It’s Narcissist Friday!
I want to relate a story I have been hearing lately and I won’t be able to give many details because the story is both true and current.
Sometimes the narcissist is a pastor.
Pastors, company CEO’s, coaches, politicians, community leaders—these are all positions that draw narcissists because of the power and the attention. For most of these positions a certain amount of autonomy is allowed; the leader gets to choose his projects and activities. A narcissist will believe that these positions will show everyone his superiority and allow him to keep the attention on his image.
The following is a current, but classic, story.
First Church needed a pastor. Pastor X left after many years of building up a strong and influential congregation. His staff stayed with the church and things were running well. The leaders of the church believed that the congregation could become something special. They visualized a church that made a difference in the community, the denomination, and in the world. They looked for a man who could lead them into that future.
When Pastor A met with the leaders of the church, they were impressed. He was full of ideas and enthusiasm and he presented himself very well, both professionally and personally. It was easy to look past the struggles he had in his last church because that church didn’t have either the potential or the staff of First Church. The denomination had to come to the former church to help work things out after Pastor A left, but that only proved that the problems were not connected to Pastor A.
When First Church hired Pastor A, he was seen as God’s leader for the future of the church. He was so personable in the pulpit. He looked people in the eye and spoke to them as a leader should. When he met people, he shook their hands, patted them on the back, and made them feel like he really cared. At the same time, he had a vision for the future and plans to get there.
For the first year, Pastor A used sermons he had preached at his former church. That was understandable because he had so much to do to get to know the people and the community, and to fix a variety of problems at First Church. There were more problems, “bottle-necks” and “roadblocks,” than anyone realized. The leadership was sorry to see some of the older programs go, but it was necessary for progress. Yes, Pastor X visited people in the hospital, but now that was the job of the elders. Yes, Pastor X attended a variety of leadership meetings, but now those meetings were handled by the staff. Pastor A was a busy man.
It was more troubling to see faithful staff members exposed as incompetent or standing in the way of growth. When Betty was let go after fifteen years as the church secretary, most of the people understood. She did talk with people on the phone and she did move more slowly than she used to. Betty was replaced by a very professional (and attractive) younger lady whose primary job seemed to be to keep people away from Pastor A. The new secretary had the authority to handle almost any question people brought for the pastor.
The youth pastor left abruptly, but that made sense. The youth group wasn’t growing. Pastor A felt that the reason some families had left the church was because the youth program had stagnated. Other staff members left, most without saying anything about their reasons or even saying goodbye to the congregation. Several of the new staff members were people who had worked with Pastor A before.
But First Church was an exciting place to be. Denominational officials filled the pulpit and inspired the congregation. Other pastors from large churches around the country were invited to speak. Even community leaders, people Pastor A met as he connected more and more with community leadership, came to share with the congregation. Pastor A was always on the podium with these leaders, always treated with respect by them. First Church was moving up.
The budget problems were a little troubling. The surplus that had been garnered from the time between pastors was dwindling. Pastor A deserved a larger salary than Pastor X, of course, but the staff would have to bear some of the burden. After all, Pastor A was doing a lot of their work for them. It was always a struggle for a growing church to find staff capable of leading on their own. Even the long-term associate pastor was causing trouble. He and Pastor A seemed to be on different sides. It became obvious to the leaders that a serious change would have to be made soon.
But it was hard for the leaders to get together with Pastor A to discuss the situation, or anything for that matter. He was always out of his office and the new secretary covered for him. He attended a lot of out of town meetings, spoke at conferences, spent time at community events, and had special times for reflection and devotion by himself. Pastor A was a busy man. Everyone could see that. First Church was blessed to have him as their pastor.
Now, I am going to stop there. This story goes on, of course. But what are the clues here that Pastor A is a narcissist?
I invite your comments and thoughts.