The CEO-Pastor stuff won’t go away.
I heard John Kaiser talk yesterday. He’s written a book called Winning On Purpose and he has a lot to say about church governance. As I understand it, he thinks that it’s important that church structures be leader-centred, in the sense of giving a lot of authority and power to the leader to achieve goals set by a church board in whatever manner the leader sees fit.
Kaiser critiqued ministers of ‘stagnant’ churches, saying they tend to develop a theology of ‘unfruitfulness’ which justifies their lack of growth. I bet a lot of those pastors’ churches are ‘unfruitful’ in their own ways, but I’d say it for different reasons.
The assumption seems to be that numerical growth is ‘fruitfulness’, that you’re ‘successful’ if you have lot of people attending your church. It’s easy to see where this type of thinking comes from – it’s the way people think in business and indeed in every area of the secular world. It’s not the way Jesus thought – after the feeding of the five thousand, he turned away from the crowds because they weren’t prepared to follow him fully. He kept on emphasising the cost of discipleship, and it caused would-be disciples to turn away. (Of course, at various times in the gospels and Acts there are big increases in numbers. Growth in numbers isn’t wrong, but it isn’t necessarily right either)
I don’t think the world needs more Christians as much as it needs more deep Christians, living committed lives of discipleship. We’ve got way too many Christians living lives indistinguishable from the world. It immunises the world against the radicalness of the kingdom. You lower the bar, you make church easy enough and fun enough, and of course you can get people to come. Mainly you’ll suck people away from the mid-sized congregations of those ‘unfruitful’ ministers. Christians will go to where the energy is. But will you have achieved anything for the kingdom?
Success for Jesus was a cross!
I flicked through his book today, and one section I read said that if a church grows under a minister’s leadership, he should get a pay rise! If it doesn’t grow, no pay-rise and he has a year to turn around or he gets the sack. I find this really hard to swallow. It sounds like exactly what you’d expect of a corporation, not a church. It sounds like someone taking the parable of the talents and applying it where it doesn’t belong.
This whole world of big churches with paid staff and structures is alien to me, and I have a lot to learn. It seems a lot of these ideas are coming out of frustration with traditional Baptist congregational government, a frustration I can understand. Yet the cure seems even further from Jesus. I feel upset by the ideas I’m encountering, but I’m going to try to listen with humility and learn what I can, critique what I need to.