Signs of an Narcissistic Abusive Pastor

I found this article over a year ago. I’ve re-read it several times and nod my head each time. Not necessarily because it’s a perfect diagnosis of my own congregation, but because it’s given me the vocabulary to describe the abusive behavior I’ve seen.

There are a few caveats I need to warn you about before reading it:

First, you cannot diagnose personality disorders. Don’t even try. Arm-chair diagnoses are dreadful and very unhelpful. Only a professional can diagnose. The strongest thing you can do is say “this could be caused by NPD”.

Secondly, the criteria given in this article is not strong enough to make any conclusions. Any unhealthy congregation will exhibit some of these symptoms.

Personally, I don’t care about the NPD diagnosis; it’s the vocabulary that I’ve found most useful. So often, victims don’t realize they’re being hurt. Or possibly, they do realize they’re being hurt, but they struggle to articulate the hurt, or feel they can’t convince others.

If you’re in that situation, articles like this can help you articulate what it is that’s hurtful and unacceptable. It’s worth remembering too that such abuse is sin. In the Lutheran church, the rite of installation asks the pastor if he will adorn the Holy Office with a holy life. If he’s abusing his sheep, he’s in violation of his ordination vows. Remember that, and don’t let him convince you otherwise.

With that out of the way, here’s the article:

Having experienced leaders like this in parishes like this, and grown them anyway, I believe this describes too many Orthodox parishes in North America today. Read and learn. Let the pastor beware. Taking steps to solve these pernicious and destructive issues has gotten me bounced from more than one parish. Go in with both eyes […]

via Signs in a Congregation That a Leader Has Covert Narcissistic Personality Disorder — Good Guys Wear Black | Discerning Your Vocation In The Orthodox Church

 

It is my opinion that our churches need to do a much better job in holding pastors to account in both conduct and teaching; identifying worrisome psychological illnesses in clergy; and having policies (or responsible ecclesial overseers) in place to deal with abusers.

 

Festival of All Saints

In the church calendar, today is the Festival of All Saints.

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:12-13 ESV)

The following is one of my favorite hymns for this great church festival.

LSB 676 “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White”

Passage of the Souls
“Passage of the Souls”
Anne-François-Louis Janmot (1814-1892)

1 Behold a host, arrayed in white,
Like thousand snow-clad mountains bright!
With palms they stand;
Who is this band
Before the throne of light?
Those are the saints of glorious fame,
Who from the great affliction came
And in the flood
Of Jesus’ blood
Are cleansed from guilt and shame.
They now serve God both day and night;
They sing their songs in endless light.
Their anthems ring
As they all sing
With angels shining bright.

2 Despised and scorned, they sojourned here;
But now, how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand,
A priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
On earth they wept through bitter years;
Now God has wiped away their tears,
Transformed their strife
To heav’nly life,
And freed them form their fears.
They now enjoy the Sabbath rest,
The heav’nly banquet of the blest;
The Lamb, their Lord,
At festal board
Himself is host and guest.

3 O blessed saints in bright array
Now safely home in endless day,
Extol the Lord,
Who with His Word
Sustained you on the way.
The steep and narrow path you trod;
You toiled and sowed the Word abroad;
Rejoice and bring
Your fruits and sing
Before the throne of God.
The myriad angels raise their song;
O saints, sing with that happy throng!
Lift up one voice;
Let heav’n rejoice
In our Redeemer’s song!

Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

Thoughts for Pastors doing sermon preparation for Reformation Sunday

Thoughts for Pastors doing sermon preparation for Reformation Sunday

This post is intended mainly for Lutheran pastors. But you’re free to join in as well, if you like.

If I may, I would like to give you pastors some thoughts now as you prepare sermons for this Sunday, the Festival of the Reformation.

By the grace of God, the Church of the Lutheran Confession–that is, Lutherans that believe, teach and confess what their confessions actually say–still exists today. And, God-willing, we will mark the 500th anniversary of the nailing of the 95 thesis next year.

Lutheran Puffery

We Lutherans might face the temptation to feel proud:
We got the Reformation started!
We stuck it to the Pope.
A Mighty Fortress is our fight song! Patriotism!
Lutherans are “the sleeping giant”. And so on.

This arrogant boastfulness has no place among us. It is good (even helpful) to know our heritage, but it is wrong to get our own chests puffed up about it as if we won some sociopolitical revolution.

The churches of the Lutheran Confessions are good, not because of anything wonderful in themselves, but because of that confession which they profess. Our Lutheran heritage wouldn’t be worth a hill of beans if she had strayed from God’s Word. Our church wouldn’t have anything worth celebrating if it became bored with the Law that binds people’s hearts, and the tidings of great joy that changes people’s hearts for eternity.

The church, the bride of Christ, gives glory to Jesus. Even on Reformation Sunday. If the church focuses on herself this Sunday, and thoughtlessly brags about how they triumphed over the Roman foes with righteous might, then she is a rather saddening church. Don’t let the Church of the Reformation be a Bridezilla in a Reformation-themed wedding service, consumed with her self, her image and success.

Indulgences didn’t go away

A number of pastors take opportunity on Reformation Sunday to take a slap at the Roman Catholic church. This might feel good, especially since the RC church still holds to the false teachings it did 500 years ago, and because the reformers (Luther especially) had such biting, choice words for the Catholics. You can tell of the church history, yes; but don’t make the Pope–or worse, your Catholic neighbor–to be your personal punching bag.

Lutherans should not sneer at Catholics’ selling of indulgences as some silly, foolish thing those ancient clowns did, as if Christians of today don’t have such idols or superstitions. In our own day, and in our own congregations, we have members who love the drippings of Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and a bunch of other false teachers. Rome corrupted people’s faith with coercion and threat of hell, but today’s false preachers damage people’s faith with a smile.

You preach against indulgences? Well and good (since, you know, the Roman church has brought that back again). But what about now? Are you warning your flock against the indulgences of the 21st century?

Don’t say “we have Luther as our father”

I know of some people in our churches who’s confidence is placed in the Lutheran church itself. Their parents, grand-parents and great-grandparents were Lutherans. Maybe there was even a pastor in the family heritage. Well and good. But what do you believe? Despite whatever heritage we may have, the church is always one or two generations away from extinction, if it is not passed down to the next generation.

[Jesus said to them,] Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:8-10 ESV)

Lutherans: do not presume to say to yourselves: “We have ‘Lutheran’ as our church.” No, God is able to raise up Lutherans from mere stones. Your Lutheran heritage means very little (as discussions with life-long Lutherans can sometimes reveal, sadly).

Instead, we need to repent. And bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

It’s worth remembering that the first of the 95 theses reads as follows:

  1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

Repent of what?

Your congregation will not repent of anything if your sermon consists only of a retelling of Reformation history.

Now, and in every age, people need to be called to church, to be killed by God’s Law and made alive again by God’s Gospel. So that “the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” (Luther’s Small Catechism)

Let’s be that church.

Conclusion

The Reformation is, in a narrow way, sort of a tragedy. It was an enormous schism that seems to have forever fractured unity in the church. Unfortunately, 499 years ago, it was a necessary fracture, for the sake of the Gospel. Clearly, it still is necessary today.

False doctrine is a sin, and is nothing to smirk at. It is necessary to contend for truth, and sometimes, even to fight for it. But we shouldn’t celebrate the winning of the fight. Celebrate that our Lord has preserved His church, undeserving and cantankerous though she may be.

The Lutheran Confessions does battle against the teachings of the Christian faith. You really should read it! Yes, you, dear pastor. And your congregation too.

And then give thanks and glory to God that this church community and this profession of faith has been allowed to remain. Don’t take it for granted. The Word of God itself is a gift from Him.

My Bad Pastor

Dear readers,

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may know something about my own challenges in my own congregation. I’m realizing that I’ve never actually taken time to flesh out those details and explain exactly what’s going on.

So, it’s like this…

About 2 years ago, the new pastor was installed at our Lutheran church. The problems became evident right away.

If you don’t have anything nice to say…

A couple days later, in my first meeting with the new pastor, he makes a snide comment about our faithful, respected, and well-loved pastor emeritus. “Oh, he probably didn’t mean to say that,” I think to myself.

But then, a few weeks later, my wife tells me about how, the first time she talked with the new pastor, he maligned the character of a handful of people in the congregation. Why is he badmouthing people like this?

Only a few weeks on the job, he thought that he knew his people better than their friends do… and feels free to share his insights on “what that person’s really like” with anyone else who would listen.

Pretty quickly, we realize we had a pastor who readily “tell lies about [others], betray [them], slander [them], or hurts [their] reputation.” (Explanation to the 8th Commandment, from Luther’s Small Catechism.)

Contempt for others

The pastor is often condescending when dealing with others (and in his preaching). He is paternalistic. He likes to remind everyone that he is the pastor.

He deals with relational conflict by taking it personally, and then treating the other party with contempt.

In words and action, he will make you feel like he is so much bigger, wiser, smarter than you, and that you should just agree with him. If you don’t, then you’re pretty much his enemy (and, by extension, an enemy of God). He does not treat others with respect.

Political Manipulation

The pastor and his controlling wife wield considerable power over the congregation. They’re not supposed to, and no one has given them that authority. But they act like they do have that authority, and the congregation is too nice to call them out on it.

There have been several cases of passive-aggressive manipulation on pastor’s part, or outright aggressive manipulation on the part of his wife. They create divisions between people in order to achieve political success.

Toxic workplace

Since the new pastor’s installation, most of our staff have resigned.

In exit interviews, the workers accuse pastor and his wife of creating a toxic workplace environment: being demeaning to others, gaslighting, passive-aggressive behavior, ignoring/shunning people who disagree with him, and so on.

These former workers — all of them very committed members — have left the congregation. They describe feelings of being “broken.” One said that she couldn’t bring herself to go back to that [church] building again.

Toxic.

Bro, do you even ‘Pastor’?

The pastor’s pastoral care is almost non-existent.

He does the shut-in visits that he knows he has to do, although he receives significant help (over 50% of the work) from a retired pastor. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about a general lack of pastoral concern for his flock. Indifference about faithful members suddenly going absent. Indifference about members falling away from the faith (as if to say they weren’t elect or something). Indifference about the challenges the congregation is facing. Indifference about the collective hurt of the congregation over tragic events that occurred in the last few years.

People are leaving our congregation feeling discouraged. Some of them are transferring to other good congregations, and I’m grateful for that. But others are just fading away, and for that I’m very concerned.

Sermon content

It took a while to notice, but the pastor isn’t preaching.

Oh yes, he gets up in the pulpit and talks for ~20 minutes. He sounds confident, even bold. But there is no content. It’s empty words.

Theological content is largely absent. The chosen scripture for the sermon text is usually a pre-text for what he really wants to talk about. Exegesis (explanation of scriptural text) is usually missing.

The Law, if it is present in a sermon, is usually directed toward “those people.” By this, he is usually referring to “nominal Christians” (he never says this explicitly, but it is implied), or to the “unbelieving world.” (A secular society that knows deep-down that there’s a God, but they don’t want to believe in Him.)

This kind of Law preaching is harmful to Christians: it makes them pharisees. They come to think that they’re actually following God’s Law. Oh sure, we know that we’re sinners… blah, blah, blah… but we’re forgiven… blah, blah, blah… and besides, we’re not like those people! (See how harmful it is?)

The preaching of the Gospel is always in his sermons, but it is off-base. For one thing, if you haven’t been convicted by the Law, why would you need the Gospel? It’s a generic announcement that is given as information, as if Gospel message were simply read John 3:16 as an incantation.

There is a huge difference between “preaching about Law and Gospel” and actually “preaching Law and Gospel to you“. You can read John 3:16 and think of it as a gospel incantation, but you are wrong. Preaching needs a target and an objective.

The church confronts pastor

The leaders of the congregation met and decided that we needed to confront the pastor about these things.

The objective was simple yet daunting: show the man his sin, so that he would repent.

Two leaders (an elder and the council chairman) met with pastor. It did not go as we had hoped. Pastor was dismissive and defensive. He deflected all accusations; all reports of interpersonal conflict were said to be caused by the “other” person; staff departures happened because they’re just irrational people.

In short, he was completely unrepentant.

Interestingly, the leaders didn’t realize what had happened in the meeting. They initially felt good about it, but their feelings soured when they realized how the pastor had manipulated himself out of all accusations.

The leadership is now in disarray. They’re not sure what to do next. Some insist that we must fight on, but others are rationalizing pastor’s behavior (“maybe this isn’t so bad… he seems like a nice guy”) and are putting their energies into avoiding conflict.

I don’t think it can get better unless things get a lot worse first.

Impact on Me

The problems in my church have hurt me very deeply. I have trouble sleeping at night. I’m drinking too much alcohol. I am anxious.

And, I question my faith.

For years, I’ve wrestled with serious struggles about the Christian faith. (The problem of evil, all LGBT issues, hell, science vs. faith, and so on). But since the new pastor came, it’s been even more of a challenge to

I love my church family. I hate what the pastor has done to it.

Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!
Lutheran Skeptic

Where have you been?!

Dear readers,

I admit it. I’m a terrible blogger.

I’m sorry I’ve left you in the lurch for months. I’ve actually been a lot more active on Twitter than on my blog.

Perhaps it’s a tyranny of the urgent? Naw, probably just me going for the new shiny rather than taking the time to write out more complete thoughts.

Anyway, I’ll try to do better soon.

By the way, I’m still a Christian. Hanging on, mercifully, by His grace. But it’s been extremely difficult. And my own congregation’s condition has deteriorated significantly.

I’ll try to write more in the following weeks. Hang in there!

 

I believe! Help my unbelief!
Lutheran Skeptic

 

Stupid Christians

Christians are encouraged to have child-like faith. “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:15 ESV)

What does this mean for us, though? Are we not supposed to be skeptical, like the Bereans: searching the scriptures, to better understand the things of God? (Acts 17:11)

I am bothered by what I see in Christians these days. I don’t think it’s so much of a child-like faith, as it is a “childish” faith. One that is very susceptible to false teaching and stupid thinking.

This stupid, unthinking Christianity has caused uncertainty in my own faith life. When I hear Christians say stupid things, and I find myself agreeing with the godless people more than I agree with the Christians, then I feel concerned about my beliefs. “Do Christians need to believe, think, behave like that?! Because, if so, I want out!”

Lately, I’m finding that some of the most cringe-worth comments from Christians are in response to the new challenges facing our society. Is there anything beyond the natural world we see? How do you know there is a God? How do you know that the Gospel accounts are historical and accurate? Why believe in God? What to do when God’s law and civil law do not agree, as we’re seeing with life issues and family issues today.

In our North American society, not everyone is Christian anymore. When looking at “the west” in a generic sense, it is not a given that everyone wants to go to church on Sundays. And I think the church is still trying to figure out how to respond to this change.

Today, Christians have even more reason to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). And as best I can tell, Christians are doing a bad job of it. If your defence of Christianity is “Adam and Eve; not Adam and Steve”, or “everyone knows there’s a God, they just don’t want to believe it”… then I shake my head at you.

And wonder if this Christianity is even worth reconciling in my head any longer.

Hello. I’m a Confessional Lutheran. And I have doubts.

Hello, my name is Anonymous,

I have been a Christian all my life.

I have been raised in a faithful confessional Lutheran home. I attended Lutheran parochial schools for most of my education. I have done plenty of reading of good Lutheran writers.

I love the church, her people, her Divine Service, her music, her heritage.

I have been very involved in the life of the church: music, church council, conventions, all that stuff.

I am convinced that the Lutheran Confessions are the clear exposition of Scripture. I have been confident that, in baptism, God has chosen me, a lost and condemned sinner, to be His child and has given me faith, through the work of the Holy Spirit. I have trusted in the miracle that, in the Lord’s Supper, the Lord Himself is bodily present in the sacrament to give me forgiveness and life.

I’m a Confessional Lutheran.

business man shrugBut… I have doubts. Real serious doubts.

For a few years now, I’ve struggled with the core tenants of faith. And those doubts have been getting worse. And we’re talking about basic things like: there is a God, there is something beyond the natural world we see around us.

I worry that there is no supernatural at all, that all religion is antiquated cultural garbage, and that Christianity is bullshit.

It’s gotten so bad that I feel I can hardly go on anymore.

So, I’m having to tackle my struggles head-on. I’m diving head-first into everything — all the arguments, the reasoning, the evidence — in hopes that I can find clarity. Either, I’ll emerge stronger in my Christian faith, or I’ll come out as atheist.

You have an opportunity to join me.

I’ll lay out my biases at the start: I don’t want to be an atheist. I want to be a Christian. I don’t want to abandon the comfort of the Christian Gospel. I don’t like the thought of an atheist worldview that seems so dark, depressing and random. But, if one set of beliefs is a myth, and the natural world is all there is, then why should I continue living in a delusion?

I feel like my rational mind is pulling me away from Christianity, against my will.

God help me.