Theresa Harvard Johnson

 
Copyright 2014 Theresa Harvard Johnson
 
Introduction
Holy Spirit quickened me to identify five prevailing types of idolatry that plagues our local congregations and creative ministries. This article is one in a series that assists the believer in identifying specific types of idolatry, confronting them and providing insight on how to overcome them.
 
All forms of idolatry take the place of “God, our Father in Heaven” in the lives of individuals suffering from their effects. If not exposed, confronted and overcome, those affected will begin to reproduce this stronghold in the midst of ministries... duplicating it in the lives of others and create entire ministries that hover under its effects. Nearly every creative person will encounter "narcissism" in their own lives or the environment in which they seek to grow and thrive. Beware! Eradicate it!
Narcissism is among the most common form of idolatry operating in the hearts of men today. It has roots in arrogance, haughtiness and pride and lives out of a me, me, me, me... mentality. It is defined as the inordinate fascination with one’s self; excessive self-love, and intense vanity. The term narcissist is derived from Greek mythology. Narcissism gets its name from the son of a river god named Narcissus who was known for his beauty.[1] Narcissus’ love for himself was so intense that he drowned in it.[2] Greek gods were confronted often in the Scriptures. (See the video clip above.) 
 
Defining Narcissism
 
2 Timothy 3:1-2 CJB describes narcissism this way with the following words: “Moreover, understand this: in the acharit-hayamim will come trying times. People will be self-loving, money-loving, proud, arrogant, insulting, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, uncontrolled, brutal, hateful of good, traitorous, headstrong, swollen with conceit, loving pleasure rather than God, as they retain the outer form of religion but deny its power.”[3]
 
Interestingly, many bible teachers treat these characteristics as separate from one another. However, when studying narcissism you will quickly learn that each of these descriptive words can be found at its core. According to Psych Central Online, narcissism can be classified as a narcissistic personality disorder or NPD. In order for a person to be diagnosed with NPD, however, they must meet five or more of the following symptoms[4]:
 
  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
 
Looking back at 2 Timothy 3:1-2 , we can clearly see that the scripture references these types of behavior as “self-love” and classifies it as a prevailing sin in the end-times. In short, all attention is taken away from God in the life of a believer and subsequently placed completely on one’s “own self-loving” desires.
 
Romans 12:3 CJB further identifies the heart of narcissism by stating: “For I am telling every single one of you, through the grace that has been given to me, not to have exaggerated ideas about your own importance. Instead, develop a sober estimate of yourself based on the standard which God has given to each of you, namely, trust.”
 
People of God, we live in a NARCISSISTIC country! The United States operates at the very center of this stronghold with GOVERNMENT & HOLLYWOOD in the melting pot. In our previous discussion we talked about HERO WORSHIP, which is also one of the primary breeding grounds for and enablers of narcissism.
 
The media daily injects the veins of this nation with idolatry through advertisements, reality shows, music, theatre and the list goes on. People are “ministered to and trained” to become lovers of themselves almost from the womb and are continuing to be drawn by the intensity of their lusts. Instead of taking the usual approach, focusing on individuals, I want to provide another view of narcisism as it relates to the congretion on a wider spectrum.
 
What Narcissism Looks Like Among Congregations
 
Narcissism among the congregation is cleverly disguised. Specifically, I am highlighting two areas that are often overlooked from a corporate perspective. Those areas include (1) Denominations and (2) Celebrity Ministries:
 
  • Denominations can be breeding grounds for narcissism as men are often groomed to lead them. Many are structured in such a way that those who follow their pattern enter into a “system of operating” that some believe is the ONLY WAY to properly structure God’s people. The entire “mentality” of that denomination, including all of their teachings, is based on “that system or structure.” In other words, the purposes and plans of that denomination become GREATER than the purposes and plans of GOD. More time is spent developing the structure man created than focusing on God's will. Narcissism in these environments is often hidden in their ecclesiastical structures and can purport HERO WORSHIP.
 
  • Celebrity based ministries are another area where corporate narcissism hides. Instead of basing their ministry identity on the preached Word and God, it is settled on “who is attending” and “who is performing” each Sunday. These ministries thrive on perceived notoriety and purport messages that pour into the Hollywood mind-set of Babylon, indoctrinating people in IDOL WORSHIP. They constantly hold “celebrity events” like a Las Vegas night club. The narcissism in these environments are often rooted in the vision of leaders who may be closet narcissists.

    Joseph Mattera wrote this in Ministry Today Magazine: “By definition, a narcissist is a person who believes the world evolves around them to such an extent their own desires blind them to relational reality which makes them insensitive to the needs and perspectives of others. One of the sad realities in our consumer driven, hedonistic culture is that we are producing millions of narcissistic people including leaders of large organizations.”[5]

 
Narcissism has one agenda: “To separate the believer from the pure love of God so that the work of the flesh has governing rule and reign in the hearts of men. It produces a society that runs solely from the seat of emotion, lust, greed and self-will. It nurtures the sinful pleasures of the flesh void of care and regard toward others.” It is, perhaps, the most selfish stronghold I have encountered among scribes and artists. And, people of God, is a prevailing sin in the day and time in which we live.
 
Narcissism directly opposes Mark 12:29-31 on all levels. As leaders we must be accountable, aware, courageous and positioned to remain IMMERSED.
 
______________________________________________________
[1] Narcissus, Encyclopedia Britannica, Accessed August 7, 2014, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/403458/Narcissus
 
[2] Ibid.
 
[3] Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references are from the Complete Jewish Bible, and are used with permission in accordance with the guidelines.
 
[4] All characteristics listed in this bulleted list are from the article, Narcissist Personality Disorder Symptoms. Psych Central is the Internet’s largest and oldest independent mental health social network. Since 1995, our award-winning website has been run by mental health professionals offering reliable, trusted information and over 200 support groups to consumers. Retrieved on August 7, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder-symptoms/
 
[5] Joseph Mattera, 10 Traits of Narcissistic Leaders, Ministry Today Magazine, May/June 2014 Issue, Accessed August 7, 2014, http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/ethics/20332-10-traits-of-narcissistic-leaders#sthash.AvvdaUCL.dpuf
 

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