Genuine Restoration (Part 2)

#6 in Q & A Series

Question: How do you believe New Life Church could have handled your situation better?

As I have been preparing part 2 of my response to this question, I asked a friend of mine who honorably serves in our nation’s military in various hotspots around the world to send me his perspective. Many who attempt restoration within the church are woefully ignorant of trauma, its effects, and the importance of an informed response to it if we expect a positive result. When Christian leaders responding to a traumatic event within a church or Christian organization lack understanding about trauma, they tend to misread the words, attitudes, and actions of the traumatized and ignorantly interpret the symptoms of trauma as lack of repentance, avoidance, denial, or insubordination. As a result, they too often unintentionally make things worse because of their misdiagnosis. Sadly, many traumatized Christians end up uncared for because they are misunderstood and mischaracterized and they become unnecessarily angry and bitter, and too often are left alone to die. When a leader falls, not only is the fallen leader in trauma, but those within their influence are as well. Spouses, children, employees, and congregants all need informed care or wounds can linger unnecessarily for years. These comments from one of the world’s top experts on setting right traumatic situations are both insightful and applicable. They will require contemplation on the reader’s part.

Some address this man, “Doctor,” others “Colonel,” and on a bad day, “MEDIC!” I will not reveal his name because of the sensitivity of his current service. Here are his comments. Please read thoughtfully, reflectively, and respectfully.

“As a veteran combat soldier I have seen more than my share of combat wounded. In the last 12 years military medicine has made huge advances on rapid treatment of wounded soldiers.  In fact, one could legitimately make the comparison that if a motorist on a US highway had identical life threatening injuries as a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan, the soldier would have a greater chance of survival. How can that be? Simple. The resources are apportioned to rapidly identify, treat, stabilize, and move the traumatized soldier to safety and definitive care.  So allow me to make some parallels between combat wounded and Christians wounded on our spiritual battlefield.

“In the amount of time I have witnessed trauma among combat wounded, the number of Christian soldiers that have been wounded and lost is exponentially higher. The problem is that the early identification of the injured, stabilization of the injury, and movement to a safe place is not trained, resourced, or practiced in the church. By and large, Christendom’s practice with wounded leaders looks like a horse that goes down with a broken leg – shoot them and bury them fast. I wonder, given the great individuals in the Bible that were felled on the battlefield of sin vs. righteousness and then rose again to great glory, if perhaps we are missing a major Christian theme. If we applied the same equine medicine to them as we currently practice, Peter, Thomas, David, and certainly Moses should have been euthanized on the spot. In the same way we as a church respond currently to leaders in trouble, we would have considered these men of faith too greatly damaged to ever be influential again.

“Perhaps, just as God made sure their stories were told in the Bible, he is asking us to look at these situations through his eyes and learn. Specifically, I think he’s modeling for us how to identify the fallen, how to stop the bleeding and then how to get them to a safe place so they can heal and function again. I am going to take huge liberties in drawing parallels between the physically wounded soldier and the Christian warrior that is felled.

“I am going to skip a few steps and go right past the how both warriors get wounded. Pick your poison; immorality, gunfire, gossip, plane crash, mental or physical abuse, IEDs, slander, car bombs, etc. After the wounded are healed, the source of the wound and avoidance of the problem in the future can be addressed. But the first goal is to get the traumatized healed. So for this brief discussion we have a wounded troop. Now YOU are the combat medic called to administer life saving care.  Since you have seen all manner of Hollywood movies you encounter a patient that you know will be fully cooperative and as soon as you apply pressure on a wound it magically heals and within 35 minutes the patient returns to the battle with greater effectiveness than any fully able soldier.

“It never goes that way. These are some of the reactions you can anticipate.

“1. The soldier who has created the persona of invincibility and is now wounded is embarrassed. He not only does not want your help, he will die fighting to keep you from saving his life. Let’s call it the Lt. Dan syndrome . . . “Forest leave me here.”  I will fight to my last breath, pride intact.  If you put that tourniquet on my spurting artery, I will shoot you.

“2. Another reaction is similar to the prior and that is the prideful soldier who will not admit he has even taken a round. In this scenario you know he has been hit. The wound is undeniable.  However, the strength of his pride allows him to cover his wound, swear it doesn’t exist, and to walk without a limp. Eventually, his pride is overcome by reality and he drops dead with every one standing around saying…huh? How did that happen?

“3. A third reaction is the flight response.  It is common for a person that is rapidly traumatized to take off on a dead run. Here we can use a hunting analogy. Let’s call it the “deer in the gun sight” response. A shot properly placed should drop a deer right where it stands. Though mortally wounded, the deer will occasionally run. This is usually followed by a hunter’s expletive because he now has to track the wounded deer. When he finally finds the deer and examines it, the wound is so invasive the hunter legitimately wonders how this animal could have kept going. Adrenalin is an amazing thing. Humans do the same thing.

“4. The most rare response is: “I have been hurt and need help,” or “I have a bullet wound in my abdomen, shrapnel in my leg and my lung is collapsing. Thank you so much for helping me.  I will assist as you apply the tourniquet on my leg, pack my intestines back in, and if you have a needle, to place it right here in my intercostal space so I can breathe again.”

“That’s never happened to me, but I often hear Christian leaders blame the wounded they were responsible to restore for not responding to them like that. The patient may be cooperative but they are more focused on staying alive, not what the treatment is. The treatment is your job as the combat medic . . . and if you fail . . . this patient will die . . . but in Christianity, as happened in WW1, we just send the Chaplain out to pray with them and . . .  shoot him. Problem solved. Moses, David, Peter, Thomas or for that matter every human being who ever needs to be rescued, never achieves their intended potential. Oh, and for the record, wounds take more than 35 minutes.  Depending on the severity, the healing process takes time and patience.

“Perhaps a better approach would be: Get training to administer life saving care and understand you will have to do it at your own personal risk. Next, stop the bleeding of the wounded, get them out of the gunfire, and then find the definitive care that will restore them before someone decides that their usefulness has been lost and figuratively takes the remainder of their lives through spiritual euthanization.

“Euthanasia appears peaceful, effective, easy, neat, and convenient, but it’s still unloving, ungodly and unscriptural. Christian leaders should not be experts in rationalizing their use of euthanasia on others. Instead, we should all become combat medics intent on restoring, rescuing and most of all loving.”

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17 thoughts on “Genuine Restoration (Part 2)

  1. Stephen J. Higgins says:

    In short, it is much easier to see life through from the point of view of abstract principle than from that of concrete responsibility. Our fellow warrior on two fronts who correctly presented the truth in dealing with our sin is refreshing and thank you! What you shared has shout out a key thought that we are to face life with. We are to face life in a manner with concrete (real) responsibility not abstract cogitating or judging by saying well by golly – yes he is wounded and then walk away and let them bleed out or walk over smile and say well God loves you and shoot them. Responsibility/action does see the wound, binds it, gives hope, comfort, and seeks to provide enough healing to get to a safe place to bring deeper long-term restorative healing around family.
    Maybe the reason churches/Christians would rather abstract and react with shooting and burying, is they really don’t think their sin is as great. Because, if my sinfulness appears to me in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.
    I need to always know/see my sin is just as damaging to myself and others. But this I also know that IF I am not as deeply wounded by my sin or I am on further on the mend from my last wounding, then I need to assist and comfort, tie off, wrap, lift and love on the one who is freshly wounded and suffering too. 2 Corinthians 2:1-7 3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” Thanks Ted and thank you to our honored guest for your service – continued service for our King in the battlefields of this troubled world and at home!

  2. Robin says:

    This is fabulous! just how it should be. unfortunately the church has shot at our wounded with deadly force, without the blessing of killing them… so they are then bleeding and left to suffer it out on their own. Well said, Sir.

  3. Alan Hawkins says:

    When a brother or sister is fallen into sin we misdiagnose the matter almost universally. We have an either/or mentality. In other words we stop seeing the fallen one as a brother or a sister and we see them as a traitor or worse, a fraud.

    People tend to gunnysack offenses and overlook many of them until a big offense occurs at which point we conveniently pull out those offenses and think to ourselves that we “should have seen this coming.” In other words the sin confirms our worst suspicions. Thus we go into a mode of operations that calls for ridding ourselves of the leaven. We feel we must cleanse the house, purify the temple, root out the sin, expose the wickedness. This has the unintended consequence of causing others to take more extreme measures to hide their own sin rather than to confess and find mercy.

    We too often have a ‘gotcha’ mentality. We want to act as we feel God would act so we pull out the most extreme verses such as the incident with Ananias and Sapphira and think we must act as severely as possible to put the fear of God back into the community. Assuming an adversarial posture is normative. Thus we suspend the investigation, we suspend compassion for the family of the offender, we suspend care for the wounded in favor of looking after “the good of the church.”

    Thank you for this look at trauma and the implicit comparison to a fallen friend.

    We will all do well to move into a posture of lifesaving rather than blame ascribing. If that is our new starting point the end point is bound to improve. Thank you for this.

  4. Erin Garcia says:

    I am glad to read this. I 100 % agree with this. To often, we as Christians, can get in such a hurry to “do the right thing” we bypass the Spirit of God. I believe we are to go to God Himself. He alone will teach us by His Spirit what to do or how to respond.1 John 2:27 NLT “But you have received the Holy Spirit, and He lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true- it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.” He is compassion. Therefore, we can definitely learn from Him. I believe, also, especially when we are leaders, we can sometime be focused on what others are going to think of our response and how we handle a situation (out in the public) and can easily choose the wrong response ourselves. I enjoyed reading this. We all need to be patient with each other. The ones who handled the matter in a not so lovingly and scripturally way need our prayers, too. All of the body of Christ working together:)

    • Dan Morrissette says:

      Excellent point. We learn from our own life experience and we learn it for a reason. That is in the meaning of Romans 8:28. Whether it be a sin, a personal trial of loss, injury, spiritual or physical pain… How we deal with it and how we rely on Christ to overcome it for our own healing may be as much for those we will some day minister to, as to our own healing and restoration. God is a CREATOR, not a waster or destroyer of what may be useful.

      • Dan Morrissette says:

        The above comment was to Steven Higgin’s remarks on 2 Cor 2:1-5, using your own experience and restoration to guide others toward their restoration.

  5. Travis Waits says:

    “When Christian leaders responding to a traumatic event within a church or Christian organization lack understanding about trauma, they tend to misread the words, attitudes, and actions of the traumatized and ignorantly interpret the symptoms of trauma as lack of repentance, avoidance, denial, or insubordination. As a result, they too often unintentionally make things worse because of their misdiagnosis. Sadly, many traumatized Christians end up uncared for because they are misunderstood and mischaracterized and they become unnecessarily angry and bitter, and too often are left alone to die. When a leader falls, not only is the fallen leader in trauma, but those within their influence are as well. Spouses, children, employees, and congregants all need informed care or wounds can linger unnecessarily for years.”

    Ted, I really appreciate your thoughts here because we (especially the church as a system generally) does misinterpret the symptom with the problem. The sin that shows up in all our lives is just the symptom. Yes, our sinful choices cause problems and we experience consequences as a result. When I was doing addiction therapy and recovery counseling, the addiction is never the problem. It is just the symptom, escapism, medication if you will, for an underlying pain, hurt, trauma, etc.

    Unless we come alongside others and address the heart of the problem, we will never help people be free of, or healed from, where they are stuck. If we just get them to stop their symptoms, acting out, whatever, we are not really helping them. Sobriety does not equal recovery/redemption/restoration/sanctification.

    I think that you are spot on, and I really appreciate your courage to speak into this world with grace and truth.

  6. A telling question for me is to ask myself… “Is another person sin a failure on their or my part? Or is it an “opportunity to be healed and healthy and whole?”

    If I see sin as a failure, I can help them, and myself, by “shooting them”, because they deserve it for their sin.

    If I see sin as an opportunity for healing, then I apply the medicine of Loving Grace, which they do not deserve.

    I chose to be a part of the New Testament of Love.

    “I have decided to stick with Love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

    The foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger the greatest of human strength. (I Corinthians 1:25)

  7. Tom P. says:

    Awesome blog…right on…powerful, pointed, pithy and passionate! The above words should be incorporated into a book on the proper method and motivation for restoration and healing. I salute you, Colonel!!

  8. Lauren says:

    I love Ted and Gail Haggard…and am very disappointed in how the leadership treated them. Ted was repentant….that should have been the most important part of the restoration…if he hadnt been, some of what took place would have at least made a little more sense…I am a 30 year christian, I can say that at times when I have failed and asked forgiveness, that people in the world without exception immediately forgave me, the christians just the opposite….it has really made me leary of getting close to people in church…they are the most brutal to deal with…if I didnt have a close relationship with God, I would have left the church proper long ago….sad to say…Ted and Gail are an exception…thanks Ted, I love the newsletter!!!! Lauren

  9. Denise Weber says:

    Excellent article, thank you for sharing with everyone. I believe with all my heart this is the greatest hour of restoration towards the body of Christ. I heard a story once told by a preacher. There was a truck on a busy highway, which mistakenly crossed over into the lane of a car. The high speed caused a horrific accident. There was a man following in a car who witnessed the entire episode. Being first on the scene, he ran to the car where the man was bleeding and wounded, and screamed out.. ”Shall I call the police??” The wounded man quickly replied.. “No, call an ambulance!” The preacher then obviously went on sharing how we as Christians are the first to call in the law when someone finds themselves in a wounded state caused by sin. We should immediately call for the healers, not the law to charge them with a crime. Many leaders and Christians are “law and rule based” and not healers. How easy it is for the hierarchy of the church and organizations to toss a man out in the trash heap and leave him for dead. They even go farther to “boycott” and refuse to touch such a man. I guess they skipped over the story of the Good Samaritan, in Luke 10. The man was left for dead in the ditch, bleeding and beaten. Two men passed by, a Levite and a priest. The scripture says “they saw where he was and passed by on the other side”. How many men of God have been purposely avoided, refused to interact with them in anyway so they wouldn’t get “dirty”. However, the good Samaritan, Jesus, our example not only went to where he was, but bandaged his wounds, and even paid for his recovery. These so called apostles and “fathers” need to revamp their ways of restoring people who have fallen. God has much work for those who have learned to restore the broken. We are thrilled God is using us to do such work. It takes much patience, love, mercy and acceptance to reach to the fallen. When dirt is thrown at a man who has been destroyed by sin and is hurt, his first reaction is to cover himself. A true restorer has to see beyond and love this person to truth. It is a work that takes truly the mature in grace for these special broken men of God. Thank you Ted, for your stand, and using your voice to share your pain. We applaud you and Gayle.

  10. Carsten Pellmann says:

    This is an excellent article. The analogy can’t be ignored. Spiritual leadership is a front lines – in the trenches place of spiritual battle when the minister is true to his or her “calling” presenting the gospel faithfully according to Scripture. The “evil one” is a formidable enemy and is an expert at sneak attacks or relentless bombardment. The common responses of the wounded and traumatized as described here are “spot on” yet rarely recognized by Christian leaders themselves or by others. I think that a seminar along the lines of this article should be in order for every person who aspires to become a leader in the church and para church ministry.

  11. Tammy Jo says:

    I am not surprised that Satan would set his sights on Pastor Ted when waging his war on Christianity. Because if he could bring down the leader of a large flock, he will take 1/2 the flock with him. I am so thankful that God has also set his sights on Pastor Ted to restore him to the Christian Solider and leader that he is meant to be. Christian or not the restoration of Pastor Ted and the ministry of Pastor Ted and Gayle are a powerful testimony of the glory, grace and love of God.

  12. I think what the Colonel wrote is right on. We preach and preach on God’s forgiveness and then when a believer falls, especially a leader, we forget what we have preached. I have seen the type of combat trauma that the Colonel described and the truth is that most often the wounded are too caught up in the pain and damage of the wound to offer assistance in their own care. Most often, for a short period, the medic has to do everything. May God give us men and women who can approach damaged Christians with this kind of realistic attitude.

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