The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sad news...

So beginning yesterday, the news was filled with news about allegations that Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs had engaged in a sexual relationship with a man and also did drugs.

People far smarter than I can deal with the truth of the allegations. Haggard is saying he bought and never used the drugs, got a massage from the guy but never had sexual contact. And evidently the one making the allegations failed the portion of the lie detector that said they actually had sex. So it is weird to say the least.

I don't think that what happened to Haggard is unusual. In watching the Dateline NBC's expose called "To Catch a Predator" last week, the announcer essentially said that they were no longer surprised when the suspect told that he was or had been involved in ministry somehow. So now in sting operations to catch child predators, we are finding enough people in ministry that it is now considered not unusual.

Leaders, either lead with integrity or take the time to walk away and deal with your stuff. One of the heroes of the faith to me is Reverend Billy Graham. His character, his integrity and his willingness to lead in tough times all speak volumes to me. And one of the lessons that I have taken from his life is this: he wanted to live in such a way that he is beyond reproach. And he has been. People have complained about Graham's theology, his politics and more. But no one has ever called into account his character. He put things in his life that insured that he was always beyond reproach.

And I truly think that from my experience that here are some of the factors that move people down this road.

We get wounded and never take the time to heal. I know as well as anyone that ministry sometimes greatly and deeply hurts. My experience of being “let go” from a church that I loved and served for 4 years was a deeply and profoundly hurtful one. Thankfully, I had a friend in ministry who enabled me to go to counseling and I still speak to my counselor from time to time. Even in the midst of that, there is still some healing that needs to happen in my life. Had I simply moved to another local church (which almost happened in my case) my anger, my rage and my pain would still be with me. When we don’t seek healing, we are asking for our issues to show themselves in deeply damaging ways.

So we need to cultivate a culture where it is smart and valuable for people to take a step away from ministry in order to seek healing for their own hearts. Ministry hurts. Healing takes time.

Too many people in ministry get damaged and then never spend the time needed to get well. More of us need to be willing to walk away from ministry for the sake of our own souls. But we become convinced that we are much too important to the kingdom of God to walk away from our posts. May God save us from our foolishness.

We don’t have real accountability. I have known and am friends with tons of people involved in ministry. And far too many of us have no real accountability in our lives.

Personally, I have always tried to grow accountability in my own life. I have some relationships with friends that are completely transparent. And there are some keys to why I think it works for me- there isn’t any competition, there is no chance of “exposure” and the care is for me first and my ministry second. So I have worked really hard to cultivate that. And most ministers I know don’t.

Instead we fall into the comparison game. Whose church is bigger. Who is making the biggest jump among churches. More money, more power, more connections and more egos. The truth is that we need people in our lives that can speak hard truth. If you are in ministry and you don’t have those people, then you may be headed for trouble.

Which leads us to…

We think it will never happen to us. Whenever you start to talk about this idea among people in ministry, you always seem to get a “Been there, done that” feel to the conversation. Everyone has an idea in their head that they would never head down that road. And while meth and weird massages might not be your beast, there but for the grace of God go you. (And all of us.)

We all have our weaknesses and our struggles. And when we become tired, wounded and don’t have accountability, we are already sliding down the slippery slope. We need to be able to realize that all of us could stumble and do everything we can to ensure that we don’t stumble.

So pray for leaders. Pray for Ted Haggard, his family, his staff and his church. Pray for healing to happen before the wounds manifest themselves in such damaging ways. Amen.


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