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21st Century Evangelicalism

Sex, Ducks, and Dignity

Duck Dynasty’s Robertson family is standing with its patriarch, Phil, saying that if A&E will not allow Phil to tape any additional episodes because he identified homosexual activity as sin, then the rest of the family will not tape any new programs either. The family press release emphasizes that Phil would never “incite or encourage hate.” The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and their supporters are outraged and are congratulating A&E. Now many Bible-believers are crying fowl. They are saying Robertson had a right to say what he said, was just referencing the Bible, is a loving guy and is, himself, being treated unfairly and is being discriminated against.

Why the confusion? I believe Robertson does not want to encourage hate, but because of our history, the LGBT community does not hear him as loving. Instead, they know that talk like his has led to laws that hurt people like them. Could they have cause for alarm?

About the same time Phil Robertson’s remarks were published, American Evangelical Christian leaders encouraged the parliament in Uganda to pass a bill to toughen the punishment for homosexual acts to include life imprisonment. This bill also makes it a crime, punishable by a prison sentence, not to report gay people to the government.

Parliamentarians in Uganda argue that they compassionately weakened the bill, which is true. It originally proposed the death penalty for some offenses, such as if a minor was involved or a homosexual partner was HIV-positive. The parliament removed the death penalty and replaced it with life in prison. It should be thought provoking to all of us, though, that there is no similar law for heterosexuals who are sexually active with a minor, or if a heterosexual partner is HIV positive. Why?

When we use “sin” as the basis for civil law, we probably should be consistent, but we are not. This last summer, the Colorado legislature removed the law that made it illegal to commit adultery. There was no outcry. It seemed the Christians did not care even though adultery is clearly sin (1 Corinthians 6:9). Jesus said, “For example, a man who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery. And anyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18). I’m 57 years old, and I do not recall any efforts on the part of our leaders to prevent those who Jesus says are living in perpetual adultery from having equal rights under the law.

No doubt, we Bible believing Christians understand that all sexual activity outside a heterosexual monogamous marriage is sin. We also know that there is a great deal of sexual sin within heterosexual monogamous marriages (Matthew 5:28-30). So where is our New Testament imperative that we sinners, saved by God’s grace, use civil law to make others godly? It seems as though Jesus’ point is that all of us are sinners and we only become righteous by his grace and mercy. But I think that because most of us are heterosexuals, we don’t insist on laws that punish us for our immorality. Yet, the evidence suggests that we do want to add legal burdens on those who are not like us.

Most New Testament believers know that external threats do not change our hearts, but instead we are changed from the inside out by repentance, the blood of Christ, the renewal of our minds, and by becoming a new creation in Christ. To think we can force our beliefs on others through civil law is often an error. The sponsor of the Ugandan bill said, “Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way. It is because of those values that members of parliament passed this bill . . . ” Supporters of the bill say it is needed to “protect traditional values,” and, under that banner have banned miniskirts and sexually suggestive material such as music videos. I am all for propriety and societal morality, but we have to remember that when legally mandated, this type of thing can go awry very quickly. Now local newspapers in Uganda have started publishing the names and addresses of people they think might be gay.

I know, I know. The United States is not Uganda. In this country we have fought a long, hard struggle for various groups to gain equality under the law. Certainly our civil laws do need to protect what is right and good, and they need to be moral. But not every Christian conviction is best promoted through civil law. All Christians should have a sophisticated, thoughtful process to determine when our biblical beliefs should be inculcated into civil law. It’s not an automatic “yes.” Sadly, we Bible believing conservative Christians have found ourselves on the wrong side of this discussion too often.

If the government wanted to take the vote away from women based on the New Testament teaching that wives should submit to their husbands and that women should not usurp authority over men, would we Christians support that? No. But that was the accepted position of many not too long ago.  What about denial of African-Americans’ basic freedoms because some Bible scholars say they are descendants of Ham, whose descendants were cursed by God and thus relegated to serve? Would we white Christians support that? Absolutely not! But many did. And what if the government wanted to limit the freedoms of Jews in our communities because they reject Christ? Would we allow that? No. Could it be that we Christians, raised in modern multi-cultural churches with wholesome families surrounding us, have no idea how people who have suffered hear us when we speak?

All of us who believe the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that we must be born-again, have to decide who we want to be in this chapter of world history. We have to consider: when is it “Christian” to protect people who will never be like us and will probably never be persuaded to be a Christian? “Now” would be my answer.

In 1959. Howard Griffin, a white guy, artificially darkened his skin to pass as a black man as he traveled by bus and hitchhiked through the racially segregated south. His journal of that experience was published under the title, Black Like Me. That book helped many whites learn what it was like to be a black man in America during that era. His book helped the cause for equality for African-Americans.

I had a similar experience, but the issue was not racism, and I have not yet written my book. However, I’ve discovered that our experiences do form how we hear other people.

Unless you have been the recipient of religious hatred, you cannot imagine the ruthless brutality. When I went through my crisis in 2006, some Evangelical leaders targeted me for permanent removal. Since I submitted to church authorities who required that I not respond to or explain anything, or even acknowledge that I had ever been in ministry, the flurry of random indictments flooded my way and to the public, all without response. I received up to 80 hate letters a day, the majority from Bible quoting Christians. My e-mail, twitter, and Facebook filled with threats, accusations, and condemnations, the vast majority of which were baseless. I am guilty of sin, and therefore, I am grateful for the healing Christ offers all if us. Sadly, though, condemnation from the church does not help healing (Romans 2:1-4). That season of my life convinced me that I never wanted to support any form of theocracy. It is too irrational.

We’ve got to apply to others the idea that while WE were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Because of that, we, too, can be like Christ and extend a hand of kindness to another simply because they are human beings. They may never choose to receive the full blessings already purchased for them by Christ, but even so, why should we make their time on Earth more difficult? If God Himself left Heaven, came to Earth to become one of us in order to save us, protect us, and help us, isn’t it logical that we, too, can leave our places of comfort to show some dignity to another. . . like Christ did? I think so.

I do not believe for one second that Mr. Robertson wanted to encourage hate, bigotry, or would support anything that would intentionally cause pain for someone else. But we are all old enough to know that people suffer horribly when government gets it wrong. We Christians can make the lives of others better by simply being who we say we are, Christ-like. God designed our Earth so that the blessing of rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. We can follow his example.

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21st Century Evangelicalism

Suicide, Evangelicalism, and Sorrow

Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland Church, and Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, both had sons take their own lives. I know of five other wonderful Christian families that also had sons who took their own lives. Some researchers are reporting that the suicide rate among Evangelicals is the same as that of the non-Christian community. How sad.

Back in my days as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, I knew Joel and Rick. They are both sincere, wonderful believers with ministries that are admired. I also knew some of the parents of the kids who took their lives here in Colorado Springs. Good families.

The news about Pastor Isaac Hunter breaks my heart. Great speaker, lover of God, and my guess is he loved the church. But he, like all of us, fell short. In the midst of divorce with accusations swirling, he resigned from the church he founded. He gave it his best shot, and his heart was broken. This makes me sick to my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sick that he fell short, that’s a given for everyone except Christ Himself, I’m sick that our message did not do what we all hoped – it did not fix the problem.

In the past we would try to argue that Evangelical leaders who fall were not sincere believers, or were unrepentant, or that they did not really believe their Bibles, or were not adequately submitted. And in the midst of these arguments, we KNOW those ideas are, in some cases, rationalizations. I can offer some guesses from personal experience as well as knowledge of others’ stories that, 1) Matthew Warren repeatedly prayed for God to heal his mind, and 2) Isaac Hunter frequently repented of the things in him that damaged his heart and marriage. I think Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and I know Ted Haggard, hated their sins, repented, prayed, fasted, memorized Scripture, and pleaded with God for personal holiness. I think there are very few hypocrites in our pulpits or on church staffs. I believe most people in ministry are sincere followers of Christ. But when God’s holiness is infused into our humanity, that sets us all up for some degree of struggle.

I was so ashamed in 2006 when my scandal broke. The therapeutic team that dug in on me insisted that I did not have a spiritual problem or a problem with cognitive ability, and that I tested in normal ranges on all of my mental health tests (MMPI, etc.). Instead, I had a physiological problem rooted in a childhood trauma, and as a result, needed trauma resolution therapy. I had been traumatized when I was 7 years old, but when Bill Bright led me to the Lord when I was 16, I learned that I had become a new creature, a new person, and that I did not need to be concerned about anything in my past, that it was all covered by the blood. I did become a new creation spiritually, but I have since learned that I needed some simple care that would have spared my family and me a great deal of loss and pain.

Contrary to popular reports, my core issue was not sexual orientation, but trauma. I went through EMDR, a trauma resolution therapy, and received some immediate relief and, as promised, that relief was progressive. When I explain that to most Evangelical leaders, their eyes glaze over. They just don’t have a grid for the complexity of it all. It is much more convenient to believe that every thought, word, and action is a reflection of our character, our spirituality, and our core. They think the Earth is flat. Everyone is either completely good or bad, everything is either white or black, and if people are sincere Christians, then they are good and their behavior should conform.

Not so. There are more grays in life than many of our modern theological positions allow. It would be easy if I were a hypocrite, Bakker was a thief, and Swaggart was a pervert. None of that is true. Because I’ve not communicated with the Warrens or the Hunters since late 2006, I do not know for sure, but my experience would suggest that the Warren’s have received some hurtful communications from other Christians saying their son had a demon that could have been taken care of if they would have simply taken their son to them for deliverance. No doubt Isaac also received some brutal mail from Christians after his resignation from his church. My sin never made me suicidal, but widespread church reaction to me did.

I can only imagine what many Christians must go through trying to reconcile the things we Evangelicals say are true with the realities of their own lives. Do we actually believe that the many pastors who have been characterized as fallen decided to be hateful, immoral, greedy, or deceitful?  I think not.

In my case, I was taught that life transformation took place at salvation and the power to overcome was inherent with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. My early Christian training was given by those who did not respect the mental health profession, nor the field of neural science. So I believed the solution to my struggle was exclusively spiritual, which turned out to be counterproductive.

If I prayed and fasted, I was more tempted. If I just worked in ministry, I experienced relief and was not tempted. I thought it was spiritual warfare. It was not. My struggle was easily explained by a competent therapeutic team.

But many in the church-world had to demonize the facts. My accuser failed his lie detector test and refused to take another, and I passed four lie detector tests given by three different polygraphers saying that his accusations were false. This  so confused the narrative the church wanted to publicly present, they hid the tests from the public. The lead overseer actually told me, “Brother Ted, we do not believe in this psychological mumbo-jumbo, but we need to send you to therapy for the sake of the public. Then when you get home, we’ll get this demon out of you and your family and sweet Miss Gayle will be just fine.” He then established a “Restoration Team” purely for the church and press to get the impression that there was a restoration plan, which there was not. I learned a great deal about power, money, and how the powers that be can manipulate the press during that process. I thank God for the therapy. It answered 30 years of prayer. I became the man I had always prayed to be because of the process I went through during the crisis. Though I do believe there is a need for deliverance in some situations,  for that sincere overseer, the world is way too flat.

Saints, I have a high view of Scripture and am persuaded that the theological underpinnings of Evangelicalism are valid, but I am growing away from the Evangelical culture we have created. I think our movement has abandoned the application of the Gospel, and as a result we spend too much time on image management and damage control. Maybe we should be willing to admit that we are all growing in grace, be willing to be numbered with the transgressors, and stop over-stating and over-promising. Jesus has been faithful to all of us in the midst of our pain, our suffering, and our disappointments. Why don’t we tell that? Every one of us have had sin horribly intrude in our lives after being saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, and God is faithfully healing us or has healed us. Why don’t we tell that? He has never left us or forsaken us when we’ve said and done the wrong thing. Why don’t we tell that? And when our children disappoint and hurt us, or we disappoint and hurt them, God sees us . . . and them. Why don’t we tell that as well?

My heart physically hurts for the Warrens, the Hunters, and the five families that lost their sons. The pain is incredible. I don’t know that it will ever heal this side of Heaven. I also hurt for Pastor Zachery Tims who died alone in a Times Square hotel room trying to get some relief, and for Pastor Cedric Cuthbert who was accused of watching child porn at work, and for Pastor David Loveless who was let go after his affair was revealed. Shall I go on? I do not believe we have a problem because these and so many others are insincere or because we have not adequately emphasized holiness. I think we have a core, fundamental, essential problem with our application of the Gospel. We need to re-read the New Testament and modify some of our interpretations. The Bible is true. God is faithful. But at this point, too many are missing the mark.

I know this is too long, and I would like to stop, but I can’t . . . not until I say one more thing. Everyone I’ve mentioned here has fallen because of obvious sin. But I did not mention the proud, envious, gluttonous, angry, greedy, blamers and scrutinizers in the body of Christ who have equally fallen but their sins are acceptable in our culture so they do not even realize their sin or need for repentance. Why? They are too busy with the sins of others. Often we actually laude these Pharisees and Judaizers because of their stand against sin, not realizing that they are still not teaching us the New Testament solution to mankind’s sin problem. When the New Testament becomes Torah in their hands, that law, too, stimulates sin.

It’s time for us to stop what we’re doing and weep. We need to repent, enter into the prayer closet without cameras, notes, or any announcements that we’re praying and fasting, and repent for what we have created until our hearts are soft again. Our children are dying. Our relationships are broken. Our attitudes are arrogant. And our hearts are left confused.

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21st Century Evangelicalism

Mandela Schools Modern Evangelicals

(This is an e-mail I sent to some of the members of St. James Church on December 9th, 2013)

Several people have written me today asking for the Nelson Mandela quote I used yesterday in church. When President Bill Clinton was going through his scandal, many world leaders withdrew from him and many Evangelical leaders were determined to use his sins against him in every possible way. Clinton asked Nelson Mandela why he remained such a faithful friend during that time, to which he responded,

My morality does not allow me to desert my friends.

I think this goes to the core of our message. Our response to another person’s sin reveals whether or not we are Christ-like. If we are authentic Christians, we respond to others the way Christ responded to us in our sin, with healing and redemption, desiring to befriend us.  In contrast, if we respond by seeing ourselves as superior and are willing to use others’ sins against them, we may actually become enemies of Christ’s work. We Christians are advocates of repentance, forgiveness, redemption, transformation, healing, and resurrection. Enemies of the Gospel, though they may call themselves “Christian,” reveal themselves by trying to deny another’s resurrection. Strangely, enemies of the Gospel’s work in another often believe in resurrection for themselves.

Another person’s sin is our opportunity to model what Christ is doing in us. When another sins, it should never be surprising to a Bible-believing Christian. Though we believers are to be dominated by His righteousness, we are perfected only when we see Him face-to-face. So another’s sin simply validates the Bible’s teaching about our human condition and every person’s need to grow in Christ. God saw our sin and revealed his heart toward us by sending Jesus, a sure solution for our sin problem.

For us to be like Him, we respond to another’s sins with the New Testament solution; forgiveness, hope, healing, and restoration. Another person’s sin is our opportunity to be like Christ, to be a healer and a minister of redemption. Too often, though, Christians have confused their morality as superiority and see another’s sins as the enemy, not the opportunity. Why? I believe many have not settled in their own minds the biblical solution to mankind’s sin problem, so rather than applying the Gospel, they naturally resort to natural law, which is judgement, punishment, humiliation, dehumanization, and death. The New Testament says we have a new and better way.

I do not know what Nelson Mendela’s faith position was, but I do know that the Holy Spirit has the ability to work with whomever He chooses (Acts 2:17), and that maybe during Nelson Mandela’s time in prison, the fundamental ideas of the Gospel and their inherent power came alive in him. As a result, he developed an understanding of friendship that makes allowance for the faults of others (see Ephesians 4:2 and Colossians 3:13), and helped advance the cause of equality under the law in South Africa through forgiveness of past grievances. He understood and demonstrated the power of forgiveness. He modeled healing as a response to the sins of others and as a result, changed the world one more time. And for this, the world honors him among its greatest men.

We all need to apply the Gospel, not simply believe it.

Blessings.

Pastor Ted

I Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

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21st Century Evangelicalism

Thank God for St. James Church

I’m depressed this evening. Today started off fine. It was a beautiful Saturday. Gayle and Christy are in California visiting Gayle’s awesome parents. I got up early to put a load of Jonathan’s clothes in the washing machine, unloaded and then reloaded the dishwasher, then sat down to read my Bible. The Scriptures were encouraging, relevant and instructive as always, so I then went outside to walk around and pray. Jonathan slept late, Alex and Elliott got up and started their usual Saturdays. I later dropped by the church and saw kids making ginger bread houses while workmen were tidying up preparing for Sunday. While there, I met a crew from downtown who were borrowing tables from St. James for a Christmas banquet for underprivileged kids and their families tonight. All was well with the world until . . . I came back home and got online to sadly read more about me.

Today I don’t appreciate some people and the internet that gives them voice. I look forward to the day when I don’t have to deal with any Christians outside our own little congregation. I was that way before, which is why I never entered into television or radio ministry, never had a flashy presentation, always drove a truck or modest car, and never asked to publish a book or speak anywhere. But I have always felt a responsibility to reach the lost and serve when asked, so I would foolishly say “yes” when asked to serve. That was misinterpreted as being a self-promoter I guess.

Then I crashed in 2006 and went through a painful healing process, for which I am grateful. It was an answer to my prayers.

Now it’s years later and, from time to time, my name comes up in the news. This time it was two well meaning guys wanting to say that we Christians should actually practice forgiveness and restoration. But suddenly, those who see themselves as the guardians of self-righteousness, who fundamentally hate the idea of resurrection for the dead, pounce. Sure there are the kind, well meaning people in the church, but they are typically not outspoken nor do they have a burning to stick–that is make their opinions known in a way that would make them count in the public discussion. They write nice notes in private. It’s those who keep the records of wrongs who are loud, outspoken, and accuse in public. They stick. Hatred, religious judgmentalism, and self-righteousness are powerful motivators to hurt others I guess. They have a strong enough voice that they make me not want to have anything to do with modern Christianity.

I’m trapped though, because I am, after all, alive. I love the Scripture and am called, and there are a handful of believers who enjoy meeting with me to worship, study the word and give to the poor. Based on what I read, those so outspoken on the net would be happier with me if I ran a liquor store, sold porn, or pitched holy water from the Jordan River on TV to the Christian superstitious crowd. But for me to pastor a church is an abomination in their view. I know that if I called it a television studio and the congregation was the studio audience, and we filled millions of Christian homes with fear and anxiety over current events, my detractors would be happy with that. But I’m stuck. St. James is a gathering of believers where we don’t take advantage of anyone. We don’t broadcast. We don’t ask for other people’s things. We don’t have pretense, don’t have public relations or capital campaign experts, and don’t guard image. We don’t even have a security team to protect our important people. We are worshippers. We are church.

As all of you know, Barna says, 1,500 clergy are leaving pastoral ministry each month, and a researcher at the Annapolis Roundtable on Life-Giving Leadership said 50% of those never return to a church. I envy that group. I have gone to church multiple times a week all my life except the days during and immediately after my 2006 scandal. Those were some of the best Sunday’s Gayle and I have enjoyed. We were forbidden to attend the church we’d loved. We would stay in bed until we woke up, talk, enjoy each other’s company, and slowly get up and enjoy the rest of the family. It was excellent. I only enjoy church now because of the culture of St. James. I don’t have to clean up to go to St. James. It’s a believers meeting, so I can go the way I want. I think if it were not for the authenticity and transparency of St. James, since I’m 56 years old, know my Bible pretty well, and am not looking for new friends, I would be content to stay home and not mess with church any more.

Sadly, it seems many churches have become toxic. We have too many poisonous churches with pastors who don’t know how to apply the Gospel, who teach certain behaviors prove salvation, that we should hide our weaknesses, and that we should appear contented. In time, the beloved pastors will receive their due: 61% of congregations have forced a pastor to leave, and 83% of clergy spouses want their spouses to leave pastoral ministry. Church leadership can be a joy, until it’s not. Then it’s deadly. Churches don’t like lots of people. Most don’t even like themselves. One old man told me the average church will fondly remember a past pastor one week for every year he was there, then his memory will be vilified for the benefit of the new administration.

We are fundamentally flawed. How do I know? In addition to the national statistics and the horror stories I receive from those who have worked in churches and para-church ministries who write me every day, I just read the comments about me. I know me, I know what I’ve been through, and I know that in the minds of many, I don’t matter, my kids don’t matter, and the facts don’t matter. Only their brutality matters. Lot’s of people must feel the way I do, which is why fewer and fewer Americans will get up and go to church in the morning. Most won’t say it, but they will vote by staying home. . . or going to a football game. . . or the mountains. Sounds good to me. Do the Bronco’s play tomorrow? I hope so.

Ahhh but the ignorance of youth keeps us going. Our Bible Schools and seminaries are full of bright eyed young people, anxious to serve the Lord. If current trends continue, 90% of those who graduate and are ordained into ministry will not stay in ministry long enough to reach the age of retirement. Why? Because we are not what we teach. We poison each other. As soon as we stop admiring them, we will destroy them. Of the 10% that do stay, 50% of them indicated that they would leave the ministry if they had another way of making a living. Think of that. And when I read my detractors, they seem to actually believe it’s an honor to be in pastoral ministry, that it’s an exclusive club. Since most denominations have an increasing number of empty buildings and shrinking congregations, it’s no wonder the global influence centers of Christianity are moving away from America to the south and to the west. Our mega-church and denominational leaders are increasingly irrelevant. Why? Too often, those we call “mature believers” are simply awful people. I am the bane of the American church, and I couldn’t stand going on vacation with most of them. It’s the same reason why the finest people won’t run for public office any longer. It’s just not worth it.

I’ll be better in the morning. I don’t think I want to teach, so I’ll probably ask one of the other pastors to do it. I’ll joyfully go to St. James, enjoy the worship, the Word, the folks, and then go to the airport and pick up Gayle and Christy. They will cheer me up, and we’ll move forward because of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and a handful of people who love God and love one another. But sometimes it’s a pain to have to associate with the arrogant who call themselves Christian. I wish there was a way out. Too often I resent that I went to a Christian university, believed the message and wasted my life. It feels like my life would be so much better if I had gone to a secular university, built a business, and retired by now. But I am a believer. My dream would be to serve the Lord with our local congregation and be left alone. I love the authentic body of believers, the Church, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit. I am a believer, grateful to God. I am a member of his body. I am a Christian.

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21st Century Evangelicalism

The Cross: Acquittal or Condemnation? Our Choice.

Dr. Fred Antonelli and Pastor Michael Cheshire wrote about my story in Relevant Magazine and Christianity Today, respectively. Both articles were followed by comments that were interesting, revealing, encouraging, and some a little disappointing. I appreciated the comments that taught that the Gospel could be applied to my life and that God’s resurrection in my life was verifiable and authentic. I noticed that those who thought sin should dictate over my life never based their arguments on quotes from any of my sermons over the last 30 years, my 9 published books, or the hundreds of thousands of pamphlets I’ve distributed. My blogs, personal appearances, websites, family relationships, or social media posts were not used as evidence against me. Instead they quoted media accounts, rumors, cited feelings and misused Scripture. Some claimed things they thought they heard me say but, in the comments I read, they were mistaken. What many were saying, without realizing it, was that I should not be obedient to God, his Word, or my spiritual authorities, but instead be ruled by their ideas about me.

I recently taught though 2 Corinthians at St. James Church. My teaching preference is to walk our congregation through a verse-by-verse exegetical study of specific books of the Bible, one at a time. I’ve done this for many years. I believe understanding and applying Scripture is enhanced by understanding the cultural, historical, and social issues that prompted the writing of any specific portion of Scripture. Often this process makes the biblical text come alive and creates a depth of comprehension. Because we start with the actual intent of the author and the cultural mindset of the hearer, we are then able to extrapolate how the Bible text applies to our lives as 21st Century New Testament believers. One of the sources I enjoy reading in preparation to teach the Pauline Epistles is William Barclay. Though non-technical, his insights have been helpful to me.

I thought about Barclay’s comments on 2 Corinthians when reading the comments following Dr. Antonelli’s and Pastor Cheshire’s articles. Barclay claims some portions of 2 Corinthians were Paul’s response to a series of accusations from the church. In his comments on 2 Corinthians 1:12-14, Barclay says Paul was responding to three charges:

1) They said “there was more to Paul’s conduct than met the eye.” Modern church leaders sometimes make this same claim against those they wish to disparage by saying, “If you only knew what I know.” This vilification isn’t specific enough for anyone to hold the accuser accountable, but effectively clouds the reputation of the slandered person.

2) Paul also had to respond to the  charge that he had hidden motives. When I hear someone raising suspicions about another person by presuming to know their motives, I become highly skeptical of the accuser, not the accused.

3) Paul didn’t say what he meant, there were hidden meanings in his words, the Corinthian church charged.  They were essentially saying Paul lied.

If these accusations would have been leveled against him in this generation, Paul’s ministry might not have survived. Our scandal hungry 24-hour news cycles and social media excesses would have left critics exactly where I found them in the comment section: confident in their opinions but unknowingly confused about the facts. Because Paul defended himself, we have read Paul’s response and NOT the accusations against him, we consider these indictments ludicrous and laud him for his courage. He’s exonerated in our minds. It’s interesting that he had to strongly defend himself to the Corinthians.

Barclay says Paul was responding to more slander in 2 Corinthians 1:15-22. Barclay wrote, “His (Paul’s) enemies had promptly accused him of being the kind of man who made frivolous promises with a fickle intention and could not be pinned down to a definite yes or no. That was bad enough, but they went on to argue, ‘If we cannot trust Paul’s everyday promises, how can we trust the things he told us about God?'”

Barclay says, “There are some people whose eyes are always focused to find fault, whose tongues are always tuned to criticize, in whose voice there is always a rasp and an edge. . . If we are constantly critical and fault-finding, if we are habitually angry and harsh, if we rebuke far more than we praise, the plain fact is that even our severity loses its effect.”

Slander is murder. Gossip is sin. Though I do not claim innocence, one of my many regrets is that I submitted to the requirement that I not grant any public interviews while under the Overseers and New Life contracts following my 2006 scandal. This left me and my family vulnerable, powerless, and defenseless, the church victimized, and the public misinformed and confused. That’s in the past. Because of this and other regrets, I have gained a new appreciation for the application of the Gospel. I have concluded that throwing stones is not beneficial for the one throwing the stones, the one being stoned, or the kingdom of God in general. Throwing stones does not work and is not helpful. The new and better way revealed in the New Testament, which is based on faith in the cross appropriating grace for all of us, is God’s way of dealing with our sin.

In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, Paul wrote, “I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.” Paul argues that this needs to be done so “that Satan will not outsmart us” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Of course quoting this verse seems self-serving since I am the sinner, but I hope it is as true for me as it is for you and everyone else.

We can all thank God that Paul defended himself. As a result, we’ve all benefitted from Paul’s inspired letters.

In that light, I suggest you read these articles and then the comments. Don’t judge or condemn the people who expressed their views. Stick to working with ideas. These articles and the comments following can serve as a mirror that motivates us to choose the cross, to be a friend of the gospel in others, and to fully embrace the application of the New Testament. Links below:

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/elephant-church

http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2012/december-online-only/going-to-hell-with-ted-haggard.html

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

 

Categories
21st Century Evangelicalism

The Value of Sin

Romans 11:32 reveals one of God’s priorities. “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone” (NLT). Think about this and read it again in the NIV, “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”

God loves us so much he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us to deliver us from sin. So what would motivate him to bind us over to disobedience? He answers it himself. He wants to make sure we see his response to our sin, which reveals his heart of mercy. Could it be that our comprehending his mercy is of greater value to him than our sinless perfection? Could he be communicating that without him we are flawed, and our conscious realization of that fact motivates us to gratitude? He doesn’t want us to be weak, but even more, he wants us to know that he is our strength.

20th Century Evangelicalism rightly emphasized the destructive power of sin and its consequences, correctly encouraging all of us to repent. 21st Century Evangelicalism can now build on that foundation and teach us to respond to the sins of others like Christ does. Christ’s response to our sin is redemptive. Therefore, if we in the church start responding to one another’s sins in a redemptive way, we might better communicate the true solution to humankind’s sin problem.

In 2007, while i was in exile in Phoenix, Arizona, a globally known pastor with a large mega-church came to visit me. He said,

Ted, I want to encourage you. I don’t think I would say this to anyone else, but I believe there are two types of sin. One type, the easy type, is the kind we repent of. It’s the kind you have dealt with. The other kind is the kind I have. I have sins that build my ministry, increase my income, and actually cause me to be more respectable in the eyes of the church. They are the kinds of sins we don’t repent of, sins like– me actually believing I know more than others and am a pretty good guy. I believe I have the answers for everyone. I exaggerate church attendance and hype the impact of my ministry in order to encourage supporters. I blame sinners for the things I don’t like, and I condemn people. We don’t repent of these sins because they are respectable. But guys like you get to repent. I envy you. (paraphrased).

This pastor demonstrated to me the point I had observed–those who address sinners in public, appearing to be without sin, often have more grievous sins than the sinner to whom they are addressing. Again, the Bible is true. . . all have sinned. Without question, sin is evil and damaging. We all need to turn from every form of sin in our lives with resolve and not live in them any longer. But based on this Scripture, could it be that our response to another person’s sin reveals more about us than we think? Based on God revealing himself in response to our sin, could it be that our core is revealed by our response to the sins of another? I think so.

Our response to another person’s sin is the #1 way OUR hearts are revealed.

Our response to another person’s sin is the #1 way OUR character is revealed.

Our response to another person’s sin is the #1 indicator of whether we understand the New Testament.

God sent Jesus in response to our sin, revealing God’s essence which is love. The depth of our sin forced a public affirmation of the depth of his redemptive nature. Our weakness gave him opportunity to demonstrate his strength on our behalf. Our rebellion gave him opportunity to prove his love for us.

For us to authentically reflect Christ, we will have to see the sins of another as an opportunity to demonstrate the Gospel rather than use it as an platform to rail against the sins of others and our need to rid the world of evil. It’s just not going to happen because. . . we are the sinners, though gratefully redeemed. We are the broken, though being healed. We must not respond to another’s sin as though we ourselves are not in need of mercy. If we imply self-righteousness in our response to others, we inadvertently deny the fundamentals of the Gospel in us We might have actually become an enemy of the Gospel in the one we are condemning. When we respond with smugness or arrogance, we deny the compassion and love of Christ. I propose instead that when another person sins, we use it as our opportunity to demonstrate that we are, in fact, Christ-like.

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

Categories
21st Century Evangelicalism

Is saying the salvation prayer actually being Born-Again?

During the last two generations of Evangelicalism, we’ve exclusively emphasized that our view of being born-again is the key to eternal life. We’ve also simplified the definition of being born-again so much that there is no measurable difference in life-style between those of us who claim to have been born-again and those who do not.

Jesus was clear in John 13:34 when he gave us a new command, “. . . Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” There are markers for those who are Christians. Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35). In John’s first epistle, he drove the point home by saying, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. but anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (I John 4:7-8).

So why aren’t born-again believers known for their love?

A few years ago, I participated in a debate on a Jewish website and said that one of the great qualities of an authentic believer in Jesus is to serve, protect the rights of, and do what we can to improve the lives of people who are not like us. I illustrated it by saying it’s an honorable and noble role for Evangelical Christians to secure the rights, safety and security of everyone, whether they be willfully disobedient and sinful, or belong to groups like the Jews, Muslims, secularists, agnostics, and others who are not persuaded that Jesus is the Son of God and that the Bible is the Word of God. Using our voices and strength to protect and serve others is not a validation of their beliefs or practices, but a demonstration of our faith in a Savior that saved us while we were yet sinners. It’s Christ-like on our part to serve others, even those whom we’ve not persuaded.

When my comments were covered in the press with typical excessive drama and misinformation, one individual wrote me out of concern for my soul: “Satan must have clapped his hands, having found another victim from inside church which he is now successfully using to establish his anti-Christian and anti-biblical filth. May God have mercy on you!”

I have no doubt that non-believers and those who don’t strive to live according to the Bible will not receive everything Christ has provided for them, but I do believe that the Bible instructs all of us to do everything we can to make life better for others, whether they are in the faith or not. After all, John wrote that “Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning” (2 John 1:6). We not only love our fellow believers in Christ, but we also extend that love to others outside our faith communities in order to represent God to them.

So why don’t we who are born-again know much about love? Sadly, the central aim for many Christian leaders isn’t abiding in and reflecting the life of Christ, birthed from a dynamic relationship with him producing fruit and life, but instead being correct according to our knowledge of what is good and what is evil . . . which we should know by now is deadly.

Secondly, I think it’s because our leaders don’t know much about love. To my knowledge, there is not one seminary or Bible school class, or even a workshop in a mega-church conference, exclusively devoted to training leaders in biblical, New Testament love and its application in a local church on a bad day. The application of biblical love in the midst of difficult situations is central to “proving to the world that we are his disciples” (John 13:35). Many Christian leaders have never seriously contemplated the application of biblical love when responding to a non-believer, a sinning Christian leader, or what we might perceive as an ungodly social trend in our community.

We who have said the salvation prayer to receive eternal life as a free gift from God may have been ushered into a discipleship process that didn’t teach us New Testament life and relationship, but instead Old Testament law that leads to death, often cloaked in “standing for righteousness” or “church discipline.” Thus, in the midst of New Testament grace, become the walking dead.

Maybe we need to rethink what it means to be born-again? Maybe we need to transition our thinking about being born-again from a one time experience in which we recite a prayer to a process of being transformed from glory to glory through Christ’s love as we grow in his lordship and grace. If our view of living in God’s kingdom doesn’t involve living for the good of others, even though we have said a salvation prayer, maybe we’ve not been born-again. When Jesus spoke of eternal life, he described the difference between the sheep and the goats was in the way we respond to socially unacceptable people (see Matthew 25:31-46). I think all of us can benefit by filling in the blanks about who the unacceptable people are to us. When asked about eternal life, Jesus taught that it included giving all we have away to the poor (Matthew 19:16-22). We’ll discuss that in a later blog.

No doubt, prayer is necessary to our born-again process, but we need to measure the effectiveness of that prayer in our lives. It could be that the evidence is found in our obedience to his command to “love one another.”

Thank you for this question. It’s a good one.

Categories
21st Century Evangelicalism

I AM WHO I AM

Moses was one of the most educated people in his generation. He was educated as the future leader of the most powerful nation on earth. He had been raised as the son of the world’s most powerful man and was groomed to rule. Consequently, he understood not only the political, economic, scientific, and social dynamics of his day, but he also understood the accepted contemporary spiritual practices. He knew and had worshipped the gods of Egypt. He understood God, or so he thought.

After committing murder and abandoning his relationships and responsibilities, he lived in exile in the desert for forty years. During this time, God met with him and identified himself as “I AM WHO I AM.” If we in the modern age wanted to say the same thing, we would say, “I am who I am, and you have to accept me as I am.” In order to fully grasp this encounter, we have to hear God speaking to Moses with some attitude in his voice; ” Are you humble yet? Stop thinking you know who I am and what I’m like. You don’t know me, and neither do those who say they know me, what I do and do not do. They think they know me and can represent me, but they misrepresent me and don’t know me as well as they think they do. I am who I am. Let me speak for myself and represent myself.”

I know the problems that develop when others presume to represent someone else. In the 2006 scandal that shook my world, I resigned, repented, confessed, and submitted. Consequently, it allowed others to speak for me without consulting me or knowing actual facts. As a result, the web is filled with distortions, misrepresenting my actions, personality, motivations, and relationships. Building on false presuppositions, many have taken broad liberties with my story without reading my books, listening to my sermons, or meeting with me. As a result, they have come to flawed conclusions. When someone tries to determine my belief systems by reading skewed reports on the web, they are deeply mistaken. Everyone should have the liberty to represent themselves. I think God doesn’t appreciate being misrepresented and wants to represent himself to each of us as well.

So for us to understand him, we have to be willing to accept that God is who he is, whether we like him or not, and whether we like what he does . . . or doesn’t do. He enters into a relationship with us just the way we are. Then the authenticity and dynamic of that relationship improves our lives. But for that relationship to be legitimate, our response to Christ’s call must be, “and I am who I am.” Then and only then can there be the beginning of a trust-saturated bond that can change our lives.

Every child has to dismiss fantasies about their parents in order to actually meet them. Every spouse has to realize that dating their spouse provided an incomplete picture, and as the years pass, they actually meet one another. It’s through the acceptance of each other that we achieve authentic relationship. We need to stop the pretense and be honest about who we are so we can have authentic relationships in order to grow. With authenticity we can proactively learn how to invest in each other’s success, have the courage to identify with one another and the wisdom to encourage one another in the most difficult situations.

To know Christ, we must accept that he is who he is. Christ is always faithful, and he never leaves us in our worst or best days. He is who he is–always faithful. And we, being who we are, can respond to his faithfulness. As Christ’s family here on the earth, we have to be willing to invest in one another in the midst of the realities of our strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad days, successes and failures.

I like that Christ accepted me, just the way I am. So in return, I accept Christ, just the way he is.

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

Categories
21st Century Evangelicalism

21st Century Evangelicals

It’s a new day. During the 20th century Evangelicals spent more money spreading the Gospel than ever before. We printed more Bibles, built more Bible schools, seminaries, hospitals, and camps than in any other century. We now have more television stations, radio stations, missionaries, bumper stickers, t-shirts and churches than ever before. We did a great job spreading the message that the Bible is the Word of God, Jesus is the Son of God, and that all of us need to be born-again. One would think we should be headed into a positive future.

But as every political campaign and, sadly, too many sermons remind us, if we get off message, we lose. 20th Century Evangelicalism got way off message. Now our gods are attendance and money, our core aim is maintaining a good reputation, and our message is some strange amalgamation of Old Testament Law, New Testament grace, and the most recent cultural trends. As a result, we are powerless, mediocre, and many of our so-called bishops and apostles are nothing more than clouds without rain.

It’s time for a 21st Century Evangelicalism to arise. But it can’t be the message of the 20th Century made cool with graphics, videos, jeans and goatees. Simple Evangelicalism or Evangelicalism 2.0 won’t do. I believe 20th Century Evangelicalism is known as a hate group by so many because. . . we actually became a hate group to many. We don’t need a repackaging, we need to discover our New Testament center. We need to start again, and evaluate the New Testament in light of current realities and revisit our purpose in Christ. The focus of these blogs is to contemplate the central themes of Evangelicalism– theologically, socially, and structurally– and suggest some New Testament revisions.

Many of these ideas we have explored at the Roundtables on Life-Giving Leadership, which met around the country to refine the language of a Redemptive New Testament Church. Now, at the Healthy Church Intensives that I host here in Colorado for church leaders, we work to integrate authentic New Testament solutions and always produce healthy churches that grow in Christ. My intent with these blogs is a life-giving journey. My prayer is that this journey causes us to become exactly what Christ intended, an authentic body of believers, all gratefully redeemed.

If you are a church leader and are interested in you and/or your team attending a Healthy Church Intensive, contact me at tedhaggard7@aol.com.

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.