The article below was written over three years ago – many then disagreed with what was said. Read it again with an open mind – putting in context all that has happened since then.
Date: 25th Dec 2013
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I have received several replies to my first email from Moonee Ponds Baptist’s members, most of them encouraging and expressing agreement with what was written. Several more individuals have since contributed interesting comments about the first two posts on the blog, including some valuable corrections to Greg’s preaching that he would do well to learn from, as one should always be humble enough to correct one’s error. Thank you to those who made an effort to read the articles and reply or comment.
Someone from Greg’s previous church who is concerned for the welfare of the faithful and wishes to remain anonymous sent me some helpful material in support of his and others’ observation that Greg seems to have some of the traits of a narcissistic personality. To think that Greg may be a narcissist is not an accusation but simply an observation of attitudes and behaviours that are evident and common enough to be recognisable and diagnosable. As a result of individuals in many social and professional situations exhibiting one or more traits associated with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), it is possible to identify, evaluate, and monitor such behaviour with the aim of understanding and helping rather than condemning and persecuting.
It seems to be the case that the role of pastor in many churches around the world has attracted individuals who (as is the case for many a televangelist) covet the respect and prestige that come with the position and thrive on being the centre of attention and the object of the affections of an entire community of followers who look to their minister for insight and spiritual guidance. Individuals in this unique circumstance may have good intentions initially but may succumb to the addictive nature of power and influence on people’s lives to the point where they may not even realise how they are too often imposing themselves as a model to others. In so doing they seek the acceptance and admiration of the congregation (in effect, their audience).
I can think of several occasions in which Greg has put himself forward or his own family life as model examples of what should be good and desirable for everyone. One such case was when he volunteered his stories about his family holiday in Thailand, complete with a slideshow of family photos that all who were present had no choice but to endure. He claimed it was common for members of his previous church to be fascinated and always wanting to know all about his holidays. I suppose in his mind he couldn’t see how the people at Moonee Ponds would not be likewise enthralled. Another case was when he spoke at tortuous length about the Christmas Decoration Day tradition at his house and suggested it might become a tradition for others. Even in the midst of all his recent editorialised preaching about “undercurrents” in the church he couldn’t, at one point, resist the temptation to attempt the odd joke in stressing that the cause of such “undercurrents” might be a feeling of inferiority among some: “It doesn’t matter if you’re not as good-looking as the pastor,” I remember him saying. Perhaps a mild feeling of superiority is what afflicts him?
The following article is a good source of information on what a narcissistic pastor is and how to identify one, based on experiences in many other places.
From the source above I wish to highlight an important point the author makes. As with any potential behavioural disorder, there is always a continuum or a range of intensity of how narcissistic traits are expressed. Perhaps most people have some degree of narcissism in them as part of the human condition. But in some people, it can reach extreme levels if unchecked. Likewise, there will always be different levels of perception of this behaviour by those who interact with and observe the person in question. The article notes that “Narcissists act differently with different people” and “different people will experience the narcissist in differing ways, depending on how the narcissist sees you fitting into his world – whether or not you are supporting or not supporting his unconscious agenda for himself.” According to the author, some of the more common traits or symptoms to look out for that are relevant to our case are:
- Self-centered. His needs are paramount and take precedence over the church. Greg has exemplified this trait by changing rules, constitution and policies, by opposing meetings and discussions, and by undermining, extrapolating, or reinterpreting the Bible to try to justify his own message.
- No remorse for mistakes or misdeeds. Will not offer heartfelt apologies or ask for forgiveness. In one of his sermons, Greg said that “to break barriers and divisions we need to be able to say ‘sorry’.” Has Greg ever apologised to church members he has confronted and accused or to a brother or sister who has personally pointed out to him an error he has made about Scripture?
- Unreliable and undependable. Will change his mind and reverse decisions at will. Greg has unilaterally changed the rule about how many deacons there should be. After preaching that forming “factions” or groups within the church is not a good thing, he has nonetheless urged the congregation not to nominate any more deacons, stating that he feels comfortable working with the current group.
- Projects his faults on to others. High blaming behaviour; never his fault. Greg has stated that every bad meeting he was part of in the past was other people’s fault, for which he has taken the position that meetings are bad for the church. Therefore, it appears now that Greg knows best and will decide everything for the church and simply inform of his decisions.
- Has a good front (persona) to impress, exploit, or manipulate others. This is something Greg is especially good at with people whose talent or allegiance are useful to him, such as his ministry group or the musicians, or by rallying behind him certain highly impressionable individuals.
- Conversation controller. Must have the first and last word. Rationalises easily. Twists conversation to his gain at others’ expense. If trapped, keeps talking, changes the subject or gets angry. I have heard from members of our church who have experienced several such instances in conversations with Greg. These people may wish to share their specific examples, which are personal to them, with our mailing list or through the blog.
- Pathological lying. Will lie if he thinks it will further his image and if he doesn’t think it will be discovered. When lies are followed up on will imply that the other person is mistaken and that he never said the lie in the first place. I am aware of false statements Greg has made, both verbally and in writing, which again those people involved may want to share through our forum.
- Tremendous need to control situations, conversations, and group meetings. This is a very accurate description of how Greg behaves with respect to several members, some of whom he has refused to meet with in person.
- Angry, rapidly changing moods. This is a trait that will not be visible to most people in the church, whose contact is limited to Sunday services but is evident to members who have interacted closely with him.
- Often perceived as caring and understanding but does not share ideas, feelings, or emotions. Greg may appear to be open but is in fact quite hermetic and inflexible. He just imposes his views, boasting about his experience and skill as a consultant.
- Is very slow to forgive others. Hangs onto resentment. Greg has confessed that he thinks while gardening about all the wrongs others have done to him. This is a sign of a spiritually immature person or an unbeliever and should not be the case for someone who has been a minister for as long (20-some years) as he claims.
- Lacks the ability to see how he comes across to others. Defensive when confronted with his behaviour. Likes annoying and provoking others. In his recurring sermons about “undercurrents” in the church, Greg has resorted to using what seems like scare tactics with negative terminology such as fear and factions and the devil’s “strongholds” without ever being specific about these things. Yet at the same time, he has chosen to show himself defiant and willing to fight those who would presumably have “a willingness to fight” against him. His use of indirect references that seem to target certain groups of members has been unsettling to hear. What would make him ask, for instance, whether there are divisions among ethnic groups in the church, as he did in the past few months?
- Grandiose. Convinced he knows more than others and is correct in all he does. What makes Greg think he is right about everything he says and preaches when he has been shown by members of the church to be wrong in his theology or about specific biblical facts?
- Needs threats or intimidation to keep others close to him. Church Leaders who work closely with him will be the only ones aware of this aspect.
- Highly contradictory. A case in point: Greg said, “Evangelism is useless, We must evangelise but only through church sermons.”
- Is not interested in problem-solving. Convincing. Must convince people to side with him. I have already mentioned that Greg has avoided and refused to meet with members who have requested it, something he may try to deny if confronted about it, as is to be expected. This demonstrates that rather than trying to resolve issues, he instead resorts to convincing as many people as he can that anyone who criticises him must be under the manipulation of the devil and therefore we can simply pray the devil away. Only the gullible would be victims of Greg’s manipulation.
- Will exaggerate and brag about past accomplishments. Greg has boasted, “I am a consultant, and I advise other pastors who face issues in their churches.”
- Concerned with getting what he wants NOW—immediately. Will be overly concerned with the ‘image’ of the church building/bulletins etc. Greg’s urgency in changing the church’s appearance and setting aside $50,000 for it right away is an illustration of this.
- Will not want to share his pulpit/platform with others. Greg seems determined not to lose his tight grip over the pulpit and the sermons. Even when he is sick and has not prepared his sermon, he preaches. This is not something to be admired – that despite being unwell, he musters the strength to push on and deliver the sermon. A lack of preparation is a disservice to the congregation but then again, when has he ever demonstrated adequate preparation for his sermons? He seems to base most of what he preaches – aside from his editorials on “undercurrents” – on wishy-washy, feel-good, watered-down material from the sermons at Saddleback Church in California, led by the famous Rick Warren. The “Christmas Gifts” sermon is a good example (http://www.saddlebackresources.com/Sermons-C3.aspx). Just when did the Gestapo or the SS suddenly take over the pulpit at Moonee Ponds Baptist, because I seem to have missed it?
- Nit-picky about minute details, but miss the entire big picture. Greg easily exemplifies this by deciding to change the church foyer’s appearance, the pews, etc. but not being concerned with theology or doctrine. As he said himself speaking about the important things that we should focus on (in his Joy of Christmas sermon), “It’s not about our theology, doctrinal statement, quality of ministry, not about who’s right or wrong.” He actually said that! Unbelievable!
In conclusion, dear brothers and sisters, please continue to follow these messages and our blog and to seriously ponder and consider the issues raised and the facts presented. The comments in the blog have plenty of other specific examples of errors in the preaching we have received at Moonee Ponds Baptist. How can a pastor declare that what is important is not theology or doctrinal statement or quality of ministry or being right or wrong about biblical facts? How can our faith in what we are to believe be secondary or a minor issue? Greg talks about love over our differences. Has he exemplified the love of Christ in everything he has said and done? It is very fitting that he himself has said, “turn your eyes on yourself and accept the things you have done to create barriers and divisions or to offend anyone.” Indeed. He should start by doing so himself.
As Gospel.com explains with reference to 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Introspection can be a hard thing.” It’s not in our nature to examine ourselves and ask hard questions. In 2 Corinthians we are told to do such an examination in order to see whether or not we’re in the faith. We are to test ourselves to see whether we’re in Christ Jesus or not.” The Bible tells us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)
I take this opportunity to wish all of you who are reading this message a happy Christmas filled with the peace and love of Christ.