When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse, By Chuck DeGroat

When Narcissism Comes to Church

Healing Your Community From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse

by Chuck DeGroat

When Narcissism Comes to Church
  • Length: 200 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.5 in
  • Published: August 30, 2022
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: A0509
  • ISBN: 9781514005095

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Outreach Resource of the Year

Why Does Narcissism Seem to Thrive in Our Churches?

We've seen the news stories. Maybe we ourselves have been hurt by a narcissistic church leader. But what is narcissism, really? And how does it infiltrate the church?

Chuck DeGroat has been counseling pastors with narcissistic personality disorder, as well as those wounded by narcissistic leaders and systems, for over twenty years. He knows firsthand the devastation narcissism leaves in its wake and how insidious and painful it is. In When Narcissism Comes to Church, DeGroat

  • takes a close look at narcissism, not only in ministry leaders but also in church systems;
  • offers compassion and hope for those affected by its destructive power and;
  • imparts wise counsel for churches looking to heal from its systemic effects.

DeGroat also offers hope for narcissists themselves—not by any shortcut, but by the long, slow road of genuine recovery through repentance and trust in the gospel of Jesus.

"For far too long the evangelical church in America has nurtured and supported narcissism in our leadership. The addiction to platforms, influence, new ideas, as well as unbiblical definitions of leadership, authority, and power has sustained a structure that dehumanizes our leaders and exploits God's people. When Narcissism Comes to Church is an important book in a season when we must ask deeper questions of the very structure, metrics, motivations, and means to the work we set out to do in the name of Christ. Dr. DeGroat does not merely point a finger at narcissistic leaders, but asks us to consider these individuals in our church as fruit of a more fundamental problem in the American church. May we have ears to hear, humility to repent, and courage to respond."

Dennae Pierre, director, City to City North America, Surge Network leadership team

"Hiring (marrying, working with or for, being pastored by) a narcissist is like building a home in an alluvial plain. The ground is gorgeous but in due season the flood will devour all you have worked so hard to create. Chuck DeGroat pierces the glittering image of narcissism and brilliantly exposes the inner workings of an empty, shame-filled heart and the devastating consequences of Christians being so drawn to narcissists in the church and in politics. This is a landmark work full of wisdom, tenderness, honor, and hope. If we want to offer a narcissistic culture hope in the gospel, we must tend to the narcissism deeply embedded in our own believing community. This is a profound call for a radical culture shift—truly a must-read."

Dan B. Allender, professor of counseling psychology and founding president of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, author of The Wounded Heart and Healing the Wounded Heart

"In the work of the soul, we name things to tame things. And there is nothing that is more in need of taming than the rampant narcissism that is not just a part of our cultural landscape but is hiding in plain sight in my own life. With When Narcissism Comes to Church, Chuck DeGroat unflinchingly names the subject for the leviathan it is, while offering hope in real, embodied stories of redemption. Comprehensive in scope, accessible in application, and generously kind in spirit, this book will provide pastor and laity alike the wisdom and courage that is necessary for the healing and recommissioning of the church's soul for years to come."

Curt Thompson, psychiatrist, author of The Soul of Shame and Anatomy of the Soul

"I am grateful that Chuck DeGroat wrote this book. He is the best person I could imagine to write it and the person I would want as a guide on this issue. Chuck has a wealth of wisdom to offer as he has counseled those with narcissistic personality disorder as well as the those deeply wounded by narcissistic leaders. This book is filled with compassion for both narcissists and those affected by the destructive power of narcissism."

Justin S. Holcomb, Episcopal priest, seminary professor, and coauthor of Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault

"If you wonder why family and friends have left the church or why you often feel more lost than found when you step into the sanctuary, this book is for you. Whether you're the pastor or the parishioner, Chuck DeGroat, asks the stark-raving honest questions about church and church leadership that most of us are afraid to voice, even though they simmer in our hearts and leave us hot with confusion and emptiness. This book will not challenge you to pick up stones and throw them through stained-glass windows, but it will engage you to look within and find your true North Star to follow through the wilderness of church to an authentic spirituality of living, serving, worshipping, inviting, and communing in love tethered to something far greater than our small denominations, building programs, or evangelism crusades—to Someone far greater than ourselves."

Sharon A. Hersh, therapist and author of The Last Addiction: Why Self-Help is Not

"Why are we just beginning to talk about narcissism in our spiritual leaders? Chuck DeGroat believes it is because we have been rewarding it in our churches. He is powerfully and painfully right! More than just calling out narcissism, DeGroat skillfully unpacks how it shows up in leaders of large and small churches, beloved Christian celebrities, and seemingly godly men and women. When Narcissism Comes to Church peels back the layers, ever so carefully on our 'real selves.' We need this pastoral-surgical work. Trust the sage guidance offered by Chuck DeGroat, taking us through our illusions into the healing our souls and systems desperately need."

Dan White Jr., author of Love Over Fear, cofounder of the Praxis Gathering

"If you, like so many, have been lured in by the shiny veneer of narcissism only to be left shattered, confused, and filled with shame, you will find help in these pages. In When Narcissism Comes to Church, Chuck DeGroat nimbly pulls back the veil—exposing the many faces of narcissism and helping us see what lies underneath. Drawing on decades of experience, DeGroat writes with honesty, wisdom, and compassion, providing help for the wounded and hope for the church."

Alison Cook, therapist and coauthor of Boundaries for Your Soul

"A book on this topic is desperately needed right now. But more than that, we need a deeply thoughtful treatise on this subject that also points a healthy way forward. This is that book. Every one of us can learn something from Chuck's words, but more importantly we can gain the courage needed to face this destructive force in our churches."

Nancy Ortberg, CEO of Transforming the Bay with Christ

"When Narcissism Comes to Church proves what many of us have known for years—that Chuck DeGroat is a skilled surgeon of the soul. His newest book—twenty years in the making—is the definitive 'surgical text' for diagnosing and treating the soul of narcissistic leaders. Layer upon layer, he deftly reveals how narcissism develops, why it's so prevalent in church leadership, and how it traumatizes church communities. The greatest gift of this book, however, is that as DeGroat skillfully exposes the primal wound far below the surface of narcissism, he gently helps each one of us see the pain and wounding in our own soul. Not since Henri Nouwen's classic book The Wounded Healer have I encountered such an essential book on leadership."

Michael John Cusick, founder and CEO of Restoring the Soul, author of Surfing for God

"When Narcissism Comes to Church excellently articulates God's gracious call to come back to the way, the truth, and the life. Through experience and with expertise, Chuck DeGroat guides us through the darkness of our self-obsessed culture. The light of this book helpfully exposes sickness that exists in much of our church leadership. May God use this work to lead us to repentance."

Tyler Johnson, lead pastor of Redemption Church Arizona

"Reading this book, you begin to realize that DeGroat's work and diagnosis come from years of having his stethoscope on the church's pulse. He proves to be a seasoned churchman—understanding and working within churches, seminaries, denominations, and networks—but also a competent spiritual director in leading us toward healing."

John Starke, lead pastor of Apostles Church Uptown in New York City, author of The Possibility of Prayer

Read an Excerpt


Foreword by Richard Mouw
1. When Narcissism Comes to Church
2. Understanding Narcissism
3. The Nine Faces of Narcissism
4. Characteristics of the Narcissistic Pastor
5. The Inner Life of a Narcissistic Pastor
6. Understanding Narcissistic Systems
7. The Gaslight Is On: Spiritual and Emotional Abuse
8. Healing Ourselves, Healing the Church
9. Transformation for Narcissists (Is Possible)
Epilogue: He Humbled Himself . . .
Appendix: Engaging the Nine Faces of Narcissism—Strategies for Therapists, Pastors, and Friends Who Care


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Chuck DeGroat

Chuck DeGroat (LPC, PhD) is professor of pastoral care and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and senior fellow at Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco. He served as a pastor at churches in Orlando and San Francisco and founded two church-based counseling centers. He is a licensed therapist, spiritual director, and the author of Toughest People to Love and Wholeheartedness.