Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Controlling, Narcissist Leader/Pastor

*I am bringing back this post that I originally wrote on September 16, 2009. Based upon the comments I've received lately, I believe there's a need to bring this subject back to the forefront.

The Controlling, Narcissist Leader/Pastor

Ungodly, controlling pastors have hurt many people. The phrase "ungodly pastors" seems to be an oxymoron. These two words shouldn't go together in the same sentence, but the sad truth is there are pastors and leaders who are only in the position for their own lustful desires.

These dictating leaders can be described by many words - controllers, manipulators, narcissists, psychopaths, cult leaders, false pastors, false prophets, and dictators, to name a few. There are varying degrees of this type of leadership and some are more damaging than others, but I have seen the negative effects these type of leaders can have on people. Some pastors are just strong leaders, while others are narcissistic psychopaths. If you haven't ever been around a person like this it may be hard for you to imagine that there are people who go to these extreme measures. But for those who have suffered under this type of heartless leadership, you know all too well how deep the wounds go.

Here are some signs and characteristics of a narcissist, unscriptural leader.....

*Resembles the same attitude Diotrephes had in III John verse 9. He is proud, carnal, demanding, overbearing, impatient, uncompassionate, "loving" only toward those who submit to him, but mean-spirited toward those who do not agree with him.

*He develops doctrines from pet verses that appear to support his view.

*He makes people feel that they cannot make important decisions and know God's will without him.

*He exalts himself before the people.

*He ridicules his associates, making them look small in the eyes of the church members, thus increasing his own prestige and authority and decreasing theirs.

*He treats people who leave as fools and evil men. All kindness and friendship is withdrawn by the leaders. People are only treated kindly when they submit to his doctrines and "authority."

*He contradicts himself a lot.

*He is accountable to no one.

*He provokes and intimidates people to get what he wants.

*He demands respect instead of trying to earn respect.

*He wears a phony grin and acts like everything is all right even when things are falling apart in his church.

*He acts as if he knows everything, but he really doesn't know how to handle problems he has caused.

*He is a captive storyteller and exaggerates the truth all the time. He is able to spin a web that intrigues others and pulls them into his life.

*He has the capacity to destroy his critics verbally and disarm them emotionally.

*He does not recognize the individuality or rights of others.

*He is extremely self-serving and thinks he deserves royal treatment.

*He has no checks on his behavior - anything goes.

*He has tremendous feelings of entitlement. He believes everything is owed to him as a right.

*He presents himself as a genius.

*He has an insatiable need for adoration. When others aren't praising him, he will praise himself.

*He gives the perception that he lives a grandiose life, but paranoia rules him. He creates an us vs. them mentality because of his perceived hostile environment.

*He lies coolly and easily, even when it is obvious he is being untruthful. It is almost impossible for him to be consistently truthful about either a major or minor issue.

*He is a plagiarist and a thief. He seldom gives credit to the true originators of ideas.

*He is extremely convincing and could more than likely pass a lie detector test.

*He does not have friends.

*He doesn't not have feelings of remorse, shame, or guilt. He feels justified in all his actions because he considers himself the ultimate moral arbiter. Nothing gets in his way.

*He is unmoved by things that would unset the normal person, while outraged by insignificant matters.

*He is cold, with shallow emotions, living in a dark world of his own.

*He can witness or order acts of utter brutality without experiencing a shred of emotion.

*He casts himself in a role of total control, which he plays to the hilt.

*He is tragically flawed in being able to either give or receive love.

*He despises community and emotional intimacy, and so he is profoundly lonely. On the one hand, though, there is something about his loneliness that he likes; for he can attribute it to his unique and superior nature.

*He constantly tests the beliefs of his followers, often with bizarre behaviors.

*He readily takes advantage of others, expressing utter contempt for anyone else's feelings. Someone in distress is not important to him. Although intelligent, perceptive, and quite good at sizing people up, he makes no real connections with others. He uses his "people skills" to exploit, abuse, and wield power.

*He will favor and offer help to people who are down as long as he thinks they will be useful to him later on down the road. Such favors might include offering employment, loaning money, or offering personal counseling. He may call in his favor if he sees you slipping away. Also, such opportunities help the narcissist persuade himself that he is good, despite the gnawing awareness of the dark cellar at heart.

*He has an inflated sense of superiority which propels him to recklessness; for he is subject to fantasies of omnipotence and unequalled brilliance, and he feels that he is above the law. And it is this sense of superiority that allows him to underestimate the intelligence and determination of his adversaries.

*He is indifferent to injustice and it's victims, but he rages against the person who is a threat to his charade and/or who refuses to cooperate with his underhanded schemes. 
It sounds like you have been following my former Pastor/Apostle/Prophet around for a couple of years while taking notes. I generally refer to the man as my former Narcissist or more simply, the Sweaty Screaming Baboon (SSB for short).

A few other of this guy's machinations included nepotism and the tactical use of the ability to become "offended". I always thought that for a big, tuff-guy, man-of-god, spiritual  warrior, apostle that he claims to be...this dude sure gets "offended" a lot.

Speaking of being above the law, this "Apostle" actually committed so many traffic violations that he lost his driver's license in the state of Pennsylvania and had to go to driver's school and re-take all the original tests that we did as teenagers in order to get it back.

He also lost a primo job and a Victorian house (details from his sermons are sketchy) before becoming a "Pastor" declaring himself an "Apostle" and making a living out of convincing other people to give him their money through guilt, manipulation, and the perversion of Scripture.

I could go on with these kinds of examples but suffice to say that Christian International "Apostle Brian" is about as much of an apostle as he is a Cy Young award-winning major league baseball player. That would be NOT AT ALL!

Now that somehow I have escaped from this monstrosity, I find myself marveling at the level of contempt, repulsion and revulsion that I feel for him and his personality disorder. It's like nothing I have ever felt for anyone else anywhere at anytime in my life (including the Navy) and it happened of all places in "the church".

I'm guessing it's just a standard by-product of the residue leftover from 2.5 years of foolishly committing myself and my money to a control freak/manipulation monster.

BTW, he definitely thinks he's a genius.
searching said...
This is an excellent post! It describes my former pastor/manipulator perfectly.
Set Free said...
I know exactly what you mean!

My former pastor failed at several jobs before becoming a pastor. I have come to the conclusion that he figured out manipulating trusting people would be easy money. He has lived the high life for years while others struggled. He preached that his faith got him all he had, but it really came because of his countless pleas for people to tithe and give to their "man of God."

I don't know of another man who is disliked as much as this man. He has hurt so many people you couldn't even count them. Every person I run into has a story about something he did. And yet when people start standing up to him he calls it an attack of the devil. He says all of these people are evil and snakes and wolves. In his eyes he will never be wrong. He will never see that he is the common denominator in every situation.

My former pastor thinks he is a genius too. He is the only one who is right - and he will let you know you are an "idiot" if you try to tell him different. (Idiot is his favorite word.) He learns big words and uses them to look big. He tells everyone they should go get a college degree, but he doesn't have one himself.

We got preached to over and over about not getting offended and walking in love. AND yet it didn't apply to him. He would treat someone ugly and then talk about how we all had to walk in love. I was always scratching my head over that one. He just wanted us to overlook what him and some of his family members were doing.

I could go on and on!
Thanks for the comment!
Set Free said...
Thanks for the comment, Searching. It's great to hear from you!
Aida said...
Unfortunately, now that we've entered the world of online groups, these types of individuals have also shown up on some online groups. If there’s no one actively watching, they’ll sneak in and take over . . . abusing, name calling and manipulating until they drive the serious believers away. In the end, all that’s left of the group is them and their followers.

As I read your list, the characteristics are surprisingly similar. I bring this up to warn people that abusers aren’t just in churches. They’ll go wherever they can find a group that is open to manipulation and control.

Thanks for sharing this list and for your blog. People need to be warned and I’m thankful for blogs like yours that are speaking truth to those who are still bound.
Set Free said...
Thanks for pointing out that we need to be aware of this type of abuse in many different situations.

I want to continue to post things that may help those who are still bound see the truth. I only wish I had read things like this years ago.

Thanks for the comment!
Barbara said...
Thanks for continuing to share information like this. It helps to know that what I was thinking all along is really the truth.
Anonymous said...
I just read the article you have a link to here and it was incredible. I encourage anyone who thinks they may be under a pastor like this to read this article and hopefully see the truth. This person described here is my former pastor! I know there are many men out there like this fooling people, but when I read this information it is so close to what I was under it's very sobering. No one human being deserves to be under the control of a man like this and the people still left in my former church need to see this man for who he is and get out! If you know anyone still left at WOL and may be questioning, encourage them to read this article and try to see the truth. This man is causing damage to individuals and some don't even realize it. I found that the article seems hard to get into, but goes into great detail towards the end so keep reading. Thanks for sharing this. It is an eye opener.
Justin said...
This blog post is nearing a year old, so I apologize for bringing it back to life, ha.

I appreciate the post, and I am sitting under a man like this. What did you guys do to handle men like this? Did you just leave the church, or did you try to fight it?

I believe there are times when men like this are a judgment on the people. This is the second man our leadership has chosen that acts like this. I believe it is a mix up in the fundamental values of the leadership, but that still does not nullify my love for the people here.

How are we to handle these harmful, uncompassionate, unloving "pastors"?(I hate to even call them that, as they do no actual pastoring)
Set Free said...
There is nothing you can do when dealing with men like this. They NEVER think they are wrong and the only way to handle this type of situation is to leave. Trying to fight it will only hurt you and your family. These type of men will say and do almost anything, so I would just go quietly and move on to a place where the real love of God is practiced.

I know it's hard to leave the people you have grown to love in the church. I had friends at my former church who I had known for many years. But I can tell you to expect some of them to shun you when you leave. Some people will be loyal followers these "pastors" no matter what because he has them fooled/brainwashed.

The pastor I was under was extremely unloving and uncompassionate. I don't know why I didn't realize sooner that the Bible says if a man doesn't love people, then he doesn't love/know God. Love is the sign of a true man of God. Serving others is a sign of a true man of God. When pastors are only looking for people to serve them, then are they really a true man of God? The Bible answers that question very clearly. We cannot judge a man's spiritual condition - only God knows that, but the Bible does tell us to look at the fruit. If there is no good fruit - love, compassion, service, etc., being modeled, then my opinion is to run as fast as you can away from a place like that and find the real thing.

Thanks for commenting. I hope that helps and if you ever have any other questions please feel free to ask.
Aida said...
Justin, I agree with Set Free. There really is no way to fight leadership. They’ve got everything on their side. Also, it makes me wonder why the leadership picks men like that. Obviously, there’s something wrong there. Only you can know when it’s time to leave, however, if the only reason you’re staying is because of the people, then I believe that’s doing them a disservice. Your being there, even though you don’t agree, will validate that pastor’s behavior in their eyes but, if you try to fight, you’ll only get hurt ant hurt them as well.

In a battle with leadership, I believe the deck is stacked against you and you’ll always end up the loser.
Terry Stanley said...
All men are fallible. When one man is given this kind of power it ruins him.
Biblical Pastors
Larry Schoonover said...
I was doing some research on crime in the Puyallup area when I cam across your articles. After reading your articles I thought I might suggest a short eBook I wrote. It was motivated by the element you describe as “The need for control” in religious leaders. Or in any leader for that matter. Of course we all know that true leaders need NO control, for their influence is communicated by their life. Others might be compelled to follow a GOOD leader. However there are those who seek to control their families, their employees and any other circle they are a part of. If you are interested, the short eBook I mentioned is on They have apps for Kindle to view eBooks on any device, i.e. Kindle, iPhone, computers, etc. Abdicating The Throne speaks about relinquishing the position of sovereign controller for the sake of growth and development of others..
The last thing a pastor would ever want to admit; was how he acted as supreme ruler over his immediate local kingdom, he might frequently refer to as, “My Church”. It may stem from upbringing or just the way he manages his own household. The kind of leader I am talking about, reads 1 Timothy 3:5 and sees himself as commander in chief of the home; and takes on the approach of a military officer commanding the troops. Sitting at the helm he has the final say in all matters. His words might come across like, “Wife and kids, you don’t have to think; just ask me and I will tell you.” However these approaches rarely produce any kind of respect, but rather fear. At the very least, it produces a family who will not think for themselves. They will become overly dependent on others to make their decisions for them. This dominating leader likes it when his followers become totally reliant.
Anonymous said...
Please pray for me and my family. We started going to this church last year and were amazed at how the church was like "family". Every couple of weeks we were invited over to someone's house for a meal or coffee. The pastor went away for a couple of weeks and then came back and after the assistant pastor spoke he got up in front of the church and said "what was that?". Then he began to tell everyone very loudly that he very upset with the church and that God would not give him a sermon until the appropriate time. He went on about his "ministry" that he wanted to start and said "if you don't like it, there's the door". He told us he already picked those who can help with his ministry and it would only be 3% of the church. He tells us that you should never get up to go to the washroom during his sermon and if you do you are giving in to the spirits that are squeezing your bladder. Did I mention he often speaks for 2 hours! He wants to take the sign off the church and not be Baptist anymore and the people all say "God made the leaders head over the church and we are to obey them".

Last month the pastor spoke and said that for the last 9 months we have not had communion because when they had it last he looked around and saw people's faces and decided that the church people were not being genuine. My husband and I have been asking for months when they will do communion again and the church leaders kept telling us that they wanted to wait to find out how they could make it more meaningful. My husband is being totally blinded and says "they must have their reason". My husband loves it there because he now has friends and the men really stick together. I like my friends too, but I am really scared of not obeying God. I am praying that my husband will see that this control is not healthy and that God will give us Christian friends again when we go to another church. We have a 5yr old and a 3yr old and we need prayer of where to go.
Anonymous said...
Great post. Just as others have said, it sounds like a church that I used to go to. The narcissist traits are not only in the pastors but also in the member/parishioners of the church. People in churches often try to push their friends into going to and joining the church just to be pressured into making sacrifices for the church-nonstop. The word God was always used when they would use tactics to manipulate you.

The church that I used to go seemed to only care about you when they wanted something from you, and as soon as they get it-the appreciation is only temporary. Heaven forbid if you dare ask anyone for anything because you shouldn't be needy, only giving; or if you make a living and don't tithe what is expected every week. Apparently, to some churches, wage earners aren't entitled to keeping much of their earnings for anything materialistic.

Since when are pastors entitled to larger stipends for their service? Shouldn't they be setting an example by living by a simple means and not more? I realize that not all are like that, but their are some who are very greedy and have expensive homes and cars, while members of their church are barely getting by.

Another thing that I have noticed about church groups is they will often make excuses for other people's behavior and you are supposed to just forgive and all will be well. To me that is the biggest load of crap because there is no accountability for actions.

I also have realized that over time even after spending a significant amount of time with peers (the youth group, bible study, or other outings) that most of the relationships formed in those groups were superficial.

There are so many things that can be pointed out and could go on. I hope that I am not long-winded.
Anonymous said...
This is our current pastor. Unfortunately for us, my husband is on staff here and we can't just up and leave until he finds himself a new job. Our pastor is trying to control what my husband does outside of his job, in his personal time. The last two years, my husband has gotten approval from the Pastor and elders, but not without considerable resistance. This year as my husband has submitted his request to continue his "extracurricular" activities, it has blown up and my husband is now being assaulted by the pastor and accused of not performing his job adequately as a direct result of his "extracurricular" activities. He is now manipulating others and rallying support for his lies. It has become quite clear to us over the last year or two that our pastor has some issues. Now we know there is nothing we can do to change it. Just get out as quickly as possible.
Anonymous said...
This is SPOT ON! My former church had a pastor for about 9 months who exhibited EVERY single behavior you have listed. Strangely enough, about 2/3 of the church couldn't see him or his behavior for who he really was. Ultimately he was fired. The church board then brought in a new guy who was identical to the above, except he did everything with a smile, so people assume "he's a nice guy".

I'm sharing this article with anyone who will listen. I'm hoping it will open some eyes, hearts, and minds.
Anonymous said...
I am in a difficult situation, my daughter is first lady, son in law pastor. he controls everything in the church. we sit and watch, we are hard working members, but not allowed to do anything. please help me before I move on
Heartbroken said...
I am not sure you are still here, but I was so glad to find that I am not just "asinine and crazy". I have wanted to find another church since the first Sunday we went to this church. My pastor has taught so much on the scripture "touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm that I think everyone including myself is afraid to speak up. My husband is convinced we will be cursed if we leave this church. Yet, we give and give and they build bigger homes and drive finer cars, employ their family members and we struggle. I am a musician but I am not allowed to operate in the church because I don't agree with things. We are even taught to turn away from anyone who speaks against the church, avoid these church members in "Wal-Mart" and literally not associate with people. It is very hard because I am miserable and my husband will not leave.
Anonymous said...
Thank you for posting this! This describes our current pastor well. I knew there was something wrong from early on, but didn't want to believe that he could be this kind of person. If you support him, he is really nice to you but if you question him, he either acts hurt or strikes back at you. either directly or in a sneaky way . I have felt hurt by him and have watched him hurt drive out and divide people. I know that pastors are human, but for a supposed man of God, It's disgusting. Am thinking that leaving is probably my best option, but I keep thinking about all the people that he will still be hurting after I leave and I'm really close to some of the people there. Thanks for writing this and helping people to see this problem clearly. wish more people in my church either saw this clearly or knew what to do about it. -
Anonymous said...
This describes my recently former pastor. I never had a problem with him until I told him that I couldn't lead worship twice a week. I had already committed to once a week and have a lot on my plate. Plus, it would be taking away the other worship leaders weeks to lead worship and that would just cause problems. He said okay and that everything was fine between us. He then quit communicating with me and wouldn't answer my phone calls. He used to call me three times a day and then nothing. (I also used to create the overheads for the song sets). He ended up telling my sister that I had yelled and cussed at him and that she needs to not be so co-dependent on me and figure out how to live her life without me and my son (who was just diagnosed with a chronic disease. She asked him if he cared about us and what my son is going through. She asked him if he loved my son and he told her he was not sure if he really knew how to love because of his childhood. How in tarnation can a pastor love God and teach people to love God and each other if he can't love people? Because my sister defended me, he decided to give her the cold shoulder like he did me and had his wife call to tell her that they had made the decision to have us step down from leadership, but that we could come to services on a trial basis. She told my sister that if I wanted to come back I had to work out my issue with her husband. Ummm, I tried and he didn't respond and told his wife to tell me not to call. She also told us not to join any other church because they were going to need our talent down the road and not to hang out with our friends we had before we joined their church. At that point I had already decided to quit attending. My sister did too. He has never called to work things out even though we have tried to reach out to him. And he has now demonized us as I saw him do publically (form the pulpit) to other people who have left. Most church members won't talk to us, but some still are. The lesson I learned is not to say no to a sociopath. The six months I was there, I saw him oust anyone who questioned him or didn't do what he wanted. He talked bad and named other churches in town form the pulpit. He even thought he had the right to tell people not go out of town. He always referred to himself as "we" (meaning him and God) when he wanted people to obey him. He owns his own church, so has no check and balance whatsoever and only surrounds himself with yes men. From what I understand, his church grows and then splits over and over. He only has about 20 people now, but they are all good little submissive sheep. He complains that people don't tithe enough, and dared to criticized a lady who spent money on her "new pearly whites." She had no teeth and had to buy dentures! For the first three months I knew her, she had to gum down her food. He also criticized other church members for buying necessities like clothing, fire wood or fixing up their properties instead of giving him all the money. He constantly pit people against each other and didn't like church members talking to each other about things and never wanted to have a group meeting when there was issues and preferred to talk individually to each person. This caused a lot of tension. He created division in order to better control and manipulate people. One night, before I left, he told me that he isn't really a pastor to people unless they let him dictate and make decisions in their personal lives. That was a red flag. I am glad I said no or I might be living under that unhealthy leadership to this day. Now that I have been out for a few weeks. I feel peace in my relationship with the Lord.
Pastor'sFiance said...
Painfully for me you have described my pastor/fiancé. I have since moved to another church and currently contemplating our future. To me(I am from South Africa) engagement is just as much of a commitment as marriage and I do not wish to sin against God by doing what's convenient instead of what's right and trusting God with my life. I would appreciate advice from people who have been in similar situations. I dread being first lady to a church with a leader like him, I personally feel he is not fit for ministry, as much as i love and care for him. Of course I haven't uttered this to him. He is very manipulative, subtle controller, deceiver, greedy with money, not accountable to anyone, beyond reproach and mostly not faithful to me. He has had multiple affairs and has once told me he strongly believes in polygamy, he says its our culture and biblical. I'm exhausted by him and we are not even married yet.
cld said...
We have a pastor in our town like this. The eye opening point for me was, "He will favor and offer help to people who are down as long as he thinks they will be useful to him later on down the road. " I had a hard time putting my finger on it because helping people seemed like a reasonable thing to do, but, we always knew that he had an ulterior motivation.

We are part of a different church but will be praying for this deception to be revealed in due time.

Thanks for the article.
cld said...
Anonymous, this breaks my heart to hear of such a sad experience. You got calls 3 times a day? Now that is manipulation, wow!
cld said...
Pastor's Fiance', run, run, run. I just read your post to my husband and those were his words. God has clearly used this writing to warn you to leave. He is already unfaithful to you in so many ways. Unfaithfulness is biblical grounds for divorce, you have nothing to fear. My husband and I will be praying for you.
Set Free said...
Dear Pastor's fiancé, your answer is "RUN!" If he is unfaithful to you before marriage, it will not be any different after marriage. He is not a true pastor if he's doing all theses things. Those are not the attributes of a loving man/husband/pastor. Getting married to this man and starting a family will only cause more hurt to you and your future children. You wouldn't be wrong in God's eyes to leave him. You would be making a very smart move!


Lynda Gruen said...

Dear Pastor's Fiancee: For the love of God, RUN! DON'T MARRY THE GUY! Let me tell you what happened in one of the churches I was a part of: we had a single head pastor who struggled with some of these issues. While I was there, he dated two gals before meeting his wife (who, BTW, did not attend our church, until they married, so she had no pre-existing relationships with or support from us). I was a single gal at the time this was going on. God graciously spared me from a relationship with this pastor. He was so charming! Had the appearance of being really godly, was incredibly good-looking, a strong leader, gifted in Bible teaching, and was so likeable! If he had asked me out, I would have said yes. If he had asked to marry me back then, I probably would have said yes. Thankfully, God had other plans. He married a gal; but she divorced him a couple of years later. We don't know why for sure, but I do worry that she probably had very real reasons. Please, if your fiance has issues even now, those won't change in your marriage. If he doesn't treat you well now, he probably won't treat you all that well after your honeymoon phase is over. I know it's not ideal to break off an engagement, but you haven't gone through the ceremony yet, and you haven't consummated the marriage yet. So, please, please, PLEASE -- RUN AWAY!!!! My pastor was incredibly attractive, and his charm often would have me look beyond his flaws, to try to see the best in him. I developed a sense of favoritism in his favor, as my judgment became clouded. This happened to so many people and may be going on some to this day. For what it's worth, in the end, it split our church. So please, don't marry your fiance. It's a trap -- one that you're not in just yet. I can tell you from experience that I have had a MUCH healthier and happier relationship with a quieter guy with a servant's heart than I likely ever would have had with my once-single former pastor. My husband treats me really well. No, he's not the Bible scholar / "alpha male"-type spiritual leader; and yes, there are guys most of you ladies would probably consider more attractive. But, my husband treats me as his greatest blessing. He does lead me, but in a quieter manner -- and with trust and confidence in my own decisions, and respect toward me. Please, I strongly recommend a man more like mine, as opposed to these pastor types with issues. I believe that the most loving thing you can do for your fiance is to leave him -- give him time to repent and heal, for both of y'all's sakes. If you don't stand up to him, who else won't? I hope that helps. May God guide you. Blessings from an American sister, who has seen from a distance a bit of what you're going through.

The Homestead Lady said...

Just left a church with a pastor like this. If I didn't know better I would think you went to that church! LOL

Lynda Gruen said...

Hi Homestead Lady! Yeah, the one challenge with using my real name and being honest is that it runs the risk of getting me in a lot of trouble if I'm ever found out by old members. Glad that as far as I know, you're not one of them! :D I use my real name, because I run a dissident blog on one of my old churches that has a bit of a notoriety for controlling leadership. Using my real name is for credibility -- and a matter of me taking responsibility for my writings, when people have a problem with them.

Lynda Gruen said...

Also, Pastor's Fiancee: The thought occurred to me: these types can - probably not always, but can - become more controlling and violent after they're told "no". I hope that you're ok and can get the help you may need, if you decide to call it off. If you can pull it off, then hopefully you'll end up fine in the end. If you could let us know that you're ok, that would be great. Blessings to you!