A secondary aspect of the Ted Haggard scandal that bothers me almost as much as the sin and witness for the Body of Christ, is the cult of personality around these celebrity ministers. If you think about it, the name of his church and the NAE have been in the background. Strange, but I have heard his name for years but never the name of his church until this scandal broke.
You can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who knows who Rick Warren is and has read PDL. Ask anyone who has gone to a mega church for a month and they will recognize the name, Billy Hybels . If you own a TV or have been inside a bookstore, you will know of Joel Osteen. This is Cult of Personality. There are too many professing Christians following men instead of Christ.
Cult of Personality is all about building unity and creating consensus. The mastermind behind this tactic was Stalin. He had a very diverse country with many ethnicities and in order to succeed he needed to create loyalty to the Soviet. The goal in CoP is to create individual dedication and loyalty to a leader whose influential personality molds the perfect follower for the state (organization). CoP was the pre-cursor to building brand loyalty.
Now, you and I both know that these leaders did not say, ‘Hey, let’s be like Stalin and create a Cult of Personality’. It did not work that way here but it can work like this: Tell people what they want to hear, paint a vision of the future, create loyalty, and keep momentum going so they will know they are part of something big. 'All we have to do is stick with it and we change things and improve lives!' The loyalty to the leader is almost automatic in this setting. (In most cases)
Take a look at this quote from Ted Haggard from the New Life Church website:
“It's no surprise to me that more and more reports are coming out to suggest that going to church makes people more happy, more prosperous, and more successful in every way. Church improves lives for many reasons, but the main reason is that it brings people together.”
That is not exactly a ‘Take up your cross and follow Me message’. It is the 'happy church' message. Notice he says that church improves lives, not eternally mind you, but mainly for bringing people together. That is a relational sales pitch. Come hang out with me. Cult of Personality.
And the adulation follows because this is what people want. We are not interested in persecution, carrying crosses or losing our lives so we can gain eternity with Jesus. We want to win elections.
Phil Johnson, at Pyromaniacs has it right when he says, “Some might think such a voter/donor backlash is unwarranted and irrational. I don't. The back-story here includes just about everything wrong with 21st-century "evangelicalism."
Absolutely. When we put men that high on a pedestal it is a long way to fall. And he takes many with him because they have been fed, not even milk, but more like soda pop theology. Our world crashes because we were following men not Christ.
We do not know all the facts of his sins yet. He has admitted some serious ones, though. These things do not happen in a vacuum. Yes, people have secret lives and we have all heard the cliché that the wife is the last to know and that is true. But, you know what; those who work closest with you can tell when something is not right. They may not know to what extent but they can tell there is something there. I am basing this on years of experience working in many different companies as a training consultant. When a big cheese falls, those close by have something they can point to and say, I knew there was something wrong because…..
And when they tell what that 'something' was, you are amazed they did not connect the dots. But being close by the CoP can render you blind and mute. You do not want to believe it so you blow it off as an aberration.
And I say this because we are seeing that no one will confront celebrity pastors until it is too late. There is too much to lose so we end up enabling sin so the Cult of Personality can continue.
My prayer is that Mr. Haggard will resign, forget his golden parachute, go away, seek complete repentance and never write a book. I hold up his poor wife and children, the most victimized, in this sad story, in prayer.
Stop regarding man
in whose nostrils is breath,
for of what account is he?