Gordon MacDonald re: Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard recently admitted to buying sex and meth from a gay prostitute. That might not make the news any other day, but Haggard is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of New Life Community Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Or rather, he was. Now he is just another example of evangelical hypocrisy.

Surveying the damage Haggard has done to the cause of Christ, pastor and author Gordon MacDonald makes a few soul-searching remarks about how to proceed. Back in the 1980s, MacDonald himself committed adultery. His church discipled him, with help from leaders in the evangelical community, and after several years, he was able to resume ministry. Chastened by his experience, MacDonald has become very attuned to the ways in which pastors and other Christian leaders are tempted to go wrong. Here's a sample of his remarks:

I've spent more than a little time trying to understand how and why some men and women in all kinds of leadership get themselves into trouble, whether the issues be moral, financial, or the abuse of power and ego. I am no stranger to failure and public humiliation. From those terrible moments of twenty years ago in my own life I have come to believe that there is a deeper person in many of us who is not unlike an assassin. This deeper person (like a contentious board member) can be the source of attitudes and behaviors we normally stand against in our conscious being. But it seeks to destroy us and masses energies that—unrestrained—tempt us to do the very things we "believe against."

If you have been burned as deeply as I (and my loved ones) have, you never live a day without remembering that there is something within that, left unguarded, will go on the rampage. Wallace Hamilton once wrote, "Within each of us there is a herd of wild horses all wanting to run loose."

It seems to me that when people become leaders of outsized organizations and movements, when they become famous and their opinions are constantly sought by the media, we ought to begin to become cautious. The very drive that propels some leaders toward extraordinary levels of achievement is a drive that often keeps expanding even after reasonable goals and objectives have been achieved.

Like a river that breaks its levy, that drive often strays into areas of excitement and risk that can be dangerous and destructive. Sometimes the drive appears to be unstoppable.

This seems to have been the experience of the Older Testament David and his wandering eyes, Uzziah in his boredom, and Solomon with his insatiable hunger for wealth, wives, and horses. They seem to have been questing—addictively?—for more thrills or trying to meet deeper personal needs, and the normal ways that satisfy most people became inadequate for them.


Ever since the beginning of the Bush administration, I have worried over the tendency of certain Evangelical personalities to go public every time they visited the White House or had a phone conference with an administration official. I know it has wonderful fund-raising capabilities. And I know the temptation to ego-expansion when one feels that he has the ear of the President. But the result is that we are now part of an evangelical movement that is greatly compromised—identified in the eyes of the public as deep in the hip pockets of the Republican party and administration. My own belief? Our movement has been used.

There are hints that the movement—once cobbled together by Billy Graham and Harold Ockenga—is beginning to fragment because it is more identified by a political agenda that seems to be failing and less identified by a commitment to Jesus and his kingdom. Like it or not, we are pictured as those who support war, torture, and a go-it-alone (bullying) posture in international relationships. Any of us who travel internationally have tasted the global hostility toward our government and the suspicion that our President's policies reflect the real tenants of Evangelical faith.

And I might add that there is considerable disillusionment on the part of many of our Christian brothers/sisters in other countries who are mystified as to where American evangelicals are in all of this. Our movement may have its Supreme Court appointments, but it may also have compromised its historic center of Biblical faith. Is it time to let the larger public know that some larger-than-life evangelical personalities with radio and TV shows do not speak for all of us?


12 thoughts on “Gordon MacDonald re: Ted Haggard

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  1. Thank you, George, for posting this. I am gratified to hear from the likes of Gordon McDonald. His psychological analysis is truly disturbing but I suspect no less true.

    That he also sees the political connection is telling. I wonder if following Christ was never supposed to be politically successful, this side of eternity. Or only successful every now and then, with no firm grip on political power.

    I look forward to reading the whole piece.

    BTW, I referred to the Haggard affair in my sermon tonight, remarks along the lines of what I posted on my blog. I still think the biggest failing here is to understand what it means to be under grace from the Lord of the universe.

    1. God knows I rejoiced to read Rev. McDonald’s comments about how the Republican Party has used the Evangelical Christians. God knows I’ve been saying that for years. Jerry Falwell, Dr. James Dobson, and others have been duped, and yes…used by President George W. Bush
      and others to make the Southern Baptists and other denominations THINK, that God leans more on the SIDE of the Republican Party PERIOD!!!! Being a black retired Pastor I have had my own biblical, and political views for years and I can clearly thinks and make decisions.
      I have long been a conservative evangelical Christian Ministers with liberal views when it come to helping people, but unbending in my belief that the Bible is the errant, infallible, inspired Word of the Living God. I take no back seat in my belief, but I have not tip toed over the the
      Republican Evangelical just because they get on a band wagon on Abortion (yes its wrong), and yet those Evangelical Republican NEVER publicly say (Racism, Bias, Prejudice, and the like are sinful and WRONG!). Look how quiet those Evangelical Republican got when Mitt Romney ran for President. For years we believe that Mormonism was a CULT, not the Party runs a candidate who happens to be a Mormon and out comes Franklin Graham, Bill’s son, and endorses Romney. What a hypocrite! What a shame! What a disgrace before God, we bend our knees and lick out boots just to be politically correct and side with the Repub Party.
      God helps us! I’ve notice now the Religious Right is very quiet now! Maybe, just maybe we’ve learn our lesson. (Phil 1: 3-4)

  2. Unfortunately if we get a “head in the sand” mentality we will begin to lose basic spiritual freedoms, as almost happened this week with the lobby reform fiasco. And now I hear a prayer breakfast on Capital Hill that has gone on for 35 years is booted out by our newly elected Congress. I am afraid that by becoming cynical and isolationist in our own country, we lose our country.

  3. It is a sad thing to hear that once again christians are being told to harness that inner part of us that seems to be dark. Jesus Himself said a kingdom divided against itself will surely fall. We cannot reject or bind up a part of ourselves and then expect to remain strong. Mr. Haggard is no different than any other human being and we should be looking at that part of ourselves and understanding why this part of ourselves is wanting these things and having compassion for it not trying to kill it or harness it or reject it in any other way. Christ died for every part of us not just the consious part that is in control. It is in learning to truely accept every part of ourselves that we will find union in ourselves and then ultimately in Christ. We don’t have the power to harness any part of ourselves otherwise Christ would not have had to die….I pray that Mr. Haggard and all of us would recieve the wisdom and courage from above to truely look at himself and find that compassion that Jesus Himself has for him for it is in looking at ourself that real humility and grace is found….God be with you

  4. Brokeness comes only through being broken. That can happen in many ways and, like King David, he had sexual issues that may never have been overcome as his supporters still in his dying days thought that an Abashag could revive him.
    We are saved by Grace alone and that Grace is sufficient for Ted, George and us.
    Ted has issues but our God still works ALL things together for GOOD! Even public exposure of failure!
    Our job is clear… restore such an one in the spirit of meekness! That’s a winning (and scriptural) method.
    The Love, Mercy and Grace is the heart of the gospel

  5. With all due respect, maybe the church in America deserves to “lose basic spiritual freedoms.” If this sounds incredible to our carnal minds, let us remember how God destroyed nations for the benefit of Israel, then destroyed Israel for its failure to live in obedience to Him. Let us consider especially His stern warning to Israel to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, the pagan king of Babylon (Jer. 27).

    The church in America barely attempts to obey God. We go crazy over the lack of nativity scenes in shopping malls, and ignore the wickedness and heresies being taught in the church. Prosperity Gospel is rampant in our churches and on “Christian” television. Who is speaking out against it? The Bible says that it is the poor and the mourners who are blessed, not the wealthy and healthy. So why do we look up to wealthy and healthy Bible teachers for any spiritual guidance? The blessing of Abraham wasn’t health or wealth, it was justification by faith, not that you will see that demonstrated in the lives of these celebrity megapastors. We all know what Jesus did to the moneychangers, and He will do that again to our modern moneychangers.

  6. I have to say, that I could not agree with you in 100% regarding Gordon MacDonald re: Ted Haggard, but it’s just my opinion, which could be wrong 🙂

  7. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Gordon MacDonald re: Ted Haggard, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  8. My particular viewpoint about leadership in the church is that somehow the concept of pastors leading their flocks has alway devolved to conflict with one of the cardinal truths of the Reformation: The Priesthood of the Believer. The Christian Church, like Israel of old, should have no king or leader save God Himself. The professional ministry or pseudo-priesthood of the pulpit has corrupted every single church because it concentrates ultimate authority in the hands of a fallible human. In other words the HOLY SPIRIT has basically been replaced by some sort of hierarchy. I can contrast this crisis of who runs the church to an organization that is not even Christian. Namely Alcoholics Anonymous. This organization describes itself as a spiritual fellowship with but one ultimate authority, a loving God. There is no human leadership only trusted servants who rotate regularly. It is true that AA does not exist to attract the world to Christ but I have often wondered what would happen to the Christian Church, whose mission is exactly that, would adopt a form of GOVERNMENT without a professional class of human leaders but rely only on GOD HIMSELF to lead us!

  9. McDonald and his likes have done nothing. Nothing that is but trash the church, trash their families and most importantly of all trash the Lord Jesus Christ. He has made a mockery of Christ and all he stands for. Of course no one wants to follow the qualifications that Paul spoke of in 1Timothy and Titus. Just forgive and put him back in the pupit. I wouldn’t allow my cat the hear ANYTHING he has to say. I’d prefer to listen go godly men like Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon,M’Cheyne, and present day men as MacArthur and Sproul. Men that take their walk with God seriously. McDonald should be selling used cars or become an attorney or a politician. Those three ‘professions’ are rift with crooks

    1. Dear Gary, being a person who reads Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon, M’Cheyne & has been to the Shepherds Conference at MacArthur’s church. I have also financially supported the work of Sroul. All I want to say that these men would show more grace than you in your comments towards McDonald. I am not saying that he is any longer qualified to hold the office of Pastor, but you may want to argue with Lloyd-Jones on that see “Preaching & Preachers” pg 302. I am saying that the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is able to not only cleanse the unregenerate sinner who comes to repentance, but is also capable & does cleanse the backslider who is restored. Galatians 6:1-2, Psalm 51, Luke 22:31-32. Note David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 and verse 13 “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” I challenge you to read Spurgeon on this verse. The church may just find that those Christians who have stumbled & fallen into sin, when restored, may just have a word from the Lord to share, and shame on those brethren who want to banish them to silence in some basement. Satan is the accuser of the Brethren, and that is not the place of the saints. Yet to many in the church act like the elder brother to the prodigal son in Luke 15. It is our responsibility to accept those back who the Lord has died for & restored back to the flock. As I said that may very well mean that they have lost the ability to speak as a “Pastor”, but they have not lost the right to speak on behalf of Christ, and His amazing grace that has been shown to them again in their restoration. Those who have been forgiven much, will love much!

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