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Pastoral Narcissism -- A Scientific Study Reveals the Purpose Driven Personality Type

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He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. -- 1Timothy 3: 6 (ESV)

In 2015 a scientific study was conducted that revealed a 500-3000% higher incidence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) among pastors as compared to the general population. How's that for not burying the lead? Now this was a preliminary study and the researchers admit they may have ended up with more questions than they had at the start but the findings are still striking. They are not necessarily surprising except the depth and breadth of the problem. The methodology seems sound and the sample size was significant at almost 500 respondents. The sample was taken from pastors of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, which should give us all here in America even greater pause. One would expect the results to be even more damning here in the land of narcissism, where the heresy that demands this personality type was born.

Make no mistake about it beloved, this is the Purpose Driven Personality type for the vision casting CEO-dude that Rick Warren envisions for all churches. We have written extensively about the shifts the Purpose Driven Church (PDC) demands from leaders. No longer are they to consider themselves lowly shepherds but rather they are the man with the plan. They "cast vision" for growing the church beyond the walls it currently resides in. If one were to look out across the church landscape in this country is it any surprise that this study found these results? The PDC model has created a cult of personality community of individual churches that worship their pastor as much as the God they claim to worship. Even though the Bible clearly teaches that God is responsible for the horizontal growth of the church, the PDC flips that on its ear. Now the leader assumes the role of God and is responsible for the horizontal growth. What gets lost then? The vertical growth of the sheep of course.

Then there is the blessed subtraction teaching that all PDC leaders ascribe to. Warren teaches that not everyone that leaves your church is a bad thing. That people who refuse to join your vision should be encouraged to leave. This process is known as "blessed subtraction" and this is the opposite of the 99 and the 1 teaching from Christ. This of course fits right in with a narcissistic personality type. As the study reminds us the NPD type has the following traits which align perfectly with blessed subtraction and the overall PDC leader type:

Incapable of producing true empathy

Need for adulation

Need for recognition as an authoritative expert


As the church grows, the lead pastor reduces their pastoral duties until they are non-existent. They are solely responsible for the being the primary speaker and the vision caster. How many of us know this phenomenon full well? There is usually a "pastoral care" pastor who has "that gifting." The lead pastor rarely does the hospital visits or even the funerals. To speak with them requires an appointment, where usually you will be referred to one of the associate pastors because casting vision is a full time gig. Sounds grandiose, no? I once witnessed at a local church a weeping and travailing woman in prayer after a service approach the lead pastor and ask to speak briefly with him. Maybe she had lost someone or was about to. Maybe her life was falling apart. Perhaps she wanted a word of encouragement or maybe even a quick prayer. The vision-casting lead pastor dude shuffled her away and told her to make an appointment to see him during the week as his entourage (sorry, armor bearers), led him away to safety. This is the end result of seeking out men with NPD to do the job of shepherd. This is exactly why most lead pastors today no longer believe they are shepherds. Mega-church heretic Andy Stanley is on record saying we should stop using the term shepherd because it is "no longer culturally relevant." Talk about a narcissistic pastor; Stanley has recently tried to undermine the very infallibility of Scripture with his own grand sense of knowing better.

The purpose driven church also inspires biblical illiteracy, which furthers these problems. The Bible is a book about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Under the PDC model however, it is all about you. We often speak about the end result for the listeners. For example, the story of David and Goliath is a wonderful opportunity to speak about David as a type of Christ and reinforce the timeless plan of God to redeem us as a people despite our sinful rebellion. You will not hear that in a purpose driven church because it is not seeker friendly. If the pastor suffers from a NPD it is of no wonder that he would preach narcissism to his congregants. Thus YOU become David in the story. You hold the smooth stone and slingshot. You have the power to slay the Goliaths in your life too! Except none of it is true beloved. If we are anyone in that story we are the cowering Israelites. But there is no glory in that role. There is no grandiosity. Seriously think about this for a moment. Try sitting through a purpose driven sermon and not feel the sense of grandiosity. Just this past week Mega Church heretic Steven Furtick referred to himself as "the sword formed against death and hell." For the record, Furtick is one of the most narcissistic pastors alive today.

When you make a living by ignoring the truth about Scripture what chance do you have of realizing your own heresy? When you strip mine the Bible to glean little life lessons you can leverage to support the conclusions you have already made all you can possibly foster is biblical illiteracy. The key verse today is just one snippet from one of the larger sections detailing the qualifications for pastors as set out by God Himself. While they are all important, this one verse reveals that the NPD type is the opposite of who is supposed to pastor the sheep of the Lord. He is not supposed to be puffed up with conceit. It opens the door for Satan. As long as we think of others first we are doing what the Lord requires. The Prophet Micah reveals that we are to act justly -- which is how we deal with others. We are to love mercy -- which is how we are to forgive others. We are to walk humbly before our God -- which is how others see Christ in us. Consider that the Apostle Paul had evangelized the known world when he penned the words that of the apostles, he was the least. The Bible teaches that the first will be last. It teaches to not take the best seat at the table lest you be asked to move. When James and John thought more of themselves and wanted to call fire down from heaven to consume the Samaritans that refused to hear the Gospel -- Jesus rebuked them. Jesus went to the cross willingly beloved. He went as a sheep to the slaughter. There is nothing grandiose about our Savior. There is nothing narcissistic about Jesus and He is the Great Shepherd.

Three hundred to five thousand times more likely than we see the in the general population. In all likelihood, even more dramatic numbers in this country. The Purpose Driven Personality Type is the opposite of what should be in the pulpits today. Maybe they will not be the greatest public speaker; Paul wasn't. That's the point though because then the focus will be on the Gospel instead of the guy sucking all the oxygen out of the room. Pastors within the purpose driven paradigm are uniquely narcissistic. In other obvious news, the earth is round, the sky is blue and God is good.

Rev. Anthony.

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Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to (more...)
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