’m going to open up my heart. You come in. You take over.” I have tried to pray that same prayer every morning since: “Hey God, today is yours; let’s do what you want to do.

What was the difference between those two “conversions?”

When I was 5, it was out of fear. I was keeping the rules. When I finally met Christ in 1990, I understood it was about a relationship. It wasn’t like I had to dot some i’s, cross some t’s, and do all of this stuff and then one day when I’m good enough, God approves and will receive and accept me. He accepts me because of Christ, and now I do my best to try to live for him, and even when I screw up he really does still love me.

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When did you feel the call into ministry?

After my mom died, my dad told me that when I was born, they cleaned me up and handed me to my mom. My mom looked at my dad and said, “This is my preacher.” I think I always sensed that my calling was into ministry, but I was running from it. Growing up, I wanted to play football for the Dallas Cowboys, but I sucked at football. Then I thought about being an accountant, which is hilarious. I praise God for accountants, and I also praise him I’m not one of them, because I would be a broke, starving accountant. I was very scattered in terms of knowing what I wanted to do, but when I met Christ it was clear I was supposed to go into ministry. I always tell people you can’t truly know what you were called to do until you meet the Creator, who created you for his purposes and not your own.