Before the humiliating fall of the Rev. Ted Haggard, New Life Church was outwardly focused a major player in the politics of morality. But under the leadership of new senior pastor Brady Boyd, New Life Church will be turning its attention inward.
What may be most interesting about Boyd is what he isn't talking about this week, after more than 95 percent of New Life's membership voted to hire him.
Asked about politics, Boyd didn't mention ridding the nation of civil unions, trying to ban abortion, bringing prayer into the schools or promoting the Iraq war.
Boyd says he doesn't need to tell his congregation how to vote on moral issues, because they can get that from the Bible.
He also has no plans to try to revive Haggard's downward spiral of a reputation. That reputation, originally damaged in a gay-sex and drug-use scandal that came to light in November 2006, suffered further harm recently when Haggard aligned himself with a charity led by a convicted sex offender.
After his election Monday night, Boyd says he's looking to restore normalcy to New Life.
"I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan," Boyd offers. "I'm not going to back down. Go 'Boys!"
New Life, which once embraced publicity during Haggard's reign, has clearly changed its course. Boyd says he'll encourage parishioners to vote in elections, and that's about it.
"I don't beat people up with the Bible," Boyd said. "I'm not going to impose my beliefs."
That has settled well with many congregants, who are still reeling from the nationally publicized Haggard scandal and wish for New Life to duck out of the spotlight.
"He seems a lot more church-centered than politics," New Life worker Pete Valkonen commented. He said most New Lifers were just fine with that.
Boyd came to Colorado Springs from Southlake, Texas, a Fort Worth suburb, where he served as associate senior pastor of Gateway, a growing mega-church.
From afar, Boyd and his 7-year-old Texas congregation watched in horror during Haggard's, and New Life's, fall from grace. Founded more than 20 years ago, New Life is something of a father figure in the evangelical community.
"I was heartbroken," Boyd said. "It was a devastating thing."
And then, Boyd said, he felt a call from God.
Boyd came to New Life to apply for its top position. The church was impressed with his solid background, focus on the Bible, family-oriented personality and charismatic preaching. And while Boyd seemed confident, he emphasized the need for humility.
After the announcement that such an overwhelming number of voting New Life parishioners had chosen him, Boyd said he thought the church was already healing.
"I really did find that they were healthier than most people thought," he said. "This is not a sinking ship."
Boyd is planning a series of sermons called "Calibrate," in which he'll define what "normal" means to the church.
After Haggard's fall, church attendance shot down, as did donations. But Boyd said attendance figures were back up to what they were a year ago during his first three sermons at the church, which he delivered during his three-week tryout for the position. While the pastor doesn't expect everyone who left the church to return, he thinks many will.
He also expects the money to start flowing in once more.
"I'm not afraid to talk about money on the pulpit," he said, noting the Bible talks about giving to churches. "People give to a place that's safe."
Dealing with growth
If his last church says anything about him, Boyd knows a thing or two about attracting the masses. Though Gateway Church is young, it has experienced 700 percent growth in the past three years and has had to move to larger facilities several times to accommodate its members.
Boyd's confident he has the ability to rebuild New Life, but he admits the church is a challenge. Unlike his old church, New Life has had years to grow and offers everything from the World Prayer Center to specialized groups and schools. Boyd says he'll rely heavily on the experienced staff as he adjusts to the new setting.
"I don't think I know it all," he said.
What Boyd feels he does know, however, is that changing the church's image will take time and effort. People will have to start associating New Life with him, his message, his family and his reputation. That surely means Ted Haggard, despite being New Life's founder and guiding force for two decades, will have to be reduced to the background of the church's history.
If Boyd is successful, New Life Church can rise again. But it will surely be a different church from the one Colorado Springs has known. firstname.lastname@example.org
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