The Narcissistic Christian Leader

The Narcissistic Christian Leader


By Thom Rainer

Narcissism should not be said in the same breath as Christian. The former is love of self; the latter is love of God in Jesus Christ.

But the sad reality is that narcissism can and often does creep into the lives of many Christian leaders. And narcissists are selfish and inconsiderate. They demand excessive attention. They feel entitled. And they often pursue power and prestige without regard for others.

The world of narcissistic Christian leaders is complicated by the fact that these leaders rarely recognize their problem. And the disorder may not be readily apparent to those who see them from a distance. They can appear, at least on the surface, to be brilliant and charismatic.

In fact some of those leaders may be reading this article thinking it’s about someone else. They have trouble recognizing their own malady. Let me be more personal. On too many occasions I have struggled with prideful and narcissistic behavior myself. And it took a confrontation from a friend or confidant to open my eyes.

Any person in leadership, even Christian leadership, can be tempted to love self and move into narcissism. So what can we who are Christian leaders do to avoid this trap? What can we do proactively? Allow me to offer five suggestions.

  1. Pray that God will open our eyes. A person of prayer is already demonstrating humility. He or she is admitting a dependency on God instead of self. Let those prayers include a request for God to remove the scales from our eyes, to let us see ourselves as we really are.
  2. Get a trusted advisor. Leaders need someone who can speak truth into their lives. Unfortunately, many leaders surround themselves with sycophants who only tell them what they want to hear.
  3. Get the true picture from those who serve under us. Narcissistic leaders might fool those who don’t see us up close.  But a true, clear, and often painful picture may be available from those who are and were closest to us. They really know us. But they may not have the fortitude to speak truth into our lives. It can be very helpful for a trusted advisor or coach to interview these current and former co-workers with a promise of anonymity.
  4. Repent. Narcissism is a sin. Once we have an awareness of this sin, we must confess it to God.
  5. Seek to restore relationships. A few years ago a trusted friend confronted me with my narcissistic behavior. He let me know that I was hurting others and harming my leadership. I never knew who shared with him about my sin. But I thought it was critical to let my leadership team know of my awareness, my apologies, and my desire to change in God’s power. The entire process was very painful for me, but very necessary for me personally and for my leadership.

Christians who are leaders can be prone to think we have achieved our leadership status because of our intellect and keen skills.  And that type of thinking is the first step toward narcissism. The godly Christian leader will realize that he or she is a recipient and conduit of grace, not a dispenser of wisdom and strategic insights.

And when we have that awareness, there is no way we can see ourselves as anything but a sinner who needs the grace and strength of our Lord every day and every minute.

This article was originally published at on March 10, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at

One comment

  • Sylvester Adams

    What an amazing enlightenment and great caution for christian leaders! It is impossible to avoid this kind of sin and error except one is truly transformed by the Spirit and daily walking in the Spirit – walking as Christ walked (1John 2: 6 ). God bless you sir.

Pastor’s Instructions — 2 Tim. 4:2-4


  • Allan RIver

    Very powerful.

  • frank brefo

    i am very grateful for your upgrading and your undiluted word of God you have always been feeding us with. it is my heart said prayer that the most high God will forever grant the strength to do the will of the Majesty as the days are approaching. thanks and God bless you much.

Ten Areas Where Pastors Need to Be Trained for the 21st Century

Ten Areas Where Pastors Need to Be Trained for the 21st Century

By Thom Rainer

Any pastor or other church staff member should be prepared in biblical truths. Theology is a key discipline as well. Indeed none of the classical disciplines should be forsaken, nor any of the practical disciplines, such as missions, evangelism, or church planting.

But the American culture has shifted dramatically in a relatively short period. The United States is becoming more like an international mission field. As a result, ministry training, whether formal or informal, should reflect this reality. Missionaries are typically required to receive intensive cultural and language training before they go overseas. Frankly, a similar need exists today for those in American congregations, or those planning to go to these churches.

So where are the greatest needs? My list is certainly not exhaustive, nor is it in any particular order. But I do see all of these areas as key to reaching our new and challenging culture.

  1. A new language. If a pastor or church staff member does not “speak” social media, he or she is neglecting one of the fastest growing trends in our nation, indeed in our world. It is no longer a fad; it is a primary means of communication.
  2. A non-Christian culture. Our nation is fast becoming a non-Christian nation. While we lament the relative decline in the numbers who follow Christ, we must also accept the reality that those in our community cannot be assumed to be like us, or to hold our values.
  3. The decline of cultural Christians in churches. The Pew Research project confirmed the dramatic increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. For our churches, this development means that most people do not feel cultural pressure to attend churches. More and more, those who are there are convicted Christians and not Christians in name only.
  4. A new work/life balance. Pastors and church staff members have always been on call 24/7. But now they are connected 24/7 as well with computers, smart phones, and other technological advances. For better or worse, the world of work and personal life is becoming increasingly blurred.
  5. Unregenerate church members. Cultural Christians are those who really know they are not believers, but are affiliated with churches for cultural reasons. But another group includes those who may cognitively assert a belief in Christ, but have really not had a conversion. For certain, this development is not new. But we are seeing the cumulative cost of weak discipleship and false conversions in our churches. How will we respond to the issue of numbers of members who are not truly believers?
  6. The community as a mission field. Can we change our mindsets and be better prepared? Our communities are not just changing because there are fewer Christians. They are changing with an influx of new ethnic groups and people of other religious beliefs.
  7. Less automatic cultural respect of church leaders. In past years, those who held the title of “pastor” or some similar nomenclature were revered in the community just by the position they held. Such is not the case today. Respect must be earned one day at a time.
  8. A more critical world. Many pastors and church staff members do not deal well with the more transparent and critical world in which we live. Some retreat to a form of passivity or paths of least resistance. And some quit altogether.
  9. A greater need for leadership skills. The world in which we live is complex. We may long for simpler times, but that won’t change our realities. Church leaders must be better leaders in more challenging times.
  10. More churches in need of revitalization. This last item may be last on the list, but the need is huge. As many as nine out of ten of our churches are in need of some level of major revitalization. There are tens of thousands of these churches, and the implications for equipping leaders for them are vast.

This list may be discouraging to you as you read the cumulative implications. I see it, however, from a different perspective. I see this new reality and this new mission field as a great opportunity. No, it’s not your father or mother’s church. It’s a new and challenging reality requiring a missional mindset. It requires total dependence on the One who sends us to the mission field. And that is exactly where God wants us.

What do you think about this mission field called America?

This article was originally published at on March 10, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at

One comment

  • Donald Clark

    Mission Field America is probably the greatest challenge for the Christian Church since the crucifixion and ascension of Jesus Christ. Didactically, I say that because the Holy Spirit teaches us all that modern Babylon will arise and that those who belong to the Lord will have to come out of her at the climax of the End Times. How many of us are adhering saints who are consciously aware of what is destined to happen?

Pastor, How is Your Heart?


  • Carl Meyer

    Very nicely done. I like that you complemented your spoken word with bullet points off to the side. These videos will be very helpful to anyone wanting to spread God’s word and to learn more about God’s word. If possible in the future, it might be helpful to some to refer to scripture in the short talk and put the text of the Bible verse underneath the outline. Once again, very nicely done.

  • Senior Pastor Maurice C Napper

    Thank you Barry, I am looking forward to your next talk. I also shared this with my associate pastors and friends on Facebook. Have a blessed day in our Lord.

  • Dennis Anderson

    Greetings…the video in this spot says “can’t be played with my present configuration” (Windows 7) Not sure what that means but It won’t play…and no further info. Any thoughts or others who have had a difficulty.
    thanks for your work.

  • Alan Freeman

    A brilliant reminder for us all Keep up the good work

  • What a short and relevant piece, thank you. One additional point I wish to add is that as Pastor, do not hide from yourself. Be open to God even if not to man and he will help you out. God will find us out anyways. David could only hide for a little less than nine months, but God searched him out.

    My second point is for us to remember that God weighs our action and that should send holy fear into our heart. If we walk with this understanding, ministry becomes an assignment instead of competition and we will be able to remain faithful to him that has called us and maintain a good heart.

    Thank you for the opportunity.

  • rev. I. c. singh

    Excited to hear about what is there for me and my congregation. I.C.Singh

  • Minister, Rodney E. Dover

    Wow! Very nicely done Brother Barry. I truely needed to hear that today. God bless you and your ministry

  • Vher Palang

    Thank you Pastor! it really great reminder for to be more cautious in my daily ministry. God bless you Pastor Barry!

  • Atepera Lee

    Dear Barry,
    Thank you for your pastor2pastor talk. Some christians of contemprary church when we talk about what we wear in the church,they said that God is looking in the heart not the outside,But I said we are representing God and we need to dress neatly to show our respect of Him. Also people are looking at us in the pulpit we need to look good as God is a God of things in good order.Yes, we need to check our heart is inline with God’s will and repent of any wrong doings. God bless your ministry.

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