Reflecting on the "Trials of Ted Haggard"

I watched the Ted Haggard special on HBO last night and was left really thinking about a couple of things:


1. The show wants you to feel sympathy for Ted.  As a fellow sinner, this is no problem.  As a fellow sinner saved by grace, this too, is no problem.  However, I’m still not sure how honest Ted is on camera, off camera, behind the camera, whatever.  I’d like to be careful with how far my suspicion carries me but I do feel some sympathy for him.  Many may want him to just “go away”.  But going away in that sense only means “get out of my life”.  Ted still lives and we cannot write people off and I needed to be reminded of that.

2. The show wants you to either be amazed for his wife Gayle or write her off as an idiot for staying with him.  I choose to be amazed.

3. The show wanted to present as much of Ted’s life as possible and that included his kids.  While, the sympathetic part of me really wanted to know how the boys were adjusting, I’m glad the cameras weren’t on them much.  Good decision on the Haggards part.

4. The show wants to present all the characters in this story.  I was glad they showed Mike Jones, (the trainer that engaged in homosexual acts and gave drugs to Ted).  He may be hurting from this and who knows what else but he presented himself as quite the opportunist.  

5. The show wants you to be angry at the insensitive attitude of New Life Church.  Mission accomplished.  I understand that there is a history with Ted’s misconduct (new details are being discovered.  Ted has not been honest, still not sure if he is now), and they were right to dismiss him, but to banish him from Colorado?   Really?  I’m guessing they gave him a generous settlement and leaving the state was among the conditions.  Ted, defeated and ashamed would have agreed to just about anything.

I know that many will say there was follow-up counseling with Ted (that wanted to bring him back to restoration.  And you probably have heard the term “completely heterosexual”) but from this show, it seemed that it didn’t last too long.  Further, it didn’t seem to bring him to restoration.  Now, I remember reading that Ted walked out on the counseling.  I’m wondering if that’s what led to his banishment of Colorado but I don’t know these details and there’s too much online to determine.  But even if Ted curses his counselors and storms out, which would be wrong on his part, a church should not exile you from the state.  I can understand not allowing him to come back to that particular church within a certain time frame but banishing someone out of the state?  I tell you, if I heard this in a Starbucks or at a pub, I wouldn’t have believed it and if HBO is telling us the truth, then this is not how we as a Church treat people, even if he is lying. 


I know my post is somewhat sensitive to Ted Haggard and I am comfortable with that.  And believe me, he’s a tough case for me.  Mega-church pastor, homosexual acts, evangelicalism, deception, rumors, it’s easy to want to dismiss the whole thing.  And while I can do that being from New Jersey, I cannot as a part of the Body. Certainly he sinned.  A sin that has hurt many people in many ways and I do not treat that lightly.  This is reality however, and we as people, from the shady to even the most sincere-hearted Christ followers to all those in between, will continue to fail.  The Church cannot turn its back on people.  It’s not Christ-like.

Anyone want to go to the The Evolving Church Conference Amidst the Powers?

Saw this over on Adam’s blog.  Anyone interested in joinging me for a road trip from the NYC area?

It takes place Saturday, March 21 in Toronto.  More info here:

Monday Morning Brief – 1.26.09

Highlight of the Week – Still enjoying the afterglow of our winter retreat.  So far haven’t heard any complaints since returning.  Maybe I’m doing a better job at being disengaged and ignoring others.  Before leading the congregational prayer this morning, I shared about our retreat.  I was surprised that people clapped but appreciate that our youth ministry is appreciated.  We got great leaders, a good group of kids, some good parents, and God is helping our rhythm right now.  Could things be better?  Sure when is that never an appropriate question?  But I’m thankful that we are moving in the right direction as a ministry and that our students are responding.  2.  Sermon for class went fairly well.  My profs were very encouraging.  I consider them all my friends and each gave kind words. Further I appreciated the critiques, especially the ones that expressed some of my words could be potentially offensive.  That’s good and bad of course, but I don’t like to upset people on purpose, it’s the Spirit’s job to convict; I just can’t water it down.  So may God give me wisdom.   3. Was grateful that Susan and Nathan returned safely from FL.

Disappointed by – And here’s where we get ugly.  Can you believe Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino got snubbed by the Academy?  I’m starting to wonder about this “Academy”.  Now, I liked Benjamin Button a lot but 13 nominations?  I haven’t seen Slumdog but I’m told it’s amazing.  Anyway, they missed it on Gran Torino.

Procrastinating on – Things I call “Priority 2” but should be done some time.  I think for those of you who speak Stephen Covey it’s the category known as “Important but not Urgent”.  

ReadingThe Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, and back into Metavista (almost finished).  It’s a book that I really enjoy and really find helpful.  Hope to blog about it soon.

Student Ministry is – Aside from what I mentiond about the retreat, I am happy to say I am finding a lot of fulfillment right now.  Of course there are always glitches and things that shouldn’t be, but I am thankful that we’ve been on a good trajectory for a while now. I credit the fair trade coffee we are drinking now.

Looking Forward to – 1. Emergent cohort meeting tonight.  2. Taking a class with Pete Enns, 3. Catching up on things.

To all who forwarded me the email about Obama being sworn in with the Koran …May you be forced to carry a bigger Bible than Lincoln’s every week to church.

To all who forwarded me the email about Obama being sworn in with the Koran …May you be forced to carry a bigger Bible than Lincoln’s every week to church.


Hey, this post is about calling us as followers of Christ to be centered on love.  To some that sentence sounds diluted and compromised.  So in plain words this is what I am saying:  We do not demonstrate our love for Christ by hating others.  This includes those who appear to be disobedient to our Savior’s teachings.  But let us be humble, for many times, it is us who are disobedient as well.


In less than a week since President Obama was sworn in office, I received several emails and comments of what he had already overturned.  None were true.  First, let us remember that many of us are Christians, first, all else, second.  Further, for those of us who claim to be truthful, let us be be more diligent about pursuing the truth before pressing “Forward” or speaking out loud. 


Lastly, though it may surprise some, I did not vote for President Obama (so this should not be interpretted as rubbing it in), but I respect him for many reasons.  I am inspired that an African American is the President.  It not only means so much to all minorities, but it means so much to non-minorities as well.  I appreciate many of his positions and disagree with a few and am skeptical about some others, however, this always been true of everyone I’ve seen occupy such a seat.  Regardless, I am, as I always have been, proud to be an American.  May God give us all wisdom, courage and grace.  The Lord is my judge, yours too, may He continue to give us mercy.

Reflecting on Rick Warren’s Invocation

Here’s what I know:  Although I’m working on it, I’m too snobby to appreciate a guy like Rick Warren.  Anytime, you sell so many books and appeal to so many people, and you’re not the humility of Billy Graham or the self-sacrifice of Mother Theresa, I usually only see you as a fear-mongerer like some or a car salesman like others (see how I am exercising wisdom by not mentioning names in negative light?). 

Warren does not inspire me with his prophetic wisdom like a McLaren, nor dazzle me with his intelligence like a Scot McKnight.  I am not mesmerized by his speaking ability like Tim Keel nor envious of his creativity like a Rob Bell.  I could go on and on but you probably get it.

So why do I like Rick Warren?  First, the Purpose Driven Life was a good book. Though I could have gone without the 40 Days of hype that surrounded it, at least it was a worthy book for thousands of churches to read together (yes, in addition to the constant reading of the Scriptures).  Though I’d like to say Jesus Creed or Secret Message of Jesus or New Christians, in the last 10 years, I cannot think of another book that so many millions can read together.  It is my opinion that we could have gone without the various accompanying journals, workbooks, and boxer shorts, I appreciate that Warren isn’t churning out multiple books a year.  Third, for a guy who makes a lot of money, he doesn’t look or act like it.  I only wish to say this is refreshing and will bite my tongue on any comparisons. 

The next set of reasons has to do with his influence.  I know many pastors that are very influenced by Warren and Saddleback and he uses his credibility well.  His concern for many world-crises like poverty and  AIDS has changed the minds of so many from disregarding such things “social gospel” to carrying the gospel torch and calling such things part of the work of the church.

Lastly, the fact that a conservative pastor like Warren has such a relationship with President Obama is amazing!  (Yes more amazing than Falwell and Flynt which I wish people would remember.  The only thing that can top this is if Dobson and Pagit become friends).   At risk of sounding naïve, the inaugural invocation is not as spectacular to me as it may be for other people.   I’m just inspired that Obama wanted him.

As far as the actual prayer, I thought it was as good as it’s going to be.  I liked that he used his everyday, common guy personality, that he didn’t come out in a Hawaiian shirt (that he hasn’t worn in 3 years because doesn’t want that to be his signature), and that he didn’t come out pretending to be Billy Graham.  He prayed as a man asking for God’s blessing on the President, the people that follow him, and the world at large.  This is a good thing and I hold a great deal of respect for this man.

Monday Morning Brief though it's Tuesday – 1.20.09 –

It’s Tuesday but it feels like Monday.


Highlights of the Week:  Having just returned from our senior high winter retreat, I’m tired and blessed.  All in all, another solid retreat.  Though there is no such thing as having arrived, I can tell that we have a better spirit or culture in our ministry.   As mentioned in the previous post, our theme centered around the movie “Crash” and our themes were “Justice, Racism, Providence and Redemption”.  They loved the movie, we looked at a lot of Scripture and we had great discussions.  Some leaders said that it was probably our best large group discussion we’ve had.  I tend to feel differently about retreats and trips as time passes. I need the time to rest and process but I really do feel good about it.

At the moment:  1. I’m procrastinating on writing  my sermon for class today.  I think it will go ok, it just feels mediocre and I’m tired from the retreat. 2. Also I’ve been really thankful for our youth leaders.  They give so much and they allow the Lord to work through them.  Very grateful.  


Looking Forward to: 1. Being with my family again.  Susan and Nathan flew to FL to visit the in-laws and they picked a great week to go since it’s freezing out here and 70 degrees in FL.  They get back Thursday.  2. Seeing history made today at Obama’s inauguration.  Friends, regardless of our respective views in politics, this is an incredible day in American history. 3.  Getting back to some kind of routine.  4. Super Bowl with Steelers vs. the … uhhh, the Cardinals???  Surely the Cards can’t win this one.  5. LOST!

Watching "Crash" on our SH Winter Retreat

This MLK weekend is our Senior Winter Retreat at Camp of the Woods (COTW), in Speculator NY.  If you have never been to COTW, it’s quite the place – half camp – half resort.  It’s sorta like a mega-church for church camps.

This trip to this venue was foreordained  by decades of  life-long devotees.  We have several members of our congregation that have homes here and  many more that plan on retiring here and then there is the countless population that vacation here.  Add to it that many of our youth group students work here for the summer, and you have legend almost as big as Narnia.  I like to joke that for all their vision, imagination, fundraising, and preaching, it is unbearable to live with its completely unoriginal name – “Camp of the Woods”??  Was “Camp by the Lake” already taken?  Aside from that, it’s a nice place, with a great staff, and though a tad pricey, it’s been the venue of some of our better memories.

Each year, we put on our own winter retreat program.  We use our own worship band, I speak, etc.  Sound boring?  Shut up, that’s what we do Wednesday nights too.  In order for it not to look like Wednesday nights, we go skiing, have a talent show, play games, bring the Xbox and embarrass ourselves to Rock Band and overall, we do our best to create the fun.  It helps that we have a solid core group that get into whatever we’re doing.  Regarding the lesson theme, we’ve used movies. It’s been tough brainstorming movies that will work for an entire weekend.

My first year at this church we did a safe movie – a little, independent feature, called “The Matrix”.   Yeah, it was the “Garden State of ’99″.   It was easy,  the points connected well, we got a solid response, and for some, it was the first thing I did right.  Last year, we weren’t safe and we did the satire, “Saved!” and we themed it around hypocrisy and unconditional love.  The discussion groups were excellent.  The movie offends, at least mildly, to most people, (as is the point of good satire) but I was impressed that no one thought we should not have shown it.  For this and other reasons, last year was probably the best retreat that I had been a part of. 

So, as we were leaving for this retreat, I welcomed them to the second-best retreat ever (since we didn’t want to put any undue pressure on ourselves).  We’ve changed a few things, trying a different ski resort, implementing some new rules to balance sociability and technology (I don’t ban ipods, but free reign has kept a small minority disengaged), and showing another great movie.

We’re showing “Crash”.  It’s an edited version (some parts maybe a bit too much but I suppose the envelope should only be pushed so far) from one of those companies that stay in business for a few months and get shut down.  

Our themes will be Justice, Racism, Providence and Redemption and I am excited for this discussion this MLK Weekend.  I am using more Scripture than I normally do and am hoping that I am using the language of movies to connect with them, that the language of Scripture will translate too.  We’ll see what happens.

Reflecting on Evan's Tweet: What do you find to be the best way to engage someone who speaks negatively about the emerging church …

Earlier today, Evan (author of “Why I’m Not Emergent”) tweeted “What do you find to be the best way to engage someone who speaks negatively about the emerging church and assumes you agree?”  The last part of it is funny to me because it has happened a bunch of times but I want to discuss the first part. 

Here’s what I found.  Some people think the emergent church is:

  •  the work of the devil.
  •  equated with relativism.
  •  “liberalism repackaged”.
  •  a fancy way of saying that you’re “open minded” and welcome you to their world.
  •  dangerous or misplaced but still they are interested and curious and somewhat cautious about it.

To those that subscribe to the first 3, it depends how I am feeling that day.  For me, I do not need to convert anyone to emergent-type thinking.  I don’t think there is much to gain.  When some say that they find it to be “unbiblical”, I’ll generally enter into conversation and ask: What have you heard, what have you read, why do you say this …  I may or may not continue depending on that answer.

But let’s assume that you are in a great conversation with a wonderful Christ-follower.  Their knowledge of emerging church is what they heard from someone who read DA Carson’s book three years ago, a critique or two from their Bible-believing pulpit, and the attacks on Brian McLaren and Tony Jones they Googled eight months ago.  But they really are interested because they loved the title of Doug Pagit’s book A Christianity Worth Believing. 

Generally, I begin by explaining that according to the EV website and the many lectures I’ve heard, that is usually described as a “friendship” or a “conversation”.  Friendships don’t have doctrinal statements and healthy ones don’t have agendas.  They can have passion, debate, even good German beer, but they also have love.  

If we’re still friends, I offer to  forward them Scot McKnight’s 5 Streams of the Emerging Church.  In the good old days before 2008, I had recommended Generous Orthodoxy but now I recommend New Christians and if they’re rich (aka Presbyterian), then I tell them to buy both.  (Still need to read A Christianity Worth Believing but like, everyone I love the title).  After that, the most helpful book I read was Leslie Newbigin’s Proper Confidence.  Thank you John Franke and yes, the second most helpful was the Character of Theology … after it was explained in class … by Jay, Evan, Jon, Wendy …  Don’t mnd me, it’s a blog, I’m just having fun here.)

In the actual conversation I try to make these distinctions:

Postmodernism cannot be simply equated to relativism (although it contains it).  Postmodernism is better understood as an age as opposed to merely a philosophy.  Further, it is a response to modernism that seeks to combine the best of the pre-modern world (also known as the ancient world) and the modern world (as much good came out of it but it became incomplete when it lost its imagination and appreciation of mystery).

Regarding the “liberalism repackaged” line, among the many reasons (which some of them do not help) here is another.  It’s been my experience that when a couple of “conservatives” discover that they are seated at a table with those they perceive to be “liberals”,  their almost immediate response is to get up and leave the table.  If their attempts at “real conversion” are unsuccessful, the eventual response is to abandon the conversation with the satisfaction of having known a seed of truth was planted in the jungle of “heresy” (which is a word that should be held with the same reverence as the F-bomb).  I find myself not being socially liberal enough for some, and not conservative enough for others, but I’ve been very welcomed in this friendship.

That said, it’s ok to disagree in peace and love.  One may have a hermeneutic they prefer or at a different part of the journey (or even on a completely different journey).  The emergent thing does not really need an apologetic but it’s difficult for me to appreciate the “unbiblical” line.  For me, I have a higher and I’d like to argue healthier view of the Bible.  Thus, I do not appreciate the charge of being “unbiblical”.

For those of you further into the conversation, feel free to add/edit the list.

For those new, interested, curious, welcome, pull up a digital chair.

For those critical, have a nice day, Jesus loves me too (and so do we).

You Saw It Here … Second Last

Some posts and articles for your enjoyment:

Evan’s post on Why I”m Not Emergent

Missional People Watching on Everyday Liturgy.

Bono as guest Op-Ed Columnist in the NY Times with an article entitled, “Notes from the Chairman”  (It’s sort of a post-New Year’s Eve reflection inspired by Sinatra, Miles, and wine.)

Reflecting on Driscoll's NY Times piece, Who Would Jesus Smack Down?

I read through the NY Times article “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?” about Mark Driscoll.  For those who don’t know, Mark is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA, he’s authored several books, speaks nationally, blogs, among other things.  For those who do know, I encourage you to read it anyway.  ;-)

There’s a lot about Driscoll that I agree with.  There’s even a lot I like.  I appreciate his passion, the desire to invest in others, and his love for the Scriptures.  Undoubtedly, he has done some good things for the Kingdom.  But in heaven, we will both sit embarrassed of our theology and this will be true of all of us.  But I have some glitches too.  One is that he’s overly critical of the emergent church conversation. Not to imply that he needs to become a poster child for it, nor am I asserting the only way to be a faithful Christ-follower today is to be a part of emergent, but I wish he had continued with the conversation instead of abandoning and criticizing it.  I also wish he was more gracious with who/what he disagreed with.  My hope is that he does not age into the common perception of a Pat Robertson.  He’s not that now, because he’s young and accepted as “cool”.

Perhaps my greatest issue with Mark is how he speaks about women.  I find it embarrassing.  As one who grew up with the teaching and example of a strong complementarian model, I find him to be “off the mark”.  Perhaps you may know more about this subject than I, are there varying degrees to this?   To me, his views sound like a delicate balance between chauvinism and slavery.  His is not the complementation position.  My favorite example is his message from July 11, 2005 on Genesis 39, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (available on itunes podcasts and probably through the Mars Hill website).

Here’s another thing that always annoys me.  While I can nod my head in agreement that Jesus wasn’t only always snuggling with children and cuddling with lambs, he wasn’t Braveheart 24-7 either.  (By the way, Mel was balanced, fluent in French and gifted in brutally dismembering people).  I submit that Jesus is even more well-rounded.  But not only is Jesus perceived differently to many people but he was different to different people.  He’s a warrior and a poet.  He fought the Pharisees and cried with the mourners.  He blessed the meek but passionately overturned the corrupt money-changers.  We know all this, right? Agreed, Jesus wasn’t the “limp-wristed, wussy” that some have allegedly created but stressing the tattooed, demon bounty-hunting, “Roadhouse”  Jesus does not seem to be an accurate picture either. He’s not Fabio and not Stone Cold Steve Austin.

We are all different relative to our context.  We behave as fools in front of infants, saints in our churches, cheering fools at our ball games, and hope to be courageous in the face of danger.  Do not dismiss this as hypocrisy, but this is appropriate for humans for we are not one dimensional.  Can I assume that Driscoll makes an attempt to not use profanity in front of his children?

Concerning the article, it’s well written and am grateful it’s in the Times.  If this were my first time hearing of Driscoll, I’d be interested in learning more about him.  Some things are a little over-stated though.  It creates (unintentionally, I presume) this paradigm between seeker sensitive churches and churches like Mars Hill.  Sentences like these “They are not ‘the next big thing’ but a protest movement, defying an evangelical mainstream that, they believe, has gone soft on sin and has watered down the Gospel into a glorified self-help program.” imply that it’s one or the other.  Was this written by a modernist?  Is this meant to say if you are not part of Driscoll’s protest movement, you are soft on sin?  Again, probably not intentional but that’s what I am reading.

I encourage you to read the piece; I found this paragraph to be interesting is this paragraph.  Try to read through, the last line is brilliant:

“Mars Hill — with its conservative social teachings embedded in guitar solos and drum riffs, its megachurch presence in the heart of bohemian skepticism — thrives on paradox. Critics on the left and right alike predict that this delicate balance of opposites cannot last. Some are skeptical of a church so bent on staying perpetually “hip”: members have only recently begun to marry and have children, but surely those children will grow up, grow too cool for their cool church and rebel. Others say that Driscoll’s ego and taste for controversy will be Mars Hill’s Achilles’ heel. Lately he has made a concerted effort to tone down his language, and he insists that he has delegated much authority, but the heart of his message has not changed. Driscoll is still the one who gazes down upon Mars Hill’s seven congregations most Sundays, his sermons broadcast from the main campus to jumbo-size projection screens around the city. At one suburban campus that I visited, a huge yellow cross dominated center stage — until the projection screen unfurled and Driscoll’s face blocked the cross from view. Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.”

While, I know I need to be careful of that too, the line made me laugh.