Lonely Leaders

by Nov 3, 2006

capt.20872be7503b4cbfac53e4ca0cd47abf.haggard_sex_allegations_codz113.jpgI’m always very saddened, but never very surprised when news like this breaks: A male prostitute in Denver has accused Ted Haggard, one of the most influential pastors in America, of paying him for drug-fueled sex over a period of three years.

Haggard, a married father of five, denied the allegations, telling KUSA-TV: “I’ve never had a gay relationship with anybody … I’m faithful to my wife.”

But New Life Church’s acting pastor later said Haggard had acknowledged some of the accusations were true. In an e-mail to congregants, Ross Parsley wrote that the church’s four-member board of overseers had met with Haggard.

“It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true. He has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation,” the e-mail stated.

The reason I’m never surprised is that, in many cases, senior pastors are very lonely men. This is even more true in a megachurch like the one Haggard led. Congregations expect their pastors to be spiritual supermen, modeling perfect morality and serving in dozens of different ministry roles. Their adoration stokes the pastor’s pride, but realistically no man can fulfill all these expectations. This leads many senior pastors to withdraw into a little cocoon, making it impossible for anyone in the congregation to get close enough to see any imperfections in their leaders’ lives.

The temptation toward pride and isolation is one reason why we’re so committed to the principle of team leadership at Harbor. We just don’t trust ourselves enough to lead without the loving accountability that a coequal team brings. Even one of the members of Haggard’s church mentioned the danger of leadership in a 2005 article on the church:

“I think Pastor Ted is Gandalf,” said Commander Tom. Tom had received a few mini-visions, just glimpses really, and in them he saw a pastor kneeling, praying, in spiritual battle. “Who’s the Balrog?” I asked, referring to a demon that nearly kills Gandalf, the Lord of the Rings’s heroic wizard. I expected Commander Tom to reply with the usual enemies, “the culture” and the homosexuals and the humanists. But the Balrog, he said, is inside Pastor Ted, and inside every Christian.

Before the church can condemn the world, it must cleanse itself, thought Tom; he believed that American evangelicals were filthy with pride.

UPDATE: In a letter written to his congregation, Haggard confirms many of the allegations, and also confirms the compartmentalization and isolation that led him down this road. Pray for him and his church!