How Spiritual Dissonance Can Affect Faith Communities

Deep within each one of us, there is a need for consistency.

Psychologist Leon Festinger recognized this truth in his theory of cognitive dissonance, which suggests we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and beliefs in harmony — and to avoid disharmony or dissonance.

That’s why when we try to hold two conflicting thoughts in our minds, we feel tension. Additionally, cognitive dissonance is why we experience discomfort when we find ourselves acting in ways that are inconsistent with what we claim to value or believe.

This tension or discomfort (dissonance) is a sign that we desire two different things that are mutually exclusive, says Russ Crabtree in his book, “Owl Sight.”

Cognitive Dissonance Within The Church

Crabtree suggests that, similar to cognitive dissonance, churches can experience spiritual dissonance. He defines this as a church “desiring two different things that are mutually exclusive and that are sustained by a disconnect between faith and action.”

In fact, spiritual dissonance is at the heart of the suffering of many churches, and Crabtree outlines a number of ways it manifests itself.

One example of spiritual dissonance is what he calls “strategic-tactical.” This is when a church wants to get to a destination (strategic) without taking the required journey (tactics) to get there.

For example, a church that says it wants to grow but lacks the flexibility to make the choices and changes necessary.

Unfortunately, although most church leaders desire consistency in faith and actions within their faith communities, spiritual dissonance is often invisible — even to those most closely involved.

One Way To Respond To Spiritual Dissonance

The Congregation Assessment Tool, or CAT, is one way to provide a window into the invisible patterns existing in a congregation. This assessment reveals both the gifts within the church, as well as the shadows that may be sabotaging a church’s best efforts.

The powerful insights provided by the CAT are one of the reasons our Clergy and Congregation Care consultants choose this assessment when working with faith communities in the region. This assessment is provided through a unique partnership between the Clergy and Congregation Care and Holy Cow! Consulting, which created the assessment and the accompanying evidence-based discernment process.

Have questions about spiritual dissonance or the CAT? Contact us or click here to learn more about the assessment.

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