Adventism and Narcissism


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back I wrote an article called Bible Cures for NarcissismThis morning a friend on Facebook was sharing the signs of narcissism, which I was already familiar with. However, as our Sabbath school lesson today is on the three angels message, something occurred to me just now.

One of the signs of being narcissistic is the need to feel special and superior. We feel as Adventists we have a special message and we do. But if we are not careful could that lead to narcissism? Do we think our beliefs put us in a “special” category of believers?  I heard an Adventist pastor years ago lamenting to his congregation that he was pretty much the last pastor preaching the three angels message and Bible truth. His church was scared to lose him and he had them convinced he was the last true preacher, and whoever came in after him would be a heretic! In talking to members of his congregation they felt very special to have him as their pastor, and felt superior to other Adventist congregations who were not privy to this special pastor. Were such attitudes leading to the gospel or to narcissism?

Its been a while, but I remember a few families in a church I was familiar with who formed their own study group. They were studying the Adventist message more deeply than those in the church, or so they thought. They started referring to themselves as the “remnant of the remnant.” They started isolating themselves, as they felt pretty special. Were they really becoming better Christians or just better narcissists?

Marco Torres wrote an excellent article on conspiracy theories. He writes, “Conspiracy theories have a way of making us feel like we are more spiritual than others because of the information we have.” I think he nailed it! I have talked to so many in the church who feel superior and more spiritual because they are “in the know.” I have met people who feel like they have a special understanding of our beliefs which puts them in a special class. When others don’t understand them that just makes them all the more special. Are such feelings the fruit of the gospel or narcissism?

Jesus is the Gospel. He is the opposite of narcissism. Instead of putting Himself in a special class He joined all of humanity. While James and John wanted to be in a special class in His kingdom (remnant of the remnant?) Jesus said He was the servant of all! In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus mentions a Levi, who was a special class of Jews, (remnant of the remnant?). He mentioned a priest who was “in the know” and probably had special information. Jesus did not identify the gospel with the priest or Levi. He chose a Samaritan to represent the Gospel. A Samaritan who had no concept of caste or special creed. A Samaritan who saw everyone as his neighbor and equal.

Let’s remember the three angels message is for every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. Its not for a select privileged group. Its for everyone! Its easy to fall for Satan’s counterfeit “spirituality” which leads to feelings of being special and superior, and to narcissism. John the beloved fell for it when he asked to have a special place in the kingdom. There is a cure for narcissism and it is the gospel! John fell in love with Jesus and later wrote,

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us. 1 John 1:3

While John once felt he needed to be in a special class, once he fell more deeply in love with Jesus and the gospel he no longer felt the need to be “special” or “exclusive.” He saw all humanity as his neighbor and equal, and invited everyone into the same fellowship he had with Jesus. Narcissism sets us apart. The Gospel sends us into the world!

How Did Jesus Deal With Prejudice?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known. Mark 3:11-12

Many people, even in our own ranks, accuse Seventh-day Adventists of being dishonest, when we cover up our church sign when holding evangelistic meetings. Often we drape a makeshift sign over the name “Seventh-day Adventist” with the speakers name, or the theme of the meetings. Maybe we start the meetings in a neutral meeting hall, and announce later, after a few meetings that we are Seventh-day Adventists. Why be so secretive? I have heard people say, “I am not ashamed to be an Adventist so why do I need to hide it?”

Well Jesus was not ashamed to be the Son of God, but He still told the demons to be quiet when they announced it to the world. You see, for four thousand years, Satan had been telling humanity all kinds of lies about God and His character. Satan had even worked through un-Godlike priests and teachers to make God look stern, unforgiving and tyrant like. Jesus came with humanity draped over His divinity, to give people a chance to get to know Him first, before He revealed Himself to humanity as the Son of God. Thanks to Satan, there was too much prejudice against Him to just come right and say He was God, from the very beginning. People would have never given Him a chance with all their preconceived ideas about God. With humanity draped over His divinity, like a makeshift sign draped over a church sign, Jesus let the people find out how warm, caring and compassionate He was, and then once He had their confidence, He could let them know He was God.

Satan also told many lies about God’s remnant church. Many think we are a cult, or legalistic, so while being careful not to lie, some evangelists like to reveal that they are Adventists, after being given time to show that the Adventist church is a Bible based, Christian, compassionate church. It has nothing to do with being ashamed or deceptive. It is the same principle Jesus used when telling the demons not to tell who He was.

Of course as we spend more effort reaching out to un-churched people, we find less prejudice. After all, it was mostly “religious” people who were prejudiced against Jesus. It is often other denominations that are prejudice against Adventists, but not so much the un-churched community. I understand the principles of evangelists, who do not like to announce upfront that they are Adventists. However, if asked directly what denomination I am, I do not stutter or stammer. I say proudly I am a Seventh-day Adventist. I then assure them that we are Christian Bible based believers. I tell them, we believe Jesus is our only hope of salvation and our only example, therefore we go to church on the Bible Sabbath just like Jesus. Just like the woman at the well was receptive, when Jesus revealed Himself to her, I find many un-churched people receptive when I reveal our Bible based and Jesus centered beliefs.

While Jesus told the demons not to announce to the whole world who He was, He used wisdom in deciding when and to whom to reveal Himself. I do not always know who is prejudiced and who is not, so I pray for God to give me wisdom and the right words to say to each individual.

To study this week’s SS lesson on evangelism, click here. To download the Sabbath School app click here.