News broke last week about the moral failing and deception of Ted Haggard, Pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado and leader of the National Association of Evangelicals. The disclosure of the scandal was suspiciously timed for the weekend before election Tuesday, just as Colorado considers a marriage amendment similar to the one on the ballot in Virginia.
Such a scandal is, of course, disappointing in many ways. For some it will only reinforce the notion that Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites. In worship last Sunday evening, I made the observation that the media reaction to such scandals might actually have something positive to say about the way non-believers view the evangelical church. Namely, they expect something different from us and from our leaders. They expect a higher standard of moral and ethical behavior. It is news, not business as usual, when Christian leaders fall into gross error.
Haggard has been held accountable by his church’s governing board. Last Saturday he was dismissed from his position as pastor. A letter of repentance was read to his church on Sunday morning. His church leaders will seek to minister to him even in his failings.
What do we learn from this story? First, all leaders are human and are sinners. Parents will fall into sin in leading the family. Pastors, Elders, and Deacons will fall into sin in leading churches. Civil authorities will fall into sin in leading governments. This does not excuse sin, however, when it occurs in any of those situations. Leaders in every sphere of influence must know that they are vulnerable to temptation and they must also be held to account.
Second, as I suppose the folk at New Life are discovering, we must be clear that we do not come to church (or not come to church, for that matter) for the personality of any man. Please do not come to Jefferson Park Baptist Church for the personality of Jeff Riddle or any other sinful man. If we place our hope and trust in men, we will be disappointed every time.
In the book of Revelation, the apostle John records his encounter with a brilliant angel. As John falls at his feet to worship this excellent creature, God’s messenger replies: "See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!" (Rev 19:10; cf. also 22:9).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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