et Us Prey: The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We Can Do About it, written by Glenn Ball and Darrell Puls, is based on the authors’ experience of working with pastors. Ball and Puls have about 70 years of experience in organizational (secular and church) conflict between them. Ball has three decades of work in ordained denominational ministry in Canada, and he wrote his dissertation on narcissism in pastors in North America. Puls has worked with churches in conflict in many denominations. Their experiences and study of pastors in North America has sparked their burden to write about narcissism and the pastorate. This book opens with the story of a pastor named “Bob” (not his real name).
The reader learns the behavior of a narcissistic pastor through the story of the real life interactions pastor Bob has with the leadership and laity in his church. This story provides the key theme of the book: Narcissism is real and can be identified in pastors.
Further into the book, the authors clearly define narcissism, specifically a mental disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). According to the book, narcissistic people have the following traits (p. 23):
b. Fantasize about success, power brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
c. Believe they are special
d. Require excessive admiration
e. Feel entitled
As the authors put it, a person with NPD “preys on unsuspecting people, manipulates and uses them until they are no longer useful, and then discards them as yesterday’s trash” (p. 19). What is particularly troubling for Ball and Puls is that narcissism is found in our present-day pastors, and this culture of narcissism can spread to the entire congregation.
The middle section of the book elaborates on pastors with NPD by discussing the work and habits of the narcissist pastors. These sections include real stories, discussions of the narcissist as leader, an overview of the study conducted by Ball, and the spiritual life of a narcissistic pastor.
Although the focus of the book is on narcissistic pastors, Ball and Puls also include a section that identifies and explains characteristics of the narcissistic church and how narcissism can permeate the entire church culture.
The last section of the book deals with the area of healing: How can a person or a church that has been the victim of a narcissistic pastor take steps towards healing? The book also gives recommendations for how a church can guard against hiring a narcissistic pastor as well as specific suggestions to help with the disturbing reality of pastors with NPD.
This book does an excellent job of explaining Narcissistic Personality Disorder is and how it is lived out in the life of a pastor and a church. The reader will gain an understanding of the characteristics of an NDP pastor, as well as learning the ways a NPD pastor can affect an entire congregation. Clergy readers will find themselves self-reflecting: Do I struggle with NPD characteristics? Am I leading a church toward an NPD culture? Important self-reflection is an important gift this book provides to readers. Churches will learn practical steps on how to interview and call a pastor in order to spot and therefore avoid an NPD approach from its leadership.
The only drawback of this book is that the reader will likely find that Ball and Puls are sometimes redundant. However, this repetition allows them to emphasize the key themes and provides pastors and other church leaders with plenty to consider.