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"Ted Haggard and Staff Infections"
by Tom Goodman
November 9, 2006

A friend of mine nearly lost a finger from a wood chopping accident, but not from the axe.  He received only a minor cut from the axe blade, but he developed a “staph” infection in the wound that resulted in serious complications.

A leadership team can develop some “infections” that result in serious complications, too.  Each year in the churches I’ve served, the staff members have heard me bring my annual “Staff Infections” talk.  These “infections” can affect all of us as leaders, not just the paid members of the team.  Review your life for signs of the following infections:

Immorality:  Our personal failures aren’t as “personal” as we’d wish.  Just ask Ted Haggard.  He was the high-profile founding pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and director of the National Association of Evangelicals.  But last weekend he was accused of a three-year affair with a male prostitute from whom he also purchased crystal meth.  Haggard admitted that many of the accusations were true, and resigned from all of his positions of influence.

Haggard’s scandal should serve as a warning for all of us in ministry.  Reflecting on the unfolding moral tragedy, Gordon MacDonald wrote:

I have come to believe that there is a deeper person in many of us who is not unlike an assassin.  This deeper person… can be the source of attitudes and behaviors we normally stand against in our conscious being.  But it seeks to destroy us amasses energies that – unrestrained – tempt us to do the very things we “believe against.”
Our failures have a major impact on the rest of the leadership team.  Let’s be sure we deal ruthlessly with our moral weaknesses instead of privately entertaining them.

Incompetence:  Leadership teams are plagued by this infection when team members have no interest in improving their performance.  Symptoms include excuses, inattention to standards, and resistance to things that would help them improve.

In 1 Timothy 4:14, what Paul urged the young pastor of Ephesus remains good advice for ministers today: “Do not neglect your gift.”  When ministers leave unopened the gift God has given them, laziness replaces vigor, routine ruts replace creativity, and the safety of sameness replaces the venture of faith.  Instead, we need to develop ourselves into highly competent servants of the Lord.

Insubordination:  We call our leadership group a “team,” but have you noticed that the teams we love to watch in sports have captains, coaches, and managers?  To call a group of leaders a “team” doesn’t mean that lines of authority don’t exist.  Teams don’t work well when members ignore these lines of authority.

At the same time, the Bible calls us to mutual submission as well.  Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  Ministry teams suffer when members allow personal differences to remain unresolved.  Ministry teams suffer when colleagues do not support each other in conversations with other church members.

Ingratitude:  This is the worst of all staff infections, and source of the other three.  Think about it.  When I lose my grateful wonder that God has called me to serve his people, I can fall into sloppy habits (Incompetence).  When I lose my thankfulness for the gifts of those I work with, I can quit being a team player (Insubordination).  When I’m no longer grateful for what God chooses to give me, I can turn to embezzlement or adultery (Immorality).

David Livingstone said, “Forbid that we should ever consider the holding of a commission from the King of Kings as a sacrifice, so long as other men esteem the service of an earthly government as an honor.”  In Philippians 4:12, Paul said, “I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

Staff infections, like staph infections, can create a lot of harm to the Body.  Make sure that you’re not giving any opening for these infections to invade your life.  I’m so grateful for the team of leaders we have at Hillcrest!


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