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CEO-cracy* Or Theocracy

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

Number 246

 
So You're The Pastor
 
You are the pastor. You have a call. You also have numerous responsibilities and expectations. There are also challenges to be faced, goals to be attained, visions to aspire to, and a ministry to lead.
 
The enormity of the ministry task often shapes the day-to-day working of the ministry. Each task and challenge demands a response. The question is not whether a response will be made. Instead, the real question is, "WHO is the appropriate one to respond?"
 
Factors
 
There are many factors which influence and determine the final decision relative to who is appropriate to respond. Some of those factors include...
 
1) Theological Tradition.
Various Christian theological traditions ascribe different roles and expectations for Christian leaders. Catholics, for example, tend to avoid democratic processes and invest the power in priests and bishops. Pastors in more independently-oriented churches are also chairmen of their congregations. Some traditions have a rather unique polity which is characterized by a mixture of these two extremes.
 
As these traditions are more-or-less rooted in Scripture, the respective denominational understanding of the ministerial office will generally be evident in churches belonging to that denomination.
2) Congregational Precedent.
Congregations accustomed to dealing proactively with these issues are more prone to do so. Others, with a long history of dependence on the pastor to do it all may be less prone to do so.
3) Organizational Culture.
Congregations in areas less dependent on hierarchy will likely tend to take the same attitudes with them to church. Executive-type congregations will likely expect a more "executive" mannerism by pastors, while those in blue-collar working environments may look for a pastor just like us.
4) Cultural Context.

Whether one likes it or not, churches tend to follow (or react to) the polity of the culture in which they minister. In countries familiar with a democratic form of government the congregations may tend to be democratic. In areas familiar with a more centralized form of government, a centralized form of government may also be found in the churches in that context. Age, education, economic status and other cultural factors may also play a significant role.

5) Response To The Urgent. 

Necessity is the mother of invention. When necessity is in charge all kinds of things can happen. Some of these inventions are helpful while others may not be helpful at all. Some inventions may be temporary while others may become permanent.

When the pressure is on, there is a strong temptation to let the urgent and the immediate overtake congregational operation. When this occurs one of the first things to result is a change in the ministerial office. The greater the pressures for growth or the avoidance of decline, the greater the tendency to place it all on the pastor.

Congregations are time-sensitive. They live in a real world of the unexpected. Their response to the real world shapes the ministry.

5) Pastor's Leadership Style And Personality.
Like it or not, much of our leadership is based on our perceptions of the ministry, our personality temperament, our preferences, our experiences, our understanding of Scripture, our degree of faith, and our preferred style of leadership. Sometimes these unique personal attributes exalt the ministry. At other times the excesses of ourselves can hinder or debase the ministry.
 
For example, some personalities such as Cholerics and first-borns, may prefer to be CEO's. Others, such as last borns or Phlegmatics may prefer a more spontaneous or meditative styles of ministry respectively. Those experienced and familiar with "being in charge" will tend to want a more dominant style of ministry while some, having been brought up in a dysfunctional alcoholic setting, might prefer more of a pastoral "helping" model of ministry leadership.
 
Leadership styles can be based on so many peculiarly individualistic preferences. It's part of the marvelous diversity of the Body of Christ. 
6) Staffing Configuration.
Congregational preferences for ministry are often demonstrated by their staffing configuration. The roles delegated, the relative weight and importance given to each respective position, the visibility, and the scope of the overall responsibilities all impact the leadership role. The number of staff also tends to impact the pastors role often adding a "Human Resources" dimension to the senior pastor's job description.
7) Size of the congregation.
Generally the larger the congregation the more pressure there is for the pastor to be CEO. Administration, vision building, dreaming, upholding accountability, and conducting and/or overseeing many of the business affairs of the church all occupy the pastor's greatest bulk of time.
 
In extremely large churches it is common for pastors to share their sense of dissatisfaction without really ministering to personal needs. Some long to get out of the CEO-ishness of their ministries. Smaller churches on the other hand often don't have the heavy burden of administrative demands of larger congregations. Thus the smaller church pastor may be able to avoid the CEO trap more easily.
8) Congregational Expectations.
Small congregations, however, are not immune from the CEO-trap. Where numbers are smaller the pastor is more visible, accessible, and observable. Unable to hide under a bureaucracy, the small church pastor can have greater pressures to perform than the large pastor.
 
Large congregations, because they are large, often think that their relatively inaccessible pastor must be busy. After all, they hardly see him. But, they reason, "After all it is a large church. We don't expect to see him."
 
In reality, smaller church pastors may be at least as busy (if not busier) but, because the church is small members may think, "We only have a small church. Since we're so small, what is that pastor doing? He can't be that busy in a church as small as ours!"
 
Thinking their pastor is not busy enough, small churches may develop greater expectations for the "one man show " CEO. Large churches, on the other hand, may have the expectation that the pastor not be further burdened. They may add staff or use their larger pool of volunteer resources to lessen the load of their busy pastor.
9) Denominational Paradigms.
Denominations urge and reinforce the shape of the ministry through many sometimes contradictory means. Seminaries may have one preferred paradigm. National Denominational leaders may have another. Regional Districts may encourage another while more locally-based denomination associations may advocate some hybrid mixture of the past, present and currently "in vogue" ministry paradigm. Para-church organizations only add more beans to this ministerial stew. Given all these pressures it is not surprising that no one really seems to know what paradigm of ministry to follow!
10) The Presence Of Conflict.
When conflict is present virtually everything tends toward control. Those seeking control want to wrest control by enforcing accountability. When overwhelming accountability pressures weigh on the ministry, the ministry is vulnerable to excesses of perfectionism, control, or yielding what is God-given and appropriate to controlling forces.
 
CEO-cracy Or Theocracy?
 
A church can either be a CEO-cracy or theocracy, depending on the responses to the above and related issues.
 
CEO-cracy means that  the pastor, as "CEO," controls the congregation. He calls the shots, he directs the vision, he puts himself on the line. When things don't work out, he gets the blame. When all works well, he gets the credit. Operations, procedures and various maintenance tasks are all part of this role.
 
Theocracy, on the other hand means that the pastor, as God's called servant, ministers by the command and in the place of God. In other words, the called minister in a theocratic congregation does what God would do if God were physically present to conduct Word and Sacrament ministry.
 
Both CEO-cracy and theocracy entail risks. However, the risks that emerge come from different perspectives and for different reasons. CEO-cracy is rooted in the power of man and is driven to satisfy God and man by man's working. Theocracy, on the other hand, is rooted in a humility which desires only that God's will be done in the way and with the power that He alone works in His servants.
 
CEO-cracy is anthropocentric. Theocracy is theocentric. In this and other respects, they are as different as night and day.
 
Is Your Church A CEO-cracy or Theocracy?
 
If theocratic congregations are marked by pastors who do all--but only--what Christ would do in the Church, the obvious litmus test question to ask is,

"If Jesus had your ministry, what things would He be doing?
What things would He not be doing?

 
Though multitudinous theological arguments could make this determination complex, the simple truth is that the Theocratic church pastor does what pastors would do.
 
Litmus Test: What Would Jesus Do?
 
As pastor and chief minister of the Word of God, do you...
Item or Task Yes No Would Jesus Do It? (Y/N)
1. Fix the furnace and/or plumbing?      
2. Type the bulletin?      
3. Raise the money?      
4. Mow the grass?      
5. Fix the computer?      
6. Do the supply shopping?      
7. Do you talk with phone solicitors?      
8. Do you regularly perform other non-ministry related tasks?      
The Results
 
In most cases Jesus would not have done many of the things that many pastors do. Though it is obvious that Jesus commanded His people to "wash feet" and serve, this does not mean that Jesus did all of it Himself. Why? Because He didn't want to establish the Corporation of God. Instead, He came to establish a Kingdom of God.

Was Jesus a CEO?

Obvious Jesus was not a CEO. But a comparison chart between Jesus and CEOs illustrates just how different the Theocratic Kingdom of God is from the CEO-cracy.

Theocracy vs. CEO-cracy

Task Jesus
(Theocratic Model)
CEO
(CEO-cratic Model)
Housing No place to lay His head Many large, luxurious homes
Transportation By foot (Scripture records He only rode a donkey once!) Stretch limos, private jets, et al.
Financial Support No wages Large salaries, bonuses, stock options
Job Description Proclaim the Kingdom of God Total organizational development
Accountability To God for outputs To men for outcomes
Power Base God's Word Vote of share-holders
Origin Of Calling Of God Of the world
Executive Staff Unknown, untrained Experienced, well-educated executives purchased from other companies
Inner Motivation Thanksgiving for God's grace Legalism and performance
Personnel Whoever will follow Whomever I pay
Valued Behaviors Prayer, mediation, Scripture study, discipleship, outreach Profitability
Most Effective In weakness When dominating
Attraction to the world Self-renunciation, painful spiritual transformation Fill their needs, "Happiness"
Corporate Events Eat with society's outcasts Mix with the rich and famous
Norm Of Life God's Word Company policy, expediency
Role of Faith Absolute trust in God Absolute trust in self
Other Perks Give up your life to save it Bonuses, stock options, early retirement, et al
Means of Success Patiently await God's will Your dynamic personality, charisma, persistence, and dominant leadership
Promotions Stay where you are and experience greater joy in suffering, sacrifice, and grace Climb the career ladder
Pillar of Success Die on a cross Public adulation
Major Activity Preaching Profiting
Whether it is Jesus or any of the apostles or prophets of the Old Testament, it is hard to imagine them carrying on any of the CEO-cratic functions insofar as they were carrying out the divine prophetic calling.
 
They preached, the proclaimed, they healed the sick, they confronted moral depravity, and they proclaimed forgiveness. They led worship, disciplined the assembly of believers, and became the people's public conscience.
 
Most importantly, they represented God's presence and power among the people in many ways. Perhaps the most striking way this occurred is their speaking and writing God's Word. These two actions most clearly demonstrate God's intent for His Kingdom: that it be a theocracy. It also demonstrates God's intent for His called servants: to lead as the prophets did.
 
What, Pastor, Are You Doing?
 
This article is not a call for a full-scale renunciation of any job, task or duty which hints of that which a CEO does. In many cases, this is simply not possible. Yet, in many cases, perhaps the CEO-cratic model has suffocated the spirituality of the theocracy which God has given. Could it be that the shift toward the CEO-cratic has led to the loss of your congregation's "soul"? Could it be extinguishing the "soul" of your ministry, too?
 
In order to assess to what degree your church is theocratic or CEO-cratic, consider the following.

1) Re-examine the scriptural basis of the Office of the Ministry. What things were distinctive to it? What things did it do? What things did it not do? Why or why not?

2) Having considered #1 above, re-examine the ministry in your church. What things are you doing that are distinctive to the ministerial office? Which are not? Which demonstrate a tendency toward CEO-cracy? Theocracy?

3) Consider the staff configuration. Are pastor and supportive staff roles mixed? Confused? Is the secretary doing the pastor's job and the pastor doing the janitor's job? Are they diminished in each of their capacities by doing this? Is the office of the ministry enhanced or diminished?

4) What is the central content of your preaching? It is institutional development or personal, spiritual transformation? Is it "doing" the church or is it proclaiming and participating the activity of God's grace among His people?

5) What gives you, pastor, the greatest joy? Numbers or faith? Success or weakness? Happiness or joy? Personal success or the work of Jesus Christ? (Be honest! Really--What is the greater source of joy?)

6) Who or what is most central in your ministry? Goal attainment or the Gospel? Your church or the Kingdom of God?

7) Are you so tied to your congregation that there is no time left for visitation, hospital calls, crisis intervention ministry, etc.?

8)  Is your ministry really a reflection of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Men?

9) Is your confidence that you will be at the same church next year rooted in accomplishments or in your submission and recognition of God's divine plan for you to be in that church until further notice?

No matter how dedicated the pastor, virtually everyone might realize that perhaps their ministry is a closer reflection of a Ceo-cracy than a theocracy.

What To Do

If you have or are experiencing a bit more ceo-cracy than you care for consider the following.

1) Conduct a personal ministry management study. Make a sheet and note all the tasks you do and how much time it has taken for each. Then ask, "Is that ministry-related?" "Is that task driven by my calling in the Kingdom or is it driven by other inappropriate CEO attitudes and behaviors?"

2) Change the staff configuration. Whether using paid or volunteer help, develop a staff support for the ministry which releases the pastor of the CEO tasks when possible.

3) Shift your ministry and leadership style. Make a tilt away from the executive and toward the prophetic.

4) Don't shun the appropriate essentials of the ministry calling. Some pastors use the "CEO" discussion to avoid work. "I just preach and let others do the rest." It sounds so spiritual until one sees they do little ministry of any kind.

An honest, discerning examination of the Scriptural ministerial and prophetic offices reveals that these offices were never bureaucratic. On the other hand, they weren't laissez faire propositions either.

Prophets were extremely disciplined, passionate, spiritual change agents. Their calling was much more pervasive than any CEO's. They balked at nothing unspiritual. They preached regardless of the potential pain. They willingly gave their lives as they preached to influence churches, regions, nations, princes, and kings wherever they were. This boldness is the hallmark of the ministerial office.

5) Prioritize the ministry of the Gospel. When individuals complete time management and delegation seminars they are taught to think about the tasks before they do them. Is it proper for me or not? A similar thing must be done to make a shift from CEO-cracy to theocracy.

For the next week or two, consider what you are doing. Is it essential to the proclamation of the Gospel? Is it central to the Scriptural task of ministry? Will it directly help people realize they are forgiven, redeemed and graciously sealed in God's Word of Grace? Or is it just another thing that you've done to help take up the slack somewhere else?

6) Be Good Stewards of God's Gift of Ministry. Stewardship starts and ends with the pastor. What are you gifts? What is your training? What specialties do you have? Which are you using? Neglecting? Perhaps the most tragic event in God's theocracy is when His chosen people are in the wrong area. If doing other non-ministry orientated tasks--or doing ceo-type tasks gets in the way of your specific ministry training, don't do it.

7) Be a Theocratic Leader. Lead the congregation to the King of Kings. Let His grace and forgiveness enact a total transformation of their hearts, souls, and spirituality to seek the rule of the Theocratic King.

CEO-cracy Or Theocracy?
 
Which will it be for you and your church? Will you have a CEO-cracy or a Theocracy? The answer to that question will determine the essential nature of your congregation and your ministry.
 
The message of Scripture is theocratic. It is the message of the Kingdom of God. This message dates back to the earliest expectations of the Kingdom of God. It is spoken of by David, Isaiah, and virtually all of the prophets. John the Baptist's sermon also proclaimed the theocracy--not CEO-cracy--of the Kingdom of God. Jesus made it very clear at the beginning of His ministry that He was continuing the tradition set by the prophets before Him.
 

"From that time on Jesus began to preach, 'Repent,
for the kingdom of heaven is near'" Matthew 4:17 (NIV).

Rediscover The "Soul" Of Joyful Ministry
 
Are you looking to recover the "soul" of Biblical ministry? Are you tired of trying to make the church do everything they are supposed to do to be successful? Are you finding that success-driven ministry results are somehow seeming less satisfying? Are you getting burned out from trying to do better each year than the last? Are you eager to find real joy and spiritual success in your ministry? Are you looking to se how God can work in your ministry?
 
Then maybe it's time to "repent" and go back to the beginning of Jesus' ministry and start yours with Him. It's not easy to change kingdoms. But be assured that the Theocracy is with you. God's Kingdom is near. Where His Kingdom is the powerful activity of His Gospel of grace is working in the hearts of men and women in your church and beyond.
 
Where He is near there is power to transform, to uplift and to enable you to passionately extend the Kingdom of God in a way more powerful than any CEO-cracy.
 
Now tell me. Who would you rather serve: a CEO or the King?!
 
Thomas F. Fischer
 
* "CEO-cracy" is pronounced "see-AWK-raw-see."

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:09 PM