Ted Haggard and Church Marketing

November 8, 2006 by

It seems painfully ironic to me that the same week I posted about Christians taking each other down, we have a high profile example of Christians taking themselves down in Ted Haggard. It seems the church’s biggest marketing problem isn’t typos or cheesy graphics, it’s false advertising.

So what should we learn in the light of the Ted Haggard mess?

  • It’s been said before and we’ll say it again: Pastors and spiritual leaders obviously need our prayer and support.
  • It’s also been said just about everywhere else, but we’ll say it again for good measure: Pastors need to be careful. Same goes for anyone in a leadership position in church, from volunteers to children’s workers. Your church needs to be a safe church. That means taking steps to be accountable and make sure you don’t get in trouble. Billy Graham has famously worked very hard to avoid the appearance of misdeeds in everything from his personal encounters to his finances. Pastors need to do the same.
  • Pastors, just like anybody else, can and do screw up. We should stop expecting perfection from clergy. It doesn’t excuse Haggard’s behavior or make it acceptable, but it does make it easier to understand if we remember that pastors aren’t perfect. I think the truly difficult issue here is finding a way to practically cope with that. We should expect more of our spiritual leaders, but there needs to be a fine balance there.
  • Churches should be talking about these kind of issues. Perry Noble has been drawing lots of attention for talking about tough issues like extramarital affairs and masturbation. It’s clear these kind of problems don’t go away just because the church ignores them. People struggle with ugly stuff, and the only way to contfront it is to bring it out into the light.
  • Jenell Paris suggests that the Ted Haggard situation isn’t an isolated incident. Sex scandals happen all too often in the church. It’d be interesting and a bit scary to compare the numbers of sex abuse and sex scandals that happen in churches compared to other institutions. If we really have the life-changing message we claim to, why are so many lives ruined at the hands of the supposed faithful? It’s disheartening to see the church at the center of or implicated in the two most recent national sex scandals (Ted Haggard and Mark Foley).
  • Finally, the issue that speaks most to our faith is what happens afterward. Will churches spin this as another example of what not to do? Or like the Amish so recently did, will churches forgive the offense? The difficult thing is that it’s easy to say we love and forgive Ted Haggard. It makes for a nice blog post and a happy sentiment to express from the pulpit. But what does really living out that kind of grace entail? I don’t know, but I suspect it’s more than a few easy words.

Overcoming its own hypocrisy has to be the biggest communications battle the church faces. And unfortunately, we haven’t seen much of an improvement in the last 2,000 years.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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15 Responses to “Ted Haggard and Church Marketing”

  • Useful_Arts
    November 8, 2006

    “It’s clear these kind of problems don’t go away just because the church ignores them. People struggle with ugly stuff, and the only way to contfront it is to bring it out into the light.”

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  • Joe Suh
    November 8, 2006

    I’ll psuedo-quote what Andrew Jones wrote in his commentary about Haggard:
    “Church is the best place to go to confess sin and get it sorted out. The crying shame is that many Christian communities are no longer safe places to share our bad choices and our dark corners and get them cleaned up… ”
    I strongly agree that churches need to be talking about the ugly stuff. Repressing and silencing it is as easy as condemning it… which can easily lead to hypocrisy.

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  • Lynell LaMountain
    November 8, 2006

    Ted Haggard and his family are in my prayers.
    In fact, I was with a group of Christians this weekend who prayed for him and his family — that he, and his family, might experience spiritual healing.
    People are imperfect. Leaders, too. I haven’t met a Christian who hasn’t failed in some area of his or her life, and I never will.
    Most of us are “luckier” than Haggard because we’ve skillfully trained our skeletons to stay in the closet.
    The larger issue for me is the ongoing unification of church and state and of Christian leaders who seem determined to legislate their religious beliefs.
    Maybe Haggard’s situation is God’s way of cooling the jets of these well-intentioned religious polticians, reminding us that our message isn’t what we say we believe but what we live.

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  • The Aesthetic Elevator
    November 8, 2006

    An acquaintance of mine had a particularly good response in my opinion on his blog at Opuszine.com. Worth reading.

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  • BD
    November 8, 2006

    Haggard needs more than spiritual healing Lynell.
    And since everyone is in a prayful mood, you might want to pray for Mike Jones, he’s gotten death theats.

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  • The Aesthetic Elevator
    November 9, 2006

    That Mike Jones has gotten death threats is horribly sad . . .

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  • Kevin Peterson
    November 9, 2006

    We gotta have more accountability. Plain and simple. Sinning is so much easier when we don’t have anyone bugging us about it.

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  • J. Wesley
    November 9, 2006

    I am encouraged by the observation that we seem to be handling this scandal in a much better and more constructive way than we handled the Bakker and Swaggart scandals of the 80’s.

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  • Tiffany Nevil
    November 9, 2006

    One of our daughter churches recently experienced a “scandal.” The Senior Pastor was having an emotional affair with his administrative assistant. The church was deeply shaken. But as the “parent” church, we stepped in, sent one of our pastors to help with the preaching gap as the Senior Pastor stepped down. But more importantly, we immediately intervened and got this man and his family some counseling. Today, he is attending our church and receiving counseling to be restored back into ministry. It’s an amazing story of redemption, trust and forgiveness. And it’s a story that doesn’t get told nearly often enough. Scandals come and go because we are all sinful. But redemption and restoration is only of God -and that’s what we should be talking about.

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  • Dennis
    November 10, 2006

    According to the interim NAE president, there’s nothing to worry about. Haggard was just one bad apple in a bunch of 45,000. The other 44,999 leaders are stable and faithful. Read it for yourself (online at http://www.startribune.com). I guess Jennell Paris must not have had the NAE in mind.

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  • Sara
    November 14, 2006

    I am encouraged by how many xtians have poured out their support and forgiveness to Rev. Haggard and his family. But I want to throw a twist out there — will it still be there if he does admit to meth use? (He eventually admitted he bought it — to look at — but threw it away.) What if he was unfaithful, even if it was with a man? Will we continue to stand by him?
    I also appreciate the expressions of support and open arms for Mike Jones. Love all, serve all.

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  • Greg Atkinson
    November 15, 2006

    I agree with this comment: “Scandals come and go because we are all sinful. But redemption and restoration is only of God -and that’s what we should be talking about.”
    I believe the eyes of the world are on the Church, not Ted Haggard. They will know us by our love.

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  • Craig
    April 7, 2007

    I believe the Church has an “interesting” set of “rules” for being a Christian.
    #1: You can’t be Gay
    #2-10: Repeat above
    You can smoke, drink and eat till your dead, just don’t do “the gay thing”. It’s called a double standard and it really, really stinks! Just in case you were wondering, I’m straight and married.
    Haggard walked the “staight line” (no pun intended) and found his desires for men unbearable. He really needed to have good,open communication with his wife or perhaps not try to live the straight life at all.
    “Being gay” and “acting out gay” don’t have to be the same and I do believe some Christians (and non) have mastered their desires and live celibate. Ideally, I believe that while you can’t stop all that you feel (temptation),you can direct your actions the opposite direction. Easier said than done though and we all need Grace….

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  • Justin
    May 22, 2007

    The Bible tells us that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit 1 corinth 16:18-20 and it tells us to honor our body. Smoking drinking and eating too much are interpretations of the scriptures. Homosexuality is clearly defined in the scriptures as sin 1 corinth. 6:8-10. I do not think it is a double standard. I am a member of Pastor Teds former church, New Life Church, and we have had many discussion on this area. The eyes of the country are more focused on Christians because of this mans actions. But praise God that this darkness was brought into the light! And now with the country watching we have an opportunity to set the record straight. We are a people whos faith is not in a mere man, but in the love of Christ. And now we have an opportunity to show that to the country. Christ is the head of the church, not anyone else.

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  • Joe Louthan
    July 21, 2007

    I have been called into ministry. Therefore, one of the things I am sincerely looking forward to is being held accountable.
    Here is a great question: Just to make sure I don’t miss a thing, how do we go about being accountable?
    If I connect with and invest in the people at my church (and not just the staff), is that not one way?

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