Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Pastors and Middle Management

My brother was recently telling me the latest “upper management” horror story to come out of his job. In stereotypical fashion, a once nice guy got a whiff at a higher paying job and more authority and became an idiot. My experience in the corporate world verifies his story as not atypical. No doubt, many of you have similar stories and could tell them with gut-wrenching detail.

Why is this important to me? Most evangelical pastors are trying to be just like my brother’s former boss. They are not sharp enough to know it, and they would deny it with every fiber of their being, but they are patterning their ministry careers after ladder-climbing middle management.

In fact, they are patterning their pastorates after the most successful of the ladder-climbers. And if you have any experience in the corporate world, you know that most of the most successful are not the kindest sweetest people you know. It is almost axiomatic that to advance in the business world you have to treat others as means to your personal ends and treat your customers as profit centers.

The patterning I am concerned with is almost as sure as imprinting experiments with lab rats and cheese. Ask your average pastor who they are reading right now, or who their favorite “leadership” authors or, or which authors their colleagues are recommending to them, and I guarantee you that there will be more masters of industry than pastors or theologians on that list. And the more evangelical pastors read and pattern their lives after these management types, the more our churches become half-baked corporations where the staff is treated as means to ends and congregations are treated as customer profit centers.

Far more than young leadership, far more than better marketing techniques (think Reveal), and far more than relevance, our churches need pastors who know what it means to follow a divine call to stand behind the sacred desk and see people as a shepherd. We need a renewal of what church means, beginning with God and his revealed Word, among the leaders of local congregations. We desperately need to recapture the title of “pastor” as a title that conveys real, spiritual meaning.

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