It’s Narcissist Friday!

I think part of why I write about narcissism in the church is because it seems so wrong to me. A narcissistic relationship is painful. It is intrusive, treacherous, cruel, and manipulative. And nothing of that should connect with life in the church.

Yes, I know that people bring their flesh when they come to church. I know that the openness and yielding of the Christian life can be used against us. It’s just that it shouldn’t happen. This world is struggle enough. We shouldn’t have to suffer narcissistic abuse in the context of the church. We have good reason to expect church relationships, from the pastor to the members, to be filled with love and support. Gossip, condemnation, exclusion, and favoritism have no place in the church.

And yet.

And yet so many people tell of narcissist parents who use the church and the Bible to manipulate. And yet, so many tell of narcissist spouses who quote Scripture to support their abuse. And yet, so many have struggled with narcissistic friends from church. And yet, so many have been used or hurt by narcissistic church leaders and pastors. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.


In my book, Narcissism in the Church, I explain that the church offers a powerful opportunity to narcissists and other abusers. It’s like a new born lamb for the predators. The lamb bleats for its mother, announcing its weakness and availability. People come to the church in times of weakness and vulnerability looking for help, or they have been trained from childhood to be submissive and self-deprecating. In either case, they are the predator’s dream.

So, predators/narcissists are attracted to docile and yielding people. They find churches to be full of them.

They also find that churches offer a considerable amount of attention and praise for those who lead. Not only are people willing to put the leader on the pedestal, they are taught and believe that God blesses them for doing so. Imagine the narcissist who finds that the pulpit gives the opportunity to have a group of people listen carefully to his words and treat them as words from God! Few places in our society offer such an opportunity.

However, as I write about church in this post, I also have to write about other organizations. There are other groups that offer power and prestige in leadership. There are other groups that are easy to get into and hard to get out of. There are other groups where people will use your information against you, manipulate you into serving or giving, and expect you to bow in obedience.

If you are part of an organization where you are being manipulated into too many hours of service or expected to jump whenever the leader speaks, I would tell you to get out. Find a way to leave that organization. There are other groups where that does not happen. There are many ways to serve or give or even receive support that do not open you to narcissistic abuse.

So, what do I say about the church? Well, same thing. There are churches that do not abuse. There are Christian relationships that will give support without cruelty. In fact, there are many people like you and me who hate the idea of that exploitation coming from a group that is supposed to be focused on the love of God in Jesus. Find those people. Find that church.

And if you can’t? Then worship Jesus and serve Him on your own. Read His word of love to you and others. Give and share with those who love. Maybe you won’t always be on your own. Keep watching for others who know the Lord’s grace and seek to live in His love.

You might have to be on your own, but you will never be alone. He is real, and He loves you. Learn to walk with Him.


Apparently the audio file is not included in the email of this post. It may be too large or email filters might not let it through. If you would like to listen to the audio version of the post, you will find it on the blog site.



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5 responses to “Church

  1. Well said, as usual. Absolutely this!

  2. Z

    Pastor, this is a perfect explanation of the “environment” of churches being a hunting ground for predators. Churchgoers’ openness, welcoming “all” (no questions asked), truthful vulnerability before the Lord, spoken personal prayer requests that divulge personal info to wolves (who collect info and weaknesses to use later to gain power), all kinds of big and small “groups” that later become power struggles and entice wolves to target the meek, reporting of inappropriate behaviors being called “gossip” and never addressed so they get worse and worse, broken people who come to church for true fellowship and comfort…all these things and so much more make church a place where a wolf predator can easily learn about and then maul the meek, hurting, broken with their abuses.
    I believe you that there are safe churches. I just have not found any that have the basic discernment to recognize wolves that are right in front of their noses. And when abuse by a congregant is reported by his victim (also a congregant), nothing is done. Swept under the rug. And then the smear campaign once a wolf is exposed by the abuser and all his many allies in the church works all too well to alienate other congregants as well as church leaders against the victim. The victim then has to leave that church when their characters are allowed to be decimated. “Troublemaker” is what a victim is labeled. It’s what these false Christians tell themselves to assuage their guilt for choosing to walk by the clearly bleeding victim as was done in the Good Samaritan parable. “Abuse” and “victim” are automatic dirty words in most all churches I’ve attended. They prefer victims keep quiet about the abuse or just leave their church. “Go somewhere else!” is their message to victims way too often. And the next church ends up being no better. They want abuse victims to suffer in silence. That goes against the point of attending a church!
    You are right that we may have to go it alone with Jesus for a season-maybe a long season. But that’s far better than being surrounded by willfully blind, false, hurtful, callous, self-interested people in too many churches. They don’t want to be “inconvenienced” by having to walk alongside a hurting abuse victim. They might lose the abuser and his allies as friends. And we know abusers bribe new and old allies generously.
    “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a foreign concept to most church people I’ve encountered. Because I have been a victim of abuse most of my life, because I was conditioned to tolerate or miss red flags of abusive people from my birth, that made ME persona non grata at the churches to which I disclosed the abuses. The abusers are still arrogantly attending those churches. Welcomed with open arms. That is a disgrace. An abomination to our God of righteousness and justice.

  3. Elizabeth

    Spot on! Pastor Dave. There are everywhere even in Africa.

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