NARCISSISM NOTES #9–My Book Review for *When Narcissism Comes To Church* by Chuck DeGroat

BOOK REVIEW

When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse, by Chuck DeGroat (InterVarsity Press; release date March 17, 2020).

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Best broadband introduction I’ve found for all parties affected to identify and deal with abuse.

As a young Christian in college, I survived a brutal, three-year church split that fractured our church into four fragments. I had to decide whether Christianity was a crock and I should discard it, or if something had gone terribly wrong along the way in this church. I was driven to make sense of the horrific treatment I’d seen and the resulting confusion and emotional trauma I’d experienced:

  • How could supposedly Bible-believing Christians do such cruel things to one another?
  • Did the leaders teach and/or live some right things, but in a wrong way?
  • There were no justifications for what happened—but were there other explanations?

There weren’t any books on spiritual abuse recovery back in the 1970s. When Narcissism Comes To Church by Chuck DeGroat is the book I wish I’d had, to help me understand how I’d been susceptible to getting sucked into such a toxic system in the first place, how to interpret the crazy-making tactics of the abusive pastor and his band of enablers who took over the church, how to heal, and how to support the few friends I had left who’d gotten mixed up in that mess.

Like many abuse survivors, I didn’t want what happened to me to happen to others. So, I was always watching for resources on any/all forms of abuse. Eventually I felt led to find or develop ministry resources myself. Since 2007, I’ve invested myself in research writing on subjects related to abusive individuals and the institutions they create or co-opt, recovery and ongoing resilience for survivors, and practical solutions for intervening in and preventing systemic abuse.

On that basis, I can say with confidence that When Narcissism Comes To Church serves as a centerpiece resource for [1] abuse survivors and their personal support/advocacy networks; [2] personal equippers and social change agents (counselors, teachers, writers, activists, social entrepreneurs); and [3] leaders in established churches, plants, and non-profits.

Chuck DeGroat—who has experience and expertise in all three of these groups himself—integrates principles, practices, and personal stories in a masterful way that moves us forward, yet always using personable and accessible language. He introduces a comprehensive range of essential concept frameworks and solution skills that these audiences likely already know they need. He also embeds clues to advanced principles and practices they might not otherwise realize for years that they require in order to go deeper.

I’m thankful for the compassion and wisdom Chuck DeGroat puts on every page. He’s gifted us with a guidebook to personal healing from emotional and spiritual abuse. But his book also gives all parties affected a common vocabulary for the challenging conversations we must be having about individual recovery and support, and institutional rehabilitation and health. This is why, in a time of reckoning on abuse in our congregations and communities, I believe When Narcissism Comes To Church is destined to become a timeless, standard resource.

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