When Christians in the Public Eye Fall from Grace: Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Amy Grant or Sandi Patty
As I write this issue of Missions for Chickens, media frenzy has erupted over accusations that Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and founder and senior pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has for the past three years engaged in sex with a male prostitute.
While (as I write this) there isn’t proof that the allegations are true, it’s not often that a major scandal like this breaks without there being some foundation for the accusations. Already Haggard has admitted to some “indiscretions.”
For many Americans, the idea of what it means to be a Christian is formed by celebrity Christians like Haggard – big-name pastors who lead mega-churches, musicians who sing about Christ, political leaders who claim God is guiding their every move. In some cases, it’s a good thing. Who wouldn’t agree that Billy Graham has been an example of a humble, God-fearing, Christ follower?
Then again, it only takes one Ted Haggard (or Jim Bakker or Jimmy Swaggert or Amy Grant or Sandi Patty) to remind the public that Christians are just like the rest of America: Fallible, sinful, imperfect.While in many cases the fallen “idolsï” have gone on also exemplify grace and forgiveness, the damage has already been done. Non-Christians view us as hypocrites who point the finger at everyone while secretly engaging in the very behavior we’re condemning.
And that’s why right now it’s so important that as a Christian you understand that your mission field is right outside your front door.
YOU are the one who can – on a daily basis – exemplify Jesus, with both your good behavior and with the way you handle your failings. YOU are the one who should be showing your neighbors what it means to love and follow Christ.
We tend to get lazy and let the public Christians (artists, pastors, speakers, authors) do all the work of sharing the gospel, thinking that they are somehow more special or gifted because they have a public platform. Rather than talk to people about Christ, we invite them to church, as if somehow the answers can only be found within the walls of a building with a steeple or cross and shared by someone officially ordained to impart the message.
God’s planted you in a mission field right where you are – your school, your office cubicle, your neighborhood. Those Christians who shine so brightly in the public eye also fall more heavily when they sin. But your small, steady light shining daily and consistently can be a bright example of what it means to be a Christian.
Don’t let the image of Christianity be defined by the media, especially during this latest scandal. YOU be “Jesus with skin on” to your neighbors, friends and family. It’s only by building deep, long term relationships with people that you can help them really understand who Jesus is and what it means to be a Christian.
Until next time,
(c) 2006 Joanne Brokaw All rights reserved
Send Joanne your mission-related questions at
href=”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com. For more information about Missions for Chickens or for permission to reprint this column, visit www.joannebrokaw.com or missionsforchickens.blogspot.com