Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ted Haggard, falling down and not letting go

GQ recently had an interesting interview with Ted Haggard, former bigtime Evangelical pastor.

In it I was struck by how much difficulty he seems to have of letting go what happened--both by him, and, especially in reaction to him. As I understand it, New Life Church gave him a big severance payment but required him to leave the state for a couple of years.

Now Ted is back in Colorado Springs, staring a new church.

This article got me thinking about some pastors' ego-investment and identification with their churches--especially when the pastor either planted the church or had been with it for a long time.

When things are going well in that type of situation, what's good for the church is also good for the pastor. The church grows, s/he feels good about doing a good job. When the church has significant accomplishments, some of the credit goes to the pastor. In this sense, the ego-invested pastor basically spends most their work life doing things that can make them feel better about themselves and look better to others. (Not saying this happens to all or even most pastors).

This provides incentive for the pastor to put a lot of work and time into the church, making it all that more successful.

The problems with this approach are put into relief when the pastor is forced out of the church. It must be very confusing for the pastor when a group of people decide that what's best for the church (e.g., the pastor having to leave) is not what the pastor feels is best for himself/herself.

This must make it very confusing for someone like Ted Haggard to understand that an action deemed best for the church pushes him away from it.

I suppose a corollary to this might be that some pastors feel that what's good for them is, by definition, good for the church.

This highlights the need for pastors to have healthy, balanced lives outside of the church so that they don't view the church almost as an extension of themselves.



Mat said...

Excellent Observation Brad!!!

Anonymous said...

You also can see why sometimes the church has no good alternative to severing the relationship. The person has become so invested that the next person to lead the church cannot function, no matter how hard the fallen leader tries to take on a new role. The rest of the congregation will always see them in the old role, and this confusion is almost impossible to sort out.

Brad Wright said...

Thank you, Mat.

Anonymous: Yes, I agree. For me the deciding question is what's best for the congregation, and I can imagine that's often to have the pastor leave.

davep said...

It is easy as a leader to get your identity wrapped up in the organization...particularly for pastors. Haggard is a sad well-known example.

The flip side is also true. Why does a pastor leaving for a bigger more prominent church say it's better for the church they leave behind?

Anonymous said...

Very good post, Brad. This reminds me what I recently read in an interview to Francis Chan. He said his church grew so big and so attached to him that he sensed the pride in him, which is partly why he felt called to leave the ministry of a mega-church. I thought it was impressive for a pastor to come face-to-face with this reality.

Casey Ross said...

Hey Brad! I could not agree more. I've watched something very similar happen in a nearby city. The Pastor who started a church (the church was very successful) eventually had an affair with his assistant. He was removed from the church. Seven months later he returned to the same city, now married to his assistant, and started a new church. It's as if he just can't leave the area where he finds his identity.

Brad Wright said...

Lu, what an inspiring story.

Casey, that doesn't sound very healthy. Sometimes ex-pastors in this type of situation seem almost desperate to get back into a similar ministry situation or they don't feel whole.