Is The Senior Pastor Really the CEO?

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.

66 thoughts on “Is The Senior Pastor Really the CEO?

  1. Pingback: The Challenge « Signposts2

  2. “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.”

    If somebody finds a metaphor please let me know ASAP so that I can get another disc for my video camera.

  3. It has become somewhat fashionable to speak of “servant leadership” in the business world. Here too, I think the danger is that churches, seeing this biblical language, will say “Ah ha! That’s what we mean, someone who stewards the resources of the organization.” Which is not what I see Jesus doing when he strips down, washes feet, and asks, “Do you understand what I am doing?”

  4. So where did all this begin , how did we end up like this. I believe in order to go forward youmay have to look back. I have been doing a bit of research on this myself and it would appear that back in the late seventies and early to mid eighties the church began to look at ways in which to entice people into the church. This move was very subtle as they always are. If you read about how Willow Creeks Bill Hybels started out and Rick Warren you will find behind them a guy by the name of Peter Drucker who was not a christian but revolutionised management in America. He became Hybels and Warrens mentor in how to grow and run the church.

    Of course the seeker sensitive movement has proven to be a flop , as they have come out and said , but it would seem that they still cannot get away from the “run the church like a business ” practice. Give the people what they want not what they need, thats the name of the game.

    I have been in the same church for 20 years and it does seem to run more like a business than a church. But yes the thought of having a CEO in the church, yuk ,yuk, puke. I think people are looking for a geniune pastor who cares for the flock and is not interested in statistics and surveys and modelling church on business principles, that just leaves people cold.

    Perhaps what we really need is some godly sorrow that leads to repentence for our arrogance in thinking we can run gods church mans way.

  5. I’m new to your site and very glad I stopped by. This is excellent. I never cease to be amazed at how much pressure we place on ourselves and/or accept from others that amounts to nothing more than jumping through hoops.

    Blessings in Christ,


  6. I don’t think I would necessarily describe places like Willow Creek as a “flop” – in fact what I like about Bill Hybels is that he is increasingly honest and humble about where his church’s efforts have been less than successful and off track. This does not however, negate the massive amount of positive things that he and his church have achieved.

    It’s a delicate balance to tread – the senior pastor should not be the exact equivalent of a secular CEO, however the bigger a church get the greater that sort of administrative burden will be. I like the concept of having the Pastor maintain leadership in the areas of spiritual direction, teaching, and pastoral care whilst being able to devolve the more “business” type stuff to another, qualified person. Our church has recently employed a person in this Administrator type role and from what I’ve seen it seems to have been a very good move. I do think having the Pastor and Admin jobs separated is wise, if possible.

  7. I think the metaphor of a shepherd is interesting.

    Maybe I should operate as a leader in the church the same way a modern day shepherd does today, or even in the same way a shepherd did in Jesus’ day……

    In my view they were not sitting on the side of some green mountain somewhere singing lullabies to the sheep and patting them on the head when they were feeling bad about their life.

    In my view they were businessmen, and business like in their approach.

    It is not arrogance to use man methods to organise a church, maybe its recognition of the intelligence God has given us.

    Maybe the mission of Christ is too important to not be strateic and purposeful about it. Maybe the fact that millions of people dont know Christ is important to God and we need to do something about it.

    Maybe the same pastors who are seeking to lead well, are also prayers, carers and genuine in their desire to lead and care for people.

  8. Oh get over yourselves people. Any structure is going to be human in that the Bible simply doesn’t advocate one. And as soon as you think you’ve identified one I’ll politely (or not) invite you to line up behind the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Brethren, Pentecostals, Independents and whoever else you care to name. They’re all convinced their’s is right, too.

    Issues of integrity, character, love, community, humility, servanthood, Christlikeness and on and on are going to played out, or not, regardless of the structures.

    Sorry Hamo, but I’m so over this. I just don’t think the structure is the issue. The implementation may be an issue, but you get that anywhere.

  9. Suprisingly I agree with Alex’s sentiment. I have seen dictatorship style leadership in a Baptist Church with the most congregational type constitution you have ever seen.

    Whatever structure you adopt should merely be your servant. What matters is that the leaders are prayerful people of character and love.

    I happen to like and resonate with the pragmatic nature of Borden…others dont, fine, lets all get on with reaching people for Christ.

  10. Let’s face it hamo, our convictions will lead to our chosen life-style and hence, the way we seek to explore and express “church” – it will also effect how we read and understand the bible.

    Mark sees businessmen and business principles in operation as he reads the sermon on the mount, you and I see a very different picture, and yet each of us asks the Spirit for discernment when reading the same scripture.

    I personally think the CEO model (and Borden’s take on it) of doing church (yes this is old ground 😉 ) – has got knobs all over it, and as a result I am unlikely to choose to work in, or attend, a church that runs under the guise of these principles.

    I do want to back up your reference to Al Gore – although my personal experience is that my church world began to shatter while I was still a full-time employee of a CEO-run mega church in Perth. And although I was getting paid when the cracks began appearing it did get to a point where I could no longer take a paycheck each week if I wanted to faithfully pursue my newly forming questions/beliefs about church and Jesus-discipleship.

    And just for good measure, when I did finally leave (after 18 months of “cracking”), everything that I used to believe in regarding the way we were doing church leadership, was well and truly shat upon and all my fears regarding the CEO-style were experienced as a personal reality in a way that nearly knocked all the wind out of my soul.

    Each to their own – but be passionate, full of grace and humble in your pursuit 😉

  11. I agree entirely with your conclusions that the CEO role is not found in Scripture. But it goes further than that in my view. The NT only ever describes (1) itinerant apostles/evangelists/apostolic workers evangelising, planting and encouraging new churches and (2)indiginous co-equal elders in each local expression of the church, some of whom labour in preachng and teaching. Anything beyond that has been added to Scripture, usually if we’re honest, when we want to justify a position or practice we’ve got a strong attachment to. In the NT there is no idea of a pastor of any kind distict from other elders, no hierarchy within elders, no senior pastors, associate pastors, youth pastors, CEOs, reverends, vicars, ……

    The saddest thing about all of these concepts is what it reveals about the mindest behind them, which to one degree or another almost always relates to issues of power, influence, position, control, wanting a following, etc. If you survey the Christian church today there a very, very few churches which are totally free of this. Even where CEO or Senior Pastors do not exist in name, there are frequently those who act in exactly the same way and dominate their churches just the same. While it is not wrong for one person in a church, because of their gifting, to become more prominent – as, for example, James had become in the Jerusalem Church – this surely cannot ever be justification for establishing positions, job descriptions, etc to reinforce a hierarchy, no matter how much we have persuaded ourselves that we’re only doing so for the benefit of the church.

  12. “Any structure is going to be human in that the Bible simply doesn’t advocate one.”

    Mark, I agree with Alex’s sentiment too here. Which is why the push for CEO leadership is more disturbing.

    The words alone ought to cause us alarm. “CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER”

    Am I the only one who says ‘what the?!’

    This is a pure business expression being imported into the church to help us in our pragmatism.

    It simply does not belong their. Use words like servant of whatever else resonates with biblical imagery, but let’s not pretend this one even gets close to the mark.

  13. Alex – BTW you may be over this, nor probs there – but plenty of people aren’t.

    They are tired of hearing something that simply does not have any biblical currency.

    I am one of them.

    I am very weary of seeing this as the dominant imagination of church leadership.

  14. The real problem is not CEO leadership – it is pastors as leaders of local churches. Pastoral leadership is not supported by scripture.

    The only leadership I see is elder-based and there are very specific criteria for an elder.

    Pastors are for caring – like your mom. When you put these guys in charge they are ill equipped to lead. It is not in their nature to lead nor have they received any real training on how to lead. Most of their training has been on how to preach a message and how to counsel people with problems.

    So, feeling their lack, pastors cast about for ways to be better leaders. Usually, when they borrow an idea form the business world they apply it cack-handedly and make a mess.

    I believe a plurality of leadership based on the elder criteria found in the NT and you are all set.

  15. I have read Borden’s “Direct Hit”and “Hit the Mark;” I have also visited and studied a number of churches under his care. I have spent time in personal conversation with Paul Borden and I don’t recall at any stage ever hearing or reading about pastors as “Chief Executive Officers.” (I don’t recall Warren or Hybels ever using this term either) Please correct me if I am wrong on this point.

    When I visited the ABCW (The churches that Paul Borden serves) I heard from and saw a lot of pastors who are servant leaders – leaders who have paid an extremely high personal price to prevent dysfunctional churches being hijacked by dysfunctional people; Pastors who SERVE their churches by employing their gift of leadership.

    These pastors are men of prayer and compassion and there is no question that Jesus Christ is the head of their churches. He sure wasn’t before they came along!!

  16. Mike, any more gross generalisations, unsubstantiated comments and misconceived assumptions you want to throw in?

    You obviously dont move in the circles I do…

    and I second what Wayne has said, based on my own experience of spending some time with Paul Borden.

  17. Pingback: CEO? » The Upward Way Press

  18. Hi Mark E – no, I threw out everything I had in mind to say, thanks. Pray tell, what circles do you move in? And, are they circles that are truly representative of the whole church?

    I did not mean to hurt your feelings so please do not be offended by my comments.

  19. It may be helpful if we stopped using the word “pastor” to mean “the single guy in charge” since it muddles the APEPT mix. If we define leadership as an APEPT role, it implies a plurality.

  20. Guys, we’re missing something here.

    What ever the biblical model of leadership was, and scholars aren’t agreed it’s as black and white as some here make it out, we simply cannot replicate it. We’re in a different time and culture.

    E.g., I have come to the conviction that eldership was city based, not congregation based. In my theology having a congregationally based eldership is ‘unbiblical’. That doesn’t make it wrong, but I the think the lack of love and unity in the church is a far bigger issue than whether a few have a ‘CEO’ type structure (and see my comment below). BTW, some understand the ‘bishops’ in the NT to be house church leaders, so we can claim some biblical support for the pastor as leader/overseer model. But for me, that’s not really the issue.

    I agree, Hamo, that CEO is a ghastly term to use in the church. It may be a helpful analogy in explaining the structure, but I tend to avoid it. I don’t see myself as a CEO, I’m a pastor. I’m here to shepherd the flock. BTW, it’s trendy to label it as ‘apostolic leadership’ in some circles, I avoid that as well. Why are we so keen to exalt ourselves?

    I also hear you about the over-emphasis on this model. I think you need to remember the context, though. Largely ineffective churches trying to become obedient to the great commission. The emphasis in recent years has been on restructuring under Borden’s influence. Incidentally, Borden talks a lot about structure, but if you hear his heart, it’s about mission, he has far more emphasis on that. Whether it’s a good or bad model is, obviously, debatable. But it has, at it’s best, been missionally motivated.

    Oh, and BTW, the ministry led model (to use a gentler term) does have a plurality of leadership. As a pastor I am accountable to a Board, I am responsible for leaders. The Board is accountable to the members. Actually, I am also accountable to the congregation at a members meeting, albeit in a different way than previously. I don’t do it alone, I help others do so (and it runs best when I’m not trying to run it!). Notwithstanding my comments above, we’d very loosely see the Board as the eldership, but there is role differentiation in that.

    Please don’t tell me about seeker sensitive, Willow Creek, Saddleback or megachurches. We don’t aspire to be a megachurch. We just want to show Jesus to people in our community. That’s a far bigger challenge.

  21. I wasn’t actually commenting on Borden. It just came out of my conversation with a friend on Tues and then reading Mike’s post.

    The business like structure of churches does disturb me.

    I am not an advocate for no structure or for doing things badly.

    I simply find the words ‘chief executive officer’ to have been gaining currency as the dominant imagination of church leadership and I don’t hear enough voices saying ‘nonsense’.

    Borden schmorden. I do know Borden is motivated by mission and have had a personal conversation with him also. We wouldn’t agree on some core things either.

    One of the things that would prevent me ever going back into a leadership role at a church is the strength of the CEO image in the mind of western churches.

    There would be an ongoing struggle to keep a plurality of elders genuinely responsible for leadership and not become ‘the man’.

    Today begins our Forge intensive for 2008 so I will be going hard with this for the next 3 days. If I have little to say its not because I am disinterested. Just a busy period.

  22. No worries Hamo, wasn’t aiming at you specifically with my Borden comments – the conversation generally. I think we need a variety of church leadership models, so you are right to push back against the dominance of any one model. Thinking about it, isn’t this one of those things that needs to be mission driven, to a certain extent?

    Hope the Forge intensive goes well.

  23. Mike, the circles I was talking about are a group of pastors that are my friends and peers. They come from various denominations. The sort of stuff we have been through would explain why sometimes I am protective over them. I accept your gracious tone, but gross generalities are not helpful.

    Alex is right, mission is what is on Bordens heart, it permeates everything he talks about, from the need for a Pastor to enfuse everything with prayer, to the restructing of a inefficient church structure. Maybe the term CEO is unhelpful to use in church circles, but as Alex has stated, the Borden model promotes accountability, not power or ego.

  24. Why can’t a pastor be a bit of both!? Why does it need to be either a CEO OR a Pastor? You can’t deny that the larger a community of believers gets the more there is a need for administration. As much as I believe the CEO term is a harsh term for a leader of a church who finds himself managing the structure(so to facilitate the growth).

    We should always be about the people and 100% focussed on what we believe God is telling us and them. I think what I’m hearing is ppl doubting whether pastors are still all about the ppl? I find it difficult to allow myself to judge that in someone else’s church…what right do I have?

    The sooner we see that things don’t have to be CEO OR Pastor the better I reckon. I mean, the shepherd leads from within right? Doesn’t mean he chucks on a white woolly jumper, eats grass and tries to baa in his gentle suggestions to his fellow sheep. He is still a leader, he loves each sheep individually and shows them due care(see parables of famous Shepherd)…but he also guides the larger body of sheep. So…he shows himself as having both the pastor edge and the (as we call it, but i think we should find a new term) CEO edge. it can be both!!

    I’m sry if these thoughts seem basic, but I didn’t think the “both” option had been voiced clearly.

    And does Moses leading the ppl with his staff and his objectives of obeying orders, etc…hmm does Moses count as a possible business/corporate model-esque? Would moses have sent around a group memo if he had email during Exodus? Or should I put my annual report down? 😉 jj Hamo.

  25. Hi guys

    wow, every now and then i write something that seems to create a stir.

    Pls a couple of point. . ..

    1. I don’t advocate the use of the term CEO – note I use the phrase “CEO style” leadership. When I say that, I’m not advocating authoritarianism. Rather, when I see the phrase I’m focusing on the E. The “executive” part – which really means someone who gets the job done. Ihe “Implementation” function of leadership (doing the stuff) apart from the “governance” function (ok, what needs to be done). It is helpful, I believe, to distinguish between these two functions of leadership. For anything to happen, there has to be decisions made about direction, what should be done. And there have to be people who get it done. These functions are distinct. They may be done by the same people, but they should be understood as different – they require different thinking processes. It’s the basic distinction between ends and means. And I think it’s not hard to see that distinction in the Gospels – when Jesus tells the disciples to “Go and make disciples” he gives then the type of thing they are meant to do – an “end.” But just how that will happen is presumably to be determined by a number of things – his example to them and the cultural setting they find themselves in.

    2. The “CEO – style” may be “used” by the business world but it actually derives from the non-profit world – people are wrestling with how to bring certain outcomes (eg. health care) to a certain population (eg. the elderly). The “model” lends itself to the communication of the gospel. We have a certain outcome (the kingdom of God, the gospel – describe it how you will) to bring to people (young people, old people, all people). It provides some helpful thinking tools to help churches and others actually be clear about what they’re trying to achieve. So, let’s be clear we’re not talking about “CEO” in the business sense but in the “service” sense.

    3. At no point would I advocate abandoning any biblical principle or issue in favour of any “model” of leadership – let’s get our priorities right.

    4. The leadership structure adocated in such a “CEO style” model involves collaboration at a governance level (a local eldership / board) and at implementation level (ministry teams).

    5. It is after all, just a model. It provides a way of thinking and some clarity about how decisions are made. It won’t create good leadership of ministry. But, in some cases, it can be very helpful in facilitating it. I wouldn’t force it on anyone – by the way – I don’t in my job actually have authority over any church or individual – only through relationship.

    6. The challenge out there for all those who challenge the model is to find for your context other models that work for you. At the end of the day if we are about making disciples (and I think we all agree that is a challenging thing) just how are we going to go about it and how are we going to work with the people alongside us to do it? Models of leadership be tools to help us. But they are just tools.

  26. No, O people, the LORD has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

    Micah 6:8 NLT

    So many types, styles, and models of church to choose from and none are right or wrong. Only what God requires for each church, leader and individual in their place and context should be the focus.

    In a world where extremes are used to generalize and polarize, why can’t we move on and focus on th job at hand.

  27. On further reflection on your article hamo.

    The photo you’ve used is a caricature. It doesn’t engage with the substance of the “CEO model” but rather the popular perception.

    The use of phrases such as “cut throast” – “weak get fired” also focus on the nastier aspects of some usages of the model – but doesn’t engage with the model itself.

    “were there any CEO’s in scripture” – of course there weren’t any – that wasn’t a biblical concept.

    There are quite a few “business” metaphors in the Bible – accountable stewards, watchful servants. John 15 pictures God as a gardener “looking for fruit” and “cutting out the branches that don’t bear fruit.” There are also military metaphors (soldiers in the army etc.) Point being leadership in a biblical sense does deal with some “hard-nosed” issues.

    I know you know all this AH, but I think you unfairly caricature a model which is not a business model anyway (From the non-profit world) and so avoid dealing with the key leadership issues such a model raises. These are something like;

    plurality / singularity in leadership – how can communities work this out?

    clarity of direction – where is this community going?

    responsibility / authority / accountability – how does a community release people to perform tasks on its behalf? How does it ensure it is done appropriately?

    All of this in a context where the bible is speaking to ancient cultures (even the New part of the bible is getting on a bit).

    So, I fully agree with most of your critique of what we see as the practice of “CEO” leadership in the “business” world. And I don’t advocate that we take on board the practices. But, there are some key insights that would be useful for communities to talk about.

    To jettison the “CEO” model without looking at the positives the model contributes to leadership thinking would leave us poorer, I think.

    It should be made known that the model evolved out of a need to efficiently operate community services. The term “servant leadership” is connected with the evolution of what we’re calling the “CEO model.” When these two concepts are re-connected I think we have a good partnership and some biblical resonance.

    Let me say I always question the model. But there are some helpful things to be mined from the model which the tone of your article (and may i say most of the ensuing discussion) would preclude us from seeing.

    Sure, CEO probably has no place in our discussions – and I can see that the term itself is unhelpul for many. But I actually think when we get down to it there are some key leadership questions that the model (note, not necessarily the business world) has explored and can bring insight.


  28. In defence of hamo, when your job is to review and critique the church system and its structures as you explore new possibilities for the future – these sort of debates are actually implicitly necessary. if people don’t want to engage in the backwards and forwards it’s easy to keep out of it – just don’t always see critiquing as choosing to be negative for no reason.

  29. Its interesting Matt….I agree with you on that, and also think that in the main Hamo is not overtly critical, which in why I am happy to interact, obviously we disagree hopefully with grace.

    But on the Borden thing…taking a wider view…

    Some critique it from Hamos persective, others critique it because they like the traditional congregational model.

    In my view and experience the congregational model is so toxic, and so easily lends itself to one or two ‘gatekeepers’ hindering the rapid deployment of mission based activity.

    I think the Borden model is open to abuse for power crazed pastors (which is absurd in itself, what is there about the church that is so attractive in terms of controlling it?)

    I also think congregational governent is open to abuse from power hungry members.

    I also wonder from afar about the model I hear about around BYM…I hear about Apostles prophets and Evangelists….and that sort of terminology concerns me as I have seen people call themselves those terms as justification for control seeking behaviour.

    I can only speak of my own personal experience of Borden, having had many meals with the guy, and seeing first hand community transformation in rural, urban and inner city communities as example of how TRUST and trusting leaders leads to creativity and giftedness being given free reign to be expressed in life giving ways.

  30. “In defence of hamo, when your job is to review and critique the church system and its structures as you explore new possibilities for the future – these sort of debates are actually implicitly necessary. if people don’t want to engage in the backwards and forwards it’s easy to keep out of it – just don’t always see critiquing as choosing to be negative for no reason.”

    Very good point. My apologies for initially reacting rather than engaging constructively.

  31. We gave up having a pastor in our church some years ago and had a shared leadership which was the elders. Some people got very angry about this change and left, they felt they needed to have a pastor. This change worked well for some time but then a small minority started crying out for a pastor again , they felt they needed that one man leadership, so we have a pastor again. I think basically people want that style of leadership (not necessarily a CEO) it doesnt seem to matter how you run things people still want to know who’s in charge here. I prefered the shared leadership myself but I think it left people with an insecure feeling , like the right hand didnt know what the left was doing , a sort of out of control feeling. Now everything is under control again…….

  32. good to see this post has people thinking.

    Just some comments on my earlier posts.

    I think, in retrospect, it would be helpful to define just what I mean by the term “CEO” leadership – just to make sure people understand what is being agreed or disagreed with.

    What I mean by it is an adapted model of Carver’s Policy Governance model – where a board of local elders collaboratively discern God’s leading for a church. Then, they delegate the implementation of this leading to a pastor (a CEO in the model) who is charged with putting it into reality – thus the C in the model – the primary person responsible for seeing it happen.

    The model is very flexible in terms of what might be discerned as god’s will – obviously every local church has to work that out.

    Now, if a pastor has any brains (and any spiritual discernment) and has read the bible, that pastor (the term doesn’t matter) will then work collaboratively with other leaders in an equipping and releasing sense (after all, isn’t that what pastors and other APEPT leaders are meant to do?) to see people engaged in ministry etc. That doesn’t mean the pastor has free reign – the pastor is only authorised to execute the defined mission of the church (thus, the E of the CEO).

    At the end of the day, the model is meant to ensure that the right things get done, and it does provide a possible context for the right people doing the right things (it doesn’t guarantee this though).

    So, that’s what I mean when I endorse CEO-type leadership. I certainly don’t endorse much of what people seem to understand by the term. Perhaps the term is unhelpful. It is, however, helpful to understand what we mean when we talk between ourselves about it.

    The model can be limiting if there are fewer than say 30 people in a church – at that size of group there is much more scope for collaboration at all levels. And it needs to be adjusted according to the size of the group – how specific the eldership needs to be about what they discern as God’s will. But, overall, I think it can provide a helpful model to work off.

  33. You see – it’s not the Church that Christ built Hamo – it’s the Church that “Harry” built? (Whoever Harry is?) Do you reckon ‘purpose driven’ sounds better than ‘market driven’? – I think so.

  34. Mark,

    When I speak of Borden, like you, I only have my own personal experience of his interaction with our leadership team a few years ago. I don’t mean to attack the guy personally in anyway – i just have serious concerns with how his advice was implemented into our situation.

    What I saw happen with our particular model (complete with the very popular rejigged governance process) saw the elders relegated to a position of impotent & ignorant (ie, position of unknowing) “leadership”, and the majority of power placed swiftly into the hands of one or two (if they are husband and wife) people. This allowed for the concise establishment of a single vision and mission statement as well as a nice 10 point core value statement (very popular in these sort of churches – they get framed and hung in the corridors) received by the senior pastor/s straight from the mind of God.

    This ultimate authoritative source of divine inspirataion results in unobstructed decision making and the ultimate power to direct the rest of the body- this is a very Moses-esque model of solo-leadership and runs the risk of establishing and reinforcing management structures/principles/skills instead of striving for Christ-likeness. Leadership development is honoured above discipleship – or to be more fair to those in these systems, leadership development is seen precisely as discipleship and therefore of utmost priority for the organisation.

    Unfortunately, leadership development has nothing to do necessarily with Christ-like development, beyond the value of ethics found in Christ’s character. Successful leadership in these systems is represented by a faithful and unquestioning replication and implementation of the senior pastors vision/orders at every level of the church/organisation.

    This type of system compartmentalizes every part of “doing” church into things that can be measured and controlled – those things deemed outside of “measurement & control” are deemed as having a lesser inherent spiritual value, or at worst are somehow manipulated into a position where they are attempted to be measured and controlled.

    Annual departmental baptism targets are a classic example of such manipulation. Baptism is deemed as an true indicator of spiritual growth and therefore sees itself found amongst the annual Strategic Plan for each department. Membership and leadership courses are designed with baptism as a prerequisite for any further involvement within the church (especially leadership roles which everyone is cajoled into striving for as faithful disciples of Christ). This is extremely effective in filtering out all those ex-catholic, anglican, uniting, baptist etc, church jumpers who may have transfered recently into the thriving congregation. Regardless of their faith story – how long they have been following Jesus – they are quickly baptised (as a matter of accepting the new congregation’s core values) and are added up with the very few “real” converts. Then the total numbers are claimed to represent the successful achievement of the annual KPI ,which is then directly preached as an indicator of true spiritual health of the church.

    Why do I say this in detail – because the point I think Hamo may be trying to emphasize is that certain styles of church leadership, sometimes regardless of intention, if they draw their roots from business management techniques, may run the risk of turning what is meant to be a New Community – essentially an organic, chaotic, stumbling, experimental, authentic, vulnerable, alternative, etc etc melting pot of recurringly broken, yet redeemed, humanity – into a business which sees people as loyal members with exploitable resources, and sees the missio dei as a series of targets to be reached, with increasing success as each year passes.

    This is my experience of such a system, which happened to run Borden’s advice, be hierarchical in leadership structure and faithful to CEO/management principles – and what makes it more crazy, is that the people (including me) doing this stuff were beautiful, loving, humble, christ-followers who were just doing the best with what they knew.

    So, what do you do when certain structures or styles of leadership/church management lend themselves to this sort of misrepresentation. Do those of us who have ended up outside the walls of the city stand up and speak out against the “old system” or do we sit quietly by and trust that God, who knows all, is quietly yet certainly at work amongst the hearts of men (just like he is in mine and yours)????

    peace and grace,


  35. If we need to create structures to maintain churches that grow too big to be collaborative, can’t we just say; “When we reach 30, we break into two groups of 15” It seems we can’t even plant a church these days without property, sound gear and all these structures and systems. Makes you wonder how the Word got spread in the first place…

  36. If a church is so big that it needs a CEO perhaps they need to take up the model of local government where you have a Mayor, who does all the people things, and a CEO who just does the business of keeping the joint running.

  37. The term Pastor is VERY much misused – found only in Eph 4:11, and the only time it is EVER used in the NT it is used in the plural.

    Pastor is the Greek word poimen or the Latin word shepherd. So now we got Chief Executive Shepherd and a Senior Shepherd.

    I like what Richard Hanson says, it is a universal tendency in the Christian religion as in many other religions, to give theological interpretation to institutions which have developed gradually through a period of time and then read that interpretation back into the earliests periods and infancy of these institutions, attaching them to an age when in fact nobody imagined they had such a meaning.

  38. I got your back Mike 😉 ~does hip and trendy handshake with Mike~. Borden is Paul Borden.

    The following is a link to some of his writings.

    Borden works with churches in the States(and as of the last few years, around the world) with the aim to encouraging a healthy and growing church through leadership. I’m probably not explaining it right but I reckon Mark E or Wayne could prob explain more in this area. I heard him speak a few years back at Riverview and essentially he’s advocating a leadership style that views the Pastor as the head of the team, held accountable by the board to the goals that they set together. This has, somewhere along the line, been labeled the “CEO” model. either way…i still reckon you can do both. And I add my resounding support to greatly overlooked comment by “Big Dave.” It seems we may have heard his type of thoughts so much that we simply skip past them. hopefully we don’t carry on in the same vein for too long.

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  40. Isn’t Borden about accountability?

    The discussion about the role of pastor is very interesting but their is a hidden problem that has not been discussed here although reference has been made to healthy?? Churches and numerical growth.

    Why is it that as the CEO style suggests there needs to be measurable (numbers) growth or else the Pastor (CEO) is held totally responsible and given the chop?

    What standards are to be used – Business? Who does the judging? What authority? Who takes the responsibility?

    Interested to read your responses.

  41. I study organizational systems, paradigms, and culture a lot. It’s not my profession, but it is my Kingdom passion.

    I’m not a fan of mechanistic business paradigms dominating the ways we organize community. Seems to me that they focus us on perfecting our “missional machine” to work effectively (doing the right things) and efficiently (doing things right). That approach inherently does not empower or equip us to make optimal use of our resources of giftings, or to sustain our spiritual passion – especially within an external culture of constant change that makes the machine obsolete. (Even a perfectly structured machine …)

    Yes, infrastructure is absolutely essential to survival. We need relatively flexible structures to create health and sustainability. If they are too loose, we have anarchy, but if they are too rigid, we have authoritarian toxicity. I’ve watched churches sink because of too much or too little structure. It is especially aggravating that most seminaries and training programs don’t equip future leaders with practical skills to maintain a dynamic balance.

    Anyway, my biggest objection to business models for church is when a singular leader talks the goals and language of being missional or missionary, but actually uses a pseudo-CEO model to hijacked the church and make it his “sole proprietorship.” By “pseudo-CEO,” I mean that he forsakes wise counsel before making his decisions, and overrules any kind of potent accountability for after he has implemented his decisions. He becomes the “ghost in the machine,” and that has nothing to do with forging a community.

    A local church can perhaps survive a leader with the final say who listens and learns along the way. It’s unlikely to survive an anti-biblical leader who is a one man show who acts as if he owns the show.

    I realize the leader’s desire to create church impact can come from a sincere wish to promote the Kingdom. However, if he’s trying to “lead” a congregation in this perverse form of CEO management, I doubt that Jesus is behind him …

  42. Correct me if I am wrong but this all sounds as if God is not even part of the church, that it is essentially run by man , or am I misunderstanding what is being said here? What new testament patterns do we have for church growth, leadership etc? If you could meet the apostle Paul and ask him to share his thoughts on this what do you reckon he would say?

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  44. The characteristic theme of Borden’s model of neotextual dialectic theory is a pretextual whole. But if constructivism holds, the works of Tarantino are an example of mythopoetical capitalism. Bataille uses the term ‘predialectic discourse’ to denote the genre of capitalist reality.

    In a sense, the subject is contextualised into a that includes truth as a paradox. If one examines predialectic discourse, one is faced with a choice: either reject precultural discourse or conclude that religion is capable of social comment. Thus, the economy, and some would say the rubicon, of constructivism depicted in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown is also evident in Four Rooms, although in a more conceptual sense. Sartre’s critique of predialectic discourse implies that the establishment is part of the economy of language, but only if the premise of the Bordenist image is valid; otherwise, art is capable of truth.

    It is not so much reality that is intrinsically meaningless, but rather the rubicon of reality. In a sense, Lacan uses the term ‘neocapitalist nationalism’ to denote the role of the participant as observer. If predialectic discourse holds, we have to choose between Bordenist image and dialectic subcultural theory.

    In the works of Borden, a predominant concept is the concept of materialist narrativity. However, Bataille uses the term ‘the postcapitalist paradigm of context’ to denote not appropriation, but neoappropriation. Several dematerialisms concerning a self-fulfilling whole exist.

  45. classic grendel,

    I thought you must’ve tripped and ended up head first in a 44 gallon drum of your ice coffee cold press mixture 😉 you were rambling like a mad man – ha! thanks for the link – uni starts again in a week and this could be handy for essay assignments 😉

  46. Crikey – go away for a few days and there is a bit much to catch up on!

    Mike – some thoughts on your thoughts on my thoughts… 🙂

    I will try to summarise rather than responding to everything.

    I do ‘get’ where you are coming from and I understand the type of leadership you are describing. With the various disclaimers above it could certainly have some biblical currency.

    My picture was definitely a caricature, but it is some of what I think of when I hear CEO.

    I don’t have a problem with CEO’s in organisations that require them. Even denominations need a CEO I’d say. Such is the way they are configured.

    But if all this post does is makes us very hesitant to ever use the term CEO unqualifed in reference to the local church then it will have served a useful purpose.

    I believe language is incredibly powerful so to keep it in our vocab is to risk communicating messages that we don’t actually want to.

    I am pretty sure that in the Staff led model (to use the Bordenesque term) the ingredients are the marriage of responsibility, accounability and authority. I have heard Borden speak on this numerous times and what he says makes good sense in a business where outcomes can be expected or people fired.

    However in churches where many outcomes are difficult to measure, or beyond our control, the danger is that we will lose sight of this.

    As I understand Borden the senior pastor is responsible for achieving the goals agreed upon and if he doesn’t meet them then he is accounable to the board who can (and probably should) ask him to resign due to his inability to accomplish the goals.

    I reaslse there is some grace in this obviously, but its still the raw framework for seeking to make churches more effective.

    Goals – accountability – rewards or consequences.

    So I guess my primary issues are two fold:

    – Language – and what it conveys – as I have learnt many times ‘perception is reality’. I think if I asked 10 people to tell me what a CEO does they would speak of running a business.

    – The results orientation and associated consequences – I know Borden speaks of fruitfulness and faithfulness, but we cannot actually control frutitfulness. Should a pastor be sacked for this? As I have heard Borden on this he would say ‘yes’.

    – The biblical descriptions – I have no qualms with leadership being needed and being an NT requirement, but the type connoted by this language doesn’t belong in a church.

    Anyway – that’s a bit more rambly than I had hoped, but just wanted to check in and let people know I haven’t dropped a grenade and run for cover!

  47. amidst the immensity of intensity on the deconstructive and discursive dialetic re: CEO-osity, it was delightful to find professor grendel’s clearly non-oblique reference to the postmodern generator, thus adding to the post-foundational exotics of the semiotics therein.

    translation: the heck with profundity, bring on pro-fun for me!

    OZ has better humour than US. wish i were there …

  48. hey andrew

    i think i’ve learnt a lot about language from these discussions. I hadn’t perceived just how the term “CEO” would be understood. I didn’t have in mind the business edge of win-at-all-costs being transferred into the church. That certainly isn’t what I’d advocate.

    I still think a carefully nuanced single-point-of-delegation can be a good thing for Christian leadership, as a sort of underneath skeletal thing. I don’t see it as necessarily undermining the concept of the “body.” But again, it’s about who is that single point, and how big their heart is to see others involved and released. If the person in that role operates in an empowering and releasing way toward those in their team, the model can work. If the person seeks to control and dominate, it won’t work, and people will feel frustrated.

    I get a sense that some people have been frustrated along the way.

  49. Well!! you’ve all lost me , maybe I need to find a blog thats a bit more for the average joe in the street. Its all abit over my head, sounds like politics.

  50. To me the issue is whether the leader is seeking to help people to connect with Jesus who is the head of the church or if he or she is simply trying to manage a corporation or, worse still, to influence people with his or her great management skills. While every organisation needs some level of leadership the church should be about something more than protecting its own survival and certainly should not be about building the power base of the leader.

  51. Barna just released a survey on how the US conventional church embrace alternative forms of church as fully Biblical.

    In the article, Barna claims, “Among the pastors least likely to support the legitimacy of house churches were pastors who earn more than $75,000 annually…”

    Most, if not all, pastors who earn that kind of salary probably do see themselves as CEOs rather than shepherds or teachers. So I thought this survey finding was interesting given this topic thread.

  52. I imagine if you interviewed leaders of house churches, they might have something to say about the legitimacy of Mega churches…so what? we are all going to be able to find support for what we do….and distance ourselves from what we dont do…that does not prove anything.

    My litmus test, are people coming to Christ?

  53. I think Barna’s findings illustrate the quote earlier from Al Gore, and whilst it is those big salary, big church guys who have the loudest voice we are faced with a situation that the ‘power brokers’ are shooting themselves in the foot if they truly open up and explore some of these ideas.

    My personal struggle with the staff led model, regardless of titles, is that in my experience it turns pastors in shop assistants and parishoners into consumers of spiritual goods and services, and to be a stand out provider of said goods and services (quality child,youth,music ministry) requires a top notch CEO, who can provide returns on the investments of the share holders (tithers) or suffer the consequences.

    After saying that, up until last month I was a part of that system, and i still attend a church that works that way, but I am questioning it’s ability to truly lead to a passionate church committed to radically following Jesus.

  54. lol, I thought we were the Rebel Alliance. Anyway, perhaps I am doing others an injustice, but I know my salary contributed to the extreme slowness of my decision to finally be honest with myself and walk away, but maybe thats just me, so i shouldn’t tar others with my own brush.

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  56. roo said, “… but I am questioning it’s ability to truly lead to a passionate church committed to radically following Jesus.”

    I, too, recently (fall of last year) left a similar position as part of a CEO led church staff. And I, too, came up hard against the same paradox; i.e., can a large ‘corporate’ style church truly attain to its NT calling?

    Having come from both a theology and management background, I quickly plumeted into cognitive disonance as I realized the MANY issues endemic to such ecclesial cultures: excessive reliance on by-laws instead of Scripture, the insistance on growth (in terms of both nickles and noses)and the use of ‘business’ ‘marketing’ techniques to promote such growth, contemporary music (and the whole scary trip down that dark path to heavy beats and kumbayatic meditation experiences 🙂 ), bloated facilities, astronomical budgets and expenses, programs designed to satiate the insatiable ‘self’ appetite, the onset of the ‘doctrine is divisive’ philosophy, and on and on.

    I struggled and continue to do so. Can the modern church, ecumbered by the vast accoutraments of business logic, including the CEO pastor model, “truly lead to a passionate church committed to radically following Jesus”? Given time to more thoroughly digest the problem and examine it from within and without, I am weighing heavily to the negative.

    In my studies on the matter, I am constantly reminded that God does not count nickles or noses but is concerned rather with a remnant. And now the question in my mind has become, “does He save that remnant or does He choose it?”

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