Monday, November 06, 2006

A "haggard" ministry

(see the dictionary definition)

Here it is again - the ultimate hypocrisy! And again we are wounded, the body of Christ. How can someone end up doing things that are so far afield from what he represents and worse, what he preaches? There are some clues.

I can't believe that I visited the New Life church in Colorado Springs not long ago. it was the end of 2004, when I began my travels across the U.S. It was winter and I took my two cats in a Dodge Neon, heading South - the passion of every Minnesotan. The reason I was at this church was not because of seeing Ted Haggard on TV specials where he was more or less a spokesman for evangelical Christianity. It was because of the young man who wrote most of the music for the Desperation band, a contemporary worship band that embodies the deepest worship and the greatest anointing of any American worship band I've heard so far.

This young man (I've forgotten his name) was leading worship at New Life church in addtion to his work in the Desperation Band. I heard which church he was at and decided to check it out.

I arrived in the afternoon. Colorado was wonderfully sunny and warmer than home. I was enjoying that.

There is a building next to the huge church building that houses the sanctuary. This building is the "international prayer center" also run by New Life. I entered the prayer center and was greeted by a receptionist. I talked to her for a while and then went to check out the bookstore and look around. It had this opulence and this conspicuous materialism written all over it. I thought, "ugh - megachurch, megabucks!"

It just smelled so much the same as a church in Minneapolis that I attended. I attended until I could no longer stand their constant pleas for money. I just thought, "I didn't come this far to find the same thing that turned me off back home!"

There was a worship service that night, a Saturday, and I didn't even go, in spite of the anointed, talented young man I had hoped to see. I was just too depressed about the "top of the iceberg" I was seeing. I knew there would be more to be disappointed about that I hadn't yet seen.

Ted Haggard began down the wrong road when he let ministry become this big business, when he allowed his ministry to become this megachurch that took in lots of dollars but most likely didn't stoop to get involved in the lives of all its parishioners. Here are the mistakes he made:

1. He allowed ministry to become a road to wealth and he succumbed to the temptations of wealth.

2. By being "on top" he succumbed to the temptation to avoid accountability. He was too good for everyone and didn't have to answer to anyone. In that state he went as far as living a double life.

3. He didn't see that Satan would try to deceive and snare him, especially in his position of being highly respected.

Why is it that men like Haggard (Swaggert and others) seem to enjoy the fact that they have hidden sins, living exactly contrary to what they preach? The only answer could be pride.

How this hurts all those in ministry who labor and sweat to make ends meet while waiting for provision from God, and who pour their hearts, souls, minds and bodies into meeting the needs of those in their care!

Hypocrisy kills. My father lived a double life as a pastor and it almost ruined me and my brothers and sisters as far as faith. He preached the word and lived a lie. In my father's case he has always seen himself as beyond reproach and always right, unable to look at himself in a mirror. We could never understand why and we still don't understand since he hasn't changed. He inflicted pain on me and my siblings and to this day continues to berate, degrade, criticize and abuse my mother. She forgives and forgives, but unfortunately, has been an "enabler" by never forcing him to confront himself, perhaps by leaving him. As a pastor he could live without accountability, having only "yes" men (his family) surrounding him.

He's afraid to abuse me any more because he does feel somewhat guilty about maybe screwing up my life. He has apologized to me, so he hasn't been a total failure. He did show love in some ways throughout our childhoods as well.

But it is a mystery to this day how a man can live such a double life and then live with himself. We all pray "God save us" from such a life, and save us from such people.

photo: abc news


David said...

A powerful post and testimony. I didn't realize your past. The celebrity life is all facade. The life of public power often really only makes a powerless personal life. It helps me understand better why God only allowed His Son to be born in poverty. And even when Satan offered the world's wealth, Christ steadfastly turned it all down. The wealth of this world is all a sham. In light of eternity, 70 years of living the high life but reaping hell is the biggest mistake. I'm not condemning Mr. Haggard to hell, but that life of power and wealth is condemned.
I'm sorry about you having to live in a hypocritical home. But don't feel alone there. We all live in that, just maybe not to the extreme that you did.
Remember the famous rock singer who used to bite off chicken heads on stage? I forget his name. I heard he is teaching Sunday School now. Evidently his father was a preacher and as a youth he got an overdose of religion and probably all its hypocrisy. I say "probably" because religion and hypocrisy can't seem to be separated.
I don't mean to be so hard on religion, but the truth needs to be said. Yet, I am one of those religious hypocrites. Because I stand for higher principles than I could ever keep, the Ten Commandments. But maybe the difference is that if we become unloving and condemnatory, then we are goners. I don't know all that Mr. Haggard preached against, but whether or not he said anything, his position at the top was what made his actions unexcusable in the eyes of the unbelieving public.
Marie, since you've your deep intake of pain and abusive hypocrisy, I understand your situation much better. It isn't hereditary. You are correct in thinking your father created it. But you have the choice to let it really destroy you or allowing Jesus to heal you of it. He can surely heal you and make you a better model than the first model. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." Look and live, sister. Look and live.

Gabrielle Eden said...

Thanks, David. That was also a powerful comment. I just thought I should share my feelings about the scandal. And, at least God has helped me to do a lot of forgiving for my dad. I do love him in spite of everything. But I appreciate your wish for my healing, which is still unfolding over a lifetime, it seems.

Roseuvsharon said...

It doesn't just happen in big mega churches. It happened to us recently in a small church where one of the leaders thought himself too good to be accountable. No one could argue with him. No one could attempt to say he was wrong, because after all, he was one of the leaders.

But for the grace of God, we'd be there too. It is a mighty temptation for all of us, to be "king of the hill"

Gabrielle Eden said...

Yep, the temptation is to have pride, isn't it? But whether or not we all could be there, it doesn't make the reality any less terrible. It's one thing to be immoral sexually and still another to be perverted, and in my book, perversion is a greater extreme, and one that is perplexing. It's horrible, that's all there is to it! What has happened in Colorado is just horrible.

Thanks for your comments, Rose.

Trailady said...

I hear your pain in this post and let me say that I'm sorry you too were abused during your formative years. Been there, dealt with that, could write a book...

People like Ted H. often end up the way they are because of everyday people like you & me who support, admire and hero worship them until they feel that they are someone very, very special indeed. We boost them higher and higher on the popularity platform, then we gasp in shock & awe when these mere mortals come crashing down to earth. I don't care how famous they are- how good they talk, if they are not connected with God daily, they can & will fall. Sin is in us all and we cannot overcome it- we are weak. That is why there is a Savior who offers forgiveness.

I feel for people like Ted H. because now all his once loyal followers will be reeling and he will be treated badly now when he needs love, forgiveness and support the most. People are fickle- one day you're their hero, the next they despise you. Very sad...

Saying that we are all hypocrites is often a way to excuse negative behavior in the church and silence those who hope for positive change.
Yes, in a sense we are all hypocrites, but there are those who hold themselves to be above common sins and there are those who are completely honest about their weakness. I am slowly learning to be one of the honest ones.

Gabrielle Eden said...

Thanks for sharing that important point, trailady. It took two to tango. It's like in the Catholic church with the priests molesting children. This is like a consequence for the people who decided to make a man their god, since it is just as painful for the followers as for the fallen one.