Narcissistic Personality Disorder* In The Clergy

3 John 1:9 – I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.


Matthew 7:15 – Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.


In a very recent study discussed in the paper FREQUENCY OF NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER IN PASTORS: A PRELIMINARY STUDY“, the researchers found a relatively higher percentage of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (“NPD”) among the clergy than in the regular population.  The study discussed the impact of the NPD pastors’ approach to ministry as well as the negative impact on their congregations.



This finding underscores the value of church leadership shared by a plurality of properly functioning, spiritually mature elders.  This Biblical structure provides a natural counterbalance to the single “strong man” pastor model that is the current norm.  A complete discussion of this shared pastoral model can be found in the book “Biblical Eldership”, but Alexander Strauch.  You can get a copy here or visit


In addition to the protection that comes from a plurality of elders working together, a key safeguard against putting a narcissist into a position of spiritual authority is to test them against the Biblical qualifications prior to their installation as an “overseer”.  This is discussed clearly in I Timothy 3:10 – “These men must also first be tested.”  The testing period needs to be long enough and thorough enough to allow time for a candidate’s possible NPD to show itself.  And it might be helpful to use tools such as this one, or this one.


1 Timothy 3

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable,hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.




  • Narcissism is the modern colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride” – see here


One response

  1. Pingback: Dealing With Narcissists – The Narcissist Pastor « Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism

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