Mark Driscoll: Narcissistic Cowboy or Knight Errant?

“Our church services started to stink a whole lot less. We scraped together enough money to buy some big honking speakers, and I stole an unused sound console from my old church along with a projection screen, which were sins that Jesus thankfully died to forgive.” (Confessions, p.62)


Mark Driscoll showing men how to dress like a real man.


Mark Driscoll has raised the attention, admiration, and derision of many. It seems as if folks either love him or can’t stand him. Many question why he gets away with his explicit sermons and foul language. He advocates what appears to be a violent, sexualized view of the faith and seems to consider this a necessary element in order to draw men into the church. However, I question if this has less to do with his view of faith and more to do with his own self-interest. He seems to have lots of opinions on the behavior of others but can appear to give himself a very broad pass. Why?


"Shane" by James C. Work:

How many of you were required to read the penultimate Western novel, Shane? It was also made into a movie? The story takes place during the settlement of the western frontier. Lawless men who steal and plunder from honest hardworking families, however, threaten their ability to settle the land and live in peace.


Enter Shane, a man with a shadowy past, who works for a settler family but eventually becomes a gunslinger as he defends their rights. Here is a synopsis of the book as found on Link.


“We see what we have suspected, that he is a killer, and there's no place for him in their sunny, settled world. He must go back on the trail and disappear. The mystery of Shane's identity suggests that what he represents in the story is a darker side of ourselves that does not integrate well with the more honorable aspects of self we prefer to acknowledge.”


In other words, Shane looks good and does good things, but there is an underlying darkness that permeates his life. This darkness ultimately affects his ability to live in a civilized society


"I Promise to Hate, Despise and Abuse you Until Death Do Us Part"-Marriage In a Narcissistic Age by Andrea V. Oelger and Troy W. Martin

We will review this book more in depth in the future. This book offers a Biblical perspective and help for women who are trapped in a marriage with a narcissistic husband. One of the chapters gives parameters for deciding whether or not a person might be a narcissist which we will refer to later in the post.


What do these two books have to do with Mark Driscoll?

Besides wanting to impress my fellow blog queen who was a Duke English major, that I, a nurse, can read, I found that both of these books might offer insight into Mark Driscoll’s behavior. A number of readers have asked us why Mark Driscoll behaves the way that he does. Why does he criticize pastors’ wives for “letting themselves go” and not see the evidence of the same issue in himself? Why does he not seem to understand that his explicit talks masquerading as sermons cause profound discomfort in listeners? My contention is that he cannot see himself the way that we see him.


The revealing video

Before I continue, I think it is important to watch the following video. I thank Lydia, a frequent commenter on this site, for alerting us to these remarks. While you view this, think about your initial response as he cops to some of his behaviors in regards to his wife. It is important to understand that Driscoll is calling attention to his actions, which he deems to be “protective.” At one point he lets down his guard and admits to one of his actions being a bit unusual. That, in my opinion, is an understatement.



Driscoll views women as gullible, emotional and easily deceived.

“Without blushing, Paul is simply stating that when it comes to leading in the church, women are unfit because they are more gullible and easier to deceive than men.  Before you get all emotional like a woman in hearing this, please consider the content of the women’s magazines at your local grocery store that encourages liberated women in our day to watch porno with their boyfriends, master oral sex for men who have no intention of marrying them, pay for their own dates in the name of equality, spend an average of three-fourths of their childbearing years having sex but trying not to get pregnant, and abort 1/3 of all babies – and ask yourself if it doesn’t look like the Serpent is still trolling the garden and that the daughters of Eve aren’t gullible in pronouncing progress, liberation, and equality.”
 (Church Leadership: Explaining the Roles of Jesus, Elders, Deacons, and Members at Mars Hill, Mars Hill Theology Series (Seattle, WA: Mars Hill Church, 2004), 43.)


Driscoll appears to believe that it is desirable for him to beat up staff members.


Driscoll, being the manly man that he is, apparently has disabled the ability to embed these videos. However,  these links take you directly to the video which start playing immediately. He confesses to wanting to beat up members of his staff and leadership. By the way, some of Driscoll's talks seem to have a habit of disappearing from the Internet.

Link One

Link Two


Driscoll does not allow criticism of himself.

When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him. One member complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended. “They are sinning through questioning,” Driscoll preached. Link (quote from NY Times)


Driscoll likes to view Jesus as the Galilean equivalent of Hulk Hogan.

On the same set of posts Driscoll is quoted “In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.”


Here is a list of some of his concerning behaviors and opinions as expressed by Driscoll himself.

It is important to consider the following point. Pastors, such a Driscoll, crave media attention, ostensibly because they are seeking to influence the world for the faith. He obviously wants us to pay attention to what he teaches. His thoughts are easily accessible on You Tube and other venues. So, I am doing exactly as he wishes, evaluating his public thoughts and actions.

  • He, who was not a student at the college, threatened guys in a dorm setting who lived on the same floor as his then girlfriend, now wife.
  • He drove 600 miles round trip to make sure his girlfriend had arrived at her college because she “forgot” to call him as she had promised.
  • He faces the front door in restaurants and puts her against the wall to protect her in case something “bad goes down”
  • He censors her email so she doesn’t get bad emails.
  • He seems to convey that physically assaulting members of his staff and leadership is normal.
  • He needs to worship a Jesus that he cannot beat up.
  • Jesus has tattoos, a sword and is committed to making someone bleed.
  • Questioning a pastor is a sin and he will suspend your membership privileges if you question him.



Evaluating Driscoll

Driscoll appears to fashion himself as a knight errant who is committed to defending his wife’s honor with violence. He also appears to need to be self-protective of his own image. In the book on narcissism that I reference above, on page 78, we find a list of questions intended to assess whether someone is at risk for domestic violence from the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.


"Does your partner:

  • Behave in an over-protective manner or become extremely jealous?
  • Threaten to hurt you, your children, pets, family members, friends of himself?
  • Constantly criticize you and your abilities as a spouse, parent or employee?
  • Use intimidation or manipulation to control you or your children?
  • Get suddenly angry or lose his temper?"


In the book, Shane, people notice that Shane always sits with his back to the wall, facing the front door. He obviously has a past and has been involved with violence and appears to expect violence at every turn.

Traits of narcissists

In the book on Narcissism, the authors state that a narcissist “directs all his energies, not to true accomplishments but toward preserving his projected illusion.” (P.29)

The book goes on to quote from the "American Psychiatric Association on some characteristic of a narcissist (p.32):

  • He can lack empathy: is unwilling to identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  • He shows arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes.
  • He requires excessive admiration.
  • He has a sense of entitlement, i.e. unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his expectations.”


The book also describes individuals with a potential for narcissism as believing that they perceive themselves to be the only authoritative decision maker (p.40)



I want to emphasize that I do not know Driscoll’s motivation. However, his outward actions and speech raise a red flag.

  • Why did he drive 600 miles over a forgotten phone call? Interestingly, it does not say that the girl’s parents were concerned. Also, why didn't she return his phone call?
  • Is he protecting her from ill will by screening her emails or simply controlling his own image within his family?
  • He seems to enjoy speaking about violence. Why? Was he bullied as a child and this is payback time or is he the perpetual bully?
  • He equates spirituality with physically violent characteristics. Jesus is worthy of being worshiped only if He is able to “take out” others? I would imagine Driscoll would have enjoyed the Sermon on the Mount if Jesus had turned it into WWE Smackdown with Peter “The Rock” facing off against “Stone Cold” Lazarus. Who needs any of that “Blessed are the peacemakers” nonsense? Let’s take ‘em down!
  • He appears to perceive the world as imminently and personally violent. He cannot go to a restaurant without making it seem that he is stepping into the role of Shane in the Wild West.
  • He appears to have a low image of women. He blames females for the Garden Incident and blames women if their husbands have a predilection for other men. By marginalizing women, Driscoll has the advantage of removing 50% of the opposition.
  • He seems to be comfortable admitting he stole electricity or a sound system as he said in his book. Why?
  • He seems to hold himself in very high esteem. He allows himself to be immune from the same criticism that he piles on women and those he perceives to be his opponents. How else could he dress the way that he does and then believe that he is an example?
  • He does not seem to have the ability to deal calmly with criticism. What job in the world protects an individual from negative assertions? Does he believe that there is a Biblical mandate to protect him from critique?


I am well aware that Driscoll views himself as a strong and “manly” leader. To me, he seems to come across as a narcissistic cowboy that could conceivably have a hidden, dark side. However, being a gullible and easily deceived woman, I could just be getting emotional on you all. I think time will tell the true story. And, if I were his wife, I would make sure that some good friends and counselors surrounded me.


Lydia's Corner: Deuteronomy 31:1-32:27 Luke 12:8-34 Psalm 78:32-55 Proverbs 12:21-23




Mark Driscoll: Narcissistic Cowboy or Knight Errant? — 34 Comments

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    Here’s some interesting information on Narcissistic Personality Disorder from Wikipedia:

    “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition, DSM IV-TR, a widely used manual for diagnosing mental disorders, defines narcissistic personality disorder (in Axis II Cluster B) as:[1]

    A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
    1.Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
    2.Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
    3.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)
    4.Requires excessive admiration
    5.Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
    6.Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
    7.Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
    8.Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
    9.Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
    10.Often mild to moderate paranoia, that others are out to do him in.
    11.Predominant “name dropper” boasting or suggestion association with people or affiliations of importance.”

    “… the following pointers may indicate the presence of someone with narcissistic personality disorder.

    They expect others to do the day-to-day chores as they feel too important to waste their time on common things.
    They very rarely talk about their inner life – for example their memories and dreams.
    There tends to be a higher level of stress with people who work with or interact with a narcissist, which in turn increases absenteeism and staff turnover.
    They feel that rules at work don’t apply to them.
    Their sense of self-importance and lack of empathy means that they will often interrupt the conversation of others.
    They get impatient and restless when the topic of conversation is about someone else, and not about them.
    They constantly use “I”, “me” and “my” when they talk.
    If you share the workload with them, expect to do the lion’s share yourself.
    They lack empathy and this colours everything they do.
    They love to delegate work, and then interfere by micromanaging it. If it goes well they take the credit (plagiarism); if it goes badly, they blame the person they delegated it to.
    Blame others for their actions and misfortunes.
    During a conversation, no matter what topic is being discussed, they usually end up talking about themselves.
    They will always cheat whenever they think they will get away with it.
    Virtually all their ideas or ways of behaving in a given situation are taken from others (mirroring).”

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    fwiw, he made a comment last fall about cage matches being the “purest” form of fighting.

    he uses military imagery in his “recruitment” campaigns.

    does anyone else feel like this is the dark side of John Eldridge’s “Wild at Heart,” Promise Keepers et. al.? (I really am confounded by the whole “”Church for Men” thing, too… just Google the phrase and see what comes up.)

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    “To me, he seems to come across as a narcissistic cowboy that could conceivably have a hidden, dark side”

    That dark side does not seem so hidden!

    Has anyone ever seen one of these guys actually confess their sin, apologize to their church, be open and honest about the wrong they have done and do all they can to make amends?


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    Oh my, where does one start? Driscoll worries me, he is dangerously popular among Sydney evangelicals, and I don’t see how any good can come of it.

    His exegesis of “banner” was a new one to me, and doesn’t make sense in the context. Why would a womanuse that kind of imagery to her lover? Also, in battle, I would have thought that where the banner was raised the thickest fighting would ensue, terying to bring down the rival king. not exactly the place of safety for a non-combatant! I always thought it referred to the Jewish marriage canopy, but I will definitely do some more research on this one.

    What sort of restaurants does he take his wife to, that something dangerous is likely to happen? I’m older than him, and I’ve never been in a dangerous restaurant in my life! It sounds a lot like he’s acting the big man, protecting his wife from non-existent dangers, while all the time ticking a lot of the boxes for emotional abuse. (But how can anyone accuse him of being abusive when he tells of physically abusive men? Good double bluff)

    I remember ages ago seeing something on line (a youtube) where he says how he protects his wife by not allowing her to get involved in friendships with church women because they would just be using her to get to him! (or something close to that) Again, pure narcissism — it’s all about him! I’m surprised the poor woman is allowed to do her own breathing! I note in the college dorm incident they were threatened if they even spoke to her — that sounds a lot more like jealousy than protection

    And a final question: if he believes all this macho, violent stuff is so good and godly, does he believe it’s going to be part of the New Creation? Somehow (to change the metaphor) I think the lamb and the lion will only be able to lie down together if the lion gives up its violent ways.

    My diagnosis? A narcissistic egotist with a massive anger problem.– symptomatic of having some big, undealt-with abuse issues.

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    To me he has the look of an Einsatzgruppen SS officer in the Ukraine circa 1941.

    For all their posturing about how they represented the pure Aryan ideal in both physical stock and disposition, many of them did not.

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    Let me get this straight… Grace transfers to WSU and forgets to call her boyfriend Mark to let him know she arrived safely. He jumps in the car, drives five hours to her college (on the same day he has to work), knocks on her door and says in a calm voice, “You didn’t call… Are you O.K.?” Then Driscoll claims he got in the car and drove home, which was 300 miles away.

    Sorry, but I don’t think it happened that way AT ALL… It probably looked a lot more like the following clip. After all, at Grace’s previous college, Mark knocked on the doors of guys living around her and threatened to beat them up if they didn’t behave.

    In case you’re wondering about Mark’s background, here’s an excerpt from the Seattle Times that describes how he grew up. It goes a long way in explaining his current demeanor:

    “A bit like Driscoll’s own working-class background.

    The oldest of five siblings, he grew up in a house behind a strip club in SeaTac. He saw drive-by shootings there, drug dealing. Being close to all that, “it’s not enticing. I think that’s what kept me out of trouble.” He also had a strong father who “made it really clear that ‘my kids don’t do certain things, and that’s the way it’s going to be.’ ”

    He says he didn’t have a drink until he was 30, never tried drugs. But he always had a temper. ‘If you pissed me off, I beat you up.'”

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    Guest 75,

    Perhaps you are new here, and if so, welcome! Thanks for sharing the Steve Gaines videos. I have seen some of these remarks before.

    FYI, I heard Gaines speak in chapel at SEBTS several months before took over the reins at Bellevue, and at the time I was impressed with him. I’ll never forget his sermon topic –“Ichabod”…

    I greatly admired Adrian Rogers and wanted only the best for his beloved Bellevue. I became extremely disappointed in what transpired after Gaines “took over” and wrote about it in a series of posts you can find in our category list. Just look for “Steve Gaines” filed under “s”. If you go and read our posts, it’s worth pointing out that we were trying to add a little humor with the Elvis references. After all, Elvis was one of the more famous residents of Memphis.

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    A little leaven goes a long way. So does narcism. It seems there are some who are drawn to the flambouyance which also seems to go with the narcistic personality. Those with itching ears will find them scratched by personality driven preachers.

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    And some of those preachers are in it for the wrong reasons. They would deny it, even to themselves. But, for some, admiration is cocaine for the soul that is sold out to self.

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    I have a bit of a different perspective of MD and MH

    Watching Mark Driscoll and his church is like watching a train going down the tracks knowing it’s heading for a train wreck.
    This is because I had a pastor similar to him and it ended badly for my former pastor.
    Instead of going on about it here, let me direct you to my comments on Freedom4Captives blog back in September of 2009.

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    I have been a pastor for a long time. here is a conumdrum, if you don’t live in an expensive house and have at least the mayor on speed dial you sre not very successful. Doing my devotional this morning I was using Phillipians. Paul sitting in a roman jail but still praising God. So many of our young pastors today and not so young seem to want to be ceo’s and not servant to God and His people. I am not so old i was on Noah’s ark but I am old enough to have seen a 180 shift in ministers and churches today.

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    We have often asked the following question on this blog. Where have all the real pastors gone? Wish you were the role model instead of these egotistical charlatans.

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    I have started to read that blog. It is excellent. I will see about linking it here.

    Interestingly, projection is talked about a great deal in that book on Narcissism. When the narcissist claims that his wife is gullible, for example, he is saying that he is gullible.

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    Driscoll is a text-book narcissist. Like the commenter from Sydney I can confirm that the man is wildly popular among conservative evangelicals in the UK. It amazes me how people have fallen for his “big man on campus” schtick but a lot of people here are just eating it up. It just seems so so transparent, all of the glorying in violence and fantasies of power and control. It astonishes me that people don’t see what it is they’re attracted to in him.

    The examples he gave for his “protection” of his wife were increasingly creepy. I really feel for her deeply, it must be quite a thing to be married to a man who sees you as some weird child-trophy that must be herded around and constantly monitored lest you have to deal with life on your own terms.

    The man fits the profile of a narcissistic abuser so exactly that there is, psychologically speaking, a very good chance of some kind of train-wreck in the future. There are going to be a lot of Christian leaders with a lot of egg on their faces when that happens. I’m sorry he’s being encouraged by all of the attention not to seek help for obvious issues with violence and paranoia, and I’m very sorry for everyone currently affected by his ministry.

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    I concur with your assessment. I, too, have been concerned that there will be a major fallout at some point. Interestingly, my fellow blogger expressed her concern to a pastor who ripped into her for her observations. If an atheist or a person from another faith were talking the way Driscoll does, these pundits would be excoriating them for their foul observations. But, Driscoll expounds supposed Christianity so therefore he must be a man of God, right? Anything goes for the kingdom.

    Welcome to TWW, btw.

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    “The man fits the profile of a narcissistic abuser so exactly that there is, psychologically speaking, a very good chance of some kind of train-wreck in the future. There are going to be a lot of Christian leaders with a lot of egg on their faces when that happens.”

    They don’t allow train wrecks from those they support. They cannot afford it. They blurb each other’s books, speak at each others conferences, etc.

    They circle the wagons. Driscoll has “repented” and then gotten worse. Then “repented again publicly…then gets worse. We saw this roller coaster when he first hooked up with Piper. If you notice most will become apologists for Driscoll. Very few speak out against some of what he teaches. McArthur is one of the few.

    You all may not have noticed but when a celebrity goes off track big time, you will hear all about how we should forgive and how they are simply “human”. all that is true except they seem to forget this person was a PUBLIC teacher and makes their living that way. It seems they want to move on from the bad thing real fast and resume ministry. And we are mean and hateful if we disagree with taht assessment.

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    Thanks for the welcome Dee! I love the blog, you ladies are doing a good thing.

    I had a friend who took the mickey a little bit out of something that Mark Driscoll said bible study. Nothing that unpleasant, she just said something about him having a big ego in a kind of jokey way during a conversation about something he’d said in a sermon. The rest of the group all jumped to his defense and made out like she had spoken completely out of turn. It was totally ridiculous.

    I’d be concerned about the same thing Lydia. The fact is that he’s being paid to preach this stuff, and receiving plaudits from all over, and a lot of what he’s saying could *very easily* cause real harm to people. It’s not good to encourage people to think of the world in the terms outlined in this post, and it’s GREAT that sites like the Wartburg Watch encourage more critical thinking about the kind of messages that people are putting out there.

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    Just catching up after a few busy days — off topic, but then it was off topic on the previous thread…

    To answer your question, Peter and Fauxlivia’s baby will be caled Re-Peter, of course.

    Yeah, I think Walternate is expecting the baby to keep growing up and power the machine. Guess Peter will have to beat him to it on our side …

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    Is there a crash course for someone like me who’s never been a Trekkie?

    I need all the help I can get…

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    This is not Star Trek. It’s Fringe! Junkster is like me. He likes all things weird and sy fy.

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    Awesome! Re Peter-That is too good. I didn’t think of it.

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    It’s all Greek to me!!!

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    @ Deb: did you mean “all geek,” perhaps? 😉

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    Good one! They’re all geeks to me!!! 🙂

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    Me, a geek? I have truly arrived!

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    Who gets all the latest gadgets first? You know, the Mac, the I-Phone, the Kindle, and soon the I-Pad? Yep, you’re becoming a Geek! Now you have to help me…

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    I was actually thinking more along the lines of sci-fi geekdom. (Another ST fan her, though my fave show is Deep Space 9 and Avery Brooks is The Man!)

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    I remember watching a video, I think it was on this site, of Mark interviewing Francis Chan about leaving his church. That was the first time I heard of the guy, and he seemed like a real jerk. The way that Francis looked and responded to him … you could sense a strong discomfort, which speaks volumes about Mark’s character.
    In Mark’s defense, I’ve met many Evangelicals that act and talk like him these days. Most evangelicals I know use profanity today more than they did 10 years ago. However, this shows a lack of character and a lack of backbone in resisting the trends of our rotten culture. I’m not saying he’s not a Christian, but he certainly should be barred from any kind of leadership position. What will he do a year from now when everyone gets used to his circus and he becomes a has-been? He has a constant need to be edgy and provoke, so what’s next? Will he start smoking pot from the pulpit? Use porn clips in the service for “illustrative purposes”? It’s like watching the last few seconds before a car crash, knowing you can do nothing to prevent the wreck that is about to happen. I don’t know whether to laugh at the guy or pray for him, I will probably do both.

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    Stan, what has shocked me is how many pastors/leaders have accused Chan of the sin of Asceticism. Seriously. One came here and accused him of this on an older post thread about his leaving his church.

    I could really relate to what Chan was saying because I come from behind the mega world curtain. . One thing Chan said that really reasonated with my experience in the mega world is that he heard his name brandied about by the members more than the Holy Spirit or Jesus Christ. That is a danger zone. I wish I had realized this many years ago. I thank God Chan saw the dangers of this to his soul.

    Most pastors/Christian leaders long for their names to be uttered by people. That is why they cannot fathom Chan and accuse him of “sin” for his decision. Incredible, huh?

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    Andrea and I want to thank The Wartburg Watch for bringing our book into the conversation about what it means to be Christian in the Twenty-First Century. We wrote our book because we were concerned about the way narcissistic husbands misuse the Bible and the church as powerful manipulative tools to keep their wives under their destructive control. We hope our book will unmask the narcissists in the church and enable the true people of God to distinguish the wolves in sheep’s clothing from the sheep and the bad trees from the good (Matthew 7:15-20). We entitled our book “I Promise to Hate, Despise, and Abuse You Until Death Do Us Part” because we encountered too many husbands who live that vow in their marriage rather than the vow to love, honor, and cherish their wives. In our book, we encourage women to close their ears and open their eyes to determine if they’re married to a narcissist. Narcissists can tell the most believable lies, but, as Jesus said, we know them by their fruits and their deeds. If anyone wants more information about our book or would like a copy of it, it is available online at
    Gratefully, Troy

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    Prof Martin

    I want to tell you a funny story. I purchased your book and planned to start reading it. By accident, it landed on my husband’s dresser. he came in very late one night, I was asleep. He woke me up with a worried look and asked me if I wanted to talk to him. To make a long story short, he thought I left it for him to read.

    It is a good book and very easy to read-not too technical. I believe this style will help women who are struggling to get the main points. Thank you for writing it.

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    I just ordered your book.