Q & A: Is it enough to remove a narcissistic leader from a church? Is there more to do?

I've been involved in a number of situations over the years where toxic leaders were removed, and it takes courage for an elder board or organization to do this. But these are often months-long processes and weary leaders sometimes feel like "we've done what we can, let's just move on." I'll sometimes challenge them to do the deeper work of dismantling and re-imagining the system around that leader to which I'll be met with an exhausted stare or look of confusion. I'll admit - I'm weary by then, too. It takes exceptional courage, resilience, and intentionality to dig even deeper.

Yes, there is more to do, much more.

Guest Post: Seeking to Understand the Rise, Fall, and Loss of Young Pastors by Robert Stewart

Bob was born to medical missionary parents in Burundi, Africa.  The father of six, he and his pastoral counselor wife, Shari, share a psychiatric practice in Louisville, KY and have long worked in the support and care of missionaries and pastors both here and abroad. A hundred years from now I’m sure that our descendants … Continue reading Guest Post: Seeking to Understand the Rise, Fall, and Loss of Young Pastors by Robert Stewart

Narcissism is not a “leadership style”

I had a sick, here-we-go-again feeling while reading Kate Shellnutt's Feb 7 piece on the removal of Steve Timmis as leader of Acts 29. But what stopped me in my tracks was this paragraph late in the piece: According to a copy of a 2015 letter sent to Acts 29 president Chandler and obtained by … Continue reading Narcissism is not a “leadership style”

Can you “narcissist-proof” a system?

If you’re building an organization/community from the ground up, what are steps to ensure it has the best shot of narcissist-proofing itself? Are there parameters you can set for health on the front side? Seth Haines asked this (@sethhaines on Twitter...a must follow), and I've been chewing on it since. His question took me back … Continue reading Can you “narcissist-proof” a system?

a reminder to take care of you

The older I get, the more the old saying of Jesus "Physician, heal thyself" makes sense. I've spent more than two decades doing a lot of caring. But the more attend to myself, the more sadness I find, the more anxiety I feel, the more trauma I notice. The more I realize that I desperately … Continue reading a reminder to take care of you

Rediscovering Nouwen | On Power and Intimacy

I'm continuing to reflect on Henri Nouwen's 1972 book The Wounded Healer. Now 46 years later, it's as important as ever to wrestle with Nouwen's invitation, particularly when it seems that our political and ecclesial leaders operate more from a posture of power rather than intimacy, particularly as we see our own propensity to live from … Continue reading Rediscovering Nouwen | On Power and Intimacy

Becoming a Wounded Healer

"The great illusion of leadership is to think that one can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” Henri Nouwen I've been re-visiting an old friend recently - Henri Nouwen - who is easily in my Top 5 most formative modern spiritual writers. The lanky Dutchman was a complicated … Continue reading Becoming a Wounded Healer

The Lost Pastor

I got the call again a few nights ago. It's the same call I get quite often, often by anxious pastoral colleagues or overwhelmed elders or frazzled denominational executives. It's a call I get amidst a pastoral crisis, and it arrives with a familiar cadence and pattern which goes something like this: "Hey Chuck, I … Continue reading The Lost Pastor


Years ago during the Vietnam protests, researchers studied the level of consciousness and self-awareness of those engaged in protests. The assumption was that the protestors engaged this work out of a larger consciousness, a true love for justice, a global worldview, a sense of compassion. What they found was that the large majority were still … Continue reading BETRAYED BY THOSE WHO WE THOUGHT ‘GOT IT’ – NARCISSISM AMONG THE “ENLIGHTENED”

Grace (and the abuse of grace) for narcissists and abusers

I live daily with a paradox. On the one hand, grace is audacious, extravagant, immediate, and all-embracing. On the other, grace is painful, reconstructive, surgical, and slow. Grace is the deliverance from Egypt and grace is the long, grueling journey through a blistering wilderness. I live with this paradox because of the work I do. … Continue reading Grace (and the abuse of grace) for narcissists and abusers