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Isaiah, Son of Amoz, CEO

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 135

What distinctive things do the following have in common?
The first and easiest distinguished commonality they share is that they are all Old Testament prophets. The second and also readily distinguished commonality they share is that none of them were CEO's, either.
 
What's The Point?
 
When one examines the record of Scriptures it is rather interesting to note that insofar as individuals were called to the exercise of the prophetic office, they did not use executive powers. Instead, the repeated pattern is that the prophets of God, when acting as God's spokesmen, relied exclusively on the working of God in His Word.
 
Notice how this scriptural understanding of Church and Ministry operates in the church:

1) The pastoral office is always no more and no less than a preaching Office. As such, the office exists for no other purpose than the ministry of the Word.

2) When the pastoral office aspires to more--or less--than that which God has called and created it, the office suffers, the office-bearer (i.e. the pastor) suffers, and the whole Body of Christ suffers.

3) Pastoral over-functioning (such as that experienced when the pastor is quasi-CEO) and pastoral under-functioning (such as experienced when pastors back away in laziness in a hypocritical "I just let God do it" avoidance of appropriate ministry responsibilities) sets the stage for an increased potential for health-threatening dynamics in both the pastor and the congregation. From God's perspective the results are never good.

4) Pastoral over-functioning promotes in the Church the false expectation and erroneous theological notion that the pastor's role goes far beyond the ministry of the Word. The ministry of the Word ought not used as an excuse or justification for pastoral totalitarianism. As such pastoral over-functioning desecrates the ministry by its sheer use of CEO-ish power, pastoral under-functioning also desecrate the office and cheats the faithful of their God-given heritage to receive the Word of Law and Gospel in their lives.

5) When congregations and pastors have succumbed to false notions of the ministerial office, the harmonious relationship between the ministerial office and the congregation is disrupted by extraneous--and contradictory--expectations foreign to the ministerial office. These unhealthy expectations, having once been formed, may die hard--if at all--and sometimes only via conflict and schism.

6) Disruption of the proper nature, relationship, and function of the ministerial office and the Church--no matter how well intended, what the circumstances, or the urgent "neediness" at hand--is always unhealthy. Indeed, it is a spiritually dangerous undertaking which always exacts a price.

7) Satan always wins when God's people are drawn away from the proper calling of the pastor. When Pastors are CEO's--without essential time, energies and a principal focus for ministry of the Word--God's people risk spiritual starvation. Lest they be constantly urged and led by their pastors to be in the Word, the unthinkable becomes reality. Legalism takes hold as the Gospel no longer predominates in all things.

A Quiz For The CEO In You!
 

The Pastor-CEO Quiz

Answer each of the following questions "Yes" or "No."

1) Are you the one who is most singularly responsible for carrying out the tasks of the day-to-day operation of the entire church's operation?
2) Do you find yourself carrying out so many administrative tasks that you find it hard to find priority time to do things specifically related to the ministry of the Word?
3) Is the abundance of your time spent in the ministry of the Word crowded out by the pressures of the urgent, the immediate and the mundanely "necessary"?
4) Do you find yourself spiritually empty or, at least, increasingly so?
5) Is your schedule crowding out personal and prayerful meditation on God's Word?
6) Do you feel that you must have a voice in every decision at the church?
7) Are you afraid the lay leaders will make a "mistake" without your input?
8) Do you spend more time helping and being with people with odd jobs and volunteer duties around the church than you spend time with them in spiritual growth and prayer?
9) Are you personally frustrated that God is not fulfilling the goals you have set for your ministry?
10) Do you feel that if you changed your job description so that you only did those things which ministered the Word that you'd give up control and power?
11) Are you "hyper-responsible" for everything in the church?
12) Are you putting in more than 50 hours a week on a regular basis in your ministry?
13) Are you inseparable from your church--and your family knows it?
14) Are you inseparable from your church--and your congregation takes advantage of you because of it?
15) Are you on a "career track" of ministry hoping (secretly, of course) for something bigger, better, more prestigious, et al?
16) Do you feel the greatest strengths in your ministry are your speaking skills, your charisma, your hard work and dedication, etc. instead of your conviction and trust in the working of God in His Word? (If you had to change your answer to "no" after reading the words "instead your conviction....", give yourself two "Yes's" here.)
17) Do people, in general (not just antagonists), think you always need things your way?
18) Do you feel so self-secure and in control that you don't have any concerns about the health of your ministry, your family, or yourself?
19) Do you read and listen to more books, tapes, magazines on administrative literature than you do the Scriptures?
20) Do you find this quiz really annoying because it makes you uncomfortably close to having to experience confession and absolution...and consider a change in your ministry?

The Pastor-CEO Quiz:
Score And Rating

0   "Not at all CEO"
You're probably lying, in denial, or the mythical "perfect" pastor of the non-existent "perfect" church. Seek spiritual renewal...fast!
 
1-8  "Incipient CEO Tendencies"
Ministerial health is somewhat significantly at risk threatened. Seek spiritual renewal.
 
9-15  Quasi-CEO
Definitely at risk for reduced ministerial health. Seek spiritual renewal.

16-20 Full-Blown CEO
You are in extremely serious need of spiritual and ministry renewal. Seek spiritual renewal!
 

Is There A CEO In Your Church?

It is a sobering idea to think that part of the current ministerial health crisis may really be a crisis of an improper understanding of the office of the ministry and of the nature of the church. If such is the case, in light of Scripture's mandate for the ministry it becomes imperative to consider what things you--as "Ex CEO"--can do you to begin a long-term process of restoring a proper Biblical relationship between pastor and people.
 
Suggestions For Aspiring Ex-CEO's
 
If you want to be an "Ex-CEO," here's some suggestions to help get you and your congregation back on track toward and healthier, scriptural understanding and practice of God's plan for His Church and His ministry.
 

1) Begin re-focusing your ministry on the ministry and power of the Word. In some congregations this can be the greatest challenge. External pressures to maintain the CEO mode can be extraordinary. But you must start somewhere. So start with yourself.

Involve yourself in in-depth study of the Word, significant time in prayer, private meditation and other means to focus on your ongoing spiritual development (cf. Ministry Health articles #243 "God's Little Surprise" and   #146 "Twelve Steps Of Transformation" for further insight).

2) Study Christian resources which discuss the teachings of church and ministry. Most denominations have literature in their tradition which discusses these critical issues. C.F.W. Walther's Church and Ministry (Concordia Publishing House) is just one of many Christian standards.

3) Take inventory of your ministry. What "service" areas can you begin to gradually work yourself out of to enable you to focus more on ministry, teaching, equipping and prayer?

4) Teach the congregation what the Scriptural ministry really is. Sermons, Bible Classes, studies with leaders, newsletter articles all go a long way to help them understand God's calling for them.

5) Incorporate a proper understanding of the ministerial office in all congregational vision and mission statements. Refer frequently to these statements to emphasize the role of each member of the Body, the proper authority of the ministerial office, and the primary responsibility to be engaged in a passionate ministry of the Word of God.

6) Implement this understanding. If necessary, move slowing. The learning process takes time. It can take years for the transition to start making headway. Besides, having to wait is probably the best lesson you can have because it makes you depend on the Holy Spirit's action through the Word. That's OK. It's a good lesson. It's what the ministry is about.

7) Start with your leaders. Some of the most effective pastors find that conducting annual workshops on the office of the ministry as part of the new leader orientation is a most effective strategy to maintain and uphold a proper understanding of the ministry of the Word.

8) Pray for your leaders... First that God give you more, Second, that God strengthen the ones you have, and Third, that through your ministry God would move them toward greater enthusiasm, usefulness, and joy in the Word.

9) Delegate the ministry to those upon whom you feel the Holy Spirit can and/or already is at work and upon whom you can lay your hands with the confident blessing of God.

10) Be patient. Patience refers not just to time, but to relationships with people. Some, having been dependent upon their pastor for everything, won't want to give up their dependency. Some people, wanting to discover the joy of service and spiritual growth, will revert back to their old resistant ways.

11) Expect conflict. Welcome conflict as a signal indicating that spiritual renewal is beginning. God's Word works like seeds. The seed grows, as Jesus said, automatically. Cultivate the seed anyway you can...and let God give the growth. See Ministry Health's "Five Commands For Sowers", Article # 237 for more insight.

12) Continually recruit, urge and celebrate people who "make a difference for the Lord." The calling of each member of the Body of Christ is to exercise their faith in a way that makes a difference in the ministry of the Word. Don't deprive them of their calling. Let go of the "reins." Give them some support and opportunities to serve according to their gifts. It may scare you at first. That's OK. It's just a sign that you're growing too!

Does Your God Reign?
 
Finally, be as passionate in your ministry of the Word as possible. Having shed some of the CEO-related expectations and control issues, your ministry will become centered on output not outcomes. As Ministry Health article #246 "CEO-ocracy or Theocracy" details, the ministry is not a CEO-ocracy. It's a theocracy.
 
Where God reigns the activity of His saving Word moves as He desires. Where God reigns there is comfort. Where the ministry is focused on God's reign--and not our corporate control--the Gospel has free course and the ministry of the Word is held in its highest possible regard. Isaiah wrote,
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"  Isaiah 52:7 (NIV)
Tell me. What CEO has ever received that kind of commendation? There is none. It is God's specific commendation exclusively given to the ministers of His Word. Having been given that blessing tell me, Does God reign in your ministry? Or is He in competition with an ecclesiastical CEO?
 
I don't know about you but I prefer it the way Isaiah said God wants it. "Your God Reigns!" Thank God He does!
 
Rev. Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.
Pastor and Ex-CEO

One Solitary Life

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:08 PM