If you attend St. James in Colorado Springs, Ted Haggard’s new church, the first thing you will notice is that the new church is within eye-shot of the mega-church he founded in his basement , New Life. Ted Haggard started his new church two weeks ago in the barn on his property. When God calls someone to the ministry the Bible says, that calling is without repentance. What that means is when you are called of God; it is a life calling, a life of service, there’s no going back. There is no changing your mind. If you fall, you repent, receive forgiveness, pick yourself up, receive your healing from the Spirit of God and then get back to work. It is you that failed, not God. He still requires of you. This is something that I have had to come to terms with in my own life, as God convicted me to return to the ministry. Ted Haggard believes that the Lord called him to minister to Colorado Springs 28 years ago and he is continuing in that calling.
I decided to go visit Ted Haggard, and St. James this Sunday without forming any preconceived opinions about it, and write about my experience there honestly and openly. As I pulled onto the property, there were quite a few cars in front of me. I waited in line as I watched the parking greeter direct the cars where to park. I thought to myself, thank the Lord for those that have already volunteered to assist with the parking. As I pulled up I realized that it was Ted Haggard directing parking, greeting each car as they pulled in for the service. I stood and watched as he greeted every car, taking the time to shake the hand of everyone in every car that came.
As the service was about to start, I watched Ted as he greeted people, shaking their hands as they entered the barn for the service. He was jovial and very warm, laughing and enjoying the fellowship with his new congregation. There was also an excitement, almost with a twinge of nervousness, like that of a teenager on prom night. He was very much at ease seeming very comfortable in his own skin. I was taken in by the humility that seemed to encompass his personality, a sincere humility that seems genuine and can only come by God working in one’s life.
It has been 3 ½ years since Ted resigned at New Life Church amidst the scandal that he very openly talks about. He made light of the scrutiny of his life by the media, stating, “If I want to know what I am thinking, all I have to do is read the paper”, this I believe in reference to the many negative articles that have blasted him in the last few years. Let me say this to the Body of Christ, Ted Haggard has openly repented. Ted Haggard has asked and received forgiveness from God. We as the Body of Christ are commanded to forgive him, even as we have been forgiven. And I mean TRUE forgiveness, the kind where you pray for and uplift someone before the throne and seek God that He might be glorified in their lives, that’s the kind of forgiveness I am talking about. The Lord tells us in Jeremiah 31:31 “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” If it’s good enough for God, it is good enough for me.
For this article that is all I am going to say regarding that, as I believe that God is a God of restoration, and that’s that. Whether or not you think he should be a minister is a matter of personal opinion. Ted himself states, I may not be qualified to be a pastor, but I know I am qualified to serve others in need. I have learned a great deal over the last three and a half years and have deep desire to help others in need. I do know much more that I did prior to my crisis in November of 2006. I know more about compassion, understanding, kindness, love, and peace. I want to help people. I know that when we suffer, a loving hand, a kind voice, a gentle touch, and practical assistance can make all the difference in the world. Depression, loneliness, personal failure, embarrassment, and disillusionment can be powerful forces in a person’s mind in difficult times.
On my blog today, I want to talk about what God is doing instead of what Ted has done.
As the service began, people kept filtering in for the next 10 or 15 minutes. As I looked around the barn, it was completely full, with standing room only. Chairs had to be set up outside the barn door under a tent, and they were also full. I looked up in the hay loft and there were worshipers also standing in the hay loft, which was working as an overflow. I almost wished that I had been up in the hay loft as I have never worshiped God in a hay loft. The Pastor announced they would have a new meeting place in a couple of weeks. It was easy to see as the barn could barely accommodate all those who came and a larger space will definitely be needed.
I was reminded what it must have been like for the early pioneers as they set up make-shift churches anywhere there was a space, mainly in barns and taverns. I thought as I sat there that there had been many humble beginning in a barn, including the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There was a mixture of old and young alike, without any distinction being seen regarding class or race. There were folks from all walks of life.
I listened as he opened the service affectionately welcoming everyone to the “Barn Church” as he called it, St. James. Ted Haggard shares that St. James Church is for anyone, Democrats, Republicans, Independents and those who go to Tea Party rallies. If you are straight, gay, bi, white, Hispanic, Native American, or a confusing combination, you are welcome at St. James. Those working to overcome their sex or drug addictions, St. James is for you. If you have a friend or family member who struggles, St. James is for you. Adulterers, Ex-cons, everyone is welcome.
When it was time for the offering I was in for quite a surprise. Ted instructed everyone to take out an offering, not their tithes, but an offering. Then when everyone had it hand, he further instructed that we share our offering with someone in attendance as we felt led of the Lord. I must admit, being a minister and the son of a minister, I have attended many church services but I had never participated in an offering like that. It was different and quite refreshing. During the offering a young man came up to Pastor Haggard and asked the body to pray for him as he was battling a drug addiction. Ted’s words that St. James is to be a place where drug addicts were welcome suddenly became a reality. The Spirit of God was at work leading this young man to the service, and convicting him of his sin, as he openly confessed his addiction, and asked the Body of Christ for support. This was a forbearer of the message to come and the symbol of what Pastor Haggard’s message is to St. James.
As he began his message, Ted proclaimed St. James to be a church with a “No Stones Environment”, in reference to our Lord’s words,” Let He Who is Without Sin Cast the First Stone”. He went on to share that we as the Body of Christ need to encourage our brethren as the Holy Spirit works in their lives. We as believers should offer support and encouragement, rather than condemnation to those who struggle to overcome various issues in their walk with Christ. The Body of Christ many times executes judgment instead of encouragement for those in need he shared. I have to agree, as sometimes we as believers are very hard on other believers who are struggling with sin in their lives. It is wrong and in contradiction to the Word of God to judge your brother, we are to uplift and pray for our fellow believers and even non-believers alike that the Spirit might work in their lives and Christ might be glorified. It is our role to encourage, Pastor Haggard said, and God’s role to judge. He went on to say that many times Christians use the scriptures to judge and hate, when we should use the scriptures to encourage. I said Amen.
In closing Ted shared that it is a practice of St. James to randomly call someone of the congregation and ask them to bring their prayer list forward. The members are asked to keep a private prayer list in their pocket of needs. A man named “Tiger” was called forward and Pastor Haggard directed a portion of the collected tithe were to be given to someone in need on the man’s prayer list. Tiger shared that he would share it with a man and his family who was following Christ and was in need as the man had just been released from prison for armed robbery. The words Pastor Haggard had shared in the opening almost seemed to be prophetic as a drug addict openly shared his struggle, and was embraced in love by the Body, and a now ex-convict was being helped as he was in need, by the tithe of the church. It gave me a good feeling all over, and I was touched inside. Real people, real needs….real solutions, that’s a real church!
All in all it was a great service, I left feeling I had been fed, both by the message and by my interaction with the Body of Christ. In finishing let me urge you to pray that the Lord will be glorified in all that is done at St. James. Lift them up in prayer as we are commanded to do in James 5:16, “Pray for one Another”.
I like the “No Stones Environment” approach at St. James. We have many foundations and doctrines in our churches, the “No Stones Environment” should be in the doctrine of every church, and put over the front every sanctuary everywhere to remind believers that we are not to cast stones or judgment but rather share love and encouragement. At St. James it is a foundation of their church that no one is allowed to cast stones, a message all of us should take to heart, including myself.