Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pastoral Leaders - Beware of the Superman Mentality

In Exodus 18:17-18 Moses' father-in-law Jethro sees Moses doing too much. Jethro says:


What you are doing is not good.
You will surely wear yourself out,
both you and these people with you.
For the task is too heavy for you;
you cannot do it alone.

Moses' leadership flow chart looked like this:




Moses has taken on too much! Just like some pastors. If they don't have a Jethro in their life this will end in disaster. 

Ruth Haley Barton identifies some of the symptoms that might manifest themselves when a pastor-leader is dangerously depleted and may be functioning beyond human limitations.


  • Irritability or hypersensitivity
  • Restlessness.
  • Compulsive overworking. Bryan Robinson writes: "Workaholism is an obsessive-compulsive disorder that manifests itself through self-imposed demands, an inability to regulate work habits, and an overindulgence in work - to the exclusion of most other life activities." (In Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, p. 104)
  • Emotional numbness.
  • Escapist behaviors.
  • Disconnection from one's identity and calling.
  • Not able to attend to human needs.
  • Hoarding energy.
  • Slippage in our spiritual practices.
Barton writes: "If even a few of these symptoms are true for you, chances are you are pushing up against human limitations and you, too, might need to consider that "what you are doing is not good" for you or for the people you are serving." (Ib., p. 106)

Many leaders have a Superman mentality, which is "a grandiosity that we indulge to our own peril." (Ib., 108)

Pastoral leaders who take my spiritual formation courses know that the antidote to spiritual depletion is returning to their first love which is Christ, and a committed life of praying and solitude and quietness before God.


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My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God  can help you overcome overworking.