My church is dying

I became a Christian in 1999. I avoided the typical church thing for a long while. Why? Organized religion is a “man” thing. And because we all know how all men are, including ministers and pastors. Just look at what happened with the president of the U.S. National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard. He denied he “knew” the gay prostitute. Now he’s saying “I am guilty of sexual immorality … I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life,” another “righteous man” telling me how to live my life yet he lives a lie. Ted Haggard is doing the right thing. He’s stepping down to allow the UNAE heal and move on. For that I congratulate him. And I’ll pray he overcomes the demons that haunt him. Can we name any other spiritual leaders that have “fallen from grace” … Jimmy Swigart, James Baker … and now my pastor …

I waited for a while after I became a believer to get involved in my church. I have always been leery of organized religion. But I really liked my church and it’s leaders. I started out by working in our parking lot ministry greeting people and directing traffic. I’ve also been a part of the prayer ministry, I even led the prayer ministry for 18 months. I invested myself in my church. I believed my church leaders. I prayed for them. Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough.

[Editor’s note: Please understand this is my perspective and my opinion and it is based on information I received in a letter addressed to all the congregation, by members of the congregation, in hopes of saving their church. I’ve decided removed my pastor’s name and “unconfirmed details” since this is such a sensitive issue and I don’t want to fan flames.]

Now, my senior pastor, is involved in a “scandal”. He’s confessed to “unnamed sins”. I’m not sure how that is a confession. I thought a confession involved naming the sins and asking for forgiveness. He took a leave of absence for a few months. No one knew what was going on during his absence. The church leaders kept things very quiet. We assumed he was getting help for whatever it was. We hoped and prayed that during his time off he was working on his marriage or other urgent family matters.

Well he returned to our pulpit and had resumed preaching. We (the congregation) had little to nothing to say in the matter. There were tons of questions flying around. We had no information regarding his absence. Since his return to the pulpit he has either dismissed or shrugged off any church member or staff member that objected to/questioned his remaining “in power”. So far we have had 4 pastors resign, some (if not all) of our elders have resigning and our deacons are stepping down. Church membership has dropped. The “20% who do 80% of the work” are now almost non-existent. I just want to ask my pastor “Has it been worth the collapse of a church?” I’ve not attended services regularly there in a while. I’m out of the loop because of the frustration I’ve felt regarding the situation not to mention I’ve had a bad or ill feeling about the church since last November.

I’ve been wanting to find a new church for a while but I am very leery of any big church … any church for that matter. I’m still a member of my church and get some informational notices. Like the letter that was mailed to all the official church members – there is a members meeting tomorrow (Monday the 6th) to discuss our pastor’s removal. But for some reason I have a feeling it won’t take place. Maybe I didn’t transfer membership because there was a wind of change.



Filed under Journal

19 responses to “My church is dying

  1. Wow!! My pastor resigned along with the excutive pastor and a few others.

  2. Mark

    Please remove the blog about our pastor from your site. There is no comparison between Ted Haggard and our pastor. Ted Haggard was caught in a terrible sin. The only reason Ted Haggard made a statment was that he was caught. Our pastor came to the church confessing sin with a broken and humble heart. He went through a restoration process and the facts in your blog are incorrect. He didn’t have a porn addiction, he submitted himself to the leadership of the church throughout the restoration process. I challenge you to prayerful consider your words when you talk about anyone on your site. I worked with you in the parking lot and this is not the person I know. I am praying for you.

  3. Mark, the entry has been edited to remove our pastor’s name and the details. Please understand I will not remove it. It is my blog. It is a journaling of my thoughts, opinions and feelings. I am entitled to freely express those under my first amendment rights.

    My “facts” are based on what I’ve been told by other members of the congregation and the letter that was mailed out to the congregation. Everything has been kept secret by our church leaders. Nothing was addressed in a way that would answer the concerns of the congregation. Where is the accountability to the church? Was the restoration process explained to the church? I’ve asked and tried to understand what’s going on, but been told I must attend a “town hall” meeting to get the information I’m asking for.

    To be honest, I doubt anyone really knows the truth.

    I will be honest, I am not the same person I was then, I am little older, a little wiser, and now even more leary of church leaders than ever before. Having been raised catholic. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but at one point in my life I actually wanted to become a priest .. until I saw how “things are done”. I saw the spiritual abuse inflicted by church leaders. It drove me away from the church. I’m still a Christian and a believer. But in light of how things were handled within our church I’m now a bit more cynical and now doubtful of the honesty and integrity of any church leader.

    I appreciate your prayers Mark. And in the future I will prayerfully consider what I write. I would like to ask that you pray for our church to heal.

  4. Far Hills Member

    I stumbled upon your blog while doing some surfing. I’ve been typing in “Far Hills” and “John Jackson” just to see if there is any web chatter out there. I was led to a post you made at the X3blog which led me to your page.

    I’m also a member at FHCC and I’ve been struggling with all of this for months. I just wanted to say I’m glad you stuck around, and you sound like the type of concerned, involved person we need at FHCC more than ever.

    I’m with you…while I’m sad about what’s happened…I’m glad our church is no longer hostage.


  5. Thanks for your support. It’s appreciated.

  6. Brian

    I am, sorry was, a member of FHCC. What John did was disgraceful but what the current leadership did was just as disgraceful. In the words of James it was murder. The gossip that has been spread is just plain wrong. I do agree with you that we may never no the full truth. It is like playing the telephone game but with 2500 people. If you wanted the truth you could have scheduled a meeting with John. I know of several couples that did this. I also know that because of the amount of requests the town hall meeting process was set up. I also find it amusing that for someone who did not want to go to a big church with religion is choosing to stay at a church that is all about religion. This was evident in Monday’s meeting. I grew up in a church like that and swore I would never do it again. The church now has become a country club church. If you have enough money and politcal power you will be welcomed here. The situation with the letter and the meeting was not about John or his restoration. Instead it was about power and returning the church to it’s Baptist roots.

    John confessed his sin to his wife, children, the elders and the staff. I guess he needed to go to body as well and then maybe go on the road and visit other churches and tell them what he did. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be enough. I’m wondering if the current people in charge would be willing to do the same. Maybe the person who mailed the letter to John threating to take this to the media if he didn’t resign would step forward. Maybe the people whose only objective was to have their church of 8 years ago back, no matter the cost, would step forward. I doubt they will. The thing you have to do in this situation is try to get in as many people’s shoes as possible and get their perspective. Why are they doing what they are doing? I have been trying to do this. It is tough. There are 2500 pairs of shoes.

    I know one thing if I was John and I comitted this sin, there is no way I would drag my family through this for 9 months.

  7. I never said I agreed with the way either party handled the situation. I grieve for what happened. My heart cries out for the damage done to his marriage and his family. I know God can restore the marriage and family. But it will take YEARS of rebuilding the lost trust and YEARS of prayer to heal the wounds.

    I was scheduled to attend a town hall meeting but it was cancelled because of the letter. I never got the chance to hear the other side.

    1 Timothy chapter 3 clearly states what qualities a church leader should have. Titus 1:5-9 also outlines the qualifications of leaders and elders. Part of a pastor’s job is to educate their flock. Hosea 4:6 clearly states what will happen when the pastor fails that task. Along with that, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 outlines what will happen when the Word is not taught. Part of what happened to our leaders falls on their shoulders for not doing their part.

    I disagree with you on the desires, objectives and motives behind last Monday’s meeting. The desire was to return to a church that is Biblically based. The desire was to create a church that, with proper balance of power, will hold both members and leaders accountable. The last thing desired is another “kingdom building” leadership scenario.

    Who said I didn’t want to attend a big church? I said I was leery of organized religion, big churches .. any church. Politics are in play no matter the size. I got involved and invested in my church because of two pastors at that time, Chris Conlee and Terry Wright. They were both, men of God, who taught me the importance of studying and learning the Bible and having a daily time of prayer. They taught me to think for myself and if something wasn’t making sense, check the Bible and then question it. And I did that. And I was at the meeting last Monday. And I voted. I didn’t agree with everything done, but literally FHCC has to rebuild from the ground up. And as members it’s OUR job to ensure what we do is biblical. If you are still there it’s your job as well. If you are no longer a member what were you doing there?

    And as Christians, we are to pray for our leaders. The committee of 12 needs your prayers and support. If you are a member or even just a fellow Christian, pray for this church to heal and recover.

  8. Elisabet

    I don’t know you either but you sound like someone who does have your facts straight and a very good hearted person. I too hope you stick around your church. They need people like you. Starting a blog shows that you want to understand and be understood. Something everyone wants. I commend you for making the effort.

    To Mark.
    You are correct. Ted Haggard and John Jackson ARE nothing alike. Ted Haggard took the high rode. Ted Haggard was humbled by his sin and deeply affected by his sense of guilt, confessed to his congregation the complete truth without any munipulation or half truths or sob stories and removed himself so the restoration process could take place. Ted Haggard unlike John Jackson will listen to wise council. He stepped down in order to spare his flock. John Jackson tore his flock apart, all the while using spiritual manipulation to make the congregation feel bad and trying to minimize his sin. These kind of tactics are never used by a person who is trulely penitent and remorseful of their sin.

    To Brian.
    I would not ever have dragged my family through an ordeal like this either. John put himself before his congregation and before his family. John is the only one to blame and the only one who could have sparred his family all this grief. Your sins will find you out and there is always consequences to our sin. Surely you are not trying to place the blame on anyone but John.

  9. Elisabet,
    You are right. The blog was just a way for me to get things out and express them. It is a way of trying to understand what is happening in my world. I never really thought about it being a way for people to understand me, but that’s true as well. Great insight on your part.

  10. Elisabet

    WOW! Did it rain? I like your new black backdrop color because I like black, but I hope this is not an indication of your mood or anything. Have a great day!

  11. 🙂 No, it’s not a reflection of my mood. Just a new template and I thought I’d try it out. I like the looks of it. I think the text may be just a little to dark.

  12. Elisabet

    That’s good. I agree about the text, but I love the new black. Very dramatic.

  13. KT

    Our church is not dying. I am a member, and I still plan
    on attending. As you must know by now, John resigned
    the day before the meeting. I attended the meeting and
    it went very well. John must have been afraid to meet
    with his congregation, it is just another example of
    how he didn’t want to face up to what he did. As for
    Mark saying John was never involved in porn, I don’t
    believe that. Something lead him to do what he did
    in Texas, he just all of a sudden didn’t decide to
    partake in that sin. And it probably wasn’t the first
    time and won’t be the last time unless John gets some
    professional help to deal with his problems. This isn’t
    just going to be swept under the rug, it will surface
    again in the future. I feel sorry for his wife and kids,
    John really didn’t think about them through any of this.
    I know, I was raised by a man who continually cheated on
    my Mom, and it does leave a scar on your heart. That is
    why I feel most sorry for his four daughters, are they
    going to grow up thinking that this behavior is okay
    since their Dad did this? They will definitely have
    issues with men and trust from now on. John thinks
    everything is okay now, but the consequences of what he
    did will show up in ways he never imagined. God does
    forgive us, but we still have to pay a price for what
    we do. If John had broke the law, do you think just
    because he says God has forgiven him that he still wouldn’t
    go to jail? Wouldn’t some criminals have a field day with
    that one, oh, God has forgiven me, so I don’t have to go
    to jail. Thank goodness our justice system doesn’t work
    like that. It is too bad that his actions cause our church
    to be divided, I just hope those who followed John realize
    what they have done. You certainly aren’t helping John
    get the help he needs. They need to think about what they
    are doing and why they believe John so much. Is it their own
    pride and unwillingness to admit they are wrong? I just
    hope they don’t find out to late.

  14. KT – Please re-read the post and the replies. I even have another entry that says we are doing just fine. This post was written long before John stepped down. I too was at that meeting and did my part in electing the committee of 12.
    I don’t think John was afraid of facing his church. I think he was afraid of the accountability he faced. I’m not sure if you were aware of John’s decision to leave as being pre-meditated. He already had offices and phones and a website put together BEFORE the first Sunday we had without him. John’s new church has met 4 Sundays now and from what I understand there is a good following. My prayer is that John’s family will heal and that his new church will help him find the grace without accountability that he seeks. If you’d like more information on his new church click here.
    KT, our church will be fine. I hope and pray that we will be able to set aside the hurt feelings. We need to let go of what has happened. We must remember that none of this caught God by surprise. He has a plan. And those who lead us are held accountable to Christ for the shepherding of his flock. We must pray for our leaders. And we must not let these things happen again on our watch.
    I encourage you to read through all the material here before jumping to any conclusion on my position.

  15. JODI

    I stumbled on this website by accident or maybe not. God only knows why. I would pray that the church memeber would spend more time praying for their leaders than posting blogs about someone who sinned. Do you not have better things to do?

  16. Jodi, Don’t you have better things to do other than reading blogs about it? Have you read all the comments? Or are you just trying to get your thoughts out on the matter? You obviously have an opinion and felt the need to express it. So did I!

    You know, some of the comments I got about this post make me really wonder about the state of Christianity … everyone is pointing a finger, deflecting blame, making a stand. All I did was express my grief over what my pastor had done and how it was handled.

    I don’t agree with the way any of it was done. None of it. As a result a church has been ripped apart. And the wake of devastation is wide and deep. It affected many lives then as well as now. This post was written over 8 months ago and people are still searching for “John Jackson” “Far Hills” …. let it go. I have.

  17. Michael

    You sound like a Christian who is also a critical thinker. The world needs more of us. Good blog.

    I feel we should hold religious leaders, police officers, judges, and politicians to high standards. It makes sense, and they know it is part of the job when they take it on. However, I also feel that Christianity teaches forgiveness as well.

  18. J Dahl

    Lerxst – Thank you for sharing this blog. It is very helpful for a few people in Memphis who are trying to come to an understanding of what is occurring in the church that was founded by one of the pastors that influenced you – Chris Conlee. You might have seen this in the news.

    • I know both Chris and Andy. Chris was/is still one of the greatest influences in my walk as a Christian. He was there for me when I came to Christ in 2001. He was a great mentor, teacher and friend.

      I had heard there was an incident years ago but never knew the details. Things like this are difficult for all involved. My thoughts and prayers are with you, the folks at High Point, Andy and his family, and Chris. This will be a time of trial for Andy and his family as well as your church.

      Chris is a solid leader, teacher and friend. Please keep in mind that when we confess our sins to God and repent, truly repent, we are separated from our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). I am not excusing Andy’s sin, just stating what the Bible says.

      Please feel free to contact me anytime to discuss further. You are in my prayers J!

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