08 November 2006

In the 1999 book In The Name Of Jesus, Henri Nouwen writes some words that have been stirring my heart and mind for several days now. I'd read them before in the various times I've gone through this deceptively simple little Nouwen volume ... but with the recent downfall of Ted Haggard in Colorado Springs, the Spirit of Christ had brought Nouwen's words back to mind for reasons that have more to do with own proclivity to sin than as a convenient way to pick up stones and throw them Ted's way.

Nouwen writes in his Conclusion (pages 71-73) ...

My movement from Harvard to L'Arche made me aware
in a new way how much
of my own thinking about Christian
leadership had been affected by the desire to be relevant,
the desire for popularity,
and the desire for power.

Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful
as ingredients of
an effective ministry. The truth, however, is
that these are not
vocations but temptations.

Jesus asks
me, "Do you love me?" Jesus sends us out to be
shepherds, and Jesus promises a
life in which we increasingly
have to
stretch out our hands and be led to places where we
would rather not go.

He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life
of prayer
, from worries
about popularity to communal
mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on
power to a leadership in which
we critically discern
where God is leading
us and people.

The people of L'Arche are showing me new ways.
I am a slow learner. Old
patterns that have proved
quite effective
are not easy to give up.

But as I think
about the Christian leader for the next century,
I do believe that those from
whom I least expected to learn
showing me the way. I hope and pray that what I am
in my new life is something that is not just good for me
to learn, but something that helps you as well, to catch a
glimpse of the Christian leader of the future.

What I have said is, obviously, nothing new, but I hope and pray that
you have
seen that the oldest, most traditional vision of Christian
leadership is still a
vision that awaits realization in the future.

I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands,
who chooses
a life of downward mobility. It is an image of
the praying leader, the
vulnerable leader, and the trusting leader.
May that image fill your hearts
with hope, courage, and
confidence as
you anticipate the next century.

May we all learn from Nouwen's words ... and from Ted Haggard's choices. We are feeble, weak, stumbling people. Every last one of us. And without a keen, God-Light-discerned witness to this reality that is discovered and lived out in the twin realms of community and accountability, any desire to stay in step with Jesus Christ will be short-lived at best. Godspeed.



05 November 2006



I've also been thinking a lot about Ted Haggard and his flock at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Last night I was on their church website (www.newlifechurch.org), downloading the latest letter from his overseers.

Please join me in praying for the New Life Church flock, for Ted, his wife Gayle, and their five children, for the other staff and volunteers at New Life Church, and for Mike Jones, the Denver man who brought this story out into the open.

God can take any circumstance -- especially those connected with confession and repentence -- and, in His time, turn them around for His good. I know that this situation is a mess right now, but I've seen God turn ashes into beauty too many times (in my life and in the lives of others) to believe otherwise.

Today, I'm especially led to pray for the new followers of Jesus Christ who are part of the New Life Church ... as well as for those folks who've been attending New Life Church for a while, and who, even this very week, were on the verge of making the choice to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Let's pray a prayer of protection, wisdom, and strength over these vulnerable lambs of the flock.

This morning I listened to the last teaching Pastor Ted brought to the New Life Church flock. He'd been teaching through FIRST SAMUEL and began the Sunday, 29 October worship service with a prayer that included the words (connected to the upcoming elections and all the things in the news surrounding them) that "lies and deception would be exposed."

The Scripture passage Ted was teaching from last Sunday was
FIRST SAMUEL 16:1-13 where God rejected Saul as the leader of Israel because of the disobedience He saw in his life -- choosing instead, David to be the king of Israel. The main thing Ted was focusing on were Samuel's words ... that "while people look at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart." He talked about how easy it is for us to think that this verse was just saying something important about David -- mainly that David had a clean heart and clean hands before God.

But Ted emphasized that with these words God and Samuel were also saying some important things about Saul -- mainly that Saul had a unrighteous, disobedient, deceitful heart. And that while Saul may have "looked good" to the people who were following him, God saw his heart ... who he really was ... and because of this, His judgment against Saul needed to came down.


Oh God, watch over my steps ... may I keep clean hands and
a clean heart before You and before others. Help me to
focus on who I am on the inside, not just on who I am on
the outside. Help me to live a life of accountability, of
partnership with others, and of honesty. God, help me to be
a man who hates nothing but sin, and who ultimately loves no
one above You. God, teach me the power and confidence of
living a humble, confessional life before You and others.