It is possible for a church leader to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Usually, a leader with NPD will lead the church as more of a cult rather than a true church. This is why it is important for church members to be aware of NPD in order to be able to identify it in leaders and take measures to protect themselves.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder has 9 traits. Church leaders with at least 5 of the traits are diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If a church leader has less than 5 of the traits, they have narcissistic traits, but not the complete disorder. Those with all 9 traits are diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder and as psychopaths. The higher the number of traits, the more dangerous the church leader can be.
The 9 traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder are:
The church leader has an unrealistic view of themselves. They see themselves as larger than life and holier than others in the church – even holier than other church leaders in the city. They feel that they are as important to the church as God is to them. They believe they have a very powerful and divine purpose and everyone is less important and must listen and submit to his/her purpose and mission. Nothing in church is more important than they are. They organize several prayer meetings to pray and intercede just for them. Sick and struggling church members are forced to intercede for the leader and get very little attention in prayer, even if their need is great. The church leader’s need is always greater. The church leader makes sure that preaching topics are often about their ministry gift (pastor, teacher, apostle, prophet), and on how all the church members must obey and submit to them. To disobey them is to disobey God Himself and to summon curses and demons upon oneself. Their very being is to be admired and obeyed by the church and those who do not admire and obey them are subject to fear tactics to force obedience. They often insist that the church must give them double honor, often in the form of money, gifts, and reverence.
2. Arrogant and Domineering
The church leader sees others as inferior to them in intelligence or in anything else. Therefore, they believe they can control and manipulate others in the church to use them to serve their purposes – and this is what they do. They control every aspect of a church member’s life, demanding obedience to them for every part of their life. The church leader is in charge of what car or house you can buy, what school to send your kids to, and who you can marry. The church leader arrogantly boasts in themselves and anything else that makes them look good during his/her sermons. If someone tries to correct the church leader on an error, they get arrogantly opposed and reproved for not being submissive and showing them honor.
3. Preoccupation with Success and Power
The church leader needs to feel powerful and in control. They need to feel like a king or queen who sits on a throne above the church. They desire success and power in order to get into higher positions (in business, society) where they can spread their throne of control and manipulation to have things their way. The church leader is always preoccupied with tithing and with collecting enough money from the church members. There is lots of talk about money collection during services. The leader checks to see if each person is giving their ten percent. Those who are not are ridiculed publicly or punished privately and subject to fear tactics to get them to give more money. This money collection drives their need for success and power. The leader is also preoccupied with being successful in business. The leader speaks of opening new businesses and can use talents of church members to start new businesses and profit using them. It’s all because of their hunger for success and power.
4. Lack of empathy
The church leader is unable to genuinely care about the feelings of others or put themselves in someone else’s shoes in an emotional way. This results in them mocking others, putting others down during their sermon, or making out of place comments about others. They never feel wrong about it either. A narcissistic leader has a cold empathy which allows them to understand your fears, weaknesses, hopes and dreams. They are very good at reading all this about you. They sometimes use their human reading abilities and mask it into a “prophecy”. They then take everything they can read about you and then use it all against you to control you to do as they want. If they know yours fears, they know how to use fear to control you. If you fear God’s judgment on your family or demons, this is what they’ll use to make sure you obey them. If they know your hopes and dreams, they’ll tell you to obey their every order or else those dreams wont happen.
5. Belief of being unique
They believe that they have a very special calling and that they are better than any other church leader in town. Their church is the one true church in town and all the others are outside of God’s will for you. We’ve already touched on this aspect a bit earlier so we’ll carry on.
6. Sense of entitlement
The church leader feels that they are entitled to anything and anyone’s time or money. They feel entitled to getting church members to doing things for them for free, because they alone are God’s chosen king who must be served. They encourage church members to serve them or else they wont be blessed by God. They invade and take over the lives of church members, using them for their personal benefit. There is rarely any appreciation when people do anything for them because they believe they were entitled to it in the first place. They rarely lift a finger to help out with work that needs to be done in church. They believe they are entitled to let other “servants” do it.
7. Requires excessive admiration
The church leader wants to be admired and paid attention to at all times because they need to have their false self validated, the one that they portray in public. They need the church to pay attention to them, to complement them, to admire them, and to worship them. The want the church in constant prayer for them to keep the members focused on them. It is the only way the illusion of their false self can stay strong.
The church leader will take advantage of church members for their own best interests. They will use the talents of the church members to create their own businesses or to get things done for them personally. They will get church members to take care of their home and their grass. They will get church members to prepare sermons and preach for them, regardless of how busy or overwhelmed that church member is at the time. They will not pay church members for their service. Instead, they tell them it’s all done for God, because they are God’s king. They demand much from church members and use them until they burn out.
9. Envious of others
The church leader will be envious of other leaders in the city and of other churches, and try to compete with them or copy them, even if they believe their church is the best one and only true one in town. They will also think that everyone else is envious of them, because they are so great and worthy to be envied.
Adapted from the “Nine Traits of Narcissism” post found on Gentle Kindness