Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year, New Jerusalem?

On Sunday, Dec. 31, Dave Philipps and I published what amounted to a year's worth of work: The headline was "Haggard's mecca materialized, but vision may now be fading." When we were working on it, we called it, simply, "New Jerusalem."

OK, so maybe it doesn't look like a year's worth of work. Dave and I did write a couple of other stories when we weren't working on this novella. Still, if any of your friends pipes up and asks "so, how the heck did Colorado Springs get so religious, anyway," explain to them that it's not all that religious and then point them to this story. It'll help.

But I'm not writing this blog to pat myself on the back. Mainly, I want to post a link to what I think is the coolest part of the story -- an online map of the countries some of our local ministries are involved in. Take a look. It's sweet.


Anonymous joshMshep said...

Great story, Paul! I will be passing to friends and family, to give them some context about CO Springs.

If you'd like to read my thoughts on the Ted story, my blog is at:

Happy New Year!

6:27 PM  
Blogger my_take said...

Thanks Paul and joshMshep for your thoughts on this. Although the Ted story has seemingly died out in the news, the ramifications for New Lifers and the christian community at large are ongoing. After reading your thoughts joshMshep, I think you have touched on some of the problems at New Life, and if I may say, the American church as a whole. But, since it seems you are still at New Life, I think you miss a bigger point. We want our celebrities, and when one falls, we push them aside and find a new one. This is the problem with New Life which has become unfortunately a christian disneyland. Primarily focused on placating the sheeple, rather that feeding their true spiritual needs.
As a former member of New Life (for over 10 years), I saw and experienced alot of things, good and bad. I eventually had to leave a couple years ago because of some very troubling things going on there. My subsequent journey has lead me to believe that New Life has fallen deeply into a pit of self agandizement and shallowness. This is not to indict all its members, but perhaps most, and especially the leadership are jaded and have bought into their own celebrity as a church. I hope this whole Ted thing will cause an about face, but I fear they will just hire a new 'celebrity' pastor, and continue on the wrong path.

I believe there are several underlying reasons why Ted Haggard fell.

First off, Ted, and I suppose most of the New Life Church staff believe in an un-biblical view of hierarchy in the church. They practice a corporate style, chain of command in which the leadership is often times inoculated from dissent or questioning. It seems as though the church government at New Life was culled more from the wisdom of man, and the writings of top business gurus, than from the Bible. This might partially explain Ted’s isolation and eventual fall, and the glossing over of Christopher Beard’s indiscretions. Although it might not seem so now but, humility amongst the leadership was in short supply at New Life for many years. I was there at the beginning of the building of the new church building, and I actually heard someone who worked there say that they weren't making the doorways big enough for the heads to fit through.

Second, and more important, Ted was overly proud of his fame that he believed was making an enormous impact for God. Unfortunately, there were/are plenty of sycophants at New Life that enabled this to happen. The Apostle Paul saw things differently. Paul saw fame not as an asset to be sought after, but as a liability to the cause of Christ because of its potential to obscure the Cross by drawing the eyes of men to a charismatic leader rather than to the humble, crucified and risen Savior, Jesus.

'But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; (2 Corinthians 4:7)'.

The shallow, entertainment-driven, mega church movement, which is not exclusive to New Life Church, builds human empires at the expense of teaching the depth of biblical truth and, therefore, violates the principle of the above passage. And that principle is this: God’s glory is obscured by the glory of man. When the glory of man is exalted above the glory of the crucified and risen Christ, the surpassing greatness of God is hidden behind the veil of human ingenuity and accomplishment. No man should aspire to, nor accept being put on a pedestal as Ted did. Furthermore, we should not be impressed with this movement, which has made many men famous in the worldly sense, but has lost much of its theological moorings.

I have many friends who still go to New Life, and some that work there. I pray that this shaking will cause them to come to a deeper faith in the Lord and His Word. I also pray that the new pastor will model true Biblical leadership, and that the congregation will demand sound doctrine instead of wanting to have their ears tickled.

7:59 AM  
Anonymous joshMshep said...

Hi my_take... thanks for the detailed response. I'll be working through it and coming back to the table here.

Observation: your use of the word "sheeple" tells me either: (1) you are Cindy Rodriguez of The Denver Post (2) you're a reader of hers.

Cindy's column on evangelicals, where she said [paraphrase] ...followers of Dr. Dobson, commonly referred to as "sheeple"... at the beginning, was quite a piece of work. (That's not a word in common use, as far as I know.)

At any rate, I will be writing back.

All the best!

5:44 PM  
Anonymous joshMshep said...

Hey my_take,
Not to be clunky, but I’ve numbered all these points since there is so much here...

(0) Hope my "sheeple" post wasn't a turn-off to you. I just find that word funny, certainly nothing personal.

(1) [since it seems you are still at New Life, I think you miss a bigger point.] Despite our differences, perhaps we can still have meaningful dialogue?
I appreciate you bringing in II CORINTHIANS 4 as a way to frame our discussion. I'll quote it throughout.

(2) [primarily focused on placating the sheeple, rather that feeding their true spiritual needs.] “Since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways…” (verses 1-2a)
Initially, after the scandal, New Life was focused on its members and community not losing heart. Repentance wasn't the first thing Pastor Ross spoke on the Sunday after the storm.
But lately, he and all of us have moved into a time of renouncing sin. Altar times at the end of services, 6am prayer meetings crying out to God. It’s because we need it, because obviously some of “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” has been veiled to us. We’re seeking more. And, in my experience, we’re finding something unexpected…

(3) [eventually had to leave a couple years ago because of some very troubling things going on there.] “This all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (verse 7b)
I’m sorry you had a bad experience with someone’s ego. Growing up, my family shuffled through over 15 different churches so I may know how you feel: not all that good.
New Life would be the first to say there are many life-giving churches in Colorado Springs, and it’s a great thing if you’re planted in one. I’ve heard that often in 3 years at New Life, so I’m unsure about the celebrity mentality that “most” members have.

Yes, there has been a problem… As an elder said, "Sometime in the past three years, we started saying, 'Isn't New Life great?' more than we said, 'Isn't Jesus great?'" But the unexpected we’re finding is the depth of God’s love and forgiveness. It’s greater than anything-—His life at work within us. It’s not about the programs or outward stuff, rather hearing what the Father says.

(4) [fame not as an asset to be sought after, but as a liability] “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (verse 10)
A profound idea, one to consider deeper: fame is a liability. Hmm. Does seem to capture how John the Baptist and others lived (“He must increase”)… in a way. Though John also attracted crowds and attention…

(5) [shallow, entertainment-driven, mega church movement] “All this is for your benefit, so that grace is reaching more and more people…” (verse 15)
I understand the first two criticisms (though no specifics given). I’m curious why “mega church” is a slur, along the same lines as “shallow”? God sounds like He’s interested in “more and more people” being part of His family and kingdom. How big would churches be if only 50% of our city were part of one?
Certainly you need smallness at some level; small groups are the core of New Life. But the image of worship Revelation gives is pretty clear: “a a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne… and they cried out in a loud voice…” (Rev. 7:8-9) I’ve had a taste of that here.

(6) [I also pray… the congregation will demand sound doctrine] “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” (verse 18a)
New Life has long been a place of examining the Scriptures verse-by-verse. "98% of me was the good man you knew, but the 2% evil began to dominate," we hear Ted said that fateful weekend. More than ever, knowing the Word will be a cornerstone.

But above doctrine, I believe the #1 thing is orienting my life around knowing God - His corrections and His care for me today. Isn’t it all just ritual and phony without that?

Love to hear your thoughts, my_take - sorry for being long-winded!

Have a great weekend,

12:45 AM  
Blogger my_take said...

Thanks for your response joshMshep, and thanks for being so gracious. First I’d like to clarify some things.

0) I don’t know of the writer from the Denver Post, so I guess ‘sheeple’ is a more common word than we think.
1) I am impressed, in many ways, by how New Life has handled this whole thing. I am glad for the humility displayed, even if it’s overdue. I think what the elder you quoted said, is right on. Based on our agreement on this, I don’t think we’re that far apart. The only thing I did was elaborate on why this happened, and I think you disagree with at least some of my assessment. Please keep in mind that I too, like you, am interested in New Life and the people who call it home. It has had a profound influence on me personally, the city, and perhaps even the world to some extent.
2) The reason I left was not because of ‘someones ego’ per se. It was more of a slow, (several years), realization that what was being taught there was extra Biblical, or a combination of Christian psychology and the Bible. I found it hard to justify what I read in the Bible with some Ted’s teaching, theology, his books, and his politicking (is that a word?), during church services. Like I heard Ted say on many occasions, ‘ideas have consequences’. This is a point that needs a lot more attention.
3) I think ‘megachurch’ is not a slur but a description. (technically any church over 1000 members). A megachurch is not in itself a negative thing, the only thing that makes is negative is when it is primarily for building human empires, and enriching its members. At that point it becomes a force unto itself.

To sum it up, only God knows if this could have been avoided for Ted, but I do believe that the way New Life is set up, this could happen again in the future. There needs to be transparency, humility in leadership, and the belief and teaching of correct doctrine or your just asking for the enemy to gain a foothold.

See what you think about this article:

I think it provides a good overview and expounds on what I have already said.

God Bless…

5:12 PM  
Blogger my_take said...

Here's the correct link...

5:16 PM  
Anonymous joshMshep said...

Hi my_take,
Appreciate your dialogue! I'll respond based on your numbered points... then add a couple (as I tend to do : ).

(0) here is the Denver Post story referred to (not as worth reading as Paul's story).

(1) Thank you for the passion as well as grace. Our common ground goes far beyond just believing that church is a God idea, and that He should be reflected there.

(2) [what was being taught there was extra Biblical... his politicking]

I'll leave theology to point #4. As to politics, I don't think New Life has been inappropriate. Social issues (i.e. abortion) have been addressed from the pulpit, and the congregation is made aware of elections -- both good things.

America has a great tradition of Christians being active in the public square -- sermons were once given on hot-button political topics like the slave trade, civil liberty and even on the complicated need to strengthen the U.S. constitution (when states' rights were too overbearing).

All that to say: I'm glad New Life, like many churches, desires to support political action when it can help the culture reflect (not impose) biblical morality.

(3) Agreed on megachurch definition.

(4) [the way New Life is set up, this could happen again... needs to be transparency, humility in leadership]

Pastor Ross Parsley, our interim Sr. pastor, seems to be living out I Tim. 3 these past weeks. "above reproach, able to teach... gentle". He has called 6-7am prayer times for the church and always comes-- not dominating, but joining the chorus of prayer, listening to the verses that people bring forth, and lending direction when needed.

(5) [need... belief and teaching of correct doctrine]

My thoughts on "The Fall of Ted Haggard" article? Not much. New Life cut ties some time ago with Peter Wagner, whose ideas seem to be the chief criticism.

I confess to being one of those who takes walks and prays quietly; so I hope "prayer walking" isn't where we diverge doctrinally.

Poking around the website, it has negative things to say about Hillsong Church (Australia), anyone connected to 'Purpose Driven Life', Dr. Jack Hayford, David Wilkerson, Dr. James Dobson and yes even Rev. Billy Graham.

Jude 1:17-19 would sum up my views: "Dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, 'In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.' These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit."

Yes, we should "test the spirits" (I John 4:1) and be wary of those who are false.

But knowing Jesus and lifting up His name are primary. As long as New Life continues to do so, as leaders and congregants alike have during the past weeks, I'm thankful to be part of this family.

Your thoughts?

9:57 PM  

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