Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, and Ted Haggard?

Today we have a guest writer my friend Stephen Bean. Stephen sent me an article on Monday about Ted Haggard's return to the pulpit. Here is the link to the entire article and I would encourage each of you to read the article before reading Stephen's comments. I asked Stephen to write the post because he is studying to be a pastor Lord willing. I knew his response would come from a tender heart yet a heart wanting to warn Christians of this dangerous false gospel being taught by Mr. Haggard:

"It is difficult to put into words the emotions I felt as I read about Ted Haggard’s return to leadership in the local church. This article gives a summary of why Haggard was forced to leave his position as President of the National Society of Evangelical as well as pastor of his church. In this post Jason has asked me to respond to the sad picture painted in the article.

First of all let me say that reconciliation and restoration are both major themes in the Bible. D.A. Carson writes, “At the heart of salvation lies reconciliation to the God who made us and under whose just judgment we lie.” If we are to believe that the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is the central theme of the Bible, and that the gospel is where that glory is most vividly expressed, it isn’t hard to say that reconciliation is EVERYWHERE in the Bible.

Restoration, on the other hand, is one of many applications of the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 Paul encourages the Corinthians to restore someone (presumably the sexually immoral person he told them to discipline in 1 Corinthians). We also have the example of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:11, in which he affirms Mark as useful after previously having argued against him going with Paul and Barnabus on their second missionary journey because he deserted them on the first journey. This tells us that there isn’t a “one strike and you’re out” rule in ministry.

The fact is there are many variables when it comes to faithfully applying scripture to a situation. In this case I think it is wise to observe some of the facts found in the article and see if they line up with what we know from Scripture. I want to look at three things in particular: Haggard’s view on his own repentance, the circumstances of his return to ministry, and the vision for his future ministry.

When it comes to repentance often times actions speak louder than words. Repentance isn’t easy. In fact, I can’t see myself writing about Mr. Haggard if he were still outside the ministry dealing with these things even if he admitted it’s still a struggle. Instead we see Haggard returning to what he considers his calling after a short time away. The article paints a sort of then-and-now picture. After all of this happened Haggard is said to have taken responsibility and committed himself to what his church saw best for him. Now that he has returned to the pulpit (or stack of buckets) he says his past self “over repented…” This term alone should be enough to consider Haggard unfit for gospel ministry. To assume that over-repentance is possible is to say that our sin is less than infinite treason against a Holy God. To repent carries the idea of having a change of heart and mind causing you to turn from sin, there is no overdoing that. Of course, if Haggard is unwilling to recognize the weight of what he did four years ago that doesn’t make him four years removed from the problem, it puts him right where he was then, unfit for ministry.

As Haggard returns there are just as many new concerns as old ones. The first concern being, his old church didn’t ask him back and doesn’t want him back. Their words, “we cannot endorse his return to vocational ministry.” So we know it must not have been his former church that commissioned this new plant and there is no evidence that any other church is behind Haggard’s efforts. If this is the case Haggard is going outside of the biblical example for church planting. His reason? Not reaching a community that doesn’t have a healthy church but leading a church is what he wants to do. His explaination, "Tiger Woods needs to golf. Michael Vick needs to be playing football… Ted Haggard…needs to be leading a church." Mr. Haggard made an interesting choice of examples, but he misapplies the comparison. Tiger Woods and Michael Vick both did things that have very little to do with their profession. What Mr. Haggard has done is better compared to Pete Rose and Tim Donaghy, who disqualified themselves from what they “need to be doing.”

Unfortunately we don’t only see problems that got Haggard to this point, but it seems that he will be moving forward in the wrong direction. The article concludes by telling us how Haggard now has an Joe Anybody image with his congregation. He uses the word “hell” in a cooler way than most preachers and makes people feel comfortable talking about their sin. I’ll leave those individual issues for another day. The big problem is what’s missing, namely, a commitment to proclaiming the gospel. Not only is the gospel not there but it can’t be there. As long as Haggard ignores the gospel, goes rogue in his approach to church ministry, and considers sin to be no big deal, he won’t be able to have much to do with the gospel.

Please Lord save Ted Haggard and protect us from the same sad state that he is in."

Grace and Peace,
Stephen

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