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One year ago today, January 2, 2012, I made some ‘mostly fun’ predictions for the church and ministry world for 2012.  Let’s see how I did: Ted Haggard. Ted Haggard will again get headlines for something we wish he wouldn’t.  (And his upcoming appearance on Wife Swap doesn’t even count).  I predict that Ted will say or do something this year that will make us all want to hide under a rock. Ted was pretty quiet in 2013.  Looks like it’s me hiding under a rock. Pat Robertson. Speaking of rocks, and our desire to stone someone, Pat Robertson will sometime this year, say something that will embarrass every Christian in this country.  It could be racial, it could be silly, but it most probably will be something that will again show the world that he should have given his broadcast chair to his son a few years ago. What I lacked in my Ted Haggard prediction, I made up for in Pat Robertson’s.  Just do a search here on Pat and you’ll see what I mean. Perry Noble. I predict that Perry will get ‘really pumped’ about SOMETHING this year. I think even the most liberal judge would say I won this one.  🙂 Steven Furtick. Steven will really freak out if, in fact, the sun really does stand still for a day. Didn’t happen… thank goodness. Megachurch Merger. Look for a megachurch merger sometime this year.  A couple of really big churches making really big impacts will decide that they can make an even more colossal impact if they join forces. Not like I thought it would.  But watch out… it’s coming. Other Church Mergers. While mergers have been happening for years, I think 2012 will see the speed up of the number of mergers happening in churches of all sizes.  Most of these will be healthy churches that will be taking over struggling churches.  Many churches that have considerable financial resources but are quickly dying will be looking for alternatives, and partnering with a local healthy church that will come in and carry on the legacy will look very appealing. New Birth / Eddie Long. More hard times for some large churches though.  I predict that Eddie Long will no longer be the pastor at New Birth by the end of 2012.  The latest divorce and marriage breakup will be the last straw as that ministry fights to survive with or without Long. The Bishop did have a rough year… really rough.  But, he’s still the head at New Birth.  So I blew this one. The Crystal Cathedral/Schuller Family. I predict that the Schuller family will call it quits when they leave the Crystal Cathedral.  I believe they have a year and a half before they have to vacate the premises to their new Catholic owners.  After looking at the spreadsheet and the number of people still left at that time, I think they’ll cut their losses and call it a good run. SUCCESS:  Though I didn’t quite get it totally right, the Schuller family (with the exception of the grandson) are all gone from the Crystal Cathedral.  Of course, I didn’t predict the $5 million lawsuit, or the new (just this week) article from the National Enquirer that said that the senior Schullers may now be mostly destitute and lose their home. Christian Lady Gaga. As the Christian community normally does, we’ll have some great rip-offs this year… probably to include a Christian Lady Gaga, a new Christian social media twitter rip-off or something like that. SUCCESS:  I guess, kinda: The church around the world will flourish. I think 2012 will be a great year for the church around the world.  It will be mixed here in the US… with real pockets of health developing among younger congregations.  But there will be no shortage of conflict and dying churches to contend with as well. Success on the conflict and dying churches prediction, but that was a given.  According to this article, I got it mostly right. A sad day. Unfortunately… with many big-name Christian leaders aging, we’ll say good-bye to a good number of high-profile leaders this year… either through retirement or death. Not really a tough prediction either.  Some notable deaths:  Chuck Colson and evangelist R. W. Schambach.   Social Media. Some changes coming to social media as we know it.  There will be a new face introduced this year that will give Twitter and Facebook a run for their money.  It will be highly customizable and unique, and will help all of us cut through the clutter that we’re all now experiencing in our social media.  And, no… it will not be Google+. OK… missed this one.  But I might keep this on my list for 2013. Mobile Devices. Phones will continue to get much faster, and do newer and cooler things.  Some great advances for the church will be the new app that automatically silences your phone ringer and disables Angry Birds as you enter the sanctuary. There are now GPS enabled apps that do this… so technically, I got it right.  I still think someone needs to package a ‘church cell phone silencer’ app that shuts down the cell phone ringer when you enter the church (via gps).  Sell it for $.99 to individuals (who don’t want to get embarrassed when their phone rings during the service, or license it to churches for $100k (after all, they want the cell phones to stop ringing during the invitation). Gospel Coalitions. There will be a lot of strife in the Gospel Coalition this year, as they find out exactly how many things they actually disagree on.  The strife will, as in most cases, come from criticism from the outside… from people that don’t like anything, that will attack until something gives. Boy.  Pegged this.  James MacDonald resigned from the Gospel Coalition in January after a flurry or criticism about the Elephant Room 2 invitation to T. D. Jakes.  Later Mark Driscoll steps down as the council as well. Tim Tebow. Super Bowl ring.  If not, it blows the whole “God” theory thing. What?  No Super Bowl ring?  What was God thinking? Humility check time. Denominations. It’s only a matter of time before a mainline denomination falls on hard financial times.  Look for new stories telling about a major denomination’s future in question because of finances. Yep.  Here and here. Southern Baptists. Southern Baptists will probably NOT change their name (even though I’ve actively campaigned that they now be called “Stetzers”).  And if they do change their name… expect about 20 – 30% of current SBC churches to defect and start a new denomination called “Southern Baptists”. They wimped out and decided to opt for a new ‘optional’ name.  That saved the coop I predicted.  I’m defiant enough to go with my first inclination and just call them Stetzers or Stetzerites anyway. Doomsday. You do know that the world is going to end in 2012. Man… Blew that one… I was sure it was the end of the world.  Oh well… another year to blog! What are YOUR predictions for 2013?
Todd Subscribe to me on YouTube

From the Christian Post: “We’ve reached a point where human dignity and mutual respect is so important,” Haggard said in a recent online debate with Rabbi Benjamin Hecht, director of Orthodox Jewish think tank Nishma. Responding to the question, “Should same-sex marriage be allowed by the state?” he went on to say, “If someone is dealing with same-sex attraction or homosexuality, and they want someone to be their life partner of the same gender, though we would oppose that in our churches, it should be allowed by the state.” So… what do YOU think… is Haggard right or wrong on this? Do you generally think that all things non-biblical should be illegal?  Isn’t that the question he’s trying to raise here? Would love to hear your comments. Todd More here…

Current Events
So… Ted Haggard’s Wife Swap appearance is coming up soon.  (Remember, this doesn’t count on my predictions for the year). So… I thought it would be interesting to hear from Haggard why he’s doing this: “So many people are fixated on the scandal as though it is the only thing in [our lives], and actually, that was not the only thing… We’ve been married 33 years. We’ve got wonderful children. We had a wonderful church life at New Life ministries for 22 years, and now at St. James Church. The kids were excited about the idea of communicating the current status of our life so that [viewers] could have some actual data instead of the symbolic imagery that I have become out there in some people’s lives.” And later, Haggard tells CNN:  “Very often when someone is going through a difficult time, they will call me. From some of the governors that have gotten in trouble to some of the movie people who have gotten in trouble,” he said. “I’m more than happy to help people go through a crisis and consult with people on how to resurrect. I believe there is a resurrection in every one of us, and I do not believe that the worst moments of our lives need to or should define our lives.” Thoughts?  Are you glad for the opportunity for Ted to share the current status of his life so that we can have some actual data instead of all that symbolic imagery? I think if I want a status update from Ted, I’ll just check his Facebook.  We are still friends, right Ted? Read more here.    

Current Events
From the “What is he thinking file” comes this. Ted Haggard is supposedly making a cameo in an upcoming Christian movie about sex: According to the Christian Today website: The movie is about a guy who saves himself for marriage but later becomes determined to lose his virginity after his fiance dumps him at the altar on their wedding day.

In one scene, the guy wrestles with his decision to stay abstinent and tells a friend over coffee that he no longer wants to wait until marriage to have sex.

“I’m so frustrated. You know what? I’m just going to do what I want to do anyways. It’s not like it’s going to wind up on the front page of the newspaper,” he says.

Ted Haggard, who made headlines after the scandal, overhears their conversation from a nearby cafe table and interjects.

“Hey Buddy, I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Haggard tells him. The movie is called “The Waiting Game” and is said to promote abstinence before marriage. Oh. My. Todd  

Current Events
Ted Haggard thinks you’re an idiot and a hypocrite. At least that’s what he thinks of most of the church. In fact, Ted feels that while the church says they offer forgiveness, they rarely if ever give it.  But other kinds of businesses do give forgiveness and restoration freely… all the time. As Ted says, everyone else was restored and forgiven, just not him. He mentions how Tiger Woods was restored.  Tiger is a golfer.  If Tiger’s sin had been extreme hypocrisy involving golf, say using illegal equipment or betting on or fixing outcomes, Tiger would not be playing today. He mentions Martha Stewart.  If Martha had been caught doing something related to her core business of making pretty things out of feces and bows, she would also not have a TV show today. He mentions David Letterman.  David Letterman’s profession is being funny.  That he had an affair is a side issue. (And most of these examples, Ted, happened AFTER your indiscretions… I think you may have some time-warp issues as well). All of these individuals were forgiven and restored to their previous careers and glory.  His question?  Why can’t I?  Why can’t the church forgive and restore like CBS or the golf community? Then he pulls the trump card.  Jimmy Swaggart.  “The church STILL hates him”. Maybe so.  But Jimmy and Ted share something that Letterman, Stewart and Tiger woods don’t.  They were PASTORS… men of God… who got caught in an indiscretion that was directly tied to their line of work. Kind of like the police officer who gets caught selling drugs, or the teacher caught having sex with a student. Ted ‘s life was about morality, speaking against homosexuals, and leading a national organization of family values. Jimmy preached against all the things he was caught doing… twice! And both men thwarted the accountability that they had set up for themselves so that they could be restored quickly and with as little consequence as possible. Ted is clearly angry. Very angry.  And I’m afraid Ted will die an angry man. Forgiveness, at least for me, is freely given.  That does not mean that we forget and move on like nothing happened.  Ted knows that there are consequences for sin.  He’s preached that for years. Might I suggest that one of the consequences to being an influential pastor that is found out to be leading a double life might be a loss of trust and credibility?  And a slow… very slow… restoration process. You’re forgiven, Ted… you just have a trust and credibility problem. You’re sin caused you to be a laughing-stock. You’re sin caused people to look at your church (and our churches) as a joke. You’re sin ruined your reputation and robbed you of your trust and credibility in the Christian community. I’ve not heard ONE person say they’re not willing to forgive you. But please don’t call us idiots and hypocrites.  It might make you feel better.  But it doesn’t make it true. What do YOU think?

It’s the most telling and honest article about the Ted Haggard scandal to date.  Actually, it was like someone spiked Ted’s drink before he granted an interview with GQ.  I think the drink was spiked with 1/2 truth syrum and 1/2 grain alcohol that provided for a very candid and disturbing article. The candid and disturbing: – What really happened in the scandal that took Haggard down (at least the current version).  Warning:  It goes into some very graphic details. – Haggard’s fall not only included homosexuality, but pornography and the use of crystal meth. – Haggard says that others involved in this scandal (accusers, participants, and his original overseer team) will all end up publicly repenting, just like he already has. – He and wife Gayle refer to the church he founded as “the old Soviet Union” and the Gulag. – Haggard says if he was 21 in this society, he would identify himself as bisexual. – The only question Haggard wouldn’t answer was “Do you watch porn anymore”.  The response:  “Now we’re gettinginto what should happen between me, my wife, and my therapist.” – The picture of Ted kissing his wife in the hot tub, along with his family (and daughter in bikini) was just a little over the top for me. I know I will get emails for even mentioning this article at MMI.  I get no joy out of typing the above.  Actually, it makes me sad… and angry. Sad, because… well… this whole situation sucks.  Sin is so ugly.  And secret sin… when it is hidden (as it was in this instance, for years), has so many levels, becomes so mixed up, and so hypocritical.  Rarely, do we see anyone who has lived a secret sin life for this long, be able to fully come clean, repent, and accept the seriousness of their action.  That is the case with Ted.  Here’s a line in the article that I wish I would have written myself: Ted may be telling the truth, but his peculiar brand of self-victimization and protestation—in which every “I messed up” is followed by a “but… “—makes it hard for people in Colorado Springs to believe that he’s actually sorry for what he did. One former New Life member expressed what seems to be the general sentiment surrounding his resurgence: “I think Ted genuinely loves God, and I think he has a sincere interest in helping people, but I don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.” Wow… that sums it up for me.  The repentance seems to take a back seat for me whenever the self-victimization and the ‘but…’s come in. This also makes me angry because I know that this story is in GQ, and it will only reinforce stereotypes of Christians.  Having more details behind what went down with Ted’s fall only show how serious a hypocrite and sinner he was.  I don’t see much redeeming quality in that for Ted or the reader. But there is redeeming quality in it for those of us who work in the church.  We must not allow sin to ravage our lives.  You may not have the popularity and following that Ted Haggard had; but you do have people watching you.  If you work at the church, people expect a higher level of personal integrity and purity from you.  And when you fall, you’ll fall hard… whether you’re in a church of 50 or 10,000. If you’re reading this as a church leader, and your way in over your head in sin and there’s no way out… you’ve got to find a way.  It will be so much easier if you get help for yourself before someone else finds out and mandates that for you. So… take Ted’s story as an example of the need of personal integrity.  As a pastor, you’re honesty, integrity, and personal testimony are all you have.  When you lose them, it’s a slippery path to nowhere.  While none of us may fall as fast and hard as Haggard, it’s an important warning to check our motives, to keep our lives pure, and to not make excuses and allow sin to grab a stronghold in our lives. QUESTION:  What could be your downfall? Take some time today and consider this:  what could be your downfall if you aren’t careful.  Maybe for you it’s not sexual at all… maybe it’s another area:  integrity or honesty.  Maybe it’s financial impropriety.  Maybe it’s drugs or alcohol.  Maybe it’s that you really don’t want to be a pastor but you really don’t know what else to do.  We all have an area that could take us down if we gave in to it.  it’s important that we’re honest with ourselves about what those areas are.  If you need to talk with someone (a friend, your spouse, a counselor) about this one thing… do so today. Todd

Current Events
Well, I kinda pegged this one last week… Ted Haggard’s launch party for his new St. James Church happened last week.  A few interesting observations about the first service… 1.  According to media reports, only 160 people attended the first service of this new church.  That’s with nation-wide media coverage that it was going to happen; and in a town that is nearly the evangelical mecca of the United States.  Seems like a whole bunch of people just don’t care about Ted these days.  Even an LA PR firm wasn’t able to drum up a crowd. 2.  People that were there:  a production company that was filming the whole thing for a documentary; and a gay couple (that was recruited from CraigsList), one of whom who shared what an inspiration Ted was. 3.  When asked whether he feels homosexuality is a sin, Haggard told CNN’s Joy Behar:  “Sexuality, no matter which grouping, is complex. It’s confusing and some people have healthy sexuality, other people have unhealthy sexuality. They’re on their own journeys with God. They’ve got to work that out. And what we’re going to do at St. James Church is encourage them in their process to get that settled in their life.” 4.  Here’s a bit from an article on Beliefnet: Haggard’s new church will embrace an open-door philosophy that could raise eyebrows among some evangelicals. The former evangelical icon has said he supports equal civil rights for gays and lesbians, even though he will bar openly homosexual members from leadership positions. “Democrats, Republicans, Independents and those who go to Tea Party rallies. If you are straight, gay, or bi, I want to walk through the Scriptures with you,” Haggard said at the press conference that launched the new church. “If you are black, white, Hispanic, Native American, or a confusing combination, you are welcome here. If you have a friend or family member who struggles, St. James is for you. Adulterers, ex-cons, everyone is welcome.” With the restriction on gays in leadership, Joe and Jan Narracci were left a little disappointed. “This church is making qualifications that I don’t think Jesus made,” said Joe Narracci, who with his wife counsels gay and lesbian Christians who struggle to reconcile their faith with their sexual orientation.