Rich: Remembering Your Story Amid Scandal

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in a pickle. They're making headlines for all the wrong reasons: the team's owner, Frank McCourt, is bankrupt and his time at the top is coming to a close. There are many people saying the Dodgers are done, and that baseball will have a black-eye because of this. I don't think that's true on either count.

Columnist Bill Plaschke understands this. He wrote an article for the LA Times in which he says, "The Dodgers are not broke. It is Frank McCourt who is broke. His understanding of this franchise is broke. His ties to Los Angeles are broke. The Dodgers are not broke. The Dodgers are bigger than broke. The Dodgers pulse too deeply through a city's soul to ever be broke"[1]. He then proceeds to name several of the ways in which the Dodgers are still rich (and they all go beyond dollars and cents). They are rich in history, hope, personnel, players, fans, and future.

I remember hearing the news of the Ted Haggard scandal a few years ago. He was a prominent leader in the Evangelical church (president of the National Evangelical Association) who was exposed for having had "drug-fueled homosexual trysts"[2]. I didn't know how to comprehend it. How could a man who had ascended to heights most pastors could only dream of (seemingly through the "blessing of God") act in a way so contrary to what he preached Sunday after Sunday to the church he pastored?

It was times like that when a review of church history came to my rescue. I surveyed the annals of preachers, prophets, missionaries, and martyrs the church has known through the centuries since its inception. Not all men fall. There are some who stand firm even in the face of death.

One example is offered by Dinesh D'Souza who notes, "The Quakers were the first people in America to oppose slavery, and the evangelical Christians soon followed. These groups gave a political interpretation to the biblical notion that all are equal in the eyes of God. From this spiritual truth they derived a political proposition: because human beings are equal in God's sight, no man has the right to rule another without his consent. This doctrine is the moral rot of both abolitionism and democracy"[3]. Of course from our 21st century vantage point we'd say it's obvious that slavery is wrong, but the point remains it was an uphill battle led by people with Christian convictions that saw the ending of slavery come to pass.

John Piper was the person who exposed me to the rich treasure of Christian biography. He did the unthinkable: at his church's conference for pastors, he dedicated his speaking time to delivering a biographical sketch of a prominent figure from church history. I say that is unthinkable because he's the only one I've ever heard of to do it! But his presentations on those men and women of faith have aided me tremendously as I seek to persevere in faith in the present day.

So I am reminded that Ted Haggard (or anyone else for that matter) doesn't have the last say on the Christian story. Hebrews 12:1-2a says as much. After a thorough list of faithful people in Hebrews 11, we read, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" (NIV).

Going back to Plaschke's words, I think in the church's times of crisis and scandal we are warranted to substitute "the Church" where he has "the Dodgers."

In that case it would read like this:
"The Church is not broke. The Church is bigger than broke. The Church pulses too deeply through a city's soul to ever be broke." And then we can remind ourselves of the cloud of witnesses who so faithfully went before us and who still surround us, even today.

To that, then, we can all say, "Amen."

[1] Bill Plaschke, "Dodger's Bankruptcy: Frank McCourt has Nothing, and the Dodgers Have It All," LA Times, June 27, 2011.
[2] Associated Press, "Haggard Admits 'Sexual Immorality,' Apologizes," November 5, 2006.
[3] Dinesh D'Souza, What's So Great About Christianity (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2008), 74.

Related Posts:
Elements of a STICKY Sermon - Yearning
The Church: Heroes or Saints?


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