And on top of all that, even more scandalous revelations of his behavior have gone public this week at www.9news.com. Ted Haggard's story has become a truly haggard, ugly story. The public telling and re-telling of credible accounts of his methamphetamine-fueled acts of adulterous homosexual immorality are bringing immense public shame on Jesus' church.
This shame is proving to be well-deserved as the tragic case of Ted Haggard continues to unfold in the media. The sex-abuse scandals are no longer just the problem of our Roman Catholic friends. This scourge has infected our evangelical churches too.
The hypocrisy of these pastoral betrayal stories is staggering. These stories should be told and re-told.
And so I will briefly retell this story here:
While holding the offices of President of the National Association of Evangelicals and Senior Pastor at Colorado Springs' mega-New Life Church, Ted Haggard was leading an astonishingly deceitful secret life of sin. Investigative reports by Denver's NBC affliliate have led to Haggard's removal from the church and removal from organizational leadership at the NAE.
Then came the settlements, confidentiality agreements, and repeated damage-control sermons by the successor pastors each time a new account of Mr. Haggard's sin was revealed. Among the people of New Life Church, hearts are broken and heads are spinning. God's people at New Life Church have suffered not only this extreme pastoral betrayal and it's indignity, but they are also still grieving the murders of their fellow worshippers in a Lord's Day shooting that happened not long after Haggard's removal.
Even from 90 miles away, we can see the sheep scattering. Is New Life Church a safe place for God's sheep? Sadly, it doesn't look like it. This shepherd thinks they should run and find a new flock under new shepherds.
Why couldn't New Life Church recognize the behavior of this sexual predator? For what good reason would a pastor travel to the casino town of Cripple Creek with no one accompanying him but an impressionable young man who was struggling with his sexual identity? Why would a pastor repeatedly travel to Denver by himself and tell no one what he was doing? To whom was Ted Haggard accountable? How could Haggard's fellow church leaders not see this happening over so many years? Was no one willing to question him about the holes in his schedule? Not even his wife? Furthermore, has there been any repentance or reformation among Haggard's co-leaders for their negligence in this case? These unanswered questions are evidence that the church culture at New Life had ignored the Bible's teaching about the church as a covenant community of believers. Churches run by unaccountable pastors can be very dangerous places.
For their spiritual and physical safety, the sheep at New Life Church should leave and find a new church home.
But what will happen to them if they just continue to scatter? Sheep are meant to be in flocks. When a sheep runs off by itself, it's not long before it gets eaten by a wolf. And there are many varieties of wolves in Colorado.
God has spoken about the shepherds of His people who feed their appetites at the expense of His sheep. Read Ezekiel chapter 34 and take heart:
Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. 6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.
7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.
11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
17 “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
20 “Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.
25 “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. 26 And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. 27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. 30 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.”Lord God, thank you for keeping me from following Ted Haggard and others down the path of radical pastoral hypocrisy and betrayal. There but for the grace of God go I. As you and the people in my church can attest, I am by no means a sinless man. I know my own sin, and I also know the power of your Holy Spirit in me to give me victory over sin. Keep me close to you, Lord God. Show me how to shepherd your people like your servant David, whom you promised, and like great David's greater son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the good shepherd, who fulfills all your promises for us. Lord God, give all of your people in all of your churches shepherds according to your promise in Jeremiah 3:15: "‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding" For your glory and the sake of your name, please act. Continue the work of revival and reformation among your pastors here in Colorado. Let it begin with me and the pastors I am in fellowship with, and all those in our churches. In Jesus' name, Amen.