The Bigger They are, the Harder They Fall

How come so many “big guys” get caught in sexual indiscretion? (MORE)


James Petticrew said...

I can remember sitting in a dogmatics class when someone asked if creation was so wonderful and his intimacy with God so close, why did Adam give into temptation and sin? Dr Tom Noble said something that has helped me a great deal, he said that sin is not logical, it does not make sense and there is no great fruit to be had in trying to work out a cause for why people sin. I have shared this with quite a few wives whose husbands have strayed, and who are looking at themselves or their church for someone to blame. I suspect Haggard's wife needs to hear this and so does his church. Why would such an apparently successful man do such a thing? why did Adam disobey God? there are no answers, it just doesn't make sense. Thank God that grace goes equally against logic and common sense

Anonymous said...

Thanks for addressing this...

Honestly I had spent more time thinking about the implications of this indiscretion than the causes.

I appreciate your insight.

Tim Hawk said...

I applaud your insights, I think they are "right on." Perhaps another one is the secrecy of sex. What I mean is that we still are hesitant to openly discuss sex and sexual issues in the church. We will confess weaknesses in many other areas, but when is the last time you were in a small group where someone said, "hey, I'm struggling with internet pornography?!" For ministers this may be amplified, because our very integrity and credentialing may be challenged. So, maybe such temptations are just suppressed in the hopes that victory will be won without any "outside" help, and instead, the monstor grows!

In any case, this emphasizes that we can never be too careful or insulate ourselves against temptation too much. We can never be too accountable! I pray for our leaders, and I grieve over this situation.

Pastor Rod said...


Your column and these first commenter make excellent observations. I would only add a few of my own.

The current model that we hold up for pastors (being the CEO of the church) is partly to blame. It's related to some of the things you mentioned. We need to have a more biblical model for pastoral leadership.

Another contributing factor is bad theology. We need to develop a more biblical view of sex, food and pleasure in general.

I also think this is a result of our worship of the idol of pragmatism. We put up with unspiritual attitudes and behaviors in "successful" people. Too many "big guys" have problems controling their tempers. Too many have over-fed egos. Too many mistreat the "little people." Yet we put up with this because they are "doing great things for the kingdom."

(Of course some would say, Dallas Willard for example, that we really don't hold anyone accountable in the North American church, that we don't really expect anyone to live like Jesus.)

I share your compassion for those who "mess up." They are not the only ones to blame. We, the church, share in the guilt.

I think it is somewhat like Judas: It is inevitable when people are put in that situation that some will fall into sin, but woe to the ones who do.

God be merciful to me, a sinner,


James Watkins said...


and clap
as one of their own
is proudly carried toward the
lofty pedestal.
The audience
urges him
up the stairway,
step by step,
higher and higher,
far above the masses
on the prominant platform.
The media is there
with lights,
and prime-time coverage.
Publishers huddle
around the base,
for they know
sell well.
The crowds
on satelite hook-ups
hang on
every last world,
for he seems
so close to eternity.
Yet he feels
and very alone . . .
But at that height
no one notices,
no one questions,
no one confronts.
And so,
in a split second,
the trap door swings,
the noose tightens,
the crowd gasps.
Undeterred, the mob moves on
to build more pedestals;
to encourage another
of their own
up the starlit steps.
But mostly
to wonder
why those
at the pinnacle
keep falling
from the heights.

© 1988 James N. Watkins

Anonymous said...

I've come to expect this kind of thing out of prominent charasmatics. I think part of the problem is that these charasmatics are inherently flawed theologically. That isn't to say that others from more grounded theological traditions are immune from such things but the track record of charasmatics speaks for itself.

Aaron said...

As my dad and I were discussing this very point a few days ago, he mentioned that many of these leaders have "challange oriented" personality types.

Every new challange looks like something to grab. When they are told they can't or shouldn't it makes them want it more.

Tim Smith said...

Keith, it seems there has to be a change in how a person views sin. When I became a Christian, I still thought sin looked pretty good (and some times she actually did(;>))! As I "put off" and "put on" I saw more and more that God had a plan for my life--it was life and peace. Satan, too, had a plan for my life--misery in this life and damnation in the life to come. Many times, when faced with temptation, I am reminded that the ultimate end of all sin is death so I choose life. In order to fall morally, I would have to somehow reverse that thinking. I wonder abut THAT process. Sensitivity to sin ("the first approach to feel")is so easy to lose. Acceptance of careless language (both speaking and hearing), being "entertained" by sin, gossip, slander, malice, failure to make restitution--all these and many more deaden my senses to sin. God help us to finish strong!
Tim Smith

Matt Guthrie said...

I agree in the link between strong sexuality and strong spirituality. The employment of temple prostitutes was more than misguided interpretation of the possibility of manipulating the processes of Nature. Lots of folks have pointed out to me that lots of preacher's kids are born 9 months after annual conference or camp meeting. At least they were when both of these were vibrant spiritual experiences. Not trying to be vulgar or crude, but I know that personally, some of the strongest times of sexual attraction between my wife and I were after especially moving chapels while in seminary.

As a professor at a Christian college, I'm sure you see your share of young couples struggling to stay pure, especially after getting engaged. I recently counseled some parents whose daughter just got engaged to seriously consider allowing her to go ahead and get married. Both of the kids are strong Christians and now that they have expressed lifelong intentions for one another, the growth of that bond coupled with their spiritual growth will make a volatile cocktail.

So when a prominent leader gains power and experiences strong spirituality, the temptations are even greater. However, as Tim implies in his post, it's no excuse. We are not tempted beyond what we can bear, whether we are 20 and recently engaged or 50 and lead a conservative Christian movement.

To answer your original question of why so many prominent leaders are falling today, if we look at percentages, are we really seeing more leaders fall than at other times in history? Or are we seeing it more of it because of the CNN factor - nothing happens anywhere in the world without the whole world knowing about it now? Whatever reason, all of us who calls ourseslves Christian, especially pastors, would do well to think about all the snares you have listed in this post.

Matthew Kinsey said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Thad said...

Romans 3:23-26 (New International Version)
23for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

> this includes "the big ones"

24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

> even "the big ones" can receive redemption through God's grace

JustKara said...

I'm not sure that Haggard "fell." Falling denotes being at one level then falling to a lower one.... in his statement he admitted yesterday to this dark area being a constant part of of his entire adult life... so the question may not be about how he "fall" so much as who he IS and HAS BEEN.

I hesitate to point this out, but this is this one reason to give more women opportunities as our public leaders?

jimwatkins said...

Here's the most troubling--at least to me--aspect of the Ted Haggard affair. It's from his letter to the congregation:

"The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility
for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it
for all of my adult life."

HOW CAN WE IDENTIFY THESE INDIVIDUALS?! (THEY are NOT going to confess!) Some how he had gone all his "adult life" without anyone catching on. How many "time bombs" do we have in the Wesleyan church that are ticking, but no bomb-sniffing dog has sat down signalling a bomb.

There's got to be better screening.

Anonymous said...


Matthew Kinsey said...

They fall because they are fallen.
Rom 3:23

Unresolved/unmortified sin.
Rom 8:13

They do not flee.
2Tim 2:22

Sin is sin. Ultimately we sin because we want to. We make the choice to do it. Conceived in the mind, born from the soul and made manifest in our lives. Waging a war against it is a costly and like any war....there are casualties.

I have to take issue with this sexual spirituality thesis. At first blush it makes sense in light that sex is the expression of the legitimacy of love within the marriage covenant. I do not like this thesis because it is not centered in what Scripture has to say about sex. The Bible is replete with warnings about the appetites of men and what they lead to. Justkara has made the observation that I had suspected about Rev. Haggard's life: the fact that this issue has been 'a constant part of his entire adult life'. We all have an issue like this in our lives of one magnitude or the other. Rev. Haggard is fallen. He is a sinner because He is fallen. However I disagree with the statement that it is just who he is. That is repulsive to being a new creation in Christ. He was renewed by God's Spirit, set free from sin and death. Sure it was a part of all of his adult life but, he knew that and kept it from those who ordained him. And he had the choice to do what he did. So by compulsion he is tempted to do what he did. Remember: but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed (see James 1:14-15). He could have stepped down from his position the minute he committed his 'idescretion' but, he did'nt. He had an obligation to mortify the sin in his life. Instead he hid it. Proof positive it is the hidden sin in our lives that tend to do the most damage. I think the last point in Prof. Drury's post is the most accurate... The What Else? I know this type of predatory behavior is happening at a frightening level. All one needs to do is listen to a Minrith and Myer broadcast and listen to the untold number of women who call in and talk about how they went to their pastors for counseling and were ensnared in sexual sin. Let us not forget the terrifying number of priests who are under the gun for child molestation. If you equivocate sexual energy with spiritual heights then you are putting the lusts of the flesh on a level with the Spirit of God. Sin unrepented/unmortified is the disease and we are the culpable parties when we participate in it. The teaching of sexual spirituality is a dangerous doctrine. Another reason why sexual spirituality does not work is because what if I do not have a sexual drive after a heightened spiritual experience? Does that mean I'm not really super spiritual? Or that I do not have the proper spiritual tuning fork? Or maybe it's just because when I'm close to God the flesh should be stripped away and I am more perfected in my sanctification? So the doctrine of sexual spirituality defies that of even Christian Perfection.

Matthew Kinsey

Anonymous said...

I believe the root of hidden sin, in the lives of both leaders and laypeople, is pride.

As a leader of a 30 million member organization, Ted would understandably have felt that his weakness must remain hidden to protect his image and position. I know that even as a leader in my high school, I feared appearing weak and struggled for years with a hidden sin. My pride kept me from seeking accountability until several years into my college career.

I also remember thinking that if my struggle with sin were to become known, God's redemptive power would somehow be proven useless. When in reality, I was rendering God's restoration useless by struggling with sin on my own- convinced that this was something I would have to conquer single-handedly. Perhaps there are similar struggles in the minds of church leaders- only on a greater scale.

Pride keeps us from confessing our weaknesses and holds us back from the healing God offers and the strength he makes available through His body.

Left Coast Drury said...


"The seat of great spiritual energy and the seat of great sexual energy reside so closely to each other?"

What??! Is this theology, anthropology, psychology, phrenology or what? Are these seats something that can be viewed through a microscope or studied in a medieval textbook next to the chapter on good and bad humours? While I will grant that this theory has some explanatory power, so does the idea that bumps, lumps and flat spots on the skull can tell us something about the workings of what is inside. Why couldn't the seat of great spiritual energy be located near something else--say the seat of great culinary energy--wouldn't that be nice! Then all of our church kitchens would be top of the line and and no parishioner would ever be able to complain that he or she had not been "fed." These these latter-day Emerils would be able to whip up a three point sermon and a three course brunch every Sunday. BAM! Mmmm, I'm liking this theory.

And as for that dangerous seat of sexual energy, why not relocate that next to a seat on the third base line of a baseball stadium. Everyone knows that third base is the "hot corner." What better place to locate this seat--that dangerous stretch between third base and home plate! These euphemisms don't get into our language for nothing.

I like this Revised Sexual Energy theory (RSET) even better because it maintains its explanatory power with some great benefits. Haggard was obviously attending Colorado Rockies games and just let things get out of control by not being careful where he sat (or intentionally seeking out what should otherwise be the newlywed row). Jim Baker lived just down the road from the Charlotte Knights stadium--Look at the size of this baseball!! Charlotee Knights Water Tower. I'll bet this is the kind of thing that would be in front of those pagan temples someone mentioned. No wonder Baker fell from grace. As for Swaggart--I have not been able to track down his proximity to the dread/beloved "hot corner." Maybe he was a high school fan.

As for the other spiritual giants, RSET allows them to express their surpassing spiritual energy in feeding the flock secure in the knowledge they can avoid sexual temptation by skipping live baseball. Why take the risk. Let's just hope they don't "burn more" toast. RSET would especially enhance their marital counseling since many common marital problems could be solved by giving out season tickets.

Let's now return from Bizarro World. This Sexual Energy theory sounds like nothing more than convenient mythology. Unlike other Sexual Energy Theorists, I make no implicit claim to knowledge regarding the sexual prowess or lack thereof of Haggard/Baker/Swaggart et al. I do know something about how they conducted themselves publicly and think it would be more likely that the seat of great spiritual energy lies close to the seat of great deceptive energy. For you Biblical scholars see Peter's thrice denial of Jesus. In addition to having better explanatory power based upon known facts, it has a nice practical kick to it--undermining the credibility of every pastor and spiritual leader out there. Great line of reasoning! Whose silly idea was it anyway?

Maybe mythology isn't the best approach to explaining this kind of behavior.

Matt Guthrie said...

I am not saying that being entirely sanctified/spirit-filled is equivalent to being sexually driven nor that is necessarily leads to such. But, anectdotal as it may seem, there is a strong correlation between the two. Exactly why I am not smart enough, learned enough, studied enough, etc. to say for sure. I've heard a few explanations (some of which MK hints at) and I have a few of my own.

Perhaps it's the struggle of the flesh to regain conquered ground where the Spirit steps in ("This is my turf"). Perhaps it is because intimacy with God opens a channel of human intimacy that wants to be filled and if done so appropriately in a monogamous heterosexual marriage than it can be glorifying to God. The glorifying to God part is the key.

When I read the other comments here that lean towards a link, I don't see anything that suggests sexual sin is ok because of a suggested link between sexuality and spirituality. Haggard or anybody else with that level of power and authority could have committed just as serious a sin (or "abuse of power" if we choose to use less 'harsh' terms)and it would still be just as despicable to God. In our culture we condemen sexual sin as the ultimate offense to God while we are much more forgiving for others. If Haggard's sin had been alcoholism, would we be having this same debate? Would the outcry be as strong?

Keith wrote a book several years ago called "Money, Sex, and Spiritual Power". I cannot say that I ever got around to reading it, but those who have and the blurbs that I have read suggest something in our reality keeps linking them whether it be positively or negatively.

The AJ Thomas said...

I think there is a possibility of connection between spirituality and sex drive but not quite in the ways described so far. It’s not spiritual maturity that is at issue it is the emotional aspect of spiritually charged experiences. Emotions don’t tend to come conveniently sealed in labeled compartments. Someone who is feeling great frustration is also likely to experience anger, depression, or depending on what happens to them – gratitude, joy, or all sort of other emotions more readily. Spiritual “highs” increase the level of emotional energy we experience or draw our emotions closer to the surface or however you want to say it and the more emotional we are the more sexual we tend to be because much of our sexuality is tied to our emotions. It’s just the church version of the old college trick of taking a girl to a romantic movie or scary movie and then arranging for some “Private time alone together”. I don’t think it has anything to do with the spirituality directly but with the emotional climate they spiritual experiences can create.

Jake Hogan said...

Come on now. I think we all know that many who are opposed to something in the public realm struggle with it in the private. In a dorm situation, who is the one who struggles with homosexual orientation? The one who hates it the most and works against it in public. We all fight against the things that are wrong with us, and we are driven to achieve to make up for those weaknesses. Maybe, in some ironic bit of psychology, those who have serious personal problems are more driven to be spiritual leaders fighting against those problems to begin with. That would be my hypothesis

Matthew Kinsey said...

MG- The failure of sexual impropriety is treated so severly because of the depth of failure it is so often associated with. Both in the Old and New Testament sexual sin demonstrates a complete straying away, a violation, a revulsion of the love,trust and life given of by the offended party. Note all of the OT where God calls Israel his bride, then a harlot, then He says you have no honor Israel because you have to pay your lovers to lay with you.... and then finally He calls them 'Not my people'. I think in any case a gigantic moral failure of any kind for a man in the position of Rev. Haggard is devastating to his career and witness.

For about 72hrs after the news broke about Rev. Haggard there were over 9000 blog entries most of which were laughing and lamenting a man who held such high moral (publicly atleast) standards and who harbored the most heinous of impulsive behavior. You know what is even scarier is the fact that so many of the Blog's of pastors I have come across there profiled favorite movies are ones that promote, propound and propogate outlandish sexual activity. So what the pastors at home may not be doing in the public arena they are certainly imbibing in the private. What does that say about those who are to be our shepherds? It means that even lust in all of its imaginary, viewable, hearable, readable forms, is adultry.

The clear message here is not that we go home sexually supercharged after a great spiritual revival. It is particularly perverse to think that great spiritual revival would even have such an effect on us when the greatest revivals have come because of repentence (see Jonathan Edwards sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God). Repentence is what makes for good revival. If it the near final result is sexual exultation of any sort I believe that idolatry has occured and the Holy Father has not been glorified but rather our basest of instincts. If we are titilated not towards the fruit of the Spirit and towards what is not of God then we have worshipped the god of this world, the prince of the of the air!

Shame shame on us for ever have conceived such an idea.

You know I am someone who has struggled with a sexual sin for years and it was'nt until it nearly destroyed my marriage that I stood up to it. It wreaked havoc in my social and spiritual life for years until I found accoutability to my wife and discovered that God was not going to magically wisk away my compulsions. It takes time, effort and a sincere desire to mortify sin and thank God for his Spirit who has empowered me to that end. Do not tell me it was my emotions that carried me away because I heard a great sermon everyday of the week. It was a choice.

My choice. My shame. My Sin.

If it were not for the grace of God in Christ I would not know my sin or have the strength to face it and defeat it. It is a lie to say that my spiritual and sexual activity are so closely related. And being a pastor you should know that the flesh is always at war with the Spirit. Not just during heightened spiritual revival. It is rare that an enemy will strike when thier opponent is at full knowledge and at preparedness. Now to say that spiritual onslaught of the enemy will come on the back side of that great spiritual gain is to be expected and looked for.

Gird up your loins, put on the whole armor of God dear friends. Be ready for the pitfalls. Head off that emotion, snuff out that first thought of impropriety and wage war on the members of your body, buffet them and make them yours to command. Be strengthened and renewed by the Spirit.

Matthew Kinsey

Left Coast Drury said...

Anecdotally, Jim Baker drove past that giant Charlotte Knights baseball traveling from Tega Cay to Heritage USA almost every day. Look what happened. Myths can have wonderful explanatory power--especially when the subject matter is so puzzling to us--see #7 of original post--I just like my myth better than the Sexual Energy Theory myth.

Bill Barnwell said...

I find it interesting that there has been very little discussion of Haggard's possible problem with crystal meth--a serious and hard street drug. We know he at least bought it. In the minds of many Evangelicals, whether or not Haggard had a drug problem--a problem with meth at that--comes nowhere near the offensiveness as gay sex or any sin sexual. Also interesting is that so many pastors can get away with emotional and psychological manipulation, lies, and all sorts of other stuff and face no discipline at all or a slap on the wrist. Yet the pastor who has a porn problem is afraid to talk to anyone about his porn problem because he knows it will be a capital offense and he'll probably lose everything. I say all this not to minimize sexual sin or to say that it's no big deal compared to these other issues I've raised (though many other big problems are often treated too lightly while the hammer is dropped on sexual transgressors). I mostly agree with everything being said by those here who are pointing out the severity of sexual immorality and what a horrible thing it is.

But I'm wondering if Christianity's fear and obsession with all things sexual has created this climate of fear and hypocrisy where problems like or of other sexual natures are continually "kept in the closet" and are able to bubble below the radar until it completely blows up or until a person just stays in chronic private failure indefinitely. The ironic thing here is just about every person I know, myself included, has struggled with sexual sin to some degree at some point in their lives. Perhaps not to the degree and seriousness as Haggard, but to varying degrees (I've yet to meet a person who claims they've NEVER dwelt too long on a lustful thought). Sometimes even those who have struggled and found victory are not as patient down the road with others who struggle the same way they did (and this can go for any area really).

So part of the problem (part of, not the whole) can be attributed to the culture of fear, hypocrisy, and self-loathing when it comes to sexual matters in the Church. There's certain studies that show that people in the pews actually want more discussion and teaching on these matters. There's also many who don't to hear about it but the silence, denial and self-righteousness is getting us nowhere.

The other problem I'd attribute is unrealistic expectations. I read something today by some writer who claims that this is proof that Scripture and the Holy Spirit really don't change lives or help people overcome addictions. That's nonsense, and there's plenty of us who can attest otherwise, but for most battling sexual problems it usually isn't the experience that they pray a simple prayer and suddenly everything is all better. I know some "instant deliever" type cases but they are not the norm. So yes, victory definitely is achievable, but just as it took time to get into these types of problems, it may take time to get out and almost always requires a polyvalent approach (prayer, accountability, social support, Scripture, perhaps counseling, etc, etc).

Anonymous said...

Commenting on #5 - My mom, a pastor's daughter and cynical observer of ministerial sin and "human fraility" always said a preacher always preaches his worst sin.

Jim Schenck

Curious and wondering said...

With all this talk, maybe Drury will post something about the theology of sex. Or maybe get one of his colleagues like Bounds or Schenck to do so. I fall right in the middle. I see some kind of link in real life but agree with Matthew Kinsey's evaluation of sexual sin as a revulsion.

tricia said...

Good post. Good points/warnings....but for the grace of God.
I'd agree with many of the reasons already given but the glaring one to me is the lack of openness or authenticity on the subject in the church. Sin is sin and we try to live like we believe that but I think that those of us who have been raised in the church have a hard time not giving sexual sin/struggles an "elevated sin status" which then makes it harder to admit to struggling with it.
I'd also wonder if the desire to be accepted/liked by someone who does not know or care that you are a "big wig" could be a motivating factor to the big guys.

Anonymous said...

In regards to prevention- here's a good article:

5 Moral Fences by Dr. James McDonald

Anonymous said...

I have lived through a similar situation only in a little different way. My wife had an affair with another Minister and left me high and dry. I left the ministry but returned 7 years later after a study of the underside of the church as a Private Investigator. I specialized in "Clergy Misconduct".

As a Pastor I can understand a little of what Haggard went through. The problem goes well beyond sex, which is just the lowest level which he fell. The problem starts the first time the Leader is tempted to fudge a little on his ethics and then he doesn't resist. He wants a project done a certain way so he steamrolls over people. He becomes successful, then thinks to highly of himself. "I built this church!!!!" and so on. Control and unrestrained power will get you every time. It only leads to the more baser sins like theft and sexual imorality.

Be warned, its in every one of us. We could all start on the path to immorality at any moment. The key to spiriutal health and vitality is a heart that is constantly open and transparent to God, where sin is confessed daily. And where you have a people in your life that set you straight. And above all, you can't take yourself to seriously.

Those who have commented that the problem is Haggard's Charismatic Theology may be in danger of falling themselves. Anytime you think you have a lock on correct Dogma and think "those other poeple" are wacked, you better watch out. Obviously they haven't studied Church History to see all the wierd people with less than perfect Theology who God used in mighty ways.

Pete Vecchi said...

As of this moment, I've only read the original article and haven't read any of the comments yet, so please forgive me if I am repeating anything that anyone else has said.

This is a great article, Keith. First and foremost, I want to state that I do NOT condone the sexual behavior that has been talked about in the article. From the accounts I've read about the most recent "big name to fall" (and I'll admit I have NOT paid all that much attention--especially to the details), sin was committed, and sin needs to be dealt with before God.

At the same time, I believe that a lot of this has to do with the culture in which we currently live. It seems as though we tend to more-or-less rank some sins as being worse than others. In our current culture, sexual sin seems to be one of the worst, even though the Bible doesn't generally classify one sin as being different from another (although in 1 Corinthians Paul DOES single out sexual sin as something from which people should flee, yet seems to stop short of coming right out and saying that sexual sin will be more harshly punished).

I think there are 2 major things at work here. First, since our society is so hung up on sexual sins, it is easier to preach against sexual sin than some other sins we would like to ignore (for instance, I wonder how many pastors and other Christians have a tendency to gossip). Because sexual sin is such a big thing in our society, and because so many pastors and other christian leaders so vocally come out against it, it makes sense that if someone gives in to the temptation of sexual sin that the society in general will make a big deal about it. And don't think that Satan isn't aware of this, either. I believe that Satan wants to see the fall of as many ministers as possible, in order to cause havoc in the church (both local and world-wide) and discredit Christianity in general.

I believe that the second issue is that we as Christians have a tendency to expect absolute perfection in any minister. I am a pastor, and I am only human. I am not perfect. But I think that sometimes ministers seem to feel that they have to hide their weaknesses, maybe because any perceived weakness in their personal lives might jeopardize their jobs. Yes, their jobs are ministry, but in very few other professions (perhaps a politician would have the same scrutiny placed on him/her) does a person's personal life play such a major role in weather or not he/she can continue in that position and financially support a family.

Keith, I think that the list you gave is right on the mark. I just thought I'd add these thoughts to what you said.

Pete Vecchi said...

In my previous comments, I found an error after I posted. I said "weather or not..." when, of course, it should have read "whether or not..."

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends: I believe that the problem with falling is in the attempted cure of sin. We are so puritanical in our approach that we demand resolution of and victory over, not only our own sin but that of others. We (evangelical) find a personal success and create a formula that we believe will solve the problem. This creates dishonesty in the individual as they display for public view a "thin veneer of Jesus" while the deepest heart issues go unattened. Perhaps a more catholic approach to sin and forgiveness would better serve our recovery. Confession - penence - and forgiveness.

not chicken little said...

I see this differently than you people running here and there bleating "Alas!-Alas! Omygod! Sin! Sin!

We evangelicals are no different than any other sinners--we sin every day in word, thought and deed and that sometimes included adultery and even homosexual behavior. I can understand why the secular media "don't get it" and imagine that evangelicals should be pure and spotless--but we Christians know that there is none righteous---not one.

Haggard did what Christians do--sin. And the church did what churches do--removed leaders committing blatant sin. So what? There is no news here.

Christians might sin less than unbelievers but the Bible does not guarantee it. What it does guarantee is there is therefore now no condemnation." God forgave Ted Haggard's sin years ago when all his sins--past, present-and future--were forgiven. God cannot see his sin because He sees only the perfection of Christ when he looks at Haggard.

Should he be removed as pastor--of course. Should he resign from NAE--certainly. But why is there so much crying and hand-wringing about a pastor sinning--we all sin regularly and no one sin is any more serious than another. If all the hand-wringers making comments above ever gossip then why are you casting stones as if Haggard did something worse than you? The only difference between the unconverted sinner and the saved sinner is one has already been forgiven of all their sins and is already risen to be seated in Christ at the right hand of the Father. Sin should cause us to praise God, not worry as if Christians can be sinless.

luke middleton said...

"Why would a big guy fall into sexual temptation?"

While I think there are many practical things that could have been done by way of accountability to prevent something like this, I'm not sure that addresses the root of the problem and the problem itself.

Ted Haggard is a sinner. We are all sinners. Sin is the issue. Ted's work, schedule, personality, and sex drive* aren't the issue. His sin is. That's the root.

When that is properly in focus, it should leave us humbly looking at the situation and asking more than just "why did Ted fall into this temptation?", it should leave us asking, "Why on earth have I not done this?"

[*Does a greater sexual drive leave one more prone to sin? I suppose if the sexual drive itself was sinful it would. But a sex drive isn't sinful. His sin isn't in his sex drive, it's in believing that sex outside of his marriage will fulfill his drive. He could have an off-the-charts sex drive, and if he used that within the context God gave (turning his passions and desires toward his wife and acting that out), then his sex drive and sex life are glorifying to God. Respectfully, I have to say that the theory about the seats of sexual and spiritual energy is hard to take seriously -- the same way the Episcopal church's new accepted names for God are hard to take seriously.]

Pete Vecchi said...

I just thought of another, perhaps more subtle reason why this type of situation might hit the clergy--especially pastors. Could it be that the pressure placed on pastors (whether self-imposed or not) also is transferred to the pastor's family? 1 Timothy gives a list of standards that pastors should be held to, but in the life of many congregations, the pastor's spouse is also held to the same standards.

Because this seems to be more of an issue with males (who was the last female spiritual leader whose name was dragged through the media for having fallen into sexual sin?), let me assume that we are talking about male pastors. Isn't it often natural for a pastor's wife to be affected by the things that affect her husband? If there is a person or group of people in the church causing the pastor problems, isn't it likely that his wife will also be affected?

At the same time, especially in smaller churches, isn't the pastor's wife often expected to "pick up the ball" and be in charge of whatever no one else wants to be in charge of and keep things from slipping through the cracks?

If this pastor and wife have children and the wife has a job outside of the home to make up for the lack of income a small-church pastor gets, plus if she is getting weary about hearing negative things about her husband, about problems in the church, about something ELSE that has to be taken care of that no one else is doing so she has to do it, etc..., isn't it at least POSSIBLE that utter exhaustion can lead to lack of intimacy within the marriage?

Then when lack of intimacy occurs, isn't it at least POSSIBLE that a pastor would be more tempted than normal when presented with an opportunity for some type of initmacy?

Please note that this is NOT an excuse I am suggesting, nor am I blaming any pastor's wife for infidelity on a pastor's part. However, in the original article, we were looking for possible reasons why pastoral infidelity can occur.

I thank God that I have remained faithful to my wife during all the years of our marriage. The benefits of faithfulness are many. But just as Keith mentioned "overwork" as a possible reason for a pastor to stray from his spouse, I believe that the utter exhaustion faced by many pastor's wives due to unreasonable demands placed on these women can also be a contributing factor to a breakdown of intimacy within a marriage, and can lead towards marital infidelity.

That's just my two-cents' worth, and since I offered these thoughts free of charge, they are worth every penny! :-)

VERY religious pastor said...

Just for the record, research has repeatedly shown that the more religious one is the more frequently that person has sexual intercourse. I wonder why? {thinking....}

Anonymous said...

Why do “Big Guys” fall into sexual indiscretion?

1. VOYEURISM. Pornography is a private attempt to fulfill the loss of intimacy that one lacks in other relationships. A thief first commits petty larceny before graduating to grand larceny. Likewise, pornography usually precedes adultery. Be sure, that private sin will ultimately become public sin.

2. INFERORITY. Often, abusive members can destroy a pastor’s self esteem. This can be so painful, that a hurting pastor might do anything just to fill this void. Such a pastor may not even recognize that he is at risk.

3. ADRENALINE RUSH. Loneliness, boredom, or discouragement can wear a pastor down.
Pornography, chat lines, or adultery can give an adrenaline rush to a guy with unmet emotional needs. Ted Haggard sought to heighten his sexual “rush” with “crystal meth”.

4. NARCISSISM. A narcissistic pastor is obsessed with self and has a compulsion to satisfy personal needs without regard for others. Beware of the pastor who talks about the size of his church or ministry. A success driven pastor needs to separate self identity from ministry identity. Delusions of grandeur can lead to delusions of adultery.

5. MEGALOMANIA. Some pastors have an inflated belief in their own superiority, abilities, and omnipotence. They exert total power and control over others. They use staff, members, and family to build up their ministry and feed their self esteem. When the ministry ceases to satisfy their ego, they will pursue a sexual conquest. They dominate others to meet their own needs.

6. OWNERSHIP. I am the pastor, I am the church. I built it, or planted it, or grew it. This church was nothing until I arrived. I deserve recognition or reward. Beware of the pastor who talks possessively about “my church” or “my board”. Just remember that someday “my secretary” may become “my downfall”.

Like a cop who always drives faster than the speed limit, some pastors live by their own rules. Do as I say, not as I do. Rules don’t apply to me. I’m to busy for accountability. Any pastor, without accountability will rationalize away sinful behavior. The pastor who disregards or distains ecclesial authority is at risk.

8. ADULTRY IS NO BIG DEAL. Often pastors are “practical Calvinists” and act like sin is without consequence. We think that sexual sin is “no big deal”. In reality, adultery and homosexuality are defiling sins against the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Some suggest that these are “mortal sins” or a “sins unto death” (I John 5:16).

9. CHEAP EVANGELISM. In the rush to grow a Wal-Mart size church, we perhaps we fail to offer transformational grace that truly breaks the power of sin in people’s lives. Perhaps the problem is that some pastors have never truly been fully converted themselves.

- Wes

Anonymous said...

The question I'm asking right now is, "Why do men like Haggard remain in ministry until they're caught in the act? Why do they not "come out of the closet (whatever that closet may be)" and turn to the Body for help and care?"

If we really believe there is victory out there, shouldn't we do whatever it takes to gain it?

If we really believe a leader must live a life of integrity, shouldn't we step aside if we aren't?

One thing we shouldn't miss about many of the men Drury has listed is the fact that none of them were caught off guard "in the heat of the moment". All of them pursued their immorality over a long-term length of public ministry.

John Mark said...

Sex and materialism have been my biggest struggles as a believer, along with pride. Chambers said that pride and sensuality are the great sins of every age. There came a time in my life when I confessed to two men who were prayer partners with me that I had terrible failures with lust. One man could not go there, it made him too uncomfortable. The other said, basically, "Me too" and we prayed for each other a lot, 'til I moved away from that place. I still miss having a prayer/accountability partner, I have yet to find one after nearly 12 years living where I do now. It made such a difference for me. My struggles kept me from being involved in full time ministry for many years.
I personally think that sexual failure is about a lot of things, not just our normal drives. My greatest failure (I did not have an affair, and I don't think it wise to say more) came while I was married to a beautiful 23 year old woman (we have been married for almost 30 years now). I would be interested in seeing this pursued some.
I have never been and never will be a Ted Haggard. I rather think I don't want to be, although I do want to make enough to pay the bills. I would agree with many others who have commented; the causes of moral downfall may be varied, but the struggle to get help is connected most with pride. It is humiliating to admit some struggles, and for pastors a certain amount of fear is involved. And, if we are supposed to be preaching a message of Spirit empowered living it is doubly hard to say we are tempted, struggling (or failing).
I was in Israel in the last week and a half; was only able to attend church one time; Haggards problems were mentioned (kindly) from the platform. Satan surely delights in taking down one of the "big guys," the ripple effect is literally world wide.

Matthew Kinsey said...

I'd love to read some of this research about sex and the 'religious' person. If anyone has any links or books they'd recommend please post them.

a young woman said...

I think the Cop Gone Bad theory is probably pretty on target. Also, the excess amount of sexual energy due to large amounts of spiritualization seems probable.

Anonymous said...

What can be said that hasn't already been said?

ISOLATION. You've got it all, and you've got nothing. All at the same time. You're on top of the world, but apart from the world. When people feel isolated, they'll do almost anything to feel connected.

FRIENDLESS. You know what I like hearing? That Bill Hybels has sailing buddies. You know why? Because it helps me know he's got real friends. Big guys sometimes have the appearance of having friendships, but have no true friendships to speak of. When "everyone" is your friend, sometimes no one is your friend. And when you're friendless, you'll come up with some strange behaviors to fill the relational void.

TAWG-less. Ever hear the story of the starving baker? He made loaves of bread every day, but never ate for himself. One day he keeled over from deprivation. As a church grows, more is expected of the leader. And let's be honest - when's the last time a senior pastor of a growing church had several key friends and leaders in the church advocating that he do less so he could spend more "TAWG" - Time Alone With God?

JUSTIFICATION. No one needs to know. It's not a big deal. Who would ever find out? I deserve it. As long as it doesn't hurt anybody. I'll only do this once. God will forgive me. I'll never do it again. Just this once. No one will tell, because they're doing things they shouldn't be doing, too... And a thousand other things we tell ourselves, or listen to the Enemy tell us.

Ken said...


My heart breaks for Ted Haggard, his wife, his family, his church, and our cumulative witness as Christians right now. May we all pray for him, that he'll recover from this and find his way back to a vibrant walk with God.

I wanted to add... I don't remember being deeply challenged in my ministry courses regarding personal sin issues. In fact, I don't recall being directly addressed as a soon-to-be-pastor about any specific sins or temptations. I remember some challenging chapel services, but I don't remember being sat down and talked to as a pastor-in-waiting. (I DO remember sitting down with the district DBMD, but much of that was more formal and impersonal, kind of a "quick check in" about school, life, and ministry - no "feet over the fire" kind of conversations to motivate me toward holiness if something was lacking...)

Please keep in mind, I'm not saying it didn't happen; after all, perhaps I'm so old I've forgotten! But I wonder - does IWU invest specific, deliberate time sitting down with future pastors to address very explicitly the various temptations they may face in the course of church work? I don't know this would solve all the "falling" issues, but perhaps more consistent, deliberate mentoring, accountability, and face-time with developing ministers would minimize these moments.

I know we're all personally accountable for our actions and behaviors; I simply wonder if anyone's consistently encouraging preventative behaviors to those who are called to lead. After all, you know what I know - Satan would love to take out pastors and church leaders to accomplish precisely what we're witnessing in the Haggard situation - disunity, mistrust, and fallout.

Perhaps these moments point to a need for more personal and transparent conversation in the educational process. Perhaps they point to the fact that some guys think they're above the law. Perhaps it's something else altogether, but I can't help but wonder if more direct challenge and accountability early on would alleviate some of this stuff.

Anonymous said...

I believe the clear reason pastors are falling hard and fast is because God has removed His Spirit from them and their pulpits. It says that a day will come when the thirst will not be quenched because the Spirit of God is removed. No Spirit, no capability to combating sin! Thus the result, pastors that are nothing more than clanging gongs!

Anonymous said...

This discusison has been primarily focussed on how to address the moral failures of church leaders.

Perhaps some of you would like to join in the discussion about homosexuality in the church:


Anonymous said...

After a brief overview of the posts, I’m surprised that none of them include thoughts from Eph 6 (Kinsey noted a bit, but not head on.). We are fighting not against flesh and blood, but against powers of the heavenly realm. There have been many quotes about how ted is a sinner and has fallen short of the glory of God. I think we can agree that all feel the effects, pull, and lure of sin. But has anyone thought about the effects of the spiritual war going on? I believe that the supernatural warfare manifests influence on earth in instances like this. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Haggard could say “the devil made me do it.” BUT, if you were Satan, how sweet would it be to take down one of the most prominent Christians and undermine years of ministry. What strategy! Who can he pick off next? Billy Grahm had better watch out? I think we underestimate the devil’s influence. What do you think?

On sex and religion, I once read (sorry for no footnotes, proof), that the part of the brain responsible for processing “religion and spirituality” and “sex” are right next to each other. Maybe this can partially explain why one blogger said that he was more romantic to his wife after a spiritually charged chapel service. Or maybe pastors really aren’t “taking a tap” after church on Sunday afternoon…. Just a thought. I think I learned this from Prof. Boivin in neurophysiology at IWU….maybe he deserves the footnote…or maybe I just disgraced his name. Anyone around want to ask him about this possibility???

Anonymous said...

False Expectations...

Many ministry nosedives are caused by false expectations. Those of the pastor, the congregation, the public, church leadership, etc.

What false expectations does a church body have for their pastor? That he should not even be tempted by the dark side. Temptation = sin. We know this is not true; but how could our "pastor" even think about homosexual or extra-marital lust. Because of this false expectation, a pastor has no accountablity outlet for confession (of temptation), counseling, and just plain friendship with someone to help him.

What false expectations does a pastor have for himself? That he is the Gold Standard. His character and christian testimony must set the pace for the congregation. The more people his church has the more pressure there is to be "THE MAN." Any chinks in his armor amount to failure...he thinks. Thus to deal with temptations he goes to the dark side; instead of having a group of other men to confide in.

I've been thinking much about this since 2 pastors in our state fellowship have fallen in the last couple years. Both because of similar struggles to what Haggard has dealt with.

Anonymous said...

True friendship in christianity is very rare regardless of whether or not one is a pastor or lay person! Because of the religious competition, "positions of authority" and commanded (as most believe) correction, true friendship cannot exist and never will exist.

Anonymous said...

Trust me, the need to be has nothing to do with numbers! If you do not believe me, look at many of the small church pastors.

David Drury said...

Gordon MacDonald wrote an exceptional article in response to Haggard and the NAE in the leadership journal newsletter. Don't miss some of the "implications" found at the end of the article as well. He's not just talking about Haggard... it's about the movement as a whole. There's a good prophetic voice in this, I believe...

Here's the online link:


Just highlight and paste into your browser.

Nathaniel McCallum said...

Early church fathers, talk about sexual failings being caused by two things:
- lack of ascetic practice (particularly the scheduled fasts)
- prelest (spiritual dilusion through the use of immagination and/or emotionalism during prayer).

Ironically, I would suspect that all the spiritual "leaders" you mention probably fail both these litmus tests.

Anonymous said...

Guess Who said,

The problem is that Christians have their household gods like Haggard,Graham,Falwell, and so on. We place them on a pedestal and when they fall we say, "Oh, my!"

Each of these men including the Pope put their pants on one leg at a time.

'The first shall be last and the last first.'