Todd Wagner Resigns From Watermark Church Due to “Pride” Which I Think Is a Bunch of Baloney!

The Crab of the Southern Sky-NASA

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


Pride…the besetting sin of all mankind. I still remember reviewing CJ Mahaney’s book, Humility, True Greatness. In my opinion, Mahaney was the worst possible example of humility as he presided over one of the worst evangelical scandals of the last 100 years (in my opinion.) In my years of blogging, I have come to the conclusion that, when a pastor steps down, he claims the *sin of pride* when, in fact, the real sin is covered up. If *pride* was a true disqualifier, there would be few pastors left standing tall in the pulpits.

The Christian Post’s Leonardo Blair wrote an eyeopening post titled Dallas megachurch pastor who confessed to sin of pride resigns. TWW last left Wagner on leave due to pride in Todd Wagner, the Controversial Pastor of Watermark Church, Steps Away *for a Season.* For What? Did You Know This Church Is Closely Aligned with 9 Marx (sic)

Let’s take a look at what wasn’t said at that time.


Todd Wagner’s *I ain’t saying nothing to you pew-sitters while stepping away for a season* talk.

Here is my synopsis of his talk. I am quoting him except for my sarcasm which should be evident. (The talk has been removed from the website.)

  • He is intentionally powering down to go to war with sin.
  • He is discussing *radically dealing with sin.* (He will not be successful for those of you who read your Bible because he hasn’t really specifically confessed any sin.)
  • He says he follows Paul with a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
  • He asks for forgiveness for not being attentive to his own needs. (See how hard he works for you shlubs.)
  • He was supposed to slow down but he just sped up.
  • He claims he is not burned out or out of energy. In fact, he has more energy due to the challenge of this update.
  • The problem is that he is *not full of Jesus.* (Huh? What does that mean in a specific manner?)
  • He is not burning out but he is burning up *leadership capital.* (ROFL- Whatever that is.)
  • There were numerous expressions of my flesh. (Do tell, Todd. Do tell.)
  • It’s called sin. (What sin is he talking about? Leadership capital burnup? Is that even in the Bible?)
  • It appears he was saying that he was working so hard he wasn’t hearing from those who couldn’t keep up. (See how hard he works for you.)
  • He claims there is no hidden or disqualifying sin. No sexual immorality or financial issues. No physical altercations. No foul language. His wife and kids are doing fine.
  • He has not been leading in the usual grace that he shows his friends. (So, he’s usually the most grace-filled man you know.)
  • He’s been impatient. (And everyone else is not? Get specific.)
  • He was dull to hear the admonishment for the *not so bad* sins.
  • He needs a faithful brother around him to speak up.
  • That’s it. Nothing more.
  • He wasn’t asked to step down and doesn’t need to step down.
  • He just needs to step away or step back.
  • He has to do the hard work of the heart.. (Let’s define this as opposed to Christianese.My husband’s a cardiologist. Can he be of assistance? )
  • Don’t look for a scandal. (Then why is he stepping away?)
  • He was overlooking *respectable sin.*
  • Pride kills. Pride is the sin. (Ummm-everyone deals with this. So why step down?)
  • He claims he doesn’t act prideful since he is not over-impressed with himself. (See, he may have pride but it’s a not-so-bad kind-of pride.)
  • He wants to live in a constant state of repentance regarding pride.
  • The elders helped him to see his issues.
  • He (Todd) is going to *shepherd me.* (Good night! Is this in the Bible? Shepherd me?)
  • Forgive him for his inattentiveness to the pew-sitters. (All mega pastors deal with this. You guys are giving units to be controlled.)
  • He needs more time to listen and to see. (What, exactly?)
  • He agrees with the elders.
  • It’s not a paid leave (But it really is, isn’t it?)
  • Claims he won’t write books during this time. Keep an eye on this one.
  • He says he wants to be there for another 20 years.
  • “I love you all and serve you.” (He doesn’t know most of your names.)
  • Everyone claps but not enthusiastically. (I was a bit surprised by this.)

Elders now join in…

  • The elders repent together every week.
  • We make war against our sin.
  • We love Todd and his humility.
  • Elders really shepherd one another.
  • He’ll be around for another 20 years.
  • They are bringing back two elders *for this season.*
  • We are adding a new elder but it has nothing to do with all of this. This guy is good. Wrote a book…(Watch how this develops.)
  • Todd is repentant.
  • Do not gossip, assuming the worst, and sowing seeds of discord and division. (So, nothing is wrong and everyone better be quiet or discipline will descend.)

Todd and the elders are *cooking the books.*

Let’s be frank. No one steps down for some innocuous sin. There is no one who does not struggle with pride and other sins. Read Martin Luther. I had a pastor once who talked about *cooking the books* when it comes to sin. I think that is what is happening here. By cooking the books, we delude ourselves that our sins are really better than the sins of others. We’re OK. Nothing to see here.

Think about what he said.

  • There is no disqualifying sin.
  • He works harder than anyone else at his job.
  • His sin is not being attentive to his own needs.
  • He used up his leadership capital. What in the world does that mean? Did Jesus talk about this?
  • He’s not going on a paid vacation but he really is.
  • He is going to shepherd himself??? A scripture verse, please.

He has presented himself as the guy who didn’t really do anything bad. In fact, he loves you all so much that he worked himself to death. The elders don’t want anyone to gossip. There is a good reason for saying this. I believe that something really bad happened and they are not going to tell the church what it is. Also, keep an eye on that new guy they’re bringing on.


Now, let’s take a look at what he’s saying this time. The quotes come from the above linked Christian Post.

It was a miraculous experience.

Wagner explained that he had been contemplating the decision to resign for more than a year, during a process “that I can only describe as miraculous.”

Apparently, just a month prior to this miracle of an experience, David Leventhal, a major player in the board of elders, resigned because he could no longer trust Wagner.

David Leventhal resigned on March 26. Leventhal cited a lack of trust in Wagner’s ability to continue leading the megachurch.

“On March 26th, I shared this with the elders. I shared that the reason for my resignation was a loss of trust in Todd’s ability to lead in the role of pastoral elder and senior pastor,

Weirdness then ensued as Wagner rubbed the back of Leventhal as Leventhal discussed his resignation.

Was it weirdness, creepiness, or a statement of Wagner’s authority?

I shared that the reason for my resignation was a loss of trust in Todd’s ability to lead in the role of pastoral elder and senior pastor, which was the direction the elders had been wanting to move to,” Leventhal said as Wagner rubbed his back and struggled to maintain his composure.

If you go to this link, you can watch the entire, dragged-out meeting of the elders with the church members. I got a good pic of Wagner rubbing Leventhal’s back.

Wagner rubbing Leventhal’s back.

Here is the Leadership Statement on the resignation of Leventhal and Wagner: They are leaving their positions, sort of…

On Sunday, April 25 we shared three significant transitions to our leadership team with our church body.

David Leventhal resigned his position as Elder and staff member on March 26. His resignation was due to an erosion of trust in Todd Wagner’s ability to lead in the role of Senior Pastor and Elder. David arrived at this decision in concert with his wife, their family, and their community group.

Separately, in the following weeks, Todd, alongside his wife, Alex, reached the conclusion that the time had come for him to step down as Senior Pastor and Elder. Todd and Alex had been seeking the Lord for over a year to discern what their next step of faithfulness would be, and through conversations with family, friends, fellow Elders and their community, God gave them clarity that now was the time for a transition. Todd submitted his resignation to the Elder team on April 17, and it was accepted on that day.

So guess what? Wagner, who is so full of pride that he had to resign (if you believe that line), is now going to be an Elder Emeritus along with Leventhal and his well rubbed back.

Despite a challenging season, David and Todd are at peace with one another and will serve together on the Elder Emeritus team. We are currently processing how each person can best serve the mission in the days ahead.

But, hey…all is cool. They have the staff they need. Who cares that they lost their senior, and might I say, controversial, leader?

We are confident we have the staff team and lay leadership in place to lead us through this next season as we continue our mission to call all people to be fully devoted followers of Christ.

David and Todd just needed to *spend time with his family,* the ultimate excuse of men who are avoiding stating the real reason they stepped down.

Todd and David plan to serve Watermark in any way that would be helpful on the Elder Emeritus team. Additionally, they will spend time with their families preparing for whatever the Lord has next.

Watch the video carefully. Do Leventhal and Wagner appear to be at ease with one another even though they claim in the video to be *good* with one another?

Since it’s my blog, I get to give my opinion first… Not a snowball’s chance in hell! There’s some really bad mojo going on here and they ain’t telling the church members what’s what.(In my opinion.)

Then, Wagner warns the congregation that savage wolves will come among them since he has stepped down!

Julie Roys wrote Pastor Todd Wagner Resigns from Watermark Amid Turmoil. She noted something that wigged me out. Folks, if you hear nonsense like this from the pulpit, go find a normal church.

He then applied the words Paul used to describe his apostolic ministry in Acts 20:26-32 to his own tenure at Watermark:

“With a clear conscience, I’m going to say this to you,” Wagner said. “‘Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.’”

Wagner also warned the congregation with words from the passage, stating that “after my departure savage wolves” will come among you, “and from your own selves men will (rise up), speaking perverse things.” Then, modifying Paul’s description of his three years spent in Ephesus to Wagner’s 22 years at Watermark, Wagner added, “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of 22 years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”

And, of course, there was the obligatory standing ovation (Don’t try to tell me it was spontaneous. I know how these things are planned.)

Of course, during the standing O, they had an elder tearfully claiming that Wagner demonstrated what faithfulness looked like better than any other. If so, why was he sidelined?

The congregation at Watermark responded to Wagner with a standing ovation. And Elder Kyle Thompson tearfully described how God had used Wagner “to disciple and grow and to model for me what faithfulness looks like more than anybody else, period.”

The elders then ended on an odd note, warning people not to judge whose version of events is correct.

This statement, more than any other statement, led me to believe that something is really wrong here. Why would God conceal sin?

Elder Mickey Friedrich then urged the church not to “try and judge whose version of events is right or wrong. That’s for God to reveal or conceal.” He added that “there are just too many layers” and that even Friedrich and Thompson “land at a different place than (Leventhal and Wagner) regarding why we’ve arrived here.”

I have heard that this church is quite controlling of its members. One person said she was required to disclose her salary to her care group. She was also told by her care group that she shouldn’t move to get a better job. I found that really weird (a word that I have used a bunch when writing about Watermark.) I love to read comments on posts online. The Christian Post is one of the few that continues to allow comments. I was startled to read this comment since I know it is not the person who contacted me. I think it is indicative of the rather controlling nature of the church and that may be the key to this whole mess. It’s all about control…

Cheung
1 day ago

Were you asked to disclose personal financial information (tax returns, paystubs, etc)? Ohhhhhhh yes. This was the one thing I flat out refused to do because that was no one’s business but mine. This was something that was heavily pushed in the CGs and pushed from the pulpit too. The people on your CG needed to know everything about you, including how much you earned, spent, and saved. Because money was one of the most personal things about you so it was an area of your life that desperately needed to be spoken into biblically. Although, please chapter and verse where it says “thou shalt reveal the contents of thine pocketbook.” I refused to do this for 2 reasons: 1) None-ya-business 2) I knew for a fact that if I told the members of my CG what I earned in a year, life would get really awkward really quickly. I did not want to make people feel uncomfortable.Were you required to consult your community group before making certain life decisions (Who to date, marry; what job to take; whether to leave a job; where to move, etc)? Yes, yes, yes, yes. We needed to tell our CG about everything so they could speak into our lives and our decisions biblically. This was most important in our major life decisions. I experienced this because during my time at WM, I was trying to apply for jobs at ‘X’ Corporation. I told this to my CG, and they would ask “do you really think this is what God wants you to do? Should you be moving jobs? God has you at ____ for a reason during this season.”


Comments

Todd Wagner Resigns From Watermark Church Due to “Pride” Which I Think Is a Bunch of Baloney! — 115 Comments

  1. Julie Roys has a post up about Driscoll and his plagiarism. Notes that someone else we have never heard of has stolen his sermons, sermons that I doubt Driscoll had anything to do with actually writing in the first place. In the comment section someone named “Henri Ironside” shows up and blasts everyone for leaving any kind of comment there, by leaving his own comment. He is as rude, arrogant and full of himself as Marky is so it made me wonder. The real Henri Ironside has been dead for about 7 decades, so I doubt it is the real one speaking from the grave. Could it be Mark under a new false name, again? Remember William Wallace II?

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  2. “Elder Mickey Friedrich then urged the church not to “try and judge whose version of events is right or wrong. That’s for God to reveal or conceal.” He added that “there are just too many layers” and that even Friedrich and Thompson “land at a different place than (Leventhal and Wagner) regarding why we’ve arrived here.””

    Don’t try and judge the facts? There are too many layers? And you have multiple versions us to “why we’ve arrived here“, but no one is saying it clearly? Just be quiet and be winsomely shared sheep?

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  3. If any church or small group leader asks me for my tax returns and/or pay stubs, I’m out of there. (By the way, how does one show a pay stub when one is paid electronically via direct deposit every two weeks?)

    One more thought: has anyone checked to see if there is a surplus of baloney in Dallas these days?

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  4. I made a similar comment on Julie Roys’ blog, but I’ll say it here also. It’s obvious something is very wrong, but it’s clear as mud what exactly that is. And that is intentional on their part. The vagueness, the emotional appeals and scare tactics, the excessive christianese language. This is not how someone acts when they are open and honest and have nothing to hide.

    I don’t know what happened, but I bet you dollars to donuts these guys make the news again before all is said and done, and not in a good way.

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  5. i – back RUBBING is straight from the pit. Message: if you are an also-run “elder” (or a second-class parishioner) you are a POODLE. What they do to your consciences / bodies is all the same to them. Their actions are supposed to have a “subliminal” effect? We see what they are up to. What is Wagner trying to do “behind” Leventhal’s back?

    ii – the stance of these types to Holy Scripture (let alone to the tulip they hatched 1905-32 and its antecedents) is reifying, while only God can do that (there is an easy logical explanation to it, and logic is about honesty, as any child will tell you).

    iii – Ac 13: as many as were BEING commissioned (tasso) to enter into eternal life that particular day, were so (a circular expression as commemoration). Everyone will take what time they need to count the good cost (the row about the labour force and the wages).

    iv – Does what they call “Armenian” sound a bit you know, un-American? Would they be shocked to realise “Calvin” is a variant on “Chauvin” or are they indeed twisting the “response” to “go up baldy” (their critics as the 42 murderous hobbledehoys)? Who then is “la cantatrice”? Is this all a “play” on the pairing Geneva / New York? The time has surely come to ask questions of this kind.

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  6. JDV,

    Yup…. really, really weird….
    I really “enjoy” the condescending attitude that so many “preacher boys” have toward us in pew, peons…. like my life is so “simple” and I never have to deal with, or sort through, complex situations….
    then, their their “ex-leader” blows more smoke with the quote from Acts….. sigh..

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  7. TW, in the video, sites Hab. 1:5- “…for I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.”
    He fails to point out that “the work” the LORD was doing was reeking havoc through the powerful army of the Chaldeans.
    I am very tired of “pastor/teachers” using scriptures to make some awesome declaration that is TOTALLY antithetical to what God is actually saying.

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  8. John,

    The real Calvin’s was the umpteenth counterrevolution and somersault in 30 years, and Dort vastly more so after 100 years and during one of the periodic murderous phases in Dutch politics (subsequently exported to colonies). Then don’t forget the Charles V-Henry VIII relationship, TWO popes who were petitioned about the same wife, Charles’ Lutheran troops that had just smashed up Rome, an unprecedented social services combined nationalisation-privatisation opportunity, nor the dispossessed (by everybody). Calvinists aren’t necessarily straightforwardly reacting to what they claim to, but are largely unconsciously heirs of the sophists (whom St Paul criticised), Plotinists, Ibn Rushd, Hume and Manifest Destiny Hegel. The melodrama is dictated by the doctrine. In reality however, elect = let ourselves, during our lives, be elected following God’s permissive “decrees”, no more complicated than that. God is personal with us and not ad hominem. The contrast “many” called versus “few” chosen is simply relative.

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  9. “…as Wagner rubbed the back of Leventhal as Leventhal discussed his resignation.”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    well, that was landmark experience in observing weird & unnatural interpersonal exchange.

    not only was it clearly unbidden, it went on for too long… long past the moment something normal and natural like that would have gone. (the feeling of which is restraint & oppressive control)

    in watching the video, the thought bubble over Dave Leventhal’s head is “GET YOUR F*#KIN HAND OFF ME!!!”

    if only he had said it.

    the purpose of all that was for Todd to make himself look good, using another human being to do so.
    .
    .
    i’ve been on the receiving end of hands-on touchy so-called affection that was entirely for show and disconnected from anything real & genuine.

    i just remember suddenly feeling hands on me– i was totally unprepared for it,

    it came out of the blue like birdsh|t.

    totally disconnected from the naturally-springing process of permission/care/support/affection… there had been no such process. it was on the traumatizing scale.

    i felt as sick as when i first smelled formaldehyde in 8th grade biology.

    talk about being objectified.
    .
    .
    i’ve watched a few video clips of Todd Wagner – i’ve been consistently struck by how artificial he is. he seems to be acting, pretending.

    it’s simply a gross smell-of-formaldehyde-like feeling…. don’t know how else to say it.

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  10. Watermark has been called a cult for a number of years now. They require membership covenants, spiritual “assessments”, required group membership and sin reporting, etc. Wagner has been considered spiritually abusive by many people. And that has gone public in major newspapers.

    I suspect this transition to “elder emeritus” is simply a ploy to restructure the church to a shadow leadership, but nothing will really change.

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  11. I’m confused. Why is Leventhal not ok serving with Wagner as an elder, but IS ok serving with both of them as “elder emeritus” (whatever that means…)?

    How is that a change of anything other than semantics? And a complete waste of his show of stepping down to show his disapproval?

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  12. seems to me this all hinges on ‘faith in a system’.

    Todd is artificial because he puts on his actions and behavior like a jacket ‘by faith’ – faith in a system of codes of action and behavior. his faith in the system.

    it’s so odd to me that he’s this seemingly ‘big name’.

    it seems to me, the only way this could have happened is for thousands of people to assent to his ‘authority’ because their faith is in a system.
    .
    .
    i marvel that people associate faith in God with faith in a system.

    i say, if you’re going to have faith, have it in God (as mysterious as that is) and the more systems be d@mned the better.

    and so what about mysterious.

    we need systems as much as we need training wheels on our bike.

    pretty soon we’re able to ride the bike somehow — it’s mysterious. but that doesn’t stop us, does it. in fact we ride with all our might as fast as we can gripping the road with traction. we ride with no hands. we skin our ankles on the hardware, get chain grease on our clothes, fall, crash, skin our knees and elbows….

    so what.

    it’s not pretty but we just get back on our bikes.
    .
    .
    well, to be clear, the systems are put in place to create jobs, careers, and generate revenue.

    boy, i just love christianity – a religion that in practice objectifies people so other people can feel good about themselves, build their brand, and make money.

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  13. I am horrified for David Leventhal in that situation. He feels he has to resign his post because trust has broken down so much, and then this guy invades his personal space to touch him…. absolutely awful. Grossly insensitive at best, but knowing what these pastors are like, I’m betting it is a power play. Like, it doesn’t matter what you do, I’m still in control.

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  14. Wild Honey,

    “Why is Leventhal not ok serving with Wagner as an elder, but IS ok serving with both of them as “elder emeritus” (whatever that means…)?

    How is that a change of anything other than semantics? And a complete waste of his show of stepping down to show his disapproval?”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    yeah…. an effort to present watermark as a stable ship with a stable crew. although mickey friedrich blew that up.

    the only way Leventhal can possibly stay is by faith – faith in the Watermark system. a sick system.

    blech (with more gutteral sounds than i know how to spell)…i feel like running as fast as i can through the neighborhood…

    (just as an act of running freely on my own volition).

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  15. elastigirl: i just love christianity – a religion that in practice objectifies people so other people can feel good about themselves, build their brand, and make money

    Which is not Christianity (big “C”), of course. Just as the church (little “c”) is not ‘the’ Church. There is more counterfeit in American religion than genuine. I hope to live long enough to hear religion’s funeral preached … where self, brand and money have been priority … where the main thing hasn’t been the Main thing.

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  16. ishy:
    Watermark has been called a cult for a number of years now. They require membership covenants, spiritual “assessments”, required group membership and sin reporting, etc. Wagner has been considered spiritually abusive by many people. And that has gone public in major newspapers.

    I suspect this transition to “elder emeritus” is simply a ploy to restructure the church to a shadow leadership, but nothing will really change.

    I think your suspicion is likely correct. Leventhal resigns as an elder because he no longer considers Wagner to be fit for his office but doesn’t tell anyone for a month. Wagner then resigns. And then BOTH of them end up on the same board? A board with a title (Emeritus) which in academia is to honor someone for past duties by letting them keep their title and yet have LESS to do.

    I think here’s how you can differentiate the new structure:

    Elder Board — the lackeys and front-men
    Elder Emeritus Board — the real shot-callers

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  17. Mark R,

    The other element is that Watermark and churches like it don’t reveal their finances, so they can continue to pay people whether they declare them staff or not. They also don’t have to declare how much they are paying these “retired” elders.

    This isn’t a new thing, though. John Piper took the title, but Bethlehem did state he refused to accept payment. Charles Stanley also is pastor emeritus, though I noticed from their statements that they carefully avoided the topic of whether they were paying him or not.

    This has some illuminating points: https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2009/september-online-only/payingretirementpackages.html

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  18. Jasmar:
    Playing by their rules, let’s say God wanted to reveal the details what’s been going on. How exactly is He supposed to do that if the people who know are prevented from speaking about it? Are nothing less than etched stone tablets acceptable?

    How about flaming letters in the sky, fifty miles high?

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  19. Max: They just think they rule .. Wagner is still ‘the’ ruler as “elder emeritus” … the rest are yes-men to him.This is a cult with one leader.

    Remember The Beast and The False Prophet.
    The Beast pulls The False Prophet along on a leash while The False Prophet piddles and yap-yap-yaps “I’M IN CONTROL! I’M IN CHARGE!”

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  20. Comments from Mark Driscoll’s ghostwriter over at Julie Roy’s:

    “Ostoich would eventually go on to do ghostwriting projects for Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll, including blog posts that ran under Driscoll’s byline. That made Ostoich uncomfortable — as if he was misleading folks who thought they were reading Driscoll’s words.

    “The whole thing started to go sour on me at that point,” he said.

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  21. I found the descriptions of the reasons for the original “pause” from leadership to be suggestive in the sense of what was affirmed to not be involved. The adjectives were suggestive.

    There were no “physical altercations” and no “foul” language. Left unsaid is that there were no verbal altercations that did not employ foul language. Perhaps there were none, but the thought occurs that verbal abuse of subordinate leaders is a way of damaging an enterprise’s “leadership capital” in the sense of the moral injury to subordinate leaders (for instance the pressure to accept unacceptable treatment as a condition of employment), the damage that is done to those leaders’ relationships with the more senior leader(s), and the negative ramifications of both for the enterprise.

    IIRC, abusive work environment has been reported in other well-known mega-churches that had abrupt senior leader departures.

    Just a thought.

    Perhaps one should not speculate, but it seems to me that the setting of a puzzle — ‘not A, B, C’ — rather than simply plainly stating the grounds for separation from employment simply invites and stimulates the very speculation that they say they don’t want to take place.

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  22. The saddest thing about this story is that it isn’t isolated to mega churches. It’s happening every week in rural America. Charismatic power-mongers in the pulpit who are looking to manufacture their “grace story”. Was part of a similar church situation where the pastor got together every week with his “sin group” to “be transparent and confess their sins to each other and to God.” Stunk to high heaven. At the end of the day the pastor resigned but all the deacons retained their power. People couldn’t get out of there fast enough. So poorly managed by the leadership.

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  23. ishy,
    ishy,

    “Wagner has been considered spiritually abusive by many people. And that has gone public in major newspapers.

    I suspect this transition to “elder emeritus” is simply a ploy to restructure the church to a shadow leadership, but nothing will really change.”

    “I’m wondering if it’s all a big act”
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    hmmmm…. i’m slow sometimes. seeing some obscure pieces but missing the big picture.

    so, to recap:

    Watermark has a reputation problem, having been called a cult. While numerous individuals have been cited in destructive behavior, the bad rep is associated with Todd Wagner, the head cheese.

    perhaps the heat has been turned up — something has happened that is linked to Todd that will potentially damage Watermark’s reputation more.

    the solution is to put Todd more in the shadows since all the problems are associated with him.
    .
    .
    What is the purpose of Dave Leventhall’s move to the shadows?

    -To deflect spotlight attention from solely shining on Todd’s move to the shadows

    …by adding something else to the mix so people talk less about Todd because now they’re also talking about Dave

    …in an effort to disassociate Todd from Watermark’s image (because it’s become too much of a liability)?
    .
    .
    it’s puzzling – Dave Leventhall was the only ‘real’ thing on the stage.

    everyone else was a cardboard character with engineered behavior saying a script of some kind.

    Dave may have been talking from a script to some extent, but he came across as genuinely upset, disturbed, unhappy. he was the sole piece of transparency on the stage (even if only partially transparent).

    had he been forced to say what he said?

    had he planned to be whistle blower of some kind, but was somehow forced to continue being a company man?

    he’s genuinely upset, conflicted.

    …or was just good at being convincing?

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  24. Observant: Was part of a similar church situation where the pastor got together every week with his “sin group” to “be transparent and confess their sins to each other and to God.

    I have heard about such groups in many churches. Do these *true confessions* groups actually work? I have wondered if people confess *nice sins* in order to get everyone off his back.

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  25. Observant: So poorly managed by the leadership.

    I suspect a large number of churches are poorly managed from an organizational perspective. I think leaders and congregations look at the Bible and come to wrong conclusions about organizational structures based on circumstances in scripture (such as Christ appointing apostles) that simply aren’t applicable to (and are misunderstood by) today’s churches. Leaders think of themselves as God’s appointed (and anointed) and that’s how the congregation views them as well. I think a more accurate perspective is for congregations to think of Christ as the head of the Church, themselves as his body, and then form organizational structures which attempt to include the entire congregation in the role of service to each other and outsiders. In these structures there will be pastors and authority hierarchies, but these positions will come with job descriptions, evaluation, and independent accountability. I actually think quite a few churches attempt this and some do pretty well at it.

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  26. dee,

    so….

    why do they need Todd? why do they still want him around?

    he’s really not impressive.

    can they not get rid of Todd? Does Todd have a contract that prevents him from being ousted?

    …and in time they’ll bring on a truly charismatic, magnetic spokespastor who doesn’t generate bad press?

    while Todd is still CEO? simply because he owns it all?

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  27. The Ax is at the root of the proverbial tree, perhaps?
    .

    hmmm…

    Any 501c3 credentialed shingled Christian pastor may step down and cease duties, should it be dreamed leadership necessary. Scriptural qualifications however, can be disregarded at will, yet with presumed dire consequences, kən-sĭd′ərd .

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  28. OK, I am in between freelance assignments (my retirement gig), and I obviously have too much time on my hands. I just went to the Watermark website and waded through the staff listing.

    They seem to have literally hundreds of staffers. (OK, slight hyperbole. I didn’t count…I just waded. The list *seemed* interminable, but my guesstimate could well be off by a bit.)

    What *is* this — a corporation? The list just goes on and on and on and on.

    Is everyone in the congregation also on the staff? Or what?

    How huge is this church, that they need coordinators and facilitators and managers and sub-managers of this, that, and the other market-niche-segmented ministry?

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  29. elastigirl: can they not get rid of Todd? Does Todd have a contract that prevents him from being ousted?

    I think this is the case right here. Todd started the church and, like James Macdonald, probably has it somewhere that he can’t be fired. HBC settled Macdonald’s lawsuit against them, so whatever was in his contract had teeth.

    Dave may not even be in on the scheme or getting paid for his title, I dunno. But the church’s vague statements about Wagner, the sketchy timeline, and the stuff I know about Watermark from friends who used to go there tells me this probably is is more media campaign than real change.

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  30. Sòpwyth: should it be dreamed leadership necessary

    Nice turn of phrase! People who were on video channels before “pandemic” have shown themselves up. (Those who weren’t, use it straightforwardly as a way of “making do”.) When I lived through this, the senior elder stayed on. I only left when I was told “the nasty people have left”. Dave said, “if I go you go”. The other two have got very guilty consciences and no longer care what we think that is about. There will be a fashionably gormless front man. Third rock from the sun.

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  31. dee: I have heard about such groups in many churches. Do these *true confessions* groups actually work? I have wondered if people confess *nice sins* in order to get everyone off his back.

    The only ‘confession’ I’d even consider doing is the Catholic one:
    Muff: Bless me Fr. for I have sinned.
    Father Doyle: How long since your last confession my son?…

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  32. Muff Potter: The only ‘confession’ I’d even consider doing is the Catholic one:

    Haven’t you been attending some Lutheran services? Surely there is a prayer of confession followed by an absolution.

    This type of confession is also found in Presbyterian, Methodist, and Episcopal services. In my opinion, it depends on the individual, with a working conscience, to reflect on specific sins, repent, and accept God’s forgiveness.

    No interlocutor required.

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  33. Paul K: I think a more accurate perspective is for congregations to think of Christ as the head of the Church, themselves as his body, and then form organizational structures which attempt to include the entire congregation in the role of service to each other and outsiders. In these structures there will be pastors and authority hierarchies, but these positions will come with job descriptions, evaluation, and independent accountability. I actually think quite a few churches attempt this and some do pretty well at it.

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  34. dee: *true confessions* groups

    What happened during the Cultural Revolution.
    Did not work well.

    Repentance in the Bible, Luke 3.8, Matt. 3.8, Acts 2.38 & Zacchaeus, Luke 19, means admitting the evil (sin), and making reparation.

    Confession groups are not in the Bible.

    Nehemiah confessed for all of Israel, and then obediently followed through with a plan to help Israel recover from their consequences. This type of confession reminds me of the Sunday morning worship confessions we do in church – like Nehemiah. Group, together, before God, on behalf of our community, admitting our part.

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  35. Ava Aaronson:

    What happened during the Cultural Revolution.
    Did not work well.

    … Confession groups are not in the Bible.

    Good points. In youth group and college fellowship, we were encouraged to “confess” to a friend in the group. The purpose was to have a deep conversation instead of just being alone with our sin. I’m not sure anyone ever confessed to anyone else.

    In certain oppressive churches today, though, group confessions erode boundaries and, sometimes by design, build a record of blackmail material.

    The common objection to Catholic confession is “say three hail Marys and you just get away with it.” People sometimes object to Anglican and Protestant corporate prayers of confession too, because people can just mumble the words. Neither form guarantees sincerity, let alone improvement. Still, confession is available to us all, as a way of articulating our wrongs and getting a fresh start.

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  36. Friend: group confessions erode boundaries

    Which is why I like the liturgical creed + confession, actually. A chance to publicly admit failing while maintaining boundaries. The follow-up (Luke 3.8, Matt. 3.8, Acts 2.38 & Zacchaeus, Luke 19) is up to the individual. It seems like this is how John the Baptist & Peter (in the above texts) did it – details & follow-up are up to the individual, then God will respond (Ananias and Sapphira).

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  37. Ava Aaronson: then God will respond (Ananias and Sapphira).

    I’m just going to say this: I really don’t care for the Ananias and Sapphira story. It does not say that God killed the couple. They might have died of terror on the spot. Alternatively, this might be an overheated narrative, like the two incompatible accounts of the death of Judas.

    The story has always bothered me, but it is now used so actively to threaten church members that I wish pastors would stop talking about it. Most churches manage to ignore that verse in Psalm 137 (“Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones”). A passage in selective use, at churches where they like to threaten children, is the story of the bear mauling children in 2 Kings 2. We can afford to downplay Ananias and Sapphira, imho.

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  38. Friend: used so actively to threaten church members that I wish pastors would stop talking about it

    Interesting point.

    The good news is that no one is being swallowed up by the earth, no matter what the pulpit posers posture. So much for misusing a Bible story & leveraging it for evil but empty threats.

    Vice perps, as in sex (RZ & Vanier), have their Bible verses.
    Power perps, “touch not My anointed”, have their Bible verses.
    Money perps, “bring in what belongs to the Lord”, IOW “Donate to me!”, have verses.
    Entrapment, extortion, violation. Manipulate, intimidate, dominate.

    Better to read the Bible oneself, and defer to the “experts” on a rationed basis. (Probably NO religious leader would agree with me on this. Whatever. It goes against their business interests.) I always think of someone chewing my food for me – YUCK – so I read the Bible myself, and listen to others (beyond the Holy Spirit) with caution – what are they really doing, what’s their end game.

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  39. Catholic Gate-Crasher: I just went to the Watermark website and waded through the staff listing.

    They seem to have literally hundreds of staffers. (OK, slight hyperbole. I didn’t count…I just waded. The list *seemed* interminable, but my guesstimate could well be off by a bit.)

    What *is* this — a corporation? The list just goes on and on and on and on.

    Approximately 214 people listed under the Staff heading. 🙂 (And that list might or might not include all the people listed on the Watermark Leadership page….I was too lazy to check.)

    I laughed when I read some of the titles on the Staff page (and no offense intended to anyone when I comment on what I found humorous).

    Title: Starting Blocks Coordinator (Could be misinterpreted as the athletic coach….)

    Title: Married Community Director (Does this mean the person is married? Or does this mean the person helps only with married people? Or did this person marry (integrate) some communities?)

    Title: Rock Specialist (Musician? Geologist? There are other possible (mis)interpretations that are Biblical references….)

    Title: Newly Married Ministries Assistant (Is this person newly married? Or does this person help only those who are newly married?)

    Title: Pre-Married Assistant (Is this person engaged? Does this person help only those who are not yet married? Is this person….pardon the laughter (and any unintentional offense I might cause by my odd humour) as the thought crossed my mind of “Pre-Married” sounding like “Pre-Owned” – like a new word for divorcee….)

    (Did Watermark even bother to think about how their staff titles could be misinterpreted….or was Watermark running out of titles for their many staff?)

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  40. Friend: Haven’t you been attending some Lutheran services? Surely there is a prayer of confession followed by an absolution.

    Lutheranism is very close to Catholicism, I believe Lootair (Luther) only wanted to reform the Catholic Church, not divest it entirely.

    Friend: No interlocutor required.

    No, not required, just a different touch is all, a more human involvement as opposed a strictly spiritual one. I’m a free thinker and can appreciate, but not necessarily sign onto aspects of different faith traditions.

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  41. researcher: Approximately 214 people listed under the Staff heading. (And that list might or might not include all the people listed on the Watermark Leadership page….I was too lazy to check.)

    I laughed when I read some of the titles on the Staff page (and no offense intended to anyone when I comment on what I found humorous).

    Title: Starting Blocks Coordinator(Could be misinterpreted as the athletic coach….)

    Title: Married Community Director (Does this mean the person is married? Or does this mean the person helps only with married people? Or did this person marry (integrate) some communities?)

    Title: Rock Specialist (Musician? Geologist? There are other possible (mis)interpretations that are Biblical references….)

    Title: Newly Married Ministries Assistant (Is this person newly married? Or does this person help only those who are newly married?)

    Title: Pre-Married Assistant (Is this person engaged? Does this person help only those who are not yet married? Is this person….pardon the laughter (and any unintentional offense I might cause by my odd humour) as the thought crossed my mind of “Pre-Married” sounding like “Pre-Owned” – like a new word for divorcee….)

    (Did Watermark even bother to think about how their staff titles could be misinterpreted….or was Watermark running out of titles for their many staff?)

    I chuckled, too. Good to know I’m not the only one tickled by stuff like this!

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  42. Re: “ Wagner also warned the congregation with words from the passage, stating that “after my departure savage wolves” will come among you, “and from your own selves men will (rise up), speaking perverse things.””

    The leader of the pack was speaking perversely right then …

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  43. No Eden Elsewhere has added some details, one being a confirmation that, like James Macdonald, Wagner cannot be fired. The stipulation in the covenant is the same as it was at HBC: elders can only be removed by a unanimous vote. So it’s likely that Wagner’s contract says the same. Also, the elders do not have to give a reason to the membership.

    NEE also adds a full timeline and other elder resignations, along with a note that Wagner was heavily involved with Camp Kanukuk and friends with Joe White.

    One question I have about elder boards is if they can rearrange them and still effectively take power away from an abusive elder without “removing” them, per their own covenant? I have seen one church do this with a pastor who cheated on his wife. They demoted him to a position similar to a librarian and took a lot of his pay away. This was not an “elder-run” church, but I wonder if it’s another way of dealing with problematic lead pastors who have more charisma than character. Really, these types of elder-run churches with no accountability should not exist at all and I think are destined to become abusive, but just wondering if that’s a way to get people like James Macdonald to resign when they refuse.

    http://noedenelsewhere.com/the-spin-cycle-watermark-community-church-members-unlikely-to-ever-know-the-truth-behind-resignations

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  44. ishy: I have seen one church do this with a pastor who cheated on his wife. They demoted him to a position similar to a librarian and took a lot of his pay away.

    Wow! What happened next? I imagine they hoped he would quit, but keeping him on in any capacity could let him do mischief, and/or set the congregation up for toxic divisions.

    In a lot of traditions, a pastor who leaves is barred from contact with members of the congregation. This helps the church make a healthy break from the past, and plan for its future.

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  45. Michael in UK,

    Really, anyone paid to do this kind of stuff, tends to loose actionable scriptural vision objectivity, ap•par•ent•ly at some point. Programs tend to become a bit biased (ya think) and self serving. Freshness is an identifiable necessary from time to time. Sometimes you just forget to find a proper reason to turn the lights on. (Blink Blink)

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  46. Right after this article came out a year and a half ago…

    http://noedenelsewhere.com/the-aftermath-stories-from-former-watermark-church-members/

    …Dever was flown in to give them a pep talk [damage control?]:

    https://twitter.com/MarkDever/status/1184303345202282496

    (Tuesday Oct. 15, 2019)
    Dever: “Privilege this morning to speak with the staff at Watermark, Dallas.”
    (photo of assembly of Watermark staffers)

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  47. Friend: blackmail material

    I saw this build up against several of my peers and cooled towards that particular outfit. Just about every single day, I read here about a situation very like my extensive portfolio of colourful cults or things connected with them. I think it’s meant to be cathartic at minimum effort to me – thanks everyone!

    Friend: the bear mauling children in 2 Kings 2

    42 underemployed hobbledehoys, I don’t suppose Elisha knew what would happen (it wasn’t as it happens his time to ascend and he didn’t ascend anyway), he is supposed to ask God when he’s in a corner, aren’t we.

    If we don’t ask God for just quality of government and safety from plagues / disasters, a valuable populace will be made underemployed. It’s a shame they got in the bear’s way which wouldn’t be normal if that society was functioning. It wasn’t till Jonah’s time it got going properly.

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  48. Friend: Wow! What happened next? I imagine they hoped he would quit, but keeping him on in any capacity could let him do mischief, and/or set the congregation up for toxic divisions.

    No, he actually stayed on. But he was never a “lead pastor” sort of guy and didn’t seem like the type to want the spotlight. He was reinstated later, though after he and his wife divorced and he never remarried.

    I think being relegated to the back room might really make some of these narcissist types angry and they would resign sooner rather than later to put themselves in charge of some new money-making scheme. But I’ve never seen these elder-run churches try that tactic.

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  49. Sòpwyth: Mark Dever, of 9Marks fame, is a wonderful well known SBC Baptist ultra conservative Calvinist, who’s well known comprehensive support for C J Mahaney is legendary.

    In SBC lingo, “conservative” = Calvinist. The “Conservative Resurgence” in SBC has really been a Calvinist Resurgence disguised as conservative. There are millions of Southern Baptists who consider themselves conservative in belief and practice, but not Calvinist.

    As far as Dever being “wonderful”, well that is in the eye of the beholder. He will definitely be remembered as “legendary” for a lot of reasons when the New Calvinist bubble breaks, the sort of legend that the American church will wish never happened.

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  50. JDV: “Elder Mickey Friedrich then urged the church not to “try and judge whose version of events is right or wrong. That’s for God to reveal or conceal.”

    And God (of course) Agrees 110% with ELDER Mickey Friedrich.
    Like a Ventriloquist’s Dummy or sock puppet.

    (Are there any words to express just how ARROGANT that attitude is?)

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  51. Wife and I are very familiar with Todd. We both watched him leave Northwest Bible to start Watermark. He got his panties in a wad over whether he would be named senior pastor at Northwest. He’s a great communicator, but very fond of himself and needs to be in control . He took a majority of the young singles with him to start Watermark. We ended up at Watermark several years later. We were taken aback that you were required to have a shepherd and annually fill out a spiritual assessment. However, we were drawn to Todd’s teaching. Even gave large amount of money to help purchase the land on 635. I really began to question Todd, one Sunday when an elder interviewed Todd and his wife on stage. He would not let his wife get a word in edgewise. He spoke over her and for her. He controlled the conversation from start to finish. It was hard to watch. In another case, Todd had Ken Hamm from Answers in genesis come speak. I’m an old earth creationist, and wanted to hear what he had to say. In the Q&A, Todd shut down Ken at every turn and answered virtually all the questions for Ken. Also, he just completely shut down several that had alternative viewpoints. I finally, figured out that Todd was the one with all the answers and if you don’t agree with him get out of the way. From my vantage , he is not a humble man. It’s sounds as if the church is now much more controlling than when we were there. We left around 2004 or 2005, and could not get out quickly enough. The control aspects were just to much and it started at the top with Todd. We did not even leave a resignation letter. I told My shepherd that we had issues and would not be coming back. Never heard from them again.

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  52. Liz,

    I took it as the faux, man Christian “we can love each other and sort of touch and HEY we aren’t gay!” kind of way, but in fact you are probably much more on point…a power play…AND WE AREN’T GAY!
    Longhorn guy,
    I have never attended Watermark, but i have watched many of the 10 minute video segments where Wagner does verbal jujitsu laying out a subject matter and hen just irises his OPINION with random out of context scripture, and it was event from the first one this guy was super impressed with himself. Really impressed. So I think…if we take the PRIDE issue literally, it was pretty darn event for years. This is why, dollars to donuts there is likely something more (btw when did foul language become a disqualifying sin? I hope none of these people have ever stubbed their toe!).

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  53. I’m totally knew to this blog, but I love it. Todd Wagner along with many of the other mega church pastors in Dallas, have been on my radar for a while, and not in a good way. I just found out about Wagner being “reassigned” (don’t know how I missed it!). Anyway, I’ve learned a lot about the recent goings on reading this and other blogs and articles. Here is question I have for those of you who have been closer to all this recently than I…how does Watermark get by with calling itself an Evangelical church? They don’t seem to have any interest in spreading the word of God to unbelievers or conduct missionary work local or otherwise. Their whole thing seems to be an authoritarian control approach to “membership”. I guess there is a lot more money in that, especially in north Dallas, than ministering to the “unwashed” but doesn’t seem very Christlike. I think even Paul would have a problem with it.

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