“We swim in the cultural waters of narcissism, and churches are not immune.”- Chuck DeGroat
Last week I met up with some strangers I met on the internet.
This is not my typical MO, but I made an exception for these particular folks. I met them because we are all a part of the launch team for the book When Narcissism Comes to Church. We quickly learned there was a bunch of us in the Nashville area.
That’s how I found myself sitting at a restaurant talking with strangers about narcissism and spiritual abuse. And in the most Nashville fashion ever, a well-known country singer sat two tables away from us.
To my left sat a couple who had experienced such extreme abuse at their former church that they made the decision to move hundreds of miles away. Across the table, a woman confided with tears in her eyes how she was desperately trying to hold on to her faith. The woman on my right told her account of decades at a church that ended painfully.
We were all in different stages of healing. Some had tears. Others expressed anger, and one’s hands shook with fear as they told their story. Every one of them is precious to Jesus. I wish you could meet them. The next best option is to pick up When Narcissism Comes to Church. If you have experienced spiritual abuse, or if you care about those who have experienced it and want to learn more about creating a safe and healthy culture, I highly recommend this book.
This book, by author Chuck DeGroat, is educational, practical, and hopeful.
He tells of the types of systems that attract narcissism and the problems this creates in our faith communities. I highlighted much of the book, this quote is especially powerful: “Churches are particularly susceptible to a phenomenon called “collective narcissism.” in which the charismatic leader/follower relationship is understood as a given.” One of the most important realities DeGroat shares is how systems themselves can also become narcissistic. He says, “Structures are not necessarily to blame for narcissism, but particular structures do create an environment where narcissism can grow. unchallenged.”
“Narcissistic systems exist for themselves, even though their mission statements and theological beliefs may be filled with the language of service, selflessness, justice, and care. Those within the system find this contradiction exhausting. This is why many who get close to the epicenter of leadership either forfeit their integrity or resign.”- Chuck DeGroat
Reading this book will help you understand the inner life of a narcissistic leader. DeGroat also outlines the importance of recognizing and dealing with our own personal shadows– for our own health and for the benefit of those around us. He says, “Unless we become conscious of our unconscious, the ignored shadow and all it contains rules our lives, stifles freedom, and emerges destructively in our relationships with others.”
This isn’t a book that attacks pastors. This book is about how our current church culture attracts narcissists, how we can all tend toward narcissism and how we can create healthy cultures. There is a lot of work to be done, but I’m hopeful that books like this will help us move forward toward healthier communities.
You can grab your copy here. I bought two copies already 🙂