Church & Ministry
New Life Church After Ted Haggard
By Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer
CBN.com Don Couchman has been an elder at New Life Church in Colorado Springs for eight years and has attended the church for ten years. I recently talked to him to learn about how the people of New Life are coping today, several months after their Senior Pastor, Ted Haggard, stepped down in the midst of a widely-publicized sexual scandal.
Craig von Buseck: What is the current atmosphere among the people at New Life Church?
Don Couchman: When we had the emergency elders meeting on November 2nd and heard the news, I told people later it was like when I broke my arm in high school. When I first broke it, it didn't hurt. But as I sat in the nurse's office waiting for my mom to pick me up it really started to hurt. On that Thursday night there was no emotion, there were no words. But over the weekend it really started to hurt.
About a month before this happened I had prayed about going to Argentina on a mission trip to minister to approximately 500 business and pastoral leaders. After praying through that, God had opened the door for this trip. What we didn't know at the time was what was going to happen at New Life Church. So exactly a week after hearing the news, I was on my way to Argentina to meet with these international leaders. While I was there I could share the pain and the sorrow, but also the hope. The things that Ted taught were true when he taught us, but they are just as true today. I shared with these people about the pain and the shock.
When the news went out around the world, instantly people on every continent were praying for Ted, Gail, and the family -- and for New Life Church. One man from Australia told me that on that Thursday he looked over at his wife and saw her weeping over the computer as she read the news story.
Things at New Life Church are very strong now. They may be even stronger than they have ever been. One of the things that facilitated this was that Pastor Ted had set up the government system for New Life Church -- and then he submitted to it. So when he said within 72 hours that not everything that was said was true, but enough of it was true, he was submitting to the system and stepping down. That was an act of integrity that helped in the process of healing with the church.
People have been praying for the healing and restoration of Ted and Gail and the family. That's continuing to happen.
God has strategically placed Pastor Ross Parsley as the interim senior pastor. There are positive things that I see. The elders and the pastors are closer together now than they have ever been. The "Mill," which is the 20-somethings -- married, singles, college, and working -- are asking my generation to come and mentor them and to speak into their lives. The younger pastors are asking the more seasoned people to speak into their lives.
There is more integration in the church than there has ever been -- departments, generations, elders, trustees, and pastors. The church has focused on Jesus and not on the circumstances. God has been merciful. He has extended grace. There is a healing process going on. New Life Church is very solid at this point.
One of the opportunities that has come has been to interact with the secular press. When I was interviewed by two of the Denver newspapers shortly after the news hit, I could say to the reporters, "It's not about a man." They would always ask, "What's going to happen to the congregation." I told them, "The congregation is going to be fine. It's not about a man, it's not about a building, and it's not about a religion. It's about a relationship with Jesus Christ, and it's about the Family of God. And God's Word tells us that we should encourage one another. There are over a thousand small groups at New Life Church --and they are encouraging one another."
Saturday morning after the news broke, I talked to a younger man who is about 43-years-old. He was at the height of his anger. My role as a senior leader and as an elder was to talk him through this -- to help him focus and to work through the issues so that he could minister to others who would call on him. Five hours later he was called by a major Christian publication and was asked if they could follow him through this week, this month, and this following year. And so as a result of my mentoring this friend, he was able to interact in a positive way with the reporter.
von Buseck: As an elder, you've seen ups and downs at the church before. Obviously the community is watching you right now. How is the worship? How is the preaching? How is the church responding to the situation?
Couchman: The worship has been powerful. The preaching and the leadership of Pastor Ross has been just plainly anointed by God. It's been powerful.
von Buseck: So he was the man for the time? How are the relations with the media? It was recently reported that Mike Jones, the male prostitute with whom Ted Haggard had the affair, visited New Life Church. How did the people respond?
Couchman: Overall the media has been positive. I think the quick resolution of the initial impact was a huge thing for the media. There have been some snafus that came when things were leaked to the media in an untimely manner. But the media has been addressed in a positive way overall. I'm thoroughly convinced that many people in the secular world have seen the love of God.
There was a couple that came the Sunday after the Thursday and it was their first time at New Life Church. They went to the information desk and said, "If this is how the church is handling this, count us a members."
When Mike Jones came to New Life to do research for his book, he was greeted very respectfully and lovingly. But he clearly knows the Gospel that we stand on. So the Gospel was not compromised, but Mike Jones was loved and given respect when he visited the church.
What the enemy has meant for evil, God has turned it to good.
The way that New Life Church has stayed focused on the Lord and not on the circumstances -- and how the leadership has addressed the situation with love -- has made an impact on the Church worldwide and on the secular world. We don't understand the whys and the hows. It still seems surreal. We go back to the things that Pastor Ted taught us. He taught us truth.
Pastor Ted will be restored and God will use him in mighty ways. In Scripture we see mighty men who have failed -- Moses, David, Peter and others. But forgiveness and restoration brought them back into proper fellowship with God. That is what we are seeing at New Life. The overseers put in place for such an emergency have met with Pastor Ted and Gail. They have recently made a report to the congregation (read the report). There was a lot of wisdom in the system that was set up at the church.
von Buseck: How can people pray for you?
Couchman: First of all, pray for Pastor Ted and Gail and their family.
Then pray that New Life Church will continue to be strong. The mission of New Life Church is to reach the nations and raise up younger generations. Pray that we would continue to fulfill this mission with God's grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Read the Overseers Report to the New Life Congregation
More from New Life Church in Colorado Springs
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von Buseck is Ministries Director for CBN.com. Send
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