Sadly but to no surprise the facade has been lifted off yet another fallen major
Christian leader’s life and the scene is ugly. Reality can be thwarted and hidden only for so long but the reality remains. A man is only a man. The more we idolize and cede special spiritual status to “special” Christian leaders the more we cede responsibility for our own spiritual lives. In all this we simply make ourselves vulnerable to inevitable disappointment, unknowingly hang hypocrisy in our front stained glass windows and place the leader ever closer to their fall into self destruction.
Ted Haggard deserves our prayers and compassion. His fall should not be great news. Man is a flawed creation. What Christians should seize upon in all this is their own culpability in his tumble. We Christians have allowed too much personality to bleed into a relationship that by its very nature must be personal. Not too personal to discuss as some have suggested but personal enough to take responsibility for and not rely on labels, titles and structured memberships to define and maintain.
There are those who seek to manipulate people and groups of people for gain and power. Jack Abramoff used Christian institutions like a plumber uses pipe priming the process with a few carefully placed hundred thousand. Good men and women played along because the institutions they were a part of blinded them from the reality of motives and events. Cash flows, payrolls, production schedules and sadly, pride and vanity are but some of the pitfalls lurking inside the institutional church or Para-church ministry.
Institutionalism is a paradox of organized Christianity. It is a limited humanity’s imperfect effort to harness and focus the Divine. Structures and models abound, every Denomination or non-denomination can be traced back to some move of God and those He used to accomplish it. Now like modern schools of the prophets, these organizations stand in an effort to immortalize the creeds, doctrines, persons and events that occurred in a different time and place. The older these become sadly the more they loose sight of what God is trying to do today.
The Paradox comes because we have to have a structure. Without it a hodge-podge of the self proclaimed and unbalanced would rise up like clouds without water, shouting their promise of spiritual rain while rolling vainly deeper into a desert of deceptions.
So on we go trying to climb up on the backs of the “super-spiritual” or “greatly-gifted” to get a better view not realizing the load we’ve placed on some poor brother or sisters back. Now that Ted Haggard has fallen under this weight should we kick and ridicule him? No, we need to show compassion, demand accountability and pray for restoration and healing for him, his family but not the positions or institutions he had been placed at the front of.
Too many are serving the legacy of a beloved leader, struggling to meet a daunting cash flow or draping themselves in the mantle of their earthly father’s kingdom while supposedly building up their Heavenly Father’s. Their need for money, lack of accountability and layers of bureaucracy make for a sad stew of mixed motivations and opportunities for hidden and poor behaviors.
In this all, we need to be wise as serpents but gentile as lambs. We must take responsibility for knowing our and our families spiritual needs. We must use prayer and wisdom to find the right match in one of the myriad of ministries that prayerfully try to balance mans imperfections with God’s perfect power and compassion. We must reject the urge to seek and make stars to set our sights upon. We must purpose to grow and let our own reflective light glimmer before the weary dark eyes of our self indulgent times. We must also surely reject the urge to embrace man made movements as a substitute for personal involvement, spiritual accountability and societal impact all while not tossing our fallen and wounded under the bus of their and our own desires, ambitions and frailties.
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This is a powerful message, written with understanding of the human dilemma. We fall and fail when we lose sight of Christ and His true mission. You have written this with depth and insight, yet with compassion for man's inherent weakness that can only be overcome by humility and man's fear of God. Beautiful essay.