do i really believe in redemption? :: ted haggard’s return to church leadership

June 3, 2010

I am conflicted.  And I’m conflicted about being conflicted.

On June 2, 2010, fallen pastor and former leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard, announced his plan to launch and pastor a new church in the Colorado Springs area this upcoming Sunday, June 6.  Here is the video of his public announcement…

Thanks to Mike Foster and the profoundly inspiring People of the Second Chance blog for bringing this to my attention.  UPDATE:  For a clear and simple timeline on the history of Ted Haggard’s ministry from author Jason Boyett, click here.

This news spawned some significant cognitive dissonance in me.  On one hand, I actually feel some anger at Ted Haggard.  We’ve never met.  But his public fall from grace – and his profoundly hypocritical public stand against homosexuality while (at least) dabbling with it (if not much more) behind closed doors – hurt the reputation of the faith I love.  Pastor Ted was a public representative of Jesus – both to those inside and outside of the Church.  How many souls turned away from Jesus in disgust, seeing such reckless hypocrisy?  Every human being is weak and sinful, yes.  But another evangelical leader?  Really?  Satan must have revelled in the fallout.

That’s on the one hand.

On the other hand, I believe to my core heart of hearts that when God forgives, the sin is gone.  He is in the business of REDEMPTION.  And I love to see Christian leaders brought beyond discipline to RESTORATION.  I love it.  It is the power of the Gospel on display.  It is the story of Christ’s victory lived out in the local congregation.  Restoration of the fallen is unique in the Church – and it brings me deep joy.

I can’t give names, times, or details, but I can say this…  I have personally witnessed this process, in all of its beauty and power, with two close friends and ministry leaders I know well.  They owned their sin.  Confessed it.  Repented to church leaders and to their congregations.  They were removed from ministry for a season.  They sought out forgiveness.  They remained in humble submission to authority.  And in the right time, after an appropriate season away, they were restored to ministry positions where their gifts were used to honor God and build up the church.

Every time I hear that kind of story, I want to cheer.  Redemption on display!  Isn’t it AWESOME?

So what is it about Ted Haggard’s return to ministry that has me conflicted?  Am I still holding him in judgement?  That’s not my job.  Do I feel that he hasn’t had an appropriate time away from ministry?  Who am I to say?  I have decided to forgive Ted Haggard for the insult he represented to my Jesus and His Bride.  And yet I know that just because God can forgive completely and forget sin forever, and even other believers can forgive in our limited way, consequences of our choices remain.  Often for years.  Often for the rest of our life on earth.  Is that what I expect for Ted Haggard?

I’m starting to believe that Mike from POTSC is right.  I’m starting to believe that the most God-honoring stand to take in a redemption story like this is on the side of the sinner being restored.  I’m still conflicted.  But I suspect that my struggle with this has more to do with my own sin of judgement than it does with Ted Haggard’s readiness to minister.

What do you think?

  

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

27 responses to do i really believe in redemption? :: ted haggard’s return to church leadership

  1. It’s amazing how easy it is for us to focus on the need for judgement rather than our need for mercy. (I’m not saying this is your stance, you’ve actually been quite open and honest… but I’ve seen a lot of people in the church talk this way).
    It’s as though we know that Jesus’ default position is to give mercy and we have been trying to bring ‘balance’ ever since. It’s especially interesting how someone we don’t even know can offend us so deeply and personally and, on top of all that, we feel that we have the unique position to offer approval for someone else’s decisions. When you think about it, that’s kinda weird. I understand that we’re talking about a faith we all believe in, and someone else actions will end up reflecting on us, but still…

    I’ve actually known Ted Haggard for nearly 10 years. I’ve seen him at his highest and his lowest. I’ve seen his family stick with him in the darkest and deadliest time of his life. I saw most of his friends desert him when he needed them the most and, with a few exceptions, I saw the worldwide church turn it’s back on him when he asked for help and healing.

    I think it’s an absolute miracle that Ted still wants to be associated with the ‘church’, let alone actually start a new one. He is a pastor. That’s what he was born to do and he’s an excellent one. He’s not perfect and he has made mistakes and he will probably make more in the future. But it is not our job to focus on that. Our job is to find out what God is saying about a person and focus on THAT. Is God still calling Ted “sinner”, “failure” or “hypocrite”? If God isn’t, it’s coming from somewhere else, and I don’t want to echo anything that is not from God!

    Just my 2 cents worth…
    Thanks fo the post.

    • Thanks so much for adding your voice here. I really have no idea what kind of dialogue will be generated here. I think I agree with you… from a scriptural perspective, I believe that redemption is the goal. I’m still a little wary of Ted, but time will tell. And it is NOT my role to judge him. I’m open to hear what others have to say about this. We’ll see. Thanks for your perspective – it’s much appreciated, brother. God bless!

      • I sat under Ted Haggard’s preaching for a couple summers while staying with my family in Colorado. Hearing on the news of his “fall from grace” was incredibly disheartening and disillusioning. How much of his ministry was “real” and were the lives that were changed under his shepherding really changed…these were all questions I pondered. The more I look for the truth through this situation, the more I see Satan’s smiling face through it all – including my judgment. The target on Ted Haggard’s back was huge in the enemy’s eyes and so also the hot mess it left behind. Does my continued bitterness and judgment further the kingdom or fuel Satan’s fire…I believe the truth is in the latter. If Christ wants to do more work through TH then it will be so, and if his new ministry pursuits prove fruitless – then that is how God intends it.

        • Mary – I can hear your internal struggle with this. I really feel that, too. But to be honest, the more I let this sit with me, the more convinced I am that what breathes more life and more energy and more TRUTH into the Kingdom work that God is doing is GRACE. Forgiveness. Redemption. I agree that if God is in this new ministry, it will bear fruit – real spiritual fruit that will last for eternity. If God is not in it, Ted will have no power on his own to do anything lasting. God is sovereign. And I think that’s actually further evidence that we ought to pray for Pastor Haggard, and resist our inner urge to hold judgement over him. I once heard our judgement of other people (or lack of forgiveness) described in a lack of trust in God to administer His perfect justice. Sounds right to me. When we don’t and won’t forgive, we are bbasically saying to God, “I don’t believe that you have this situation under control.” I want to repent of that attitude in my heart. Lord, have your way. Amen.

          Thanks Mary. God bless you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I love hearing from people with a unique perspective – it is appreciated.

  2. I’m with you here. I really don’t know how to feel about it. Being from Gen Y, I am immediately cynical. How many time have I seen this play out in just my lifetime? But cynicism is the great Sin of my generation, so maybe there’s something wrong with me.

    I’ve posted an old article from John MacArthur called, “Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?” on my blog at http://stephencollins.tumblr.com. I think he has some great perspective on this issue.

    • Oh man, Stephen… the plot thickens. 🙂 This is not an easy answer. To everyone else perusing these comments: PLEASE check out the article posted on Stephen’s blog. It is a very important perspective on this discussion. Again, you can find it here >> http://stephencollins.tumblr.com.

      As I mentioned in your blog comments, I DEEPLY appreciate your insight and addition to the discussion. The jury is still out for me, I’m afraid. I have seen leaders restored following sexual sin – and then seen their ministries flourish and bear fruit. But Paul does seem to talk about the possibility of being “disqualified” from leadership… and the Bible is my authority. However, I’m not sure if that “disqualification” (I Corinthians 9:27) is permanent, or temporary?

      Anyway, thank you.

  3. What a loaded topic! This brings two mind two examples from the Bible. One was when Moses disobeyed God when leading God’s people through the wilderness, which cost him the privilege of leading them into the promised land. The other was King David, who committed adultery, but was allowed to continue in his service as king.

    Who knows the heart of man or the heart of God? I must confess, when reading this and watching the video, I was immediately indignant. Then I asked why? I have no idea if this is God’s will, and based on the video, I couldn’t tell if I was looking at a broken man or an impostor.

    He can start a church if he wants; given the opportunity, I probably wouldn’t go due to the higher standard to which the Bible holds church leaders. (1 Tim 3) Unfortunately, his past has become a stumbling block.

    As a leader, I think we are right to be wary. As a man…most of us were shaking our heads instead of praying for him during his fall from grace; it’s not to much to ask to take a break and ensure that God’s grace is abounding all the more in this man’s life.

    • Luke – I love your thoughts on this. I see the dichotomy in your examples of Moses and David, and you’re right. God is sovereign, and however He chooses to discipline, rebuke, or reform and renew His children is purely up to him.

      I think “wary” is a good word. I don’t want to continue to hold Ted Haggard in judgement if he is forgiven and now called to this new work. That would be sin. However, there is a broken track record with Pastor Haggard, and trust must be earned. I guess what stands in the gap is GRACE. Not foolhardy naivete, but intentional grace.

      More and more I am comiung to think that radical grace is a God-honoring life-style. If I’m going to err, let it be on the side of extending grace too quickly, rather than withholding it too long. I don’t want my stalwart, Bible-believing conservative brothers in the Church to worry about me here. I’m not talking about softening any of the moral standards in God’s Word. But I am talking about a counter-cultural, maybe counter-intuitive lifestyle of grace.

      We are, after all, called to be God’s Ambassadors of reconciliation (see II Corinthians 5:16-21).

      I love your brain and your heart, brother Luke. God bless you and your lady. 🙂

  4. Josh- good post. Restoration is the goal. A return to FT pastoral minstry is not necessary in order to call restoration successful. Restoration deals with the soul and relationships- with Christ and other believers, not necessarily vocation.

    You and I are not in position to make the call. But those who are- the team of loving leaders who have sacrifically invested in his restoration- say that Ted has not been accountable and has shunned their oversight- including his once self-prohibited idea of starting a new church- in the shadow of where his old church still stands.

    I strongly disagree with the commentor who sees the church as failed for “turning their backs when he cried for help.” I doubt that the perspective offered is as grounded as it claims. It sounds more like a cynical and stereotyped criticism of the Bride- cut and pasted from jaded cultural commentators.

    I, too, know people from New Life. They loved their pastor- and still do. He- not they- was the betrayer. Ted long isolated himself from accountability with very public authority claims. His fall was thus inevitable. This is the lesson we must learn- to quote a proverb and a friend of mine- “Iron sharpens iron-” but only if they get together. We need accountability.

    Further, the testimony of New Life is strong- which also validates the quality of Ted’s ministry- the integrity of the message is separate from that of the messenger. They didn’t panic or allow themselves to be shaken. Their hope wss Christ, and not a leader. I was imprssed and moved. SDG

    HB London’s take on this is informed- parsonage.org. And Josh, on a personal note, call my brother- He has news that may interest you.

    Wade

    • Pastor Wade, as always your insight is wise and Biblically informed. I, too, saw some of the comments from members on Ted’s leadership team – that his restoration was “incomplete” and that he was “getting ahead of himself” early in the process. Everything I have seen from New Life leads me to adgree with you – it is a healthy, Biblically functioning, Gospel-centered ministry, and that leads me to trust the judgement of the leadership team over the judgement of Pastor Ted.

      HOWEVER, how long is Ted Haggard accountable to the leaders at New Life? It’s an honest question. If he has left the ministry – actually left the state for a season – and has no intention of returning to ministry at New Life, is he still under the authority of the leaders there? Obviously, whether he is legally under their authority is a different question than whether or not he should heed their counsel. But how does that work?

      I’m wondering now what kind of accountability team Ted is gathering for this new church. I have no idea. If he is building this church from the ground up as a lone ranger, I want to wave red flags in the air and shout “DANGER! DANGER! RUN AWAY!”

      Wade, do you see clear Biblical evidence that a “fallen pastor” should be disqualified from vocational ministry for the rest of his life? Is there no room for restoration to leadership – after some appropriate season away, clear repentance, and new accountability standards? It is a puzzle. I don’t see a clear timeline attached to the scriptural qualifications of an overseer. For example, many crooks, theives, filanderers, fornicators, adulterers, you-name-its have been transformed by Jesus Christ and go on to live a redeemed life – including pastoring churches. After a fall, can a Pastor find the same kind of fresh start ion Jesus? Yes. But does the fact that he violated the requirements of an overseer in scripture disqualify him FOREVER, or just for a season?

      I’m torn. If I see clarity in the Bible, I won’t be torn anymore. Scripture is our authority. But I’m unclear here, and praying to be swayed and anchored in the Truth.

      Bless you and Michelle. I’ll give Paul a call, too. Thank you for taking the time to help me grow in thois discussion, brother. I value your insight deeply. God bless you and your church!

      • I really enjoy your questions- though I don’t often comment. I’ve been praying for you of late.

        To reply, I don’t think it’s an automatic Scriptural “lifetime ban.” It’s not like he bet on baseball. Yes, fresh starts are good and Godly- though God doesn’t claim that all the consequences of my sin melt away.

        My point isn’t that he is still employed/called by New Life. Rather, scripturally, has he kept his behavior excellent among the “Gentiles?” Has he been above reproach?

        Has he been above reproach? When provided a wise, gracious, Biblical path to restoration, he shunned the same. By all accounts of those caring for him in a tragic time, he didn’t heed the wise counsel provided for him.

        Do you want to give/receive accountability in the way that he has, or from the man himself? A congregation, in my understanding of polity, should be free to make that call. But if they checked his references how wise would that be?

        What to learn? Galatians 6:1-6 tells us that if we do not reprove a brother- or if we do so without the intent of restoration, we will soon likewise stumble. We all need to be accountable. I think it is probable that an accountability-light environment led to his original fall- and should be a warning to us all in our leadership structures- have genuine relationships with people who love you enough to straighten you up.

        My thoughts,
        WM

        • Excellent. Good clear thoughts, Wade. Thanks for taking the time to lay them out. I agree – accountability is key for ministry leaders. Friends who will speak the truth in love. I’m waiting and watching to see what kind of accountability team Pastor Ted has in place in this new church. That will be telling.

  5. Paul Johnston Sr June 4, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I am not that familiar with Ted Haggard’s ministry or his fall for that matter. I heard a limited amount about it. I am also conflicted because as a general rule I try not to live my life in a judgmental manner. Having read the article by John McArthur as referenced by Stephen above, I believe I would have to agree with him. By all means you must love your brethren in the Lord and rejoice when the prodigal comes home. It is our duty as Christians to forgive and restore. Yet, I believe there are some sins that can so damage reputation that another minister behind the pulpit would be more effective in the work of the Lord. Lets say that the individual involved is a male teacher who crosses the line with a female student. He may be sincerely sorry that such an act transpired. It might have been entirely out of character. Yet, I doubt there would be much outcry to return him to the classroom. It is a matter of breaking trust. It is not mean spirited vindictiveness. It does not mean that the Lord is through with a minister who falls. It simply means the consequences of his sin has made it impossible to lead effectively.I happen to believe that every Christian has a God given ministry and a truly contrite and repentant Christian can again become profitable. We do have to guard ourselves against self-righteousness and remember that as long as we are in this flesh we are all subject to the law of sin in our members. We must constantly be aware to walk by the Spirit not the flesh.Its a hard call but I believe McArthur is correct in his opinion. Sometimes it is not easy to speak the truth. Hate the sin, love the sinner, and if you are a minister act like one. That’s my opinion for what its worth.

    • Thanks for the input here Paul. I see that point of view clearly… broken trust. I would have a very hard time being a part of the new congregation Pastor Haggard is starting… He would need to somehow earn my trust again. For many, I think this lack of trust will be a stumbling block to hearing the Gospel. To others – those in his home prayer group, for example – it may not be. If Ted could do ANYTHING else – any secular vocation – and be fulfilled in it, I would encourage him to do so. If I knew him and had that open door into his life. However, if this is a God calling (and I’m not saying it is or isn’t – I simply do not know), he has to listen. He has to obey. Is that possible? Hard to say.

      I’m fairly certain I won’t come to any solid conclusion for a few days at least. Maybe longer. This is a case where, barring some newfound clarity from God’s Word, right now I’m saying I truly “feel strongly both ways.” 🙂

      Thanks Again Paul. I appreciate your thoughts. God bless!

      • Paul Johnston Sr June 4, 2010 at 10:32 pm

        The only additional clarity I can find in the Bible has to do with a minister that had failed his calling but apparently not for the same reason. Check out the following references.
        Acts 15:36-41 And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. (37) And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. (38) But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. (39) And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; (40) And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. (41) And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
        Paul took the hard line McArthur view. This fellow has proved himself unprofitable. I don’t want him associated with my efforts in the ministry. He had broken the trust that the Apostle Paul placed in him. Barnabas defended his friend and a heated argument broke out between these two great men of God on this very subject. The rest of the story is found in the following reference.
        2 Timothy 4:9-11 Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: (10) For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. (11) Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
        John Mark was restored to a position where the Apostle Paul again considered him profitable. He had regained his trust. Please note he was not a head pastor of a local church but worked under the watchful eye of his friend and mentor. There was accountability even in this great story of redemption. Paul was not necessarily wrong in his opinion. Regained trust must be earned and does take time. A leadership role without supervision is not recorded in Scriptures for John Mark.

  6. Josh,

    I encourage commentors to read the following from someone closely involved with the process:

    http://www.parsonage.org/images/pwbe/issues/PWBE-091113.cfm
    http://www.parsonage.org/images/pwbe/issues/PWBE-090109.cfm

    I also offer this encouragement- from one who is deeply and daily in need of God’s grace and restoration: In this discussion let’s be Biblically careful with our use of terms and Scriptural concepts. Some common errors complicate this discussion.

    In today’s culture merely disagreeing with someone is considered hateful, unloving, even “unChristian.” Don’t confuse “tolerance” or uncertainty with humility or accuracy.

    I want to speak a word for the virtue of judgment.

    God wants us to judge. We are called to judge the character of our leaders (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1). God says that if we lay hands on someone too hastily we share in their sins (1 Timothy 5:22). We are called to judge the accuracy of statements by prophets of old and teachers of now. (Jeremiah 28:9, for one example) The ability to discern good and evil is a mark of maturity (Hebrews 5:14).

    In fact, even the often-misquoted prohibition on judging (Matthew 7:1-2) tells us to do just that- judge. We are called to take the log out of our own eye so that we can remove the speck out of another. God is honored by the removal of both speck and log. To do otherwise is acceptance of our sin and rejection of God’s righteousness. What God objects to is trying to remove specks while our vision is still impaired by a log. The visual is hilarious.

    The prophets who spoke on God’s behalf practiced this principle, were accused of hating their nation and were imprisoned and killed. Meanwhile, false prophets spoke with rave reviews, speaking “peace, peace,” when there was no peace, thus “healing the wounds of My people lightly” (Jeremiah 8:11).

    Further, we all judge all the time. We check the sex offender registry before we hire babysitters. We do background checks for our nursery. We say Michael Vick was dead wrong. And when is someone going to speak out for giving BP execs a second chance?

    And finally, isn’t the charge of “judgmentalism”… judgmental?

    I’m making a point- please bear with me.

    What God hates- and what we all object to- is an attitude of the heart that we have termed “being judgmental.” It is this attitude of the heart that God addresses in Matthew 7:1. He proceeds to tell us in v. 2 to do just that- judge (discern, if you will)- but without being judgmental.

    The heart is the difference; the cross is the key.

    God tells us to maintain an attitude of gentleness and restoration- but by all means to go and correct an erring brother (Galatians 6:1-6; Matthew 18:15-17). Failure to correct a brother- or failure to maintain that purpose and attitude of restoration- removes the cross from the equation. The erring brother will not come to the cross because he has been shown either no need for the cross or no hope in the cross. And in doing so we harm our brother and defame our Lord by either our action or our inaction.

    So, in the words of Matthew 18:15-17:
    If your brother sins
    Go in a spirit of reconciliation
    Show him his fault
    Be reconciled to your brother.

    And skip none of these essential steps.

    • Thanks, Wade. I’ve been really soaking up your posts. I realize again how easy it is to fall on one side or the other. So much of life is not cut-and-dry. It’s like a tightrope. Any action we take, if not by the power of the holy spirit, will result in catastrophe. What a testimony of our need for a savior and the power of Christ.

    • Wade – thanks so much for your thoughtful input here and solid biblical insight. I’m sorry I’ve been AWOL for a few days. Been fighting off sickness and mostly in bed. Yuck.

      But I agree with you. We are called to judge our leaders, in the biblical manner you have presribed. Althought I have no personal relationship with Ted Haggard or people from New Life (or his new church), I have come to the point over the last few days of believing that he should probably NOT be leading a church.

      In any case, thanbks a ton for all of your input and thoughtful analysis here, brother. I’m grateful, and I know the other readers here appreciate your insight, too. God bless.

  7. Hey, Brother Josh – it’s your Liberal Sister here! I didn’t want to read your post, but decided to because of Amy’s comment on FB. I didn’t want to read it – because truly, I just didn’t want to know that Ted Haggard was, in fact, starting a new church in CS, CO. I didn’t want to know details. BUT – I not only read your post, but all the comments, and all the links…

    I have to say I agree with most of what Wade Mobly has written… I am uncomfortable – and yes, still angry – because Mr. Haggard has decided, yet again, that he is above any authority other than his own. He has been hypocritical in more than one arena. And, yes, he is hurting the reputation of The Church, and my dear, sweet Jesus, in the process. More fuel for the atheistic fire, thank you.

    As for judgmental – well, yes, I suppose I’m being judgmental. However, because of my familiarity with restoration of ministers, I’ve been taking my cues from his restoration team – and they appear to have strong, grave concerns… Which, in turn, concerns me.

    So, yes, I guess I’ll join you in being conflicted – but I tend to err on the opposite side as you. Maybe it’s because I have worked with populations that are adept at deception and lies, and I’m a bit jaded… (!) I don’t know. I just don’t think Mr. Haggard has any right to start a new church – I firmly believe that full restoration needs to be completed, that he needs to SUBMIT to authority, and when it is approved for him to re-engage in ministry, it needs to be UNDER at least one other person – not as the lead minister. It simply appears that he feels justified in doing whatever he feels like, under the guise of repentance and God’s call. It reeks of narcissism to this therapist!!

    Love you brother – thank you, as always, for your very articulate and well-thought-out posts.
    G.

    • Hey Gretch! Thanks for checking in here. I know it took me awhile to respond. Been getting over sickness and then playing catch-up.

      I do appreciate your point of view, and I see some wisdom in it. I tend to agree – God can use Ted Haggard UNDER the authority of another leader. I get the weebers a bit seeing him reaching for the lead dog spot.

      I understand your uncomfortability AND your anger… I feel some of it, too. But having said that, I do think yoiu and I and the rest of the Church are called to FORGIVE. That doesn’t mean forget – or hand Ted the keys to the shiny new church on the hill. But I do think for the sake of the health of the Body, we need to let go of that anger. Yes?

      Thanks friend. I love your feedback. God bless. 🙂

  8. So (1) I’m super late to the party here and (2) I love that your sister identifies herself as your liberal sister 🙂

    I have a simplistic question given the nature of the rest of this discussion. This weekend I was eating some amazing BBQ at a church in Baltimore at the invitation of a guy I work with a lot here. This man use to be a drug addict, homeless, etc. He credits turning his life around to finding Christ in his life. He’s a pastor and runs a church and an extremely successful faith-based drug rehabilitation center. The current success of his programs (which he would certainly call his ministry) is not in spite of his previous lifestyle but because of it. He is a hundred times more successful working with the people he works with because he has the same life experience they do. Does anyone believe Ted Haggard’s new ministry could be enhanced from his previous missteps? Is it possible that people will relate to him due to his experience? Above, you call the trust he broke with the church a “stumbling block” to people hearing the gospel from him now….. what if it was not a stumbling block, but a stepping stone? What if people were more willing to listen because they felt he could relate to their own past failures and shortcomings? What is the difference between him and my friend? Is it that Haggard was a pastor before and broke faith with the church whereas my friend was admittedly an unchurched person who then found his current faith? What should people who are not within the church think about how the church will judge them based on how they judge one of their own, so to speak. (As a note…. I am personally aware of the scriptural interpretations that say that Christians don’t hold nonbelievers to the same standards they hold themselves and that church leaders have yet a still higher standard. Which may in and of itself be the answers to my questions above. But I don’t think most non-church people would account for this and would view this as another chance to point out that the church is hypocritical and look at them judging people, why would I want to be apart of that.)

    • Ashley – good to hear from you! I know I stranded you guys for a little while here. I’m in recovery mode aand trying to get my feet under me again.

      You raise a GREAT question. My construct, of course, is going to be Biblical – that’s how I’m wired. But I don’t think that means it needs to be devoid of common sense.

      In a nutshell, I believe God could use Ted in a unique way to connect with people who are broken or who have gotten tangled up in sexual sin. Sure. I think He can use every believer to speak His truth to unbelievers looking for answers. God is a Redeemer, after all. So yes, it’s possible.

      But all in all, I do NOT think that Ted Haggard’s checkered past somehow makes him MORE fit to minister to these people. Common sense analogy: you don’t need to take a gulp of spoiled milk to warn other people not to do the same. Ted Haggard, I believe, would have more integrity, and his message may carry more authority, if he was able to say he had stood firm on Biblical principles without violating them at the same time he preached about them. Although God’s grace has been extended to Ted, that does not somehow give him a MORE valid platform from which to serve. Otherwise, ministry leaders could all benefit from a little dalliance into corruption, right? The bigger the sin, the deeper the grace, the greater the “connectability” with broken people…

      The Bible actually talks about this in Romans 6:1-2 >> “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”

      Ted Haggard chose to live in sin after being dead to that sin, in spiritual terms. Of course, everybody sins. But this was intentional, repeated, and flagrant. That’s not a sign of spiritual maturity in his relationship with Jesus. It is the opposite.

      Now, as to your paranthetical note at the end of your comment… yes. You did pretty much answer your own question. 🙂 However, I recognize that someone from outside the church could easily be turned off by Christians shooting “judgment barbs” at one another. That’s a big part of why I write so much about UNITY in the Church and stopping all the crazy negativity. Depending on who you listen to, Christians can sound like brash, self-righteous blow hards. There’s no place for that kind of attitude – inside or outside of the church walls. Rude is rude, right? In a PUBLIC case like this one, I do believe it is possible to weigh in – with a good measure of self-analysis and humility – and make a judgment call, because the Church community can learn from it. And if we hold to our convictions in love, so can the rest of the world, I think.

      By the way, I praise God for your redeemed BBQ-eating drug abusing friend. Thanks for sharing his story a bit here. Perfect example of REDEMPTION – God gets the credit. Now I believe Ted Haggard is another case altogether because of the “higher standard” to which he was called as a Pastor. But God will most likely use Him for His glory in some way. And He should get all the credit.

      In the mean time, I will pray for Ted when he comes to mind. Praying for God’s will to be done, and for the best for Ted and his wife and kids.

      Thanks again, Ashley. God bless you, too.

  9. Rachel Peterson June 11, 2010 at 8:31 am

    There are so many thoughtful, well written responses here which brings me to my short response. This is why we are not qualified to judge. Jesus is the only one who has all of the gifts in balance. Leadership, mercy, encourager, discernment, teacher, servant, and so on. None of us is in balance and that is why in that way we are disqualified to judge. We are also disqualified because ultimately every sin is against God, the choices we make effect others, but it is God,s ways that we violate. Man did not make the rules, God did. We were made in His image, not the other way around. That is why, in Revelation, Jesus is the only one waging war, we are in His Army, but we are not engaging in this final battle.

    God’s rich love and blessings,

  10. Rachel Peterson June 11, 2010 at 9:05 am

    PS. It is in loving God completely with all that we are (heart, mind, soul, and strength) that will help us as we grow and struggle thru this life. Then if we can teach our children to love God first and best.

    • Rachel – thanks for your thoughtful comments. So glad you read here and join the conversation. But… there ARE times it is appropriate for us to judge. I have to agree with brother Wade above. It is a biblical concept. The question is who, why, how, and when. Not if.

      And that, Rachel, is why I love this forum and am so glad you commented here. That will be a new blog post some time soon. It is a topic worthy of discussion all its own.

      Bless you and Bruce. We think of your family often. Miss you all. Praying steadily for your boy, too.

      • Rachel Peterson June 12, 2010 at 10:02 am

        Thank you Josh. We are so very thankful to our brothers and sisters in the Lord who pray for our family. It is thru the prayers of the saints that we have been drawn so much closer to the Lord.

        I wanted to reply because this topic touches on something very close to my heart. I would agree that we are to judge sin, but not the sinner. Mere mortals are not able to weigh the motives of the heart, and that kind of judgment(of the sinner) does not produce the righteousness of God. That is brought about only by the Holy Spirit. If I may share a personal story here.

        I grew up in a Christian home, went to all of the things that there are at church for children and youth to go to. When I got into Jr. High and was going thru Confirmation, they brought in all kinds of speakers to talk to us about how they had been saved from a life of drugs and bad choices, etc. Everyone was so thrilled to hear how God had changed their lives. Then they talked about how we the youth, should have a testimony. As a child, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t have a “Conversion Experience.” To my family, faith was a “personal” thing you didn’t talk about. I was afraid to talk about this with anyone at church, I didn’t feel I could ask the question. Growing up children were just expected to be good, do the things your parents do and you hope you go to heaven when you die. Please know I take responsibility for what’s between God and I. I don’t hold the people in my past accountable here.

        So, when we were asked in Confirmation to write out our “Conversion Experience” I wrote out a really good one. I drew from storied I’d heard from my cousins and friends, and wrote a really great lie.

        I should tell you that my parents grew up at this church, my Grandparents had served on the council and in women’s groups. My aunts and Uncles had taught Sunday School and VBS. My parents had been married there and all of us children had been there our whole lives. We were not unknown to the rest of the congregation.

        The problem is, no one came to ask about the lie I told for my conversion experience. No one held me accountable. No one asked my parents if what I wrote was true. They sent the “Kennedy Witness Team” to our home. They judged us with out even asking if it were true.

        I am so thankful to God that He didn’t leave me feeling unworthy for the rest of my life. I know I am not alone in the things I have experienced. I know that there are many people living small lives because they feel unworthy. The judgment of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

        We can judge what is said or done, we can hold each other accountable, we can go to a brother or sister and call them on their behavior in the hopes of restoration. But only Jesus can call the Pharisee a “White washed Tomb, full of dead mens’ bones” or bring truth to Peter when Peter asked whos sin made the man blind, his or his parents?

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