How to Deal With Narcissism in the Church

For Christians who have encountered narcissists inside the Church, we’re often baffled at how to deal with them.  We keep hearing that we’re supposed to love and pray for our enemies, not judge others, etc.

But what about the ones who we can’t deny keep behaving in evil ways?  Are we to ignore what our eyes and hearts know to be true for the sake of some veneer of a happy church family?

I have found these posts from Narcissists Suck by Anna Valerious to be especially helpful, because they address these questions directly, and take support directly from the Bible:

From Such Turn Away
No Contact: Because Their Evil is Contagious

Quotes from the above links:

Romans 16:17-18. Notice that those who are co-opted by the “divisive” ones are called naive. Other versions use the term “simple” or “simpletons”.

The Bible marks those Christians who can’t discern the evil acts of their brothers in Christ to be simpletons. Remember that when one of those simpletons come to you to accuse you of being ignorant! Oh, the irony of it.

Also remember that the Christian church is called a family and its structure is modeled on the family. What applies to the church family can be rightly applied to the family you were born into.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13. As in Paul’s instruction to Timothy where he says “from such turn away” Paul is very specific about whom we should be shunning in his letter to the Corinthians.

He says that if he told God’s church to turn away from ALL evil doers then the Christian would have to leave the world. Paul says this is obviously impossible so obviously he wasn’t telling Christians to avoid all the evil doers in the world. He was telling them how to deal with those in the church.

This is entirely consistent with the view of the contagiousness of evil. That evil which is closest to us is the most dangerous form.

Paul was much more concerned about prospering evil doers in the church than in the world at large because evil disguising itself in Christian garb is much more persuasive to other Christians than some stranger outside the circle of the church family.

He concludes his admonition with this unequivocal command which is a quote from the Old Testament (Deut. 13:5), “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

There is no special clemency for evil doers just because they are in the family. The very opposite is true. Paul is clear that we are to judge those closest to us…not those furthest away.

Those who call themselves family (church or birth) are the most accountable to us for their behavior!

Back to Paul’s instruction concerning the churchified narcissist:

“…from such people turn away!”

Obviously, Paul doesn’t want us to hold out that we can convince such people to turn away from their wickedness.

It isn’t our job to reform them. It isn’t our job to hang around while holding out hope for their reform. It isn’t our job to stay in close proximity to them as if our love can somehow separate them from their wicked ways.

Paul is unequivocal and crystalline clear. “From such turn away!” (KJV ) Some reasons for this instruction can be found here, and here.

1 Tim. 3:1-5 is solid Biblical counsel to go “no contact” with those who persist in being evil. Ignore Christians who ignore this counsel. They haven’t “known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation…” (2 Tim. 3:15)

Paul instructs Christians that the peril of end times will largely be because of evil persons disguising themselves as being godly. The course of action in such peril is to walk away.

The concern shouldn’t be for the salvation of such individuals; the issue becomes your salvation both temporal and eternal. Save yourself, your family, your church by turning away from those dedicated to their evil agendas.

Here are a couple of very relevant verses from the Bible as well:

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.  (Luke 17:3-4)

Note the IF.  And note that narcissists have a tendency to not repent.

As one commenter, Barbara, noted in the “No Contact” post,

Sandra Brown has mentioned that years ago when she was treating psychopaths (she only treats their victims now) they TOLD her…

they PURPOSELY TARGET X-tians, churches, church groups & Bible study because these people are the most likely to look the other way at their exploitive behavior. They go out of their way to use scripture to give them the air of believability & goodness.

And now for verses straight from the Bible, the ones which the author of Narcissists Suck noted above:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,

without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,

treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—

having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.  (2 Tim 3:1-9, NIV)

In the New Living Translation:

 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.

They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.

They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. (Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth.)

These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are, just as with Jannes and Jambres.

This quote from Princess Fi’s BETRAYAL, DEFIANCE, LIES, DENIAL, INJUSTICE, FORGIVENESS ISSUES sounds especially familiar:

It’s very hard when people are deliberately and defiantly non repentant and hard faced – turning up in church as if nothing is wrong and nothing has happened.

Having to cope with your abusers turning up in church whilst deliberately sticking 2 fingers up at God is beyond the capacity of describe. Having to cope with your abusers continuing to use the church as their cover story is beyond awful and beyond hypocrisy.

Having them do all of that on that back of having lied and denied to prevent justice and to prevent exposure is disgusting and distasteful at the very least.

It is utterly appalling for me as a victim, for those who gave evidence against them to the police and for the church leadership who now know the truth about them. It’s totally ghastly and repulsive to be brutally honest.  It is as if they have no conscience at all.

Sometimes when people have lied and denied for long enough they actually believe their lies and denials to be absolute truth regardless of evidence to the contrary. Thus they worm their way out of it and can be incredibly and frighteningly convincing in their true lies….

Without confession, repentance, admission of guilt or other things which lead to closure surely it will always be there at the back of your mind. Having to watch your abusers behaving as if nothing untoward happened and all is normal fuels the fire.

When people have been so deliberately cruel to you and are so defiant when faced with the truth where can you go? How can such defiance be coped with, processed and gotten out of your mind.

It is in reality and in all truth extremely difficult. It’s almost impossible to forgive cruel people who lie, pretend all is normal and do all they can legally to silence you and keep their evil deeds secret.

“Domestic Violence: A Quick Q&A” in the June 2007 issue of Presbyterians Today stated,

What is the most important thing a church can do in ministering to victims?  Listen, while providing safety.

Victims are most vulnerable when they begin taking steps to leave an abusive situation.  Give them information about abuse hotlines and shelters.  Listen without judging or pressuring the person to act.

The typical abuse victim “will try to leave five to eight times before they [finally] do,” says abuse survivor and advocate Bonnie Orth.  “One of the hardest things is walking with someone through that journey.”

What is the most important thing a church should do in ministering to perpetrators?  Hold them accountable for their actions.

“To offer cheap grace would be totally wrong,” says Black Mountain (N.C.) pastor Kevin Frederick.  “You can’t just forgive without facing the full impact of what they’ve done and seeking restitution.

Insist that they take responsibility for their actions and get the help they need (by attending a treatment group, for example).  This can be done without “painting the perpetrator as beyond redemption,” Frederick says.

I am just a personal blogger trying to understand what I’ve been through, NOT an adviser or counselor. 

For more information about dealing with narcissists in the church, and a better place for advice, go to Grace for My Heart (run by a pastor).  If your narcissist is the pastor, see Spiritual Sounding Board.