Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Entrepreneurial Pastor Trend

What is a pastor? A shepherd?

Anybody else discouraged today by the pastoral blueprint in the "church growth" movement? The most "successful" types of pastors today are more of the entrepreneurial type than the pastoral. They are speakers, CEOs, innovators, vision-casters, pioneers, personalities, and administrators. But too few are pastors.

I notice this on popular pastor blogs. The posts focus on leadership and business theory and rarely on biblical insight or theology. They don't talk about what Scripture they're teaching their congregation or what they've learned from counseling congregants; they're talking about what strategies get their church to the next level (whatever that is) and what they've learned from business/leadership innovators.

I wonder if there's even a place in pastoral leadership for a non-Type A personality any more? Is it any wonder that, as more and more of these flag-planting entrepreneurial spirits take over the pioneering of evangelical ecclesiology, churches are beginning to have more and more problems with leaders who lack patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control?
In a refreshing twist on this all too common story, a pastor in Arizona recently had the cojones to offer his own resignation:
Ronald Keener writes, "No pastor takes on leading a congregation with the thought that, five years later, he may tearfully be giving an apology for his “arrogance” and hurtful treatment of members — never thinking that he might repeatedly tell the church on his last Sunday before them that “I was wrong.”

But that’s what happened at a megachurch in the Phoenix area on the fourth Sunday of June. This pastor, who had been an executive pastor previously at a Texas church, admitted that in attempting to bring about change he had been insensitive to people, resistant to counsel, and caused an erosion of trust between him and those he led that couldn’t be repaired. He “offended” and “disrespected” individuals.

He told the church that he came to agree with the unified assessment of the elders that the erosion of trust prevented him from leading the church into the future, and he resigned.

This guy's the exception. The flip side might be like the ex-speaker of my church in Nashville, who was fired, in my view, essentially for willfully refusing to meet the biblical qualifications for church leadership, and who continues to blame his victims for betraying him and whateverthecrap. Nothing can stand in the way of these guys' vision, even if it's something like biblical oversight or the concern of fellow leaders.

Do you notice that most of these entrepreneurial pastors don't even read commentaries or theology any more? They are reading The Tipping Point or Who Moved My Cheese?. They are reading books designed for big business innovation, written by people who couldn't care less about the future of the Church of Jesus Christ, and implementing those techniques in our churches. The Gospel becomes peripheral, trusting the Holy Spirit for growth becomes secondary.

An unfortunate result of this pastoral personality trend is that the entire blueprint of pastoral calling gets transformed into business transactions. Most churches, big and small today, hire from the outside. We employ headhunting services and scan resumes and get a guy who looks like he'll fit. Of course, we then say he's "God's man for the job" and he says God is calling him to this new position, but the pastoral turnover rate in churches is crazy. Is God that fickle that he only sends people to invest in church communities for a few years?

It kills me that mega-churches, churches with hundreds if not thousands of attendees, who've been established for going on ten years or more, cannot, within their extensive body of resources, find people worthy to train and raise up to be its pastors. Pastors hire from within know the community and know the people. Pastors hired from without know "the business."

I don't know if we can counter this paradigm. It is the result of our values, and values require reformation, not just flouting.

Here is what we look for in a pastor, generally:
strong leadership skills, experience in similar size or type churches and staff environments, innovative thinker (or at least, early adopter of others' innovative thinking), dynamic speaking, Type-A personality, biblical knowledge (although more and more churches don't care if a pastor has any formal biblical training)

None of the above is bad. Those are all actually good or neutral qualities. Nothing inherently wrong with any of them. And obviously a pastor ought to have leadership skills and biblical knowledge.
But look at what the Bible says (from Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3) about the qualifications for church leadership:
blameless, not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money

Do the callers and hirers of ministerial staff even ask about this stuff? This is what Scripture holds out as the personality blueprint for pastoral leadership. Shouldn't we?
And on that note, can we at least acknowledge that while the Bible includes descriptions of astounding numeric growth in the church (primarily in Acts), generally speaking, Scripture isn't all that preoccupied with "church growth" as it is practiced today. Scripture is far more concerned with the spiritual health of churches and the discipleship of those within them than it is attracting people or "breaking through to the next level" of attendance.

We need a serious reevaluation of priorities. Don't we?

Related Resources:

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, a book by John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota
Pastor as Resident Theologian, a message by Gregg Heinsch, pastor of Celebration Church in Florida


Anonymous said...


Bullseye... : -)

But, I'm not as discouraged as I am disappointed.

I suppose when it's all said and done... the wheat will be separated from the tares... and God will make it clear as to what He ultimately thinks!

In the meantime, the best we can do, it seems, is... fight the good fight and demand better from our leaders...

Hopefully, there will be a reformation of discipleship and pastors will once again really be pastoral...

Somehow the names Pastor Lee Iacocca or Pastor Ken Lay or Pastor Donald Trump.... just don't have the appropriate ring to them... although these men may have "good" qualities... (or had)... but their goals and motivations are/were obvious.

Men like BCC's ex-"Pastor"... eventually make it plain what their goals and motivations are... and, unfortunately for a season... they cause problems and create chaos that those who believed in them have to fix and restore.

I often wonder how God allows that to happen... but then I realize... our free agency gives us all the ability to really stink up the joint at any given point in our association with a church...

Some stink it up more... or have a position within a church that, in effect, makes their stink permeate into deeper and wider places... requiring more clean up.

I understand why BCC Is Broken needed to retire... and I look forward to coming by GDC to gather more insight and understanding...

Kind regards,

C. Evan Leonard

Jared said...

Chuck, great to hear from you, brother!

DLE said...


I'll second the bullseye.

I've long said at Cerulean Sanctum that no greater evidence of our poor discipleship exists than the truth that most churches can't raise up their future pastors from within.

So they hire an outsider and the problems start right there. It becomes an "us" versus "him" game wherein to many people get hurt and everyone loses. (I wrote about that in "The Pastor: Not One of Us.")

If a church isn't seeing this need, then it will never meet it. Thanks for continuing to raise these issues. I pray more of us speak out and get heard.

Milly said...

It’s been frightening to me for a long time what churches are becoming. I was in the sound booth one morning when my minister looked over the balcony and said something about needing to fill seats or make it look like we have more people. I asked him this “Do you want to follow your plan or God’s for this church?” He has us where He thinks we should be right now. To be honest we aren’t ready to fill the church. It seems that money is a huge issue we build big churches then try coffee bars and gimmicks to big them in. What will God’s plan be for these churches?

The church that I attend now had a great rep for being The Mighty now we are just trying to find our way in the sand.