Todd Wagner, senior pastor of Watermark Community Church—a multi-site megachurch in the Dallas area with an average attendance of 11,000—announced yesterday that he is taking a break from ministry to address the sin of pride. This comes about a year after a blog called No Eden Elsewhere published several posts alleging spiritual abuse at the church.
Wagner told his congregation that he is not guilty of “disqualifying sin” like sexual immorality, financial misconduct, or “foul language.”
Yet, Wagner admitted that friends had confronted him about behaviors stemming from pride, which initially was hard for him to see because “I know who’s built Watermark. It’s not me. I know who gives gifts. It’s not me.”
But Wagner added, “Pride is not simply being overly impressed with who you think you are in terms of accomplishment looks or position. It has most often to do with the position of your heart. It’s got to do with not listening, not being as hard on yourself as times you’re with others. It’s not humbling yourself to listen to others. It’s not thinking of God first and others first.”
In 2019, No Eden Elsewhere published several articles by anonymous sources alleging that Watermark exercised excessive control and spiritual abuse of its members.
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One post relayed the story of “Susan” who alleged that Watermark encouraged her to disclose personal sins and family secrets that were then used by the church to control her. She also alleged that the church pressured her to disclose personal financial information like how much she earned, spent, and saved.
Similarly, a second post reported the story of “Michael” who said that after leaving the church, he feared that he would be surveilled and his reputation or employment harmed.
Yesterday, @noedenelsewhere tweeted the news about Wagner’s announcement. And in the comment thread, Wagner apparently posted and then deleted the comment: “Mission accomplished.”
Y’all, it appears Wagner deleted his tweet after my reply above. Leaves me wondering why he would do that. Makes no sense. Or does it? Did he learn we know this game? pic.twitter.com/H78DySxrtQ
— Not in Our Church – Diana (@NotinOurChurch1) September 7, 2020
Wagner founded Watermark in 1999 with the expressed purpose of ministering to “the unchurched, dechurched, dead-churched and unmoved.” The church grew rapidly and now has campuses in Dallas, Frisco, and Plano.
The church also produces a popular marriage curriculum called re|engage that is used in more than 370 churches nationwide. Watermark also has developed a popular 12-step recovery program called re:generation, which is used at many other churches, as well.
Wagner is author of the book, Come and See: Everything You Ever Wanted in the One Place You Would Never Look, which was published in 2017 by David C. Cook. Wagner also hosts a weekly podcast, Real Truth Quick, which answers questions about life, leadership, faith, and “the world we live in.” And he has written articles for The Gospel Coalition.
According to Elder Brian Buchek, Todd is “repentant.” The church did not state how long Wagner’s leave will be or whether it is a paid leave.
I reached out to Watermark for clarification on these issues, but the church did not respond by time of publication.