Which is worse? [Ted Haggard #2]

tedhaggard2I wrote my previous post about Ted Haggard’s repentance tour, and my impressions after spending two afternoons with him.  I know that the issues involved when a leader falls are complicated.

  • Not everybody who believes in the possibility of restoration to ministry is a lenient, sin-promoting, wishy-washy antinomian.
  • Not everybody who believes that one big sin disqualifies you from ministry for life, is a heartless, judgmental, legalistic, grace-hating Pharisee.

You can find good-hearted Jesus-followers on both side of this divide.  You can also find immature people who have not thought through the issues from a biblical perspective, on both sides of this divide.

My question today is simple:

Which does more harm to the body of Christ and its mission in the world…

A. A leader who falls?


B. A church that perpetuates his/her condemnation?

[Note: I am talking about the church at large, NOT New Life, for whose leaders I have great respect and compassion. By perpetuating condemnation, I mean the spirit of rejection, hostility, and unforgiveness.  Just because you believe in consequences for his sin doesn’t necessarily mean you perpetuate his condemnation.. You can forgive and love a fallen sinner without restoring his leadership. I do not have enough facts on hand to form an opinion about Ted’s future ministry, nor is that my place… I do have an opinion about his future as brother in the family of God.]

Is the world more turned off by our hypocrisy OR our judgmentalism?

The same secular culture that criticizes the church for being judgmental and unforgiving also criticizes the church for forgiving and lifting the judgment. The body of Christ has to walk a narrow line… uphold biblical values while simultaneously forgiving and embracing those who break them.

What I’m saying is this: in the eyes of the world, we can’t win. The world is not, never has been, and never will be a friend of the Gospel.

The same message that lifts us up, first brings us down. We are all — every one of us — way closer to Ted Haggard, morally speaking, than to Jesus.  I think that’s the truth I felt deeply when I sat with Ted.  And that’s the conviction of sin that any person moving toward the gospel inevitably feels… and most often resents.

So, should we give up our testimony?  No.  But neither should we let the world’s opinion shape our response.

Scripture is our guide, and Jesus is our model. He called the unrepentant, self-justifying Pharisees hypocrites, and nailed them with “Woes.”  He embraced the heart-broken, self-condemning sinners, and showered them with grace. Even when the sinner was loathed by the popular culture, like Zaccheus. Or Ted Haggard.

So, I ask again, from a missional standpoint… from the standpoint of our testimony in the world… which is worse: the immorality that brought Ted’s fall, or the bitterness that resists his redemption?

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” Galatians 6:1, NLT.

May I lovingly, respectfully suggest that if we’re going to err, we should err on the side of grace?  Might I directly assert that it has been the church’s resistance to grace for the last 2,000 years that has turned off more people to the Jesus than anything else?

Legalism is killing the church.

I believe in heaven. The struggles with the flesh will then be over. Until then, we never stop needing God’s amazing grace. To those of us who have been gripped by grace, that is wonderful news.  For those who have kept God and his grace at arm’s length, it is terrible news.

Thank you, Dear Father, for loving and saving a wretch like me. Thank you for Jesus.  Thank you for Calvary. Thank you for the Old Rugged Cross. Thank you for amazing grace. Thank you for a pardon, full and free. Thank you for so great a salvation. Thank you for mercy, seventy times seven. Thank you for embracing prodigals. Thank you for being you.

“Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22, 23, NKJV.

18 thoughts on “Which is worse? [Ted Haggard #2]

  1. Great comments! (and I do appreciate the parenthetical explanation re “the church”. I saw comments on the other post that maligned what was and still is a great local church, but I think your applying the question to the church universal is quite appropriate)

  2. Answer: the believers who perpetuate the condemnation. That’s the bottom line of your comments today. You’re talking spiritually here and among the Body of Christ. It’s VERY personal, which the world does NOT understand at all.

    Since God alone knows the truth about Ted Haggard’s heart, it’s HIS call. Hopefully, the Body will respond in a mature manner, with wisdom, love, respect, and grace. Ted Haggard stands alone before God with no facades, just as we all do as well.

  3. Return to “ministry” is not optional. When one has fallen, repented and renewed their hunger and thirst for righteousness – they will minister. Perhaps “vocational ministry” may be delayed indefinitely or even permanently. However, the very fact of being restored through the power of God’s grace – in and of itself creates unlimited ministry opportunities.

    It is true that we should not “judge” the hearts of those in leadership at NLC. However, in the years ahead those of us close to that ministry, especially those who have similar forms of church govt., must process and evaluate the mechanics though not the hearts of those who made various decisions.

    In reality, to align ourselves with someone’s “ministry” is to recognize that we sense and see the handiwork of God in what they are saying and doing.

    It appears that Nathan the prophet had to that very thing at the transition point from David’s reign to Solomon’s (1 Kngs. 1). God’s evaluation of the “big picture” of David’s life was that he was a man of integrity with a heart after HIS own.

    That dear friends is the ultimate commendation we must all await eternity to hear – whether or not we have a major moral lapse in our journey here on earth.

  4. Yes, Amen, that God embraces prodigals!!!

    I think it would be more helpful if we prayed for our leaders rather than condemn them when they fail. I’m sure a dynamic leader in the church will face some tough temptations….and that the enemy of our souls loves it when they fail along with the many who trusted in them. I’m seeing pastors all around here falling by similar traps….I think they really need our prayers. I’m so thankful for people like yourself that are willing to face spiritual warfare in order to bring us the precious gospel and teach us God’s amazing Word. I also think if we’re really lifting up our pastors in prayer, it will be harder to be so critical.
    thanks again for this post.

  5. This is a really great post. I seen him in an interview at Elevation Church, with pastor Steven Furtick. All I can say is WOW, the interview was great. You can see in Ted’s heart that he is sorry and that is powerful. Also, listening to Ted’s wife was a awesome, she is a woman of God if I have ever seen one. God is using this situation for good, as God always does.

  6. Thanks for two days of comments; they have been interesting to read and given me food for thought.

  7. Answer: The biggest hindrance to chrisianity is some christians. We are a family, complete with the same warts and issues that all families have. I once heard a pastor defend his church to a news program by answering: “Of course we have some messed up people in our church, what did you expect to find? That is who Christ called, the sick, brokenhearted and the needy. If they can’t come here for help then where would you have them go?”

    I am paraphrasing, but it is close.

    He is a wise man and I have never forgotten his insight.

  8. Excellent explanation of what to do when our Christian leaders fall. I have found that the book by Don Baker from Portland OR “Beyond Forgiveness: the Healing Touch of Church Discipline” suggests one way a large church dealt with a fallen leader through restoration. Not leaving our fallen “soldiers” to die on the battlefield seems more Christ like than simply excommunicating them from our fellowship. Certainly, true repentance must come first, but I do believe restoration is not just good, but biblically required. After reading Jim Bakker’s book “I was wrong” I am convinced that a man I long, dare I say “belittled” has truly confessed. But that will of course be God’s decision! Thanks for the excellent articles on Ted Haggard.

  9. Thanks for the opening comments here. I was troubled when in the previous post commenters accused naysayers of Ted as being full of hate for him. I think that accusation would be just as bad as if people actually did hate him. If I am skeptical of what type of ministry such a fallen person can have, it’s not because I have any antipathy to him. I have enough on my plate dealing with my own fallenness and the fallenness of those around me. But I also don’t feel that he shouldn’t be immune from the consequences of his sin, however legitimately those consequences come. After all, while Jesus did save the thief on the cross, he did not release him from the suffering of the cross.

    • Matt,
      You say you are skeptical of what type of ministry a fallen person can have. Then how do you explain Moses as God’s chosen leader? Either you view murder as something less than sexual sin or God made a poor choice or Moses did not have an effective ministry .

      Who would you chose to lead in the battle we face against sexual sin? Would you say we should only chose those who have no sexual sin or those who have not been caught yet or maybe someone who understands the pain, the darkness, the shame and the redemption of Jesus Christ.

      Brother, I love you and respect your opinion but we need to look at the leaders in the Bible and begin to ask ourselves why they were chosen because it sure was not because of perfection.

      Steve g

  10. Just thought I’d share an old saying my husband and I have heard for many, many years. “Christians are the only ones who kill their wounded.” Sounds appropriate within this blog content. Sad, but true.

    Your prayer above, Dr. G, should be all of ours.

  11. Hey Bill, I was recommended by a friend to check out your blog. I have been wrestling with the biblical idea that God will save all and that no one will be separated from God for ever. Are you familiar with Thomas Talbott or Jurgen Moltmann? What are your thoughts?

  12. I agree with Chris. If one truly has the call of ministry then nothing else will satisfy! God called Ted with full foreknowledge of all the sin he would ever do. God forgave Ted with full foreknowledge. God loved and still loves Ted. I think leaders are called to a higher standard, and Ted may have to sit out for a time while us humans can learn to trust him again. But as a brother in Christ we must love him, must embrace him, and must forgive him!
    Another great blog!

  13. Bill…

    There is no question that we must forgive.

    Jesus told Peter we must forgive our brother (not seven times) but seventy times seven, which means as long as it takes.

    Forgiveness is grace, and we need to practice grace.

    However, one concern must be mentioned, and that relates to trust. Forgiveness can restore relationship instantly, however, the restoration of trust may require much time to recover. In her recent book, Elizabeth Edwards indicated that she forgave her husband (John Edwards) of adultery, but little trust remained after the adultery. She was NOT punishing her husband, which would have been faux-forgiveness. No, she forgave him, but this forgiveness did not restore the trust that had once existed before the adultery occurred. In other words, her reward was not having to suffer “hating” him for what he did to her (because she had, in fact, forgiven him). We could say that she was the principal, immediate beneficiary of this forgiveness, not him! John Edwards was certainly grateful and blessed by this forgiveness, but the healing started with her (Elizabeth Edwards’ forgiveness) and will have to end with him (John Edwards’ seeking trust with his wife).

    In the same way, the Church will start the healing process (forgiveness of Ted Haggard), but the process of the restoration of trust will have to end with Ted Haggard, who is probably reading these blog entries. We therefore wish him not only restoration of relationship but of trust as well…

    In summary, many people do not want to forgive because they believe that forgiveness has to entail instant restoration of trust. You do not have to trust someone who has hurt you, but you must forgive them. (No doubt this forgiveness will have its immediate healing impact on you first, as was the case of Elizabeth Edwards.) So the good news is that Ted Haggard can and should be forgiven, however, the restoration of trust will have to occur in baby steps, and may take many years…


  14. Pingback: Conversations with Ted Haggard (Part I) « Donny’s Ramblings

  15. Why do Christian’s shoot their wounded anyway? I have had experience with churches that have imploded and exploded from various sin. Often sexual. I have seen repentence and non from these parties. I have also seen churches wound and then shoot their wounded. What a testimony. I love the Lord. I have faith that sustains me through many things. I wish, I just wish I could find a church that I trust. It is really sad.

  16. Pingback: Conversations with Ted Haggard (Part II) « Donny’s Ramblings

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