What it means when a narcissistic pastor says, “I love the church”

I ran across this article while going through a rough place in my life.  It had profound meaning for me in dealing with some of the individuals in my life that have narcissistic traits.

The article highlights the fact that when a narcissist says, “I love you,” he really means that he loves the way that you (fill in the blank): take care of his needs, focus your energy on him, submit, etc.

Individuals that have been in relationships with narcissists often admit to feeling crazy, not recognizing the abuse while it was occurring, and to keeping secrets to cover for his abuse, infidelity, etc.  I wonder if this is what many people are recognizing in the #exevangelical movement.  Because as I was going through this article again, I began to realize that many of the narcissistic traits could be applied to the many pastors and men in church leadership that I have known through the years.

Being in church ministry for twelve years, I became proficient at silence and lies to cover the behavior of men.  I became proficient at my role of knowing how to act and what to say to inflate the ego of man.

Here are a few examples:

  • When I (Your Pastor) says, “I love the church,” I mean that I love that you have made me your leader, the “Man of God,” the “Shepherd of the Sheep.”  I love that you put me on a big stage with a spotlight, a mini-mic, a cold bottle of water, and you sit at my feet to listen to my words.
  • I love that you say things like, “My, isn’t he anointed?!” “He speaks with such authority and wisdom from God!” “I couldn’t live without your words each week, Pastor.” “Your sermon saved me” “I hope someday I am as mature in my faith”
  • I love preaching about your many sins.  I am the Bishop, the Apostle, the Prophet, the one chosen by God to speak to your many sins and missteps.  Your inferior, weak, and uneducated mind is my drug.
  • I love the church that is childlike and vulnerable.  The spiritual babes that sit in the pews each Sunday.  Your innocence and gullibility is like a high that fuels my insatiable ego.
  • I love the church that stands to greet me after each sermon.  The handshaking, the kissing, the gloating and praise is mine and mine alone.
  • I love the church that sees me as faultless.  I am without sin and I adore the church that believes the lies I use to keep them well hidden.
  • I love the people that cannot live without me.  You will never find another head pastor, worship pastor, youth pastor, etc. that can do what I do.  I work hard to create your dependence upon me.  You cannot find God without me.
  • I love the church that believes me to be humble.  I am proficient in the art of false humility.  It is a little game called “gaslighting” that I like to use to make you feel crazy.  You will always feel sinful, shamed, and insufficient after confronting me.
  • I love the people that consistently prove their love and devotion to me through acts of service and tithing.  I will tell you that it is God’s Will but I love lining my pockets with your money and being serviced like a king.

This.  Sound familiar?

And unfortunately, the narcissist pastor is smooth and good at the game.  He can be difficult to recognize.  Most commonly, he surrounds himself with his disciples (leadership council, staff, deacons, call-it-what-you-will) that are a simple crew of “yes men.”  They make sure that the narcissists’ ego is well oiled and inflated at all times.

The good news is that this can change.  The church must recognize these men for what they are, call them out, and demand a new way of doing discipleship.  There must be healing and there must be accountability.  But until that time, #exvangelical will keep trending.