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...and don’t even know it. It’s fine to think outside the box, but building more boxes that don’t talk to each other is symptomatic of cognitive dissonance (CD) and that’s not healthy. 

Every pastor probably has some CD and every pastor needs to examine the ramifications of this compartmentalization before it’s too late.

This discussion is about incongruous habits many pastors have in their role as leaders—patterns that have the power to kill credibility. When your actions don’t aline with what you preach, you’re not thinking outside the box, you’ve actually created another one.

What’s wrong with these pastors?

Pattern 1: They form strategic alliances, but claim to be totally egalitarian.

First, there’s nothing wrong with having friends (even staff) to whom you are closer on a social basis. I’m not even sure you can avoid it. However, alliances that come dangerously close to being, at the very least, disquieting, are something quite different.

Disquieting? Alliances are based on mutual interests and common goals. When a pastor clearly links himself to another individual on staff or member of the congregation, it is the beginning of a easily politicized and, generally, opinionated fusion of like minds. 

Why is that a problem? Primarily because it breeds mistrust by others. That kind of preferential linkage is what brings down many a leader.

Only pastoral leads who figure out how to stay totally open in every situation, and occasionally vote against their own “alliance approved” point of view, can keep moving forward as a trusted entity.

Pattern 2: They show favoritism to one group or the other. 

This is not about sexual inappropriateness. This is about the simple mistake of favoring one group over another. I’ve never seen a pastor ignore rich people. They need them. I’ve never seen a pastor ignore smart people. They need them. I’ve never seen a pastor ignore well dressed people. They’re SO well dressed! 

You get the point, I’m sure. It’s very difficult not to lean into beautiful, smart, and rich people. To be naive enough to believe that others don’t see that is just plain foolish.  

BTW, I’ve rarely had a pastor confess to this recurring piece of CD. They just don’t recognize their own prejudice.  

Pattern 3: They don’t balance their lives because people in ministry "can’t do that."

Alert! Many pastors are on a collision course with burnout! They use the excuse of “ministry requires more” as a justification for not taking care of themselves. This is just wishful thinking. “If I work harder, God will reward me, the people will reward me, and I will feel better about myself and my calling,” they might believe. 

That is sheer myth! Pastors who fool themselves into thinking they are super heroes deceive themselves. This is probably the worst example of unhealthy compartmentalization. It is the "suspension of disbelief" run amuck! 

Incidentally, as you undoubtedly know, there are far worse examples of compartmentalization than the ones mentioned above. 

As the watch sergeant use to say on Hill Street Blues (a TV series long before your time), “Be careful out there!” There is not a pastor alive who couldn’t prophet from some serious self-examination—probably with extra help from a professional coach (counselor).

Blessings 

Doug


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