I was meeting with a friend today who is without question one of the most gifted and godly leaders I know. He leads a church community, but is currently questioning what that means, and how leadership ought to look if we genuinely believe that Jesus is the head of the church. (Is that a nice idea but too difficult in practice?…)
Both of us have been in places where we have been CEO style senior pastors, and both have done ok in those places, but we also find ourselves currently wondering where on earth did we ever get the idea that the ‘Chief Executive Officer’ was an appropriate biblical expression of leadership?…
While the ‘Chief Executive Officer’ may well belong in the cut throat, results oriented business world surely we have to ask ‘is the church a business?’… Have we really become a commercial enterprise where the strong survive and the weak get fired? Because that is the implication of being a CEO.
Was Jesus really the CEO of his followers?…
Was Paul the CEO of the early church?…
Were there any CEOs in scripture at all?…
Chief executive officer… Chief executive officer… Chief executive officer… say it out loud and hear how dumb it sounds when placed alongside ‘body of Christ’… ‘priesthood of all believers’… ‘the family of faith’ Is the person leading a church really supposed to be a CEO?…
What’s frightening is that in so many places we have stopped questioning this form and accepted it as normal in a 21st century western church. Its now considered one ‘valid’ expression of leadership, if not the dominant form.
I don’t believe it is. I don’t believe the CEO has any place in the ‘family’ of God. When was the last time your family appointed a CEO to keep it on track? Where does a ‘chief executive officer’ fit into a family? Find me one metaphor or description of the church as business/corporation anywhere in the Bible and I will walk naked up the aisle of your church this Sunday with an annual report in my bumcrack.
Ok, I’m a bit mad again.
I am convinced that the more we seek to model ourselves on business paradigms the less chance we have of being the people Jesus calls us to be.
I am for churches of many diverse expressions, but I cannot see how this anomaly in leadership continues to go unchallenged. Perhaps its because it has been so ingrained that now we cannot even think differently. Or perhaps as Al Gore stated in Inconvenient Truth “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
I also get the impression that our natural evangelical pragmatism has caused us to ask ‘how can we do this thing better?’ which is a good question, but the answer has been to adopt business principles and then bring accountability to bear on those in positions of leadership for whether they manage to implement the strategies and goals of the company. Even if the things we want to do better are often beyond our control we still appoint someone with the responsibility to do them… and fire them if they don’t pull them off.
I will accept CEO leadership in churches on one condition. That they stop calling themselves a church and start using the term ‘corporation’. To use my local Baptist friends as an example they would be ‘Quinns Baptist Corporation’. I guess it should be no surprise that in a world ruled by economics, business has influenced the church by causing us to adopt its forms of leadership and associated practices.
I will certainly agree that good CEO leadership is nicer to be part of than bad leadership in other expressions, but this does not make a case for it being appropriate. I think this is the core question – can we earth it biblically and theologically?
This post was fueled by Mike’s thoughts over at Raah on the place of the CEO leader in church life. Mike’s a friend, a good bloke, and someone I respect, but I disagree strongly here and I’m concerned that at denominational levels we still advocate this as a legitimate way to lead the body of Christ.
I didn’t wake up this morning expecting to write this, but Mike’s post so disturbed me I wanted to offer some thoughts in a different direction.
For some other thoughts on a similar tack see David Fitch’s
excellent article here.