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Reflections: Chapter 2, “Early Warning Signs of a Toxic Culture”

Today there may be few things more intoxicating than success. Between that and celebrity culture which often elevates leaders to an unhealthy status, it is not surprising that churches are experiencing a glut of narcissistic leadership. But it is still sad, because it means that both leaders and churches have forgotten that faithfulness rather than success is the mark of a healthy church. Leaders need to resist the urge to satisfy their competitive urges to have “the best” church. To allow churches to be manipulated (perhaps more accurately than “led”) through fear is to ignore that love is our calling, and love drives out fear.

As leaders then we should always remember that we must decrease that He may increase.

Reflection from Brent Easey, Lead Pastor of St, Ann’s Community Church


While the greater focus is on narcissistic leaders who are allowed to abuse power, I don’t think the authors nailed the motives of those they call sycophants. They assert these folks,

fawn over (the autocrat) in order to gain power and influence of their own. (p.27).

My hunch is this is only sometimes the motive. Other times, toxic following is a twisted expression of surrendered servanthood. But then the question becomes, surrendered to serve who? I would have liked to jump from this chapter into a discussion of the Holy Spirit. Could it be that the first warning sign of toxicity is a church culture that does not know how to hear from God? Won’t such a church be forced to find a golden calf (i.e. an over-confident, god-like leader) to submit to and worship instead?

Reflection from Trevor Seath, Director with C2C Collective

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