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Pastoring NewSpring Church after Perry Noble

Clayton King never expected to be a senior pastor. Now he leads one of the largest churches in America.

Clayton King has been preaching since he was 14. When he went to college at Gardner-Webb University, he preached throughout South Carolina and into North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Louisiana. By the time he graduated in 1995, he had formed a non-profit ministry—Clayton King Ministries— and a summer camp ministry—Crossroads Summer Camps.

In the late 1990s, Clayton’s friend Perry Noble launched NewSpring Church—now one of the largest congregations in America, with 17 campuses across South Carolina—out of a Bible study held on Anderson University’s campus. From those early days, Clayton was involved with NewSpring and would occasionally preach. He kept close ties to the church, and about a decade ago, he began serving NewSpring as one of its teaching pastors.

When NewSpring Church’s leadership decided to remove senior pastor Perry Noble for issues related to alcohol abuse, they knew their congregation needed stability. They turned to someone the congregation knew, Clayton King, who stepped in as interim senior pastor.

Georgia pastor Maina Mwaura sat down with Clayton at NewSpring’s main campus in Anderson, South Carolina—not far from the small textile and farming community of Fountain Inn where Clayton grew up—to discuss his new role and the difficulties of ministering to a congregation during a season of traumatic transition.

What was it like getting the call from NewSpring’s leadership after Perry Noble’s departure: “Clayton, we need you to take over”?

It was unexpected. It was during the busiest season of my life. I was working 12- to 14-hour days with our camp ministry, and I was preaching on the weekends. I was traveling a good bit because I’m an evangelist.

I had planned to take some time off this fall. I’ve never really had any form of sabbatical in my life after 29 years of ministry, so on August 1, I was going to start a diminished travel schedule to rest and recuperate. I thought I was planning a six-month sabbatical to rest, but the Lord was clearing my schedule so I could step in and help our team here at the church.

My wife and I love NewSpring, and our goal has always been to serve the local church with our non-profit. When everything happened this summer and the leadership said, “We would love to invite you in as interim; would you be willing?” it was an automatic yes.

My challenge has never been waiting too long. My challenge has been jumping too fast. So I prayed about it, and I wanted to make sure my wife felt peace in her heart. I don’t make any big decision without running it by my wife because of her spiritual gift of discernment. And she felt at peace about it too.

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