Dealing With Narcissists – The Narcissist Pastor

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As we previously discussed in the blog entry Narcissistic Personality Disorder* In The Clergy, the pastorate attracts its fair share of narcissists*.  A church leader with this trait can ultimately be very destructive to a church.  They will operate like the Pharisees, and God’s dealing with them will almost guarantee that the church will not be successful in the end.

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So, what should you do if you realize that you are in a church with a full-blown narcissist as the pastor?

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#1  Recognize that, as a church member, you are not in a position to successfully fix the situation.  Yes, you can try to (unsuccessfully) get him to “change”, or you could go to war against the pastor to get him removed, but you will be stirring up strife and create a lot of collateral damage in the process (including, most likely, yourself).

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If there is some other authority over him, it is their role to deal with the situation.  The Apostle John, an early church leader, told Gaius in 3 John that he would take on Diotrephes – he did not ask the people on the ground (church members) to do it.

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3 John 9-10

I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

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#2  Recognize that, while you are in the church, you are under the spiritual authority of the church leadership…… but there is no Biblical requirement for you stay in that church under a clearly narcissistic pastor.  God admonishes the elders to not “lord it over their flock” – therefore, they are to exercise servant leadership, not dominating leadership.

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1 Peter 5:1-5

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

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Peter’s admonishment to the elders to not “lord it over” their flocks echo’s Jesus’ statement:

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Matthew 20:25-28

25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

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#3  Recognize that there is no Biblical requirement for you stay in a church under a clearly narcissistic pastor.  This is one of the cases where Jesus’ admonition to avoid a narcissist is very appropriate.

In the time of the very early church, there was only one place to go to church per city.  That is far from the case in most places in the world today.  Therefore, even though while you are within a particular church you should respect the authority in that church, there is nothing in scripture that says that you must continue in that particular local church.  Church-hopping is generally not a good practice, but it is worthwhile to take the time and energy to find the right church.

Yes, there may be various social pressures if you leave a church which is lead by an obviously narcissistic pastor, but the social price is small compared to the spiritual price you will pay by staying.

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As a side note, God has designed a model for proper Biblical church leadership that protects churches from the harm that a self-seeking narcissistic pastor can bring.

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As another side note, for those churches looking to call or hire a pastor, consider “avoiding” the hiring of a narcissist by using a screening test.

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Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective

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