After more than 20 years at the helm, Todd Wagner, senior pastor and co-founder of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas, announced Sunday that he is temporarily stepping away from his pulpit due to the sin of pride.
“For the first time in 20 years, I’m stepping back from what I usually do so I can do the hard work of hard work. So don’t be looking for some scandal. Don’t even think this is scandalous. What is scandalous is when a Christian plays with, overlooks or welcomes sin, respectable or not,” Wagner told his megachurch, which averages about 11,000 weekly worshipers across four campuses.
“I thank God I have friends to help me. Pride kills. And I would call what I’ve heard my friends describing and telling me, pride. That’s the sin. And it’s really interesting because you know I don’t think of myself or I fool myself into thinking I’m not a prideful person because I never look in the mirror and clap,” he explained.
Wagner explained that he and his elders have been in talks about his sin since June and they have walked through a period of repentance and he was now asking church members for their forgiveness.
“I need to take some of your time to ask for your forgiveness for several things. First, for not being sooner and more attentive to myself especially during this season but for a while, maybe even years I have known I needed just to slow down. And I’ve been encouraged to slow down, I’ve even been given opportunities to slow down and yet these last months, all I’ve done is speed up,” he said.
"It's not paid leave so I can read and write and relax as a reward for 20 years of service. What it is is a temporary rest from teaching and leading and anything else in the way of my letting the Lord strengthen me, restore me, and lead me to daily greater repentance."
Wagner explained that he got to a point in ministry where he was just not listening enough to his leadership team and failed to lead “with the usual grace in my relationships with my closest friends.”
“I’ve been short and irritable, I’m invalidating at times, I’m impatient, enough that people were noticing a difference and worse I didn’t hear them when they asked me and said things like ‘… are you OK?’” he explained, saying that he was dismissive at times.
“This is enough for me to say ‘enough,’ to sharpen the axe more and cut less. I have not been asked to step down. I am not by God’s grace needing to step down but I have been asked and I agree I need to step back, step away and I’m glad. We all agree this is what’s best for me and for you and I think for us,” he said.
Wagner, who is a married father and grandfather, pointed out that despite his struggle with pride, his relationship with his family remains solid and he was thankful for that.
Wagner also explained that several current and former elders who have served with him will be helping him on his journey of recovery and continual repentance to keep him grounded and accountable.
Beau Fournet, a church elder, said, “Just want to be clear, we share in unity because we always have unity if we’re at the foot of the cross. We’ve repented of every sin that was brought before us and that’s what Todd has done and that’s what we are doing with one another as often as we get together.”