Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Does Jesus Read "The Economist"?

One of the churches in our metropolitan area is rapidly becoming the "flavor of the month" in American evangelical Christendom. The pastor is a great preacher, the church is growing rapidly, and they attract lots of beautiful young singles and rich young marrieds. Consequently, they also attract a lot of press.

Recently, a web interview with this pastor was posted, and it's illuminating. Here's part of the interview, edited to avoid naming names (if you don't already know, then good search skills will get you the answer in about 3 seconds - but I'm trying to focus on the thought and not the person, per se):
Question: What is distinctly spiritual about the kind of leadership you do?
Answer: There's nothing distinctly spiritual. I think a big problem in the church has been the dichotomy between spirituality and leadership. One of the criticisms I get is "Your church is so corporate." I read blogs all the time. Bloggers complain, "The pastor's like a CEO." And I say, "OK, you're right. Now, why is that a bad model?" A principle is a principle, and God created all the principles.

Question: So what's the principle behind the CEO model?
Answer: "Follow me." Follow we never works. Ever. It's "follow me." God gives a man or a woman the gift of leadership. And any organization that has a point leader with accountability and freedom to use their gift will do well. Unfortunately in the church world, we're afraid of that. Has it been abused? Of course. But to abandon the model is silly. Churches should quit saying, "Oh, that's what business does." That whole attitude is so wrong, and it hurts the church.

I'm a businessman. I work in a very large "name brand" corporation. And I agree that there are areas where business people can help church people be more effective. I even serve on committees at my church where I suggest we learn from approaches that are taken in business.

But I take strong objection to this pastor's sentiments. Is there really no difference between spiritual leadership and business leadership? Do we just slide all the principles and practices over on a one-for-one basis? Is a church really a corporation, to be led by a CEO whose primary directive is, "Follow me"?

I wonder if the "company handbook" has anything to say about this?
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." President and CEO Jesus. Matthew 20.25-28.

Servanthood must be the mark of a spiritual leader. Some businesses understand that a serving leader usually gets better results in the workplace, but not many of them do. My company certainly doesn't teach that the higher I go, the more I get to sacrifice for the benefit of my people.

Which leads to my second passage from the Christian company handbook:
"[Jesus] gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Marketing Manager Paul of Tarsus. Ephesians 4.11-13.
I may step on some toes here, but I argue that the primary job of the pastor is NOT to compel people to follow the CEO pastor. Rather, it is to serve his people by contributing to their spiritual maturity, to help them connect to Christ and become Jesus's disciples, not the pastor's. It is to train and prepare the laymen for the call which God has placed on each believer's lives: namely, to love God, to love others, and to lead others to discipleship to Jesus.

We do violence to Jesus and the Kingdom of God when we say that there is no such thing as spiritual leadership. May God protect us from churchmen and pastors who say there's nothing distinctly spiritual about how they lead!

And to those who will respond, "But look at how God is blessing that pastor's church and making it grow," I can only respond: Look at the fruit. Are lives being changed, disciples being made, laborers being sent into the harvest? Numbers are good. Numbers plus depth and maturity is even better. The point is not to add numbers to the church, but disciples to the Kingdom. Over time, we will see whether the fruit is good.


  1. Just another reason the Evangelical Church in America is sick and dumb.

  2. There are still a few good ones around, though. I like to think I go to one of them.