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The problem of narcissistic worship leaders

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I am always amazed at what topics keep popping up in my blog.  Here is yet another one on narcissism!

According to McIntosh and Rima, Narcissism is one of the five dark sides that can surface in leaders.  For the others, read my post here on the dark sides of leaders.  Does involvement with Facebook help or hurt this narcissistic tendency?

Alexander Nels Elofson from AoM

Found a fascinating article by Corey Seibel, “It’s All About Me, Jesus: The Narcissistic Worship Leader”  All of us have some narcissistic tendencies but Seibel provides us with traits of those with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).  He says those with NDP have five or more of the following:

  • Have a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
  • Believe they are “special”
  • Require excessive admiration
  • Have a sense of entitlement
  • Are interpersonally exploitative
  • Lack empathy
  • Are often envious of others or believe others are envious of them
  • Show arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Anytime a church leader is narcissistic is a problem but Seibel explains how the problem is magnified when the worship leader is the narcissist:

  • First, authentic worship focuses upon the person, attributes, and work of God. However, narcissistic worship leaders see corporate worship as an opportunity to display their grandiosity,
  • Second, authentic worship gatherings encourage participants to examine themselves and offer them the assurance of grace. Narcissists, however, tend to lack the capacity for introspection and thus commonly possess little self-awareness.1
  • Third, authentic worship invites participants to respond to God’s gracious activity with praise, thanksgiving, and surrender. However, because of their lack of awareness of grace, narcissists tend to be plagued by “an incapability for gratitude.”

The Kiss by Alberto Ruggieri at Corbis

Seibel then explains why it is so hard to work with a narcissistic worship leader:

  • First, worship leaders commonly work cooperatively with other members of the church’s leadership toward the achievement of a larger vision. However, narcissists do not see themselves as just members of the team. Their vision centers in the pursuit of a personal legacy of great achievement.
  • Second, the development of healthy worship teams is crucial to contemporary worship ministry. However, an inability to trust others seriously distorts the narcissist’s ability to contribute to the formation of healthy worship teams. The narcissistic worship leader will demand the undivided devotion of team members.
  • Third, worship leaders should contribute to the building up of the body by encouraging others to develop their gifts, talents, and leadership capacity. However, the excessive investment that narcissists make in themselves prevents them from investing in others.
  • Fourth, a commitment to evaluation and improvement plays an important role in the up-building of the church. However, despite their tendency to drive their teams toward perfection, narcissists often are so self-engrossed that they fail to engage in self-evaluation and self-criticism.31 They are more concerned with their image than with results. What they desire is to be perfect enough to be beyond criticism. In pursuit of this, narcissists tend to become rigid, repetitive, and predictable.32 They commonly lack personal creativity and choose to avoid unfamiliar situations.
  • Fifth, conflict inevitably occurs as a by-product of change and growth within the church. Thus, it is essential that worship leaders be able to respond constructively to conflicted situations. Narcissists, however, are intolerant of disagreement. They have a stunted ability to understand another person’s perspective.33 They do not listen well when they feel attacked and often grossly misinterpret others.

Seibel does not really offer much hope for churches who find themselves in this situation other than to say that the narcissistic worship leader must be held accountable. This reminds me of a few other posts I have made–easy to identify narcissism but hard to deal with.  For more reading, check out the following:

Understanding Narcissism

Dealing with narcissism part 2

Survival Strategies for a narcissistic world


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