Daily Devotional for Monday November 6, 2006
When a Pastor or Christian Leader Falls
(John 13:12-17; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 2:21)
News broke Thursday that Rev. Ted Haggard, senior pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals stepped down from both positions amid allegations he has been involved in a three-year sexual relationship with a gay escort. I'm sure it is not a coincidence that these allegations against Haggard, a visible national figure and opponent of gay marriage, were made just days before Colorado voters go to the polls to vote on banning gay marriage in that state.
However, the accuser has damning evidence including phone messages of Haggard asking him to purchase methamphetamines, the current drug of choice in the homosexual community. He has released the tapes to a local Denver radio station who confirmed it is Haggard's voice on the tapes. Haggard has denied the accusations, though he has now confessed to his board of overseers about some of the accusations lodged against him, and has been formally dismissed by the church he founded.
I have been inundated with thousands of emails over the past several days regarding this sad story and here are my thoughts. First, I pray for Ted, his wife and family and that they will find their strength in the Lord during this difficult time in their lives. Second, pray for this man who has accused him, and that he will turn from this bondage he is in to homosexuality and find freedom in Christ. Third, pray for Ted's church family, for those he led at the NAE, and for Believers everywhere who have had their faith shaken by this event. Today's Devotional, appropriately, is on what happens when a pastor or Christian leader falls.
Lastly, let me state that there is only ONE way something like this should be handled, HEAD ON! Haggard and those who are advising him are ONE HUNDRED PERCENT WRONG for him to have stepped down from his position as senior pastor of his church and as the president of the NAE unless he is indeed guilty of these accusations. If he is innocent, he needs to stand and fight. Several years ago it came to light that TBN founder Paul Crouch had paid a man $425,000 to silence him regarding rumors the two had a homosexual encounter.
YOU DON'T PAY LIARS AND YOU DON'T STEP DOWN IF YOU ARE INNOCENT! YOU STAND AND FIGHT. I don't care if it does cost more to fight than "settle," you don't pay liars! If Haggard is not guilty of these accusations, he should be hiring the best lawyers he can find and go after this accuser with both fists. The only way to handle a false accusation like this is to stand and fight it head on.
There is only one thing you have when you are in the ministry and that is your integrity. Once that has been damaged or tarnished, your ability to effectively minister has been greatly diminished, and while you can still be a great servant of God, you will never again be able to be a visible and public leader. Since your most valuable asset is your name and reputation, you MUST fight for it amidst false allegations and do everything you can to clear yourself. You are not only fighting for your name and reputation, you are fighting for all Christians worldwide since these type of high profile scandals only give more ammunition to those who reject the Lord and live in rebellion to God and His Word.
One of the saddest things I deal with on a daily basis is the destruction caused when the Pastor of a church or Christian leader falls. Sadly, the destruction doesn't stop with the lives of the Pastor or Christian leader, their family, the person they sinned with (in the case of adultery) and that person's family. Like all sin, there is an incredible ripple effect and when a Pastor or Christian leader falls, those ripples are far reaching and affect the lives and faith of many, many people. On top of the damage done to the lives and faith of many people, there is tremendous, in some cases, irreparable damage done to the work of that particular church or ministry the Pastor or Christian leader was overseeing for God.
I wish I could tell you this morning that a Pastor or Christian leader falling is a rare and isolated event, but that is simply not the truth. Satan is VERY BUSY and we know from the very lips of Jesus his goal is to kill, steal, and destroy. If you think you are going to start a church or ministry that is going to do the work of God and satan is not going to bother you, you have obviously never read God's Word. Never forget, the more you are doing for the Lord, the bigger a target you become. The more you are doing for the Lord, the more satan will set his sights on taking you out. The more you are doing for the Lord, the more prepared spiritually you better be since the battle we fight is NOT of flesh and blood but it is a spiritual one!
Think with me for a moment. If you were satan, would you spend your time and energy trying to take down one person who is witnessing to people, or would you spend your time and energy trying to take down the Pastor of a church with 2,000 members? If you were satan would you spend your time and energy going after a Believer who did little with his faith other than show up for church on Sunday morning, or would you be plotting to take out a Christian leader that was followed by millions of people. SATAN ALWAYS HAS AND ALWAYS WILL TARGET PASTORS AND CHRISTIAN LEADERS. He knows by taking down a Pastor or Christian leader he also wipes out many people who follow them in the process. It is like bowling, hit the head pin and watch all the pins behind fall down.
This is why I tell people all the time to stay focused on THE man and never A man. One of the major complaints of nonbelievers is that Christians are hypocrites. Those who don't even know the great stories of the Bible, can tell you in great detail the stories of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and the preacher down the street who ran off with his secretary. It is one of the most common objections of someone who has rejected Christ and the truth of God's Word. They say that they would be a Christian, but those who are Pastors and Christian leaders don't act like a Christian should act. I am sure there were many in the first days of the church who said, "I would be a Christian, but look at what Peter did. This man who claimed to be a follower of Jesus denied him, not once, but THREE times!!"
They make a valid point. The fact is, however, a Pastor or Christian leader is nothing more than a sinner who is saved by grace. Even though they are leaders, they are still frail, prone-to-sin creatures living in a sin-filled environment. That in no way excuses their sin, but it is the reality of who they are. By the way, a note for those non-believers that love to use this excuse for rejecting Christ in their life. God is not going to be interested that you rejected Jesus because of what someone else did. We are each going to be held accountable for our free will choice to accept or reject Christ in our hearts and lives.
A major part of the destruction when a Pastor or Christian leader falls is the damage it does to the person in the pew or those who follow that person's ministry. Let me warn you today. One of the quickest ways to fall away from your faith is to put too much emphasis on a man or woman of God. God uses human instruments to plant the seeds of salvation. He uses human instruments to disciple us and help us grow in our faith. He uses human instruments to impact our spiritual lives. In a society that is prone to idolize others, such as entertainers, athletes, and successful people, we take that into our Christian lives as well. We place our Pastors and Christian leaders on pedestals they don't belong on.
Let me stop for a moment and say something important. God does not share His glory with ANYONE. I realize that in the drive to amass numbers, in the drive to generate dollars, many Pastors and Christian leaders fall into the trap of ALLOWING people to idolize or worship them. Some actually encourage this. God does not share His glory with ANYONE. It is the responsibility of those Pastors and Christian leaders to always keep the focus on Christ, and never allow the people to worship them, but remind them they are only to worship Christ. THE TRUE PASTOR AND CHRISTIAN LEADER COMES TO SERVE, NOT BE SERVED!!!
We normally only see those God has called to be Pastors and raised up to lead ministries when they are "on," when they are doing what God has called them to do. Because of that, we almost tend to forget they are human. These men and women walk in the same frail clay bodies as everyone else and are prone to the same weaknesses that every person is. Since we rarely see these Pastors or Christian leaders other than the times they are doing the Lord's work, we lose sight that those moments are only a part of their life. They have lives outside of their work for the Lord. THEY ARE ONLY AS CLOSE TO GOD AS THEIR OWN PERSONAL DAILY WALK WITH THE LORD.
Because they are in the spotlight, when they fail, when they sin, it is made known to the public. Our first reaction is, "How can that be possible?" Nobody is immune to sin my friend. No matter who you are, your life flows from your personal relationship with Christ. A Pastor and Christian leader is only as close to God as his or her daily walk. Like anyone, if they neglect their daily time with the Lord, they get farther away from God and become an easy target for satan. Most Pastors and Christian leaders fall when things are going great. They lose their humility, they quit working as hard as they used to, they have more idle time, and they don't stay as close to the Lord as they used to.
It is only possible to minister to others from your own personal walk with Christ. As you neglect that daily time with the Lord, you start to be disconnected. You may have some spiritual gasoline left in your tank, but eventually you will use that up. Those Pastors and Christian leaders who fall, fall because they have neglected to invest time with God one on one. Even more than most, a Pastor and Christian leader cannot afford to neglect their daily time with Christ.
The key point I want you to understand today is that you must keep focused on THE man, and not A man. Christ was the only one who did it perfect. My personal philosophy is to take the spiritual wisdom from other men and women of God, but never idolize them, never expect them to be more than the man or woman of flesh and blood they are, but realize that God has touched them in a special way and given them something that can benefit my spiritual life. I have always called it my spiritual filter.
Being in full-time ministry for the last 16 years, having preached in over 500 churches of every type of denomination, having spoken at hundreds of conventions, being involved for many years in the Christian TV world, I have had the unique opportunity to meet and know an incredible number of Pastors and Christian leaders of our day. However, no matter who the person is I always do two things. I always line up what they said with the Word of God. That is number one. I don't care who the person is. If it is not in line with the Word of God, it is not something I want.
Second, I always look at the man or woman of God as an instrument God is using. I never expect them to be supernatural or anything other than a vessel God is using to bring spiritual truths into my life. The only person I ever idolized or tried to pattern my life after was Christ. I have always taken what I can from men and women of God and tried to use that to help me in my quest to be more like Christ each and every day.
I love you, and care about you so much. Today's word is an important reminder to never get so focused on a man or woman of flesh and blood that you let it get in the way of your own personal walk with Christ. God has placed men and women of God in our lives to help teach us, show us the truths of His Word. However, no matter how close to the Lord they may be, the only one we should ever try to pattern our lives after is Jesus Christ because He is the only one who lived this life without sin. He is our example and the one each one of us should strive to be like.
I will be praying today for those Pastors and Christian leaders who have fallen from grace. Let me encourage you today, God is not done using your life. There are always consequences for our sins, and things will never be the way they used to be, but that does not mean God can't use you. Look at Peter. The key is, Peter humbled himself before the Lord and allowed God to restore him to fellowship and service. I pray today that for those fallen Pastors and Christian leaders, they will follow the example of Peter.
I will also be praying today for those who are reading this who have had their faith shaken by a Pastor or Christian leader who fell. It is normal and OK to be upset, but never forget that your faith is in Jesus, not that Pastor or Christian leader. Of course you have every right to expect them to live up to the standards God has set for those who lead His church. However, when a Pastor or Christian leader falls, don't allow the enemy to destroy your faith just because of the failings of another person. Again, your faith is NOT in that Pastor or Christian leader but in JESUS CHRIST!
***Let me take this opportunity to ask you to take a moment today and pray for me. I can assure you that I never take for granted one moment the responsibility God has given me in heading up Liveprayer. With over 2.4 million who subscribe to the Daily Devotional, over 250,000 who watch the TV program each night, I never lose sight for a moment that I MUST make Godly choices in my life each day. That doesn't mean I don't sin because trust me I do, every day. However, I have a responsibility as someone God has raised up in this day to share His Truth with the world, to live a life that is not only pleasing and acceptable to God, but an example to all those who see me each day. It keeps me humble and on my knees every day since I don't want to ever disappoint you, but most of all, I don't want to ever disappoint the God who loves me so much.
Please take time today to pray for those God has placed in spiritual leadership over you, your Pastor and those Christian leaders you follow. Pray a hedge of protection around them since we know satan wants to destroy their lives and work. Pray for them, but never lose sight that they are mere mortals, men and women of flesh and blood like you. Remember, no man could die for your sins. It was THE man who loved you so much, that He willingly bled and died so that you might have everlasting life. Never let your eyes focus so much on A man, that you lose sight of THE man. Keep your eyes focused on JESUS!