I have been doing a lot of thinking about the nature of church leadership and leadership systems in church, and how leadership structures create certain dynamics in churches that facilitate certain positive and negative things. This is especially on my mind in light of the whole mess happening with Rev. Haggard.
First of all, despite what others say in comments below, I do feel badly for Rev. Haggard. I did not to start with. But when I read his heart wrenching confession I felt badly for him. And I wondered why he didn't do more leadership from this place of openness and vulnerabilty to start with.
But I also think about this from some sort of a systems perspective. Our church had a pastor in its history that violated similar boundaries (committing adultery with members of the congregation), and I think there are some things about our church culture that allowed this to happen. And in our specific case, I think we are still trying to stick our heads in the ground and pretend it is not happening. Individual pastors are solely responsible for their own personal decisions, but sometimes structures in churches enable bad behavior. I think, as an outside observer, this may have been possible at New Life.
First of all, I am not sure the megachurch is such a safe place for leaders' souls. I have had conversations with several people who have worked in the megachurch world, and it is a very lonely, high-pressure place to be. And, it can be a place where it might be very easy to think of oneself more highly than one ought to. Heck, that can be easy to do when you are an utter failure in ministry (like me), much less a rock star of evangelical christianity like Ted Haggard was.
Having done a little time in a church that was transitioning to a charasmatic/pentecostal leadership model, it is also very easy to be seduced by the cult of leadership in that context. Most successful churches in that model have charasmatic (different use of the word) leaders that tend to develop personality cults. The church I worked for before I moved to Colorado Springs was also entertaining a change in by-laws to give the pastor more control as head of the congregation. It seems that in these circles, a grasp for control and power by those at the top somehow ties into their theology. I think this is especially true in hypercharasmatic churches where the pastoral leadership is viewed as having the gift of prophecy. This also means if they put faith in a prophetic leader, that they tend to not restrain their succesful leader (who is a direct mouthpiece of God) with much accountability.
Also less obvious in this paradigm is the close relationship between the spiritual rhythyms of charasmatic spirituality and the biological rhythyms of human sexuality. In other words, the pentecostal experience mimicks the sexual experience in some very seductive ways. Worship begins with a little small talk and conversation to get one another comfortable, then jumps into the foreplay of the first set of praise songs, the worship builds and builds in its expression and forcefulness, people close their eyes move their bodies to press themselves closer and closer to the Spirit, and finally the congregation erupts in an ejaculation of pleasure as the Spirit is manifest among them. Now, admitedly, often New Life was more low key than many pentecostals in this regard, but the same spiritual rhythm was evident when I visited.
Also, I seriously suspect that he worked more than 40 hours a week. I would not be surprised if he worked twice that much. And, when you become a workaholic, sin becomes even more seductive. It becomes easy to think that because you have given so much, you should cut yourself some slack. Which in my case meant a 3-5 year binge on fast food and oven bake pizzas, but for someone else may mean substance abuse or sexual immorality.
So now what we have to deal with is a pride-enducing place that treats you like you are God's transcriptionist and gives you no accountability. Of course, with Haggard he planted this church. As a leader it was his creation. But becoming a pastor who is also chasing drug pedalling man whores does not happen in a vacuum. It is something that is very sad for Ted and New Life, but in many ways it is also a parable to teach those of us in the church that our paradigm for ministry success and what constitutes a "good" church leader may need to change. And we may need to focus as pastors more on our spiritual health than the attendance in worship on Sunday morning. Our souls may depend on it.