Posted by: watchman | January 29, 2009

Invincibility Complex

Oh, boy. He’s back. Ted Haggard is in the news… again. This week he has been on a media tour promoting a new HBO documentary. He is being paid for the documentary, paid for the media tour and he has been a guest on shows as diverse  as Oprah and Larry King Live.

Here is a clip from the HBO documentary that I got from CNN’s site.

Well, you’ve got to hand it to the guy, he always loved the cameras. But, all this media exposure has caused a former member to violate his confidentiality agreement with New Life Church and go public with what the nature of he and Haggard’s relationship was. Click here for that sordid story.

Now, I honestly don’t care about Haggard homosexuality, nor do I care about his rehabilitation, repentance, etc. That all belongs to Haggard and his family and is none of my business. If Haggard has worked through his issues and made things right with his family and people he deceived, wonderful.  We should glory in the triumph of grace.

What I am concerned about is that part of what got Ted Haggard in trouble in the first place was his obsession with himself. Part of the reason he was always on camera, is that he always thought he belonged on camera. As the young man from his church pointed out, Haggard “really thought he was invincible.”

Ted Haggard is not the only pastor who has convinced himself of his own superiority and invincibility. Our calling seems to attract people prone to narcissism. These pastors, however, have had plenty of help from a system that enables that ministry mindset.

Everything about the pastorate seems to encourage ministers to build monuments to themselves. Even pastor search committees (pulpit committees) advertise for “self motivated, inspiring leader with charisma.”

Whatever happened to Christ-like, humble, and loving?

Instead of pastoring like Jesus, who fled from the crowds that he attracted, we want a pastor that loves the attention. We want the superman. We want the influential and invincible. We want the guy that make up for anything we might lack.

I wonder if we cannot find sufficiency in the person of Jesus.

I pray that God blesses Ted Haggard. I can’t imagine what he has gone through. He may want to avoid the cameras, though, and not feed the addiction again. I also pray that God will help his church re-learn what true leadership is and is not.

Invincibility can quickly become idolatrous.



  1. Well said Corey. I watched the clip of Ted Haggard on his way to his job interview, and his “confidence” made the hair on the back of my neck stand up a little bit. That’s what happens when I get a funny feeling about something. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten the fried sweet potatoe in my bento for lunch today. I can say that I’m so detatched from the situation, that all I can do as well is hope that restoration has happened and that it continues to happen. And I suppose I can encourage all of us to look at everything with a watchful and protective eye. But maybe not the protective eye that we’ve traditionally trained people to have.

    One thing I have wrestled with, not only in the wake of this situation with Ted Haggard, but in light of a lot of other “secret stuff” we all struggle with, is that I’m not sure what to do with the perspective of him/us “deceiving” people. Not that I don’t think he did or we do, but who all are we putting under the category of being deceived? Is there ever a line that we will cross that suggests that we expect people to be sinners and that we should care for them as we expect them to care for us? I mean, don’t we all “deceive” people? Don’t we all have something or some things in our lives that we are afraid people would escort us out the front door of our ministries or relationships if they really saw the stains on our clothes? Should ministers not be sinners, or should they only struggle with certain kinds of sins?

    One of my concerns across the board in life is secrecy. Why is it that Ted Haggard kept everything in the hotel room “closet?” That doesn’t seem to me to be the signs of a man who truly thinks he’s invincible. Otherwise wouldn’t he have done what he did openly? I agree that he shows signs of severe narcissism. But narcissism at it’s core is an extreme fear of and aversion to shame. Shame is what causes secrets because we are afraid of people knowing the darkest parts of our hearts. I wonder how many people in that church came forward the next Sunday after Ted’s “exposure” and publicly confessed to their struggle with pornography, domestic violence, compulsive lying, eating too much ice-cream, perpetual avoidant behaviors, etc. etc. etc. I think one of the biggest reasons why the evangelical church boat is headed to the bottom of the ocean (and as you can tell, I think it is too) is because it is full of secrets and we don’t know what to do with secrets. Secrets don’t promote much control for those who don’t know them, an incredible amount for those that do, and the telling of them throw things even more out of wack. Isn’t the church the place we were all supposed to be able to show up just as we are and ask for help; that is if we are willing to ask for help. Maybe the people who are the most deceptive are the ones who won’t ask for help. In that case, maybe Ted Haggard did deceive people.

    But, if the search committee that hired me would have asked me to tell them my “secrets” before they hired me, I would have told them that after we’ve gone around the table, I’ll think about sharing one or two. First, it’s not likely we would have even gotten to the pastor before I would have been escorted right out the front door. And that’s one of the primary reasons why none of us volunteer information, and rarely are honest when we’re asked.

    So, I’m really interested in talking more about this idea of decieving others with our sin. I don’t know where I stand with the idea so much and I’d love to here other people’s opinions.

    Hmm…I’m getting kicked out of the coffee shop. Not because of any secrets though…just because the baristas want to go home and go to bed. More later…

  2. Harbored sin in our lives has no place for the Believer…transparency is a necessity…so no problem with agreement there.

    What I would slightly disagree with would be that the position of pastor/leader/teacher is one that bring arrogant people to the forefront is a misnomer. While I know that people with ego’s sometimes end up in front of people teaching, what needs to be addressed is philosophy and preference.

    There ARE churches that hero worship and place the man on the platform on a pedestal, however, the actual act doesn’t both me because the philosophy behind it defaults any dislike of the act. I disagree less with the arrogance of the preacher because that is how they were taught to be…so the underlying philosophy makes the arguement against arrogance less pronounced in my opinion, because the whole foundation is rotten.

    Which leads to preference. I am interested in two things from a “leader” – transparency (being what they say) and action (doing what they say). I prefer a specific method of conveying truth from the pulpit, which is basically expositional and calm…lol…but I can allow for other forms of communication.

    Case in point, I have known Watchman for years, however, the last time I heard him speak at PRBC, to me, his message seemed self-serving and arrogant…his delivery was not how I was used to and a bit “over-the-top” for me…but I would like to think I can see past preference to the Truth he was delivering, which I agreed with. Style can be changed, Truth cannot.

    Anyhow, with that said…Watchman IS arrogant at a poker table…but I have no problem with that.

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