Out of Business

My disgust for the continued assumption of corporate philosophy and practice in the Church continues to grow.

A few weeks ago a colleague shared this article with me.  He’s a wonderful man and loving pastor, now retired, seeking to make sense of the sweeping changes and devastation he has witnessed since he began his ministry over 50 years ago.  Like many current and retired pastors, he looks to the latest experts and gurus to deliver verdicts that might have some meaning, that might be able to stem the tide that has emptied many traditional denominational congregations of their youth in particular, and of members in general.

The article he shared with me focuses on pastoral skills that are not actually pastoral, but much more closely identified with business leadership roles.  Framing the vision, engaging the board in planning, leading staff, managing finances, developing future leadership, being the chief communicator and supporting the board.  How often have these duties or slight variations of them been touted as part of the pastoral duty, and how often have congregational boards and councils bought into these assertions (coming as they do from gurus and experts), only to lay into their Called staff for failing in these regards?

I’ll say it again – a congregation is not a business.  The Church is not a corporation.  The pastor is not a CEO.  In our quest to find a more relevant metaphor than shepherd for the modern church, we’ve somehow settled on CEO, and I believe it is only exacerbating the demise not just of congregations but of pastoral careers.

Another article from the same website focuses on the importance of discussing performance as a congregation.  The author asserts that Jesus and Moses (as well as the author’s parents) each upbraided their followers for not performing properly.  Nowhere does the author define what he means by performance.  I see Jesus and Moses criticizing their followers for unfaithfulness and for disobedience, but is this the same thing as performance?  Is it true that “God is judging our performance”, as the author asserts in conclusion?  What does the Bible say about this?  Whose performance is it that is judged – ours, or Christ’s?

I’m no guru or expert.  I haven’t authored any books (well, nothing theologically related).  But this is dangerous quasi-theology used as PR to sell consultation services.  The sooner the Church recognizes that performance is a very different animal in Scripture, and remember that followers of Christ are called to suffer – which might mean dealing with declining numbers and radical change, the better.  Don’t get me wrong – there are Called workers out there in the Church who have no right to be where they are, who are grossly incompetent and even dangerous, and congregations need to deal with those people for the good of the individuals as well as the congregations.

But evaluating your Called staff because your congregation hasn’t significantly grown, or because they aren’t skilled in reading spreadsheets and putting together PowerPoint presentations is a dangerous departure from what Called staff should be about.  I recommend paying more attention to 1 Timothy 3 rather than the latest, greatest, and for-hire experts & gurus.  At least until those experts and gurus can demonstrate that their own performance warrants your respect.


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