Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Are you discouraged?

For the past few weeks I have been part of the Long Beach Press Telegram "Ask the Clergy" section. Each week we are given a question to respond to (300 words or less). I thought that this week's question would make a good blog.
In wake of the latest scandal with
Ted Haggard, (the Pastor in
Colorado) how would you encourage
those who are discouraged, hurt or
disappointed by his actions, in
the Christian community?

In our society I still believe that ministers are given a sense of reverence and respect. In one sense this is good, because it allows them the opportunity to teach, train, and guide people as followers of Jesus Christ. And yet, the danger can be that people give too much power to their minister, and put them up on a pedestal. Let me talk about the power issue first. When someone is given a great amount of power, the danger lies in the misuse of this power. Power can be misused by taking advantage of another or by seeking to gain wrongly from that power. But the other side is being put on a pedestal. The problem with being put on a pedestal, is that no one deserves this, because no one can live up to it. The apostle Paul, in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 3:4-5, 4For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? 5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” All pastors are merely servants of Jesus. They are not giants, and they are not gods.

Ted Haggard’s scandal has reminded us that we are all sinners, and we are all capable of doing wrong. This scandal is hurtful and discouraging to the Christian community because it causes people to look down upon God when God’s leaders fail. But the encouragement comes when we realize that the job of a leader is to point people to Jesus Christ, and the love and salvation that comes from Jesus. Even when a leader falls, Jesus Christ is still the same, and the One in whom we are to believe. The encouragement is in knowing that the failure of others reminds us of our own struggles, and that Jesus alone is the One who can help us overcome our struggles and make a difference with our lives. The encouragement comes in knowing that the Church is to be built not on the lives of Christian leaders, but on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
So, when we fail, or when we are discouraged by our own actions, or by others, we can know that Jesus Christ is there for us. It is in Jesus that we are to believe, and whose example we are to follow. Christianity is not following a leader, but following a Savior; Jesus Christ. Tell me what you think (

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To those who follow Jesus as though he were a celebrity in a tabloid, ALL of Christianity and followers of Christ are somehow lumped into the same category as one man, Ted Haggard.

Simply put, a "leader" is anyone who has influence over another person. People in leadership positions - in all walks of life - find themselves in the Power/Pedestal balance. But I think you hit it head-on when you said that "the job of a leader is to point."

I took the time to read Haggard's statement to the New Life congregation This man who has been knocked from his pedestal still points! He asked four things: 1-Stay faithful to God. 2-Forgive him (Haggard). 3-Forgive his accuser...he didn't violate them, Haggard did. 4-Stay faithful to each other...encourage each other and rejoice in God's faithfulness.

In the book THR3E by Ted Dekker, two characters are having a discussion about good and evil. The conversation is early in the story, and I've omitted the foundational narrative, but here is the essence of the conversation:

"Evil is beyond the reach of no man."
"But can a man remove himself beyond the reach of evil?"
"Indeed. Can a man step beyond evil's reach? I think not. "
"Then all men are condemned to a life of evil."
"A lifetime STRUGGLE with evil, not a life of evil."

The account that Paul writes in Romans 7 vividly talks about the lifetime struggle with evil that we all live with. Praise God that we have leaders who point to the cross and not to the pedestal.