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Hallmarks of the Narcissist Church - Part 2

Along with grandiosity and entitlement, the narcissistic church will experience a certain amount of paranoia that expresses itself through isolation. This will manifest as a sense of being superior to other churches, which then have nothing to offer of value. Instead, these churches should come to them to learn how to do church right. They wait and wait, but never figure out why it is that nobody comes. There are some that are hugely successful in this and have numerous conferences each year for pastors on preaching, church growth, and so on, but rarely participate when other churches offer similar programs. It’s an interesting way of disguising internal narcissism under a cloak of service, but it is service with the background idea of “we are so good at this that you really need to copy what we do.”

This is also manifested in more fundamentalist and cultic groups that believe contact with the outside world is polluting. In the dangerously narcissistic church, a warped gospel message proclaims that Truth can be found nowhere else. The twisted psychology of it provides for varying degrees of “We have a corner on the Truth as revealed through our charismatic pastor. To be part of us you have to accept that Truth exactly as we present it without question or challenge.” As the church turns ever further inward, the message of paranoia and isolation grows stronger.

Lack of Empathy
Let’s be honest: we all sin. Daily. Sometimes, we may fall into a major sin such as immorality or worse. So what is the Church to do? Galatians 6:1–2 states, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” The Church is called to be a place of accountability and gentle restoration. It’s not one or the other, but both.

You will probably not find gentle restoration in the narcissistic church. Instead, the narcissistic church will loudly proclaim the love and forgiveness of Christ even as it draws its members ever deeper into a cold, rigid, and unforgiving conformity.  

Case in point: a young unmarried woman had an affair with a married man. Riddled with guilt she went to her pastor and confessed. Her pastor counselled her that she had to stand up in front of the entire congregation and confess her sin. As humiliating as that would be, she cherished the relationships she had in this church, and so agreed. The following Sunday morning she quivered in fear and humiliation as she stood in front of the entire congregation and tearfully told her story. She expected biblical forgiveness and restoration. Instead, the pastor publicly told to her to leave and never come back, and ordered the congregation to shun her. Amazing—a church proclaiming the gospel of Christ with no place for actual sinners! Glenn and I would probably never be accepted into membership—but then again, we don’t intend to apply.

The lack of empathy usually is not that dramatic, but it is just as real. More often, people with questions or criticisms will be told privately that they would probably be much happier elsewhere, which is a shaded message to leave and never come back. Even more subtle are the places that begin a whispering campaign against someone that eventually cuts them off from all of their friends and makes it known that they simply are no longer welcome. Conformity is enforced in this way.

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