Pastor as CEO?

I’m allergic to the idea of the pastor as a CEO, and so it was with interest that I read a post by Mike on the Ra’ah blog defending the idea. (Especially since Mike has had a big influence on my life and is a friend of mine.) Andrew Hamilton had a very strong reaction.

I commented on the post that we have to ask what sort of church would need to think about having a CEO. If you have a church which resembles the NT churches, then you won’t need a CEO. Instead, you would see the church as a gathering of believers who come together to decide things. (This is explored in John Yoder’s chapers on ‘Binding and loosing’ and the ‘Rule of Paul’ in Body Politics; see my simplification on this site.)

In trying to think why those from an emerging church background find the pastor as CEO repugnant, I think it’s because the CEO is a model borrowed from the corporate business world, and we would regard the corporate business world with deep suspicion.

Indeed, for many of us, the corporate business world is a source of evil in this world. It’s corporations which put shareholder returns ahead of everything else. It’s corporations who see huge profits as a good thing.

And it’s CEOs with those evilly inflated pay packets.

Bring that stuff into the church, and you’re bringing a very polluted model.

I find it worrying that large church culture seems to accept quite uncritically business models on the grounds that they ‘work’. One of the key points at which Scripture needs to have authority for us is in our ecclesiology. The church has gone and got it’s ecclesiology from the business world instead, and it’s wrong.

That all said, I think Mike’s point in his post was more nuanced, about the role of a CEO being to implement the church board’s vision. From that perspective, I can see what he’s saying. He also sees the CEO model as coming from the non-profit sector, as a model of service. And he later says he doesn’t think we should necessarily use the term.


3 thoughts on “Pastor as CEO?

  1. Hi Nathan – was nice to meet up with your folks over the weekend 🙂

    I realise Mike’s post was intended to be more nuanced than I allowed for, but I also tend to see the CEO analogy as so unhelpful that I wanted to make some thoughts very strongly.

    I appreciate the intent in Mike’s thoughts, but while we continue to use CEO as a valid term I think we will always struggle with the caricatures living up to themselves.

    Incidentally the person I met with was Stu W

  2. CEO’s are very important for the economy. If we didn’t have people at the top of the employment chain who were incredibly overpaid, underworked and have all the power, then no one would work really hard at their lowly paid jobs in order to get a promotion to hopefully be at the top of the heap.

    Surely the same is true for churches? Surely no one would do any voluntary work or or Xn work if it wasn’t going to result in the power to be in charge at the end?


    Seriously though, I agree I don’t think it’s a helpful image as there is too much un helpful in the image as a while even if there is some good ideas.

  3. Thanks guys. I didn’t attract much debate, did I? Just three of us who basically think the same!

    Chris, I think it’s a big topic the role of Christian service and volunteers in a corporate church world. Or at least they should acknowledge they’re jeopardising that. Or exploiting them.

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