Emotional and spiritual abuse from a pastor? Nah, that never happens.


In walks Mr. or Mrs./Ms. Narcissism.

I’m wise. You’re not. I’m in charge. You’re not. Shut your mouth while I’m talking. Don’t ever talk to me that way? Do you know who I am? You don’t have the right or freedom to ask me questions or question my authority.  Intimidation. Threats. Long stares. Biting sarcasm. Condescension.

And on and on and on goes the narcissistic narrative.

Don’t be wise in your own eyes (Proverbs 3:7). Living out Solomon’s words in Proverbs will bring healing and refreshment to a person’s soul. In contrast, to be wise in your own eyes not only brings rotten to one’s soul but I would submit that it brings rottenness (read uncleanness, corruption, and even abuse) to those around them as well.  Further, he who isolates himself seeks his own desire and can’t make good, godly, and wise decisions (Proverbs 18:1).

I recently finished a book entitled, When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community From Emotional And Spiritual Abuse. Wow, what a title!

Diane Langberg, a psychologist for trauma survivors & clergy, an international speaker, consultant, and author said this in answering the question, “What’s the mantra of a narcissistic spiritual leader?”

I am bigger, I am better and I have no interest in understanding my impact on you except in so far as you can feed my ego.

What are the characteristics of a narcissistic pastor?

  1. All decision-making centers on them

  2. Impatience or a lack of ability to listen to others

  3. Delegating without giving proper authority or with too many limits

  4. Feelings of entitlements

  5. Feeling threatened or intimidated by other talented staff

  6. Needing to be the best and brightest in the room

  7. Inconsistency and impulsiveness

  8. Praising and withdrawing

  9. Intimidation of others

  10. Fauxnerability (feigned or insincere vulnerability)

I want to be real honest here, like painfully honest here. In reading this book I’ve seemingly underlined the whole book; it’s a veritable goldmine of wisdom and insight that needs to be read, reread, discussed, and reflected upon. I cried many times throughout my reading of this book. I cried because years ago I, along with my brother, were given a severance from a church under the leadership of a Senior Pastor who exemplified so many of these characteristics and did so from week-to-week that it was as if I was reliving the two years I served there. I have repeatedly told myself and shared with others that by God’s grace, I will never, ever facilitate a staff culture like the one I was in, nor will I ever stay in a culture like it. Never.

I also cried because apart from Jesus’ rescuing grace, I can see those ugly, sinful tendencies swelling up in my heart and coming forth in my interpersonal interactions with my bride, kids, co-laborers, and others, as well as in my decisions. The Spirit of God has given me glimpses into the inner-workings of my heart and there are times when it’s downright ugly, evil, and scary. Is that too honest?

But I am encouraged. I see it. I see what the outworkings of sin have done and what they could do to those around me and I want to grow and change, confess, and repent. This is one of the mains reasons why I am intentional in seeking wisdom, correction from godly, mature people around me. I need their input, their assessment, their correction, their encouragement, and their love (Proverbs 12:1, 18:1, 27:5).

Chuck DeGroat’s book is a gift to the church. I mean that: it is a gift! You should purchase the book right now. An unreachable, unteachable, autocratic, dictatorial, impatient, mean-spirited spirit (and the list goes on and on) is not only unattractive but it is a misrepresentation of the leadership of the Chief Shepherd Jesus, as well as a danger to the church.




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