Sunday, October 17, 2010

David Trotter and the Awaken church

David Trotter was a pastor who resigned from the church he founded because he left his wife and kids to have an affair with his wife’s best friend. This relentless self-promoter eventually returned to his family, reconciled with his wife, and then wrote a tell-all book about his experience. He markets himself as a motivational speaker hoping to help other couples who are dealing with the trauma of infidelity. All of this happened in the last 2.5 years. That’s right - an affair, resignation, reconciliation, and book – all in the last 2.5 years.

I wrote about his fall here and reviewed his book here. I was going to let Trotter go on with his happy-ending life. I figured it would take some time for him to ease back into a support role in a church and with time rebuild his reputation, and regain the pulpit and the trust of a new congregation. That is what a sensible person would do. Who would follow a man who has demonstrated his immaturity and lack of impulse control so blatantly? I was wrong – he started the Awaken church (his old church was named Revolution). People follow him. Among his new followers are two people I know and who tipped me off to this developing travesty. My spies are in place.

When it comes to clergy misconduct, I’ve developed a working theory that says we must judge pastors by what they do, not by what they say. In this case, Trotter performed poorly twice before. He was fired from his first gig as a pastor for questionable conduct (immaturity at worst), and resigned from his second leadership role in disgrace. He has a history of failure and now wants a second chance. He even refers to himself as “people of the second chance.” No legitimate church would have him, not with the stain of immaturity and infidelity on him. And any lesser roles would not appeal to a founding pastor like David Trotter. No, he’s a visionary leader (He even refers to himself as having CEO level skills). Accepting a role that is beneath him would be unappealing and hinder his self-marketing effort. He will book more speaking gigs and sell more books if he has the “pastor” title associated with his name. He’s working on his brand.

Why do I care? I met Jim Jones once as a young man. Trotter reminds me of Jones in some ways. It’s enough for me to keep an eye on him. Plus, I’ve stated before that I feel a strange kinship with Trotter. We are alike in many ways – too many really. Plus, I too failed at about the same age. It was a professional failing. One that cost me a career. It was not the mistake that cost me the most (I did not make one), it was the poor quality of my relationships. When I needed support, there was nobody around who would step up. I had poisoned the well. I changed careers, started at the bottom, and worked my way back into a leadership position. I worked hard at repairing my short-comings, and it was not easy work. At times I wanted to give up. My new career was much harder than the previous. I had no aptitude for IT/IS. Over time I mastered many new things. I taught myself how to write (the original purpose of this blog). I went back to school and finished my degree, and went on to get an MBA. And finally, after many years of hard work, I am again at the top of my game. Heck, I’m even speaking at a convention in Silicon Valley next month. It feels good. It feels honest.

What did David Trotter do? He formed a church without the traditional oversight of an established church, senior pastor, or even a board of deacons. He’s planning to build the church into a real brick and mortar presence serving Long Beach, CA. He’s stepped back into the role of pastor without so much as a second thought about the the risk of his doing so. Did he fix himself? Did he heal? Did he learn how to repair his defect? No, he’s back in the saddle serving Jesus, and nobody is looking over his shoulder because it a religious thing. Hot tip people – if he serves Kool-Aid, run for the door.

[Well – David Trotter has seen fit to limit the embedding of his video – but you can watch it at this link, until he deletes that too.. AWAKEN Church from David Trotter on Vimeo.]

I’ve spoke with a few local area pastors. They agree that the idea of a new church is a bad one. They agree that Trotter needs mentoring and time to regain what he has lost. They also agree that Trotter should not be placed in a position where he can be tempted to fail again (Why does he not see this?) And finally, they all agree that he’s a remarkable young man with a bright future, but likely to fail again because he’s not taken the time to actually heal. Come to think of it, he sounds a lot like Ted Haggard too.