I believe it was P. T. Barnum who said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” In my lifetime, I’ve seen people rise from the dead…not literally, but ministerially. I have a file in my office filled with resumes of good and godly men who have been dismissed from their churches for trying to do the right thing. However, I read articles like the one recently posted by David Gibson regarding the return of Ted Haggard, and it makes my stomach churn.
I will never understand how disgraced ministers can keep bouncing back like a rubber ball when one godly pastor who runs into a deacon buzz saw can’t even find a church to listen to him. You tell me. Has it come to the point that being fired for standing on the Word is grounds to be banished, but having a relationship outside of marriage is grounds for building a monument?
I’m all for forgiveness, but some things should disqualify you from having a pastorate again. I’m not even saying that a person who has fallen can’t have a ministry; I just believe they are disqualified from a pastorate. The divorces of religious TV’s rich and famous seem to add to their appeal. I find it appalling that they can just keep going as if nothing happened. Whether it’s Jim Bakker, Paula White, or now Benny Hinn and a host of others, it seems that letting your family fall apart qualifies you for “greater ministry opportunities.” If that’s the case, let’s sin so that grace may abound!
Gibson says, “Christianity is all about second acts, and disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard is the latest conservative Christian to exploit that role to the hilt.” This week, Haggard announced he was starting a new church in his home, in the same town where the name of Jesus was slandered, trashed, and drug through the mud in 2006 when it was revealed he was involved with a male prostitute and drug use.
According to the article, Haggard says the church “will be for people like himself, a church for sinners—for people who have hit rock bottom and people who want to help people who have hit rock bottom. . . . It is not a gathering for the righteous, except those who are righteous by faith.” I have no problem with that part. It’s what follows that makes me wonder what Bible he is using and if he truly understands the phrase, “Be holy as I am holy.”
Haggard continues, “Everybody is welcome: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, gays, straights, tall, short, addicts, and recovering addicts.” It wasn’t long ago that Haggard preached against that which he now embraces. Will the darker demons of his past rise up to tempt him when he actually welcomes people who justify a lifestyle contrary to the Scriptures? How will he rely on the Holy Spirit to empower him when it’s the flesh that empowers those lifestyles?
He says, “I think I am qualified to hold their hand.” So, in the shadow of the church that made his name famous, he will start a church. In the same city where he brought shame to the name of his church and the Lord, he will now plant a church. Has he not caused enough embarrassment already to that body of believers? Couldn’t he at least move to another state? Does he have to rub it in their faces?
In an interview in January he said, “Sometime, somewhere we will do some type of ministry.” He knew then what he was going to do. In my humble and accurate opinion, which I highly respect, it’s always been about Ted Haggard, never about the integrity of the gospel. I would have to agree with what was reported on a Christianity Today website, “Locally it is being called ‘Second Church of the Hypocrite.’” Regardless of what you think about the morality issues, how about the integrity issues? According to Gibson, this church start could be “problematic” for the members of his old church, New Life. “Haggard’s scandal devastated and infuriated many in the church, which has suffered a drop in membership and donations. Haggard and New Life negotiated a severance package stipulating that Haggard would undergo counseling with a team of Christian leaders they appointed and that he would leave the area and not start a rival church.” He now flaunts his lack of integrity in their face. He is not a man of his word. He lacks the character to keep a promise.
According to the article, “In June 2008, when the conditions of the severance package expired, Haggard and his family moved back to Colorado Springs.” That must be a mere coincidence. Surely there was nothing intentional in that move. Surely he wasn’t planning on trying to go back and milk the cow one more time? Surely he doesn’t believe there are still some suckers in Colorado Springs who don’t know the facts. Last year the couple launched what some call a “repentance tour,” appearing on Oprah, Larry King, Good Morning America, and other national broadcasts—even Divorce Court. Haggard also appeared in an HBO documentary about the scandal. He’s now filming a documentary for a show about (guess who?)—Ted Haggard. Apparently the repentance tour was nothing more than a publicity stunt to get his name back in the news, hoping that liberal media would cut him some slack.
I’ve never met the man, but it seems to me as an outsider looking in that he knows no shame, no boundaries. He has no integrity. He can’t keep a promise. Let’s face it, it’s all about Ted. It’s not about anything or anyone else. He is self-deceived and will deceive many because you can’t lead people in the truth if you aren’t walking in it.
(copyright 2010, Michael C. Catt)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.