Have you ever visited a narcissistic church? Even worse, do you attend—or perhaps lead—a congregation that is self-absorbed and in love with itself?
Not long ago, I had the unpleasant experience of visiting such a place. I had heard good things about this church, and I had high hopes for what I would find there. And lately I’ve been trying really hard to see the good and not be critical toward other believers.
Of course, you probably wonder how I knew the church was narcissistic. For one thing, the name of the church and the name of the pastor were mentioned about 10 or 15 times more than the name of Jesus. So even though there was considerable evidence that people were in love with their church, I had a much harder time finding evidence of their love for the Lord.
On one level, it’s certainly a good thing that people take pride in their church and their pastor. I’ve met some Christians who are ashamed to tell me where they go to church—a clear indicator that the church has low morale and a downward trajectory.
However, what about Paul’s statement to the Corinthians? “We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). When the church itself becomes the message, or our focal point is the pastor instead Jesus, it’s a sure sign we’ve become narcissistic.
And although I realize churches may want to market themselves and let the surrounding community know they are there, shouldn’t we beware not to follow the motivation of the men who built the Tower of Babel: trying to make a name for ourselves? (Genesis 11:1-9)
After my visit to the narcissistic church, I’ve had to search my own heart and ask God to give me a sincere desire to see HIM lifted up: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1). As John the Baptist recognized, Jesus only will increase if we allow ourselves to decrease (John 3:30). Help us, Lord.
I was grieved by one additional observation about the narcissistic church: There was absolutely no evidence of God’s presence or anything supernatural. In other words, everything that took place in the worship service could easily have been attributed to human effort instead of any involvement of the Holy Spirit. The singers sang, the musicians played, the preacher preached—but where was God in any of it?
You see, the church is called to be much more than a social club or humanitarian organization. If we’re no different than the Moose Club or Kiwanis, we’re in big trouble. Shouldn’t we reflect our glorious design to be “built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”? (Ephesians 2:22)
Yes, I understand the need to be culturally relevant and able to reach “seekers” and unbelievers with the gospel. But shouldn’t the Holy Spirit be involved in the process? How will lost people be persuaded to become disciples of Jesus Christ if we’re content just to “play church”?
One of the signs of the End Times is that many people will be narcissistic, even in the church: “lovers of themselves…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-7). So what’s the antidote for this terrible malady? My prayer since visiting the narcissistic church is that I will die to myself and fall in love with Jesus more than ever before.
I’ve also been praying for renewed evidence of the Holy Spirit’s fruit and power in my life. Shouldn’t we expect that Paul’s example would also be true of us today? “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
Are you content with your Christian life right now? I’m surely not.
Rather than allowing me to remain judgmental toward others, God is challenging me to deal with my own narcissistic heart and lack of spiritual power. Are you willing to join me on this uncomfortable—but necessary—pathway to revival?