Last week a friend forwarded to me a podcast in which a megachurch pastor was interviewed about his handling of COVID. The well-known pastor had made some executive decisions that my friend and I thought were excellent examples of business intelligence:
- In June he canceled all in-person services for six months so that the reopening question no longer haunted his 500-person staff; so their attention could be invested elsewhere.
- He also decided that 2021 wouldn’t be a reopening as much as a reboot; prioritizing only those programs they would want in a church if they could start all over again.
I thought, “This guy would have made a brilliant CEO; if only Apple, Google, or Microsoft had his management skills.” Then I realized, “He IS a CEO;” he even has a staff of over 500 people! It saddened me. If Jesus didn’t need a Harvard MBA, why do we crave CEO pastors with business brilliance?
It reminded me of a story. A Christian professor once summed up the history of the western church like this:
Christianity began in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece to become a philosophy; it moved to Italy to become an institution; it moved to Europe to become a culture; it arrived in America and became an enterprise.
When she heard this summary, one of the students asked:
“Isn’t an enterprise another word for a business?” [The professor nodded, yes.] “But isn’t the church supposed to be a body?” [Again the professor nodded, yes.] She continued, “But when a body becomes a business, isn’t that prostitution?”
The Evolution of the Pastorate
In the early 20th Century, just 100 years ago, seminary training for pastors involved three simple areas: exercise of the Word (in preaching, teaching, and counseling), leading worship, and a minimal level of administration (it helped if you could mimeograph the weekly bulletin).
In the intervening century, seminary training evolved to prioritize business planning (like managing budgets), administrative leadership (like vision casting and meeting management), and organizing lay programs. This new emphasis of technical and managerial competence has come to dominate “pastoral” training.
It’s not that I dislike the idea of a pastor reading a balance sheet; it’s that I can teach that simple skill with no spiritual insight at all. If a pastor’s role doesn’t require something supernatural to succeed, I question whether we should be using the term Pastor. The term “CEO” is more fitting for them. (Just don’t ask me to donate to their “business.”)
The shift in focus has moved the role of pastor from shepherd to “leader,” and all the modern leadership jargon is the rage of modern pastors. But the world’s teachings don’t need God.
Jesus would have flunked every leadership (and Sparketin) test we love.
- After a most successful day of service, winning over an entire town in twelve hours, his ecstatic disciples cry, “Come on, everyone is looking for you.” (Exactly what every executive longs to hear.) But Jesus leads them to another town where he is unknown.
- Instead of hanging with the religious leaders (“moving with the movers” as one megachurch pastor forcefully emphasizes), Jesus ignores the “movers,” insults them, or confuses them. And worse, he hangs with fringe groups and has dinner with losers.
- And he entrusts his mission budget to a man he knows is a thief.
CEO Jesus never taught natural management, leadership skills, or budgeting. Instead, his last chapters focus on knowing God in his Word: “If you abide in me and my word abides in you….”
I guess I’m glad that one megachurch pastor had the CEO skills to help plan an agenda for COVID, but I’d rather hear him preach Jeremiah when he says:
“Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are useless … Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither can they do any good.” (Jer. 10:2, 5)
The world doesn’t need us to adopt their CEO customs; they need to hear the supernatural words of an eternal King whose agenda is beyond our common sense.
No human leadership board would have thought of the cross to save humanity.
P.S. Pardon my promotion, but I really believe this is worth it. My friend Gary Barkalow is offering a class on Calling: Discovering Your God-Given Passion & Purpose. It begins October 19th and costs $119.99.
I’ve been working with Gary at Calling events for more than ten years. I’m not compensated for it (I even pay my own travel). I do it because I long to see believers walking in their unique God-given purpose, and this is the best course I know of.
Through this 5 week course, you will learn the biblical understanding of Calling, and you’ll come to discern how God has been revealing your calling to you over the years, and how to decipher those revelations.
To join click here: Noble Heart Community (Feel free to invite your friends.)