I commented on a Pastors Discussion group I’m a part of via LinkedIn on the question of “Pastor versus CEO: Should the Pastor be a Pastor? Should the Pastor be a CEO? Is it an either/or? Or is it both/and?” I thought I’d share my thoughts here and would love to hear your thoughts, agreements, disagreements or what have you on this topic. (I hope I don’t offend anyone and I know that I am incredibly flawed and imperfect and desire grace from those who have seen my many failures or who I have hurt just as I pray to be able to impart grace to others.)
I’ve had 15 years experience as a “staff” pastor. My experience has been one of seeing a lot of abuse by the pastor of their role where they have fallen into a church as corporation and pastor as CEO mindset. [Edit: not necessarily pastors I’ve worked on staff with, I’ve worked with some amazing pastors.] In these situations power and authority is hoarded at the top. These pastors have very little to zero accountability and oversight for this abuse and the people that fill their leadership committees or teams are either “yes” people or those that feel unqualified, intimidated or that it’s inappropriate or un-Christian to offer any opposition to the pastor.
I appreciate Alan Hirsch’s critique of this where he talks against the hoarding of power in the church using Matthew 20:25-28, ‘Jesus called them together and said, “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…’
Today even many businesses are using new methods to incorporate greater buy-in and sharing of authority within their own corporate landscape (e.g. Starbucks employees are called partners). But what I’ve seen is these pastors are clinging to the old corporate mindset of top-down authority.
I see this as un-Biblical and dangerous. Edward C. Zaragoza in his book, “No Longer Servants, but Friends: A Theology of Ordained Ministry” lays out a great Biblical challenge to this notion. Here’s the book description: ‘…Building on the horizontal nature of this relationship, he suggests that we begin to think of a friendship model of ministry. In this model the authority of the ordained arises not from the quality of their service to the congregation (a service which can too easily lead to subjugation or superiority), but from the fact that the church has set them apart to minister with and among them, carrying on their own ministry of prayer, proclamation, and teaching, in ways that enhance and facilitate the ministry of the whole people of God. In this timely and constructive theological analysis, Zaragoza offers a new paradigm for understanding the function of ordained ministry in the life of the congregation. After presenting a critique of the “servant leadership model” and explaining the risks inherent in it, the author presents a “friendship model” of ordained ministry and explains how this model arises from and takes place within the context of the whole people of God.’
As a staff pastor or a parishioner, I do NOT want to be a part of another corporation as my church with a CEO pastor. I want to be a part of something greater than this.
After I received the response of “very well said. In view of your comments, how do you see the biblical role of shepherd (pastor) with sheep?” I answered with the following:
Thanks! I certainly agree with you that “pastors must have some CEO skills such as vision-casting, corporate discipline (focus), and leadership.” So there definitely is some carry-over. But I hesitate even using CEO in the same sentence as pastor, because of the danger of a pastor falling into seeing themselves as a CEO and neglecting the much deeper and higher calling in regards to the focus on love (1 Corinthians 13), being guided by the Spirit and living with a focus on humility as a defining attribute in leadership. God’s wisdom and Kingdom is a paradox to the wisdom of the world, so there is a huge danger in trying to emulate the constructs of the world even when they appear to be wise and “right”. And often God calls us and can use us in much greater ways to operate out of our weaknesses and failures!
A big contribution in rediscovering the Biblical mandate for leadership in the church, is coming from Postmodernity in deconstructing modern constructs of leadership and structure in the church. Tony Jones in his book, “The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier”, lists these dispatches: “[Emergents] reject dichotomies between the sacred and the secular (Dispatch 6) or the clergy and laity (Dispatch 19). They favor a church that functions ‘more like an open-source network and less like a hierarchy’ (Dispatch 16).” These brings to mind the priesthood of all believers.
Another example is in my father, Howard A. Snyder’s book, “The Problem of Wineskins”, where chapter 6 asks the question, “Must the Pastor be a Superstar?” I am in the field of youth ministry and I’ve seen many job descriptions that seem to be looking for a Superstar Youth Pastor as well. After looking at one job description, a friend of mine joked that the person that could fit that job description could vie for a fourth spot on the Trinity. There are obviously very few people that can fill the roles as a Superstar Pastor. We know some of the big names that do it with mega-churches and we look at them with envy and try to emulate them (or emulate successful CEOs) instead of trying to emulate Jesus (I have a special admiration to Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, Parker Palmer and Richard Foster for helping me see a better way).
But why must we be so wed to this notion instead of seeking the Biblical mandate of the priesthood of all believers, where some are called to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some shepherds and teachers. And why? And to answer your original question, “to equip his 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.” (Ephesians 4:12-13). Key word here is equip – which goes along with enable, encourage and empower – all out of a deep love for and service to God and each other.