when a fallen leader hops up with closed eyes

There are three things I need to confess before I go anywhere with this, and then I'm going to unleash a fury of frustration.

First, I am a man who knows the temptation of sin. Just like you, there are certain things that I have let into my mind, heart, soul, and body over the years that I tend to struggle with more than other types of sins. They are my "familiar temptations," and I have confessed them out loud and in private to both God and people so that I might develop a strong defense against their offense. Sometimes they come at me because I've allowed them to hang out inside of me in the past, like a dirty dog that you've fed who won't leave the porch as he keeps scratching at your door. Other times they are nothing short of a clear attack from the devil himself, because he has decided I am someone he wants to take out of commission.

Second, I know what it means to be suddenly yanked away from familiar surroundings that you have found a sense of self-worth in. There was a time when I found security and identity in what I did, or a name plate on the door, or a desk and office I resided in, or the fact that people said "Pastor" before they used my name. Those things felt real good, and on various occasions when I have had to leave such a role - be it for the right reasons or someone else's reasons - I know the struggle of not being able to scratch those itches. It's painful, and it makes you want to grab anything or anyone to scratch them again, even if it's the equivalent of a dirty piece of metal that ends up cutting you open in the process.

Third, I am fed up - actually, can I say it? pissed off - at the immaturity among "leaders" I have had to endure in ministry. I wish I could tell you in this cozy spot of a blog exactly what I mean, but I can't. For one thing, there isn't enough space. And for another, there are people whose privacy my silence continues to protect so that they may grow forward (which means in in some cases that I know more than the average person who only sees the past leader with nostalgia).

(pause)

Wow. I'm pretty worked up.

Now...

what triggered all of that?

I just read an email and it reminded me of how unfortunate it is when a fallen leader hops up with closed eyes. By "leader" I mean someone who has been allowed by others to speak into their lives, which means that as their spiral down began they took others with them (be a loss of innocence, the "final straw" where they no longer trust such leaders, or something else more damaging). And after that former leader has genuinely fallen, rather than letting God do the hard-yet-much-needed work of giving their life new direction they choose to jump into the next thing to scratch their old itches.

Again, I "get" this temptation all to well. I speak as someone who has had to make that same choice several times over the years that perhaps you have... do I act with self-righteous immaturity because I feel wronged or do I slow down, stop, and see if it's time to grow up in some area. By God's grace, each time I've opted for letting the Lord take His scalpel to me. That's not a statement of pride, by the way, but of surrender. I made this choice not because I'm better than anyone, but because (to the contrary) I know I needed it.

I knew it would be bloody... I knew I would lose parts of myself that I rather liked but God found ugly... but I also knew that He could do such surgery better and more effectively if I was still. Otherwise, He'd be trying to cut into me with the blade as I struggled to run away from Him, and that would only create more cuts and scars than were originally needed.

So that said, I share this email about a man whom I've never met and don't know the fullness of his situation. Such a context would usually demand (in our culture) that we just "forgive and forget" or "don't judge" - neutral and lame defense mechanisms that we often opt for when we're too chicken to challenge another person toward hard growth (or allow their imperfections to remind us of our own). But I don't take my cues from this culture, which means that I'm going to stretch in a different direction - one that says, "Yeah, grace, but also holiness."

You may be familiar with the story of Ted Haggard (and if you aren't it's up to you to Google it). It's been three years since he stepped down from being a pastor, which (again) seems like enough time in our culture for him to begin pastoring again. Why would anyone want to stop him from doing so since he's "obviously gifted?" After all, he was a "great pastor," wasn't he?

This is written from the perspective of a man who sees something that the fallen leader does not and refuses to. I have great empathy and prayer for what follows:

MR. HAGGARD AND HIS NEW CHURCH

On Thursday evening of this week, there was, for all intents and purposes, a new church plant in our town of Colorado Springs. Ted Haggard gathered a group of people in his home for a prayer meeting that will, in time, constitute a nucleus for that new church.

And so, it is nearly three years to the day from Mr. Haggard's admission to indiscrete behavior — that resulted in his resignation as senior pastor of New Life Church — that a new congregation begins, located just one mile from the church he once pastored.

The irony of all of this is that, from the very beginning, Mr. Haggard had been counseled to go to another city, complete his restoration program, experience healing in his family and with his addiction, and only then begin again. But, he has made a choice not to do that.

We, who were members of his restoration team and those who served New Life Church as overseers, wish he would not do this. We feel it to be insensitive to a church that provided generously for him and his family for over a year after his misadventure. But, more than that, he violates his own words that he would not begin a new church. Evidently, he changed his mind a week or so ago, and now calls the new endeavor a church rather than a Bible study.

Pastor Brady Boyd, the present senior pastor of New Life Church, has been very gracious to Mr. Haggard. As I talk with Pastor Boyd, there is more concern expressed for Mr. Haggard than there is about the new church plant. Let me ask you:

From what you know about the Ted Haggard situation — and knowing it is a free country — would you consider Mr. Haggard's actions proper and ethical? How would you respond if Mr. Haggard asked for your opinion? Please, let us know at pastors@family.org.

Prayers should be offered for all parties involved.

Be blessed and be a blessing. —HBL

My response?

There is a reason we cheer for the underdog... we know somewhere deep within that it is not in our original destiny to be down. So when someone who genuinely should be "on top" has such an opportunity, we cheer them on.

This is different, though. This is not an underdog scenario, but rather a rebellious rejection of the role of the Master. Mr Haggard, it seems, would rather surround himself with people who will tell him what he thinks versus what he must hear.

And that... will affect more people than just himself. That will tell others that they don't have to deal with the stuff in their life that needs to be dealt with, but rather they can ignore it and call it Christianity. And that will ultimately create a hypocrisy within Mr Haggard that he will choose not to acknowledge so he can "be a pastor again."

I know I am being harder in this post than I usually am. I run the risk of offending some who would rather I take the carefree position of "Mind your own business."

Fair enough. Let's look at the Scripture most people whip out for a quick defensive quote without fully-embracing the rest of it.
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:1-6)

Yes, Jesus said not to judge. But He didn't just say that, because He said that the purpose of noticing another's sin isn't to look down on them for it. Rather, it's to recognize it's danger to them and others... only AFTER you've been willing to put yourself through a similar process. The Scripture doesn't say we shouldn't evaluate ourselves, for at the very end of the section it speaks about making proper evaluations about the state of others' relationship with God and what kinds of "holy things" they should be playing with.

In this instance, Mr Haggard won't even allow others to look at the speck of sawdust in his eye as he has closed them shut so that not even he can see it.

Okay, I've made my point. I can go on, but at this point it would be nothing more than an extended remix of what I have just shared. And I also know that I have just opened up a magnifying glass into my own life. Whenever one raises awareness of God's standards, he/she is the first one to be compared to it.

That's fine... bring it on. Judge me... please. Please, please, please... judge me. Not in a labeling sense, but in an evaluative and restorative sense. Push me in places I will box with you to stay out of, because a leader can only lead when he has learned how to follow, and I so desperately want to follow Jesus.

Judge me, not because my life is perfect, but because it isn't...

and I have familiar temptations...

and I welcome (and need) your accountability.

Let's not lower the bar in what it means to lead. Let's keep it right where God put it and grow up into that.
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1)

Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:7-9)

2 comments:

  1. i dont think anyone wants to say anything for fear to judge each other anymore, for those very passages. but all too often I have seen pastors surround themselves with people who agree with them... and then the pastor becomes dependent on them, feeds their ego, contribute heavily to the church with monetary or other talents.. and these people, in private, or out in the world at large, are drunkards, foul-mouthed, addicted to porn privately, partying/revelers, with their Christian brothers and sisters just as the bible says not to associate with. It was a difficult path for me, when God led me to a place with my dui to get out of that realm completely and be alone with Him, after being in several churches where privately bible meetings and church people gathered to drink and party or support each other in their worldly way of acting, rather than rely on true fellowship and sharing the Word. It is the Word that uplifts and transforms us. The pastor's wife at my church will shoot it straight if i whine and complain and think worldly, and has said to me about the Word, "Wait on the Lord...these are not cute sayings, but these are actionable instructions from God Almighty." And all i can do now, is to pray for all my brothers and sisters in Christ at various churches, not realizing that this worldly lifestyle wreaks havoc in their own lives, with their children, their marriages, their jobs, but they can't see a direct correlation. Mr. Haggard's experience is a perfect example. But it is our own individual walk with Jesus, and letting him into the door of our heart that changes us. Not anything I say, to try and change their thinking. Mr. Haggard simply surrounds himself with these people because it is more important that his own ego be supported, and in private as we know now, he is like that himself. Its an issue of the heart that only God can see and know, unless it is revealed publicly. He is looking for love, in all the wrong places, and not to the Creator. When we look to God through Jesus indwelling in us, then our relationships get rough, because then we have to start living by His standards, and not the world's standards. And the people around us are going to feel uncomfortable seeing us walking it out. I have had that happen when catching up with old Christian friends who still want to walk and talk that way..they dont understand me now. Sometimes the walk can be seemingingly lonely, but really we are never alone, Jesus is with us always. And I will be with you always, to the very end of the age...

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  2. Deb - thanks for your comment. You're right that the people we surround ourselves with need to be on a path of growth in the midst of grace. We can't have one without the other. Likewise, we shouldn't surround ourselves with clones but with people who are on journey with God in different ways. The point is being on that journey... I love that thought.

    Thanks!

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