Resonate News Includes My Story of Church Discipline

The following link will take you to an article which tells part of my story.  The writer, Raymond Billy, and I spent close to an hour on the phone discussing my experience of being on the receiving end of church discipline.

Resonate News: an unobstructed view of the world – Some Christians Value Reprimand From Church Leaders.

I appreciate the purpose of this article to show some of us who really do value what God has done in our lives through the process of church discipline.  Most Christian articles about church discipline concern the process or the church doing the disciplining.  This article will give you the view from the receiving end.

Most other articles about church discipline draw attention to what are either abuses or perceived abuses.  My experience is that being disciplined was far from pleasant, but it was beneficial for my soul.

I Don’t Wanna Know

Knowledge is power.  We have all heard this.  In many cases this is true.  An informed mind is usually more dynamic than an ignorant one.  I have spent umpteen years in formal education institutions.  I continue to read and expand my knowledge base.

When it comes to knowledge, we can qualify what we know as either mental awareness or experiential familiarity.  Keep that in mind as we progress in this article.

There are some things I know of which I wish I was totally ignorant.

Problematic Reasoning By and About Fallen Pastor Darrell Gilyard

Darrell Gilyard was recently released from prison.  He had completed his three year sentence for sex crimes against minors.  He is now a registered sex offender in the state of Florida.

The minors were members of the church that Gilyard led as pastor.  That is right.  Darrell Gilyard was the pastor.  These crimes were not the first and isolated times that Gilyard had sinned sexually while being a pastor and preacher.  He was a serial sexual offender.

In his early days of preaching, I heard Gilyard.  He was extremely talented when speaking.  Yet his sexual life majorly collided with his preaching life.  He followed a predictable pattern:  He preached.  He sinned sexually (either consensually or without consent).  He moved to another church.  He preached.  He sinned sexually.  In total, Gilyard resigned from five different churches due to his sexual sins.  Finally he was convicted of criminal sexual activity.

5 Ways to Leave Your Saviour

Paul Simon penned a popular song 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.  In the song he rhymes some of the ways.  He does not mention all 50 ways.  He actually lists only 5.  Do you remember these?

  1. Slip out the back, Jack.
  2. Make a new plan, Stan.
  3. Don’t need to be coy, Roy.
  4. Hop on the bus, Gus.
  5. Drop off the key, Lee.

I’m sorry if you have the song stuck in your head now, but I do want to turn this article to a more serious tone.  Our goal should be to continually draw nearer to Jesus.  But are you aware of the ways we draw AWAY from Jesus?  Here are some of the ways people leave Jesus.

Ted Haggard – Over Repented or Humble Repentance

Four years ago, Ted Haggard was pastor of a mega-church in Colorado and head of the National Association of Evangelicals.  Suddenly it all came crashing down when a male massage therapist went public with tales of Ted’s sexual activity and drug use.  I wrote an article then about similarities between the crash of my life and ministry and that of Haggard.  Now Haggard has launched a new church near the one he left.  The Wall Street Journal published a revealing article about Haggard and his new church, Humbled Haggard Climbs Back in Pulpit.

I do commend Haggard for his admission and disdain for Pharisaical religion.  This religion still hinders so many from a genuine relationship with Jesus.  However, much of what he says seems to be the speech of somebody still unprepared for pastoral leadership.

1.  Haggard says both that he over-repented and that this new pastoral role is an act of humble repentance.  Not sure how these two aspects of repentance fully relate.

2.  Haggard seems giddy that he can now use a cuss word.  I am not as concerned about the use of a cuss word as I am about the giddiness of his cussing.  This sounds like an adolescent who giggles when he says a new cuss word out loud.

3.  Haggard used two other disgraced public figures in comparison to his role:

Tiger Woods needs to golf.  Michael Vick needs to be playing football.  Ted Haggard needs to be leading a church.

Apart from speaking of himself in the third person, is this really a good rationale for resuming a pastoral role?  Woods is not the golfer he once was.  No longer does he strike fear in his opponents.  Vick was a third string quarterback last year.  So neither are the leaders they once were.

I pray that Haggard and his new church members will live Christ.  However, I do not think this is the wisest choice for either.

Footnote: An Example of Confession & Restoration

Wade Burleson is the pastor of First Baptist Church (FBC) in Enid, Oklahoma.  On his website (Grace and Truth to You) he provides the narrative of that church walking with a pastor on staff through the process of church discipline which leads to restoration.  The following quote describes the end result:

In the end, this pastor had changed. He turned from being a legalistic, proud, often angry moralist, to a soft-hearted, grace-oriented, lover of people. Because we loved him enough to help him deal with the issues that led to his sin, he knew Christianity was more than a religion–it’s about soul transforming relationships. Because we stuck with him for six months of healing instead of shoving him out the door, grace became more than just a word. Because we restored him to ministry and saw him become a more powerful and effective proclaimer of the gospel of God’s grace, this man continues to impact not just Oklahoma, not just this nation, but the world for Christ.

* The Process of Confession and Reconciliation Is Not Necessarily Easy, But It’s Worth It

After the read the article, come back and let me know what you think in the comments section.

Ted, David & Me

Over the past week, I haven’t been sure if or how I would respond to the publicized events surrounding Ted Haggard. In case you haven’t heard, Ted Haggard was a high profile pastor in Colorado and head of the National Association of Evangelicals. His private sin of immorality was exposed and he was removed from his positions of Christian leadership.

I have read countless reports and comments on the fall of this man. The comments that have been the most thought-provoking were provided by my old college buddy, Todd Littleton. My thoughts have been painful since I once was a pastor that fell into sexual sin and ended up losing my wife, my ministry, my livelihood and so much more. I’ve often thought that if Todd and I had been closer in proximity after college things might have been different. He has always been a brother to whom I could bare my soul. In return I would find strength to fight the battles ahead.

Like Haggard, I understand that inner battle that wages so hotly. I can relate to his comments about finding times of freedom only to come face to face with a very dark side. I would like to address the rest of my comments as pre-public fall and post-public fall.

Todd offers some perspective on honesty, confession and forgiveness that relate to times before the fall. Earlier in my ministry, I had guys like Todd, Dale, Duane, Tim, Harry and my ex-wife to confess and confide. Closer to the fall I found myself more isolated from these intimate relations. I would hear and read about accountability, but honestly much of the talk was superficial. I remember a guide that suggested asking questions of each other about morality and ending with the question, “Have you lied to me in any of your answers?” Now, if I just lied to you about impure thoughts or actions, I doubt that a simplistic disclaimer at the end would turn it all around.

I needed some guys to truly wrestle with me in a tag team match against the wickedness inside of me. I confess that I did fall – of my own accord and desire. I have nobody to blame but myself.

After the fall I finally had guys that wanted to probe that inner wickedness. The only problem was that they added to my wounds rather than healing the ones already there.

Remember the goofy commercial line, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.” I felt that way. I also felt that my getting up was made more difficult because of the pile of dead weight on top of me. I also remembered my days as a football quarterback when I would be tackled. At times, guys would lay on top and gouge at parts of my body. Their actions gave me more urgency to get up, but also made it more difficult.

I do want to give credit to those that helped me regain my sanity and lose my anger with God and myself. Brian Vickers, who now teaches at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was amazing. We would meet for coffee and I’d bare all of the junk in my soul and on my mind. What did I have to lose now? Brian would listen, encourage and keep coming back for more. Thank you, Brian.

Daniel Montgomery and Sojourn Church in Louisville also took all of my junk and walked with me toward the path of Christ. Thank you, Daniel and Sojourn. I even dated a girl for a couple of years with such a different philosophy of life. She helped in so many ways. My kids forgave me and we worked at restoring our relationships. Thanks, Kids, I love you so. Then I met Suzie and she has encouraged me to be a better man. Thanks, Babe.

Finally, God chose to record David’s fall, his confrontation, his prayer and his maturity. Psalm 51 never ceases to stir my soul. Thank you, Father and David.

I hope that others find the pre-fall intimacy that deals with inner wickedness and avoid the painful, painful scars of this kind of fall.