Of all the things I hear church leaders slip into conversation, one of the most persistent is the opinion that a pastor should never adopt the attitudes or habits of a marketplace leader, or even, (dare I say it) a CEO.
Instead, the argument goes, the pastor should be a shepherd and tend the flock.
I wrote a post about how having the pastor do most or all of the pastoral care in a congregation permanently stunts the growth of most churches to 200 people or less.
I would also strongly argue that church leaders should rethink their bias against the pastor who behaves like a leader.
First, both the model of shepherd and CEO are based on unidimensional and unhelpful stereotypes.
Second, because the mission and future of the church are fuelled by the growth and potential of our leaders.The mission and future of the church are fuelled by the growth and potential of our leaders. Click To Tweet
Let’s Move Beyond Stereotypes
Let’s move beyond the stereotypes for a moment.
Shepherds are seen as caring, pastoral, gentle and kind.
CEOs are seen as arrogant, brash, selfish, difficult and demanding.
Neither characterization is helpful or, frankly, accurate.
Sure…you can think of CEOs or executive types who fit all the bad stereotypes.
And chances are you’ve made up what a shepherd looks like because, frankly, you’ve never met one. I haven’t.
This Was First Century Shepherding?
From what I know of first-century shepherds (and I admit, I don’t have a degree in shepherding), it wasn’t all green meadows and sunshine. Shepherding took quite a bit of resolve and strength.
Shepherds had to keep sheep from drinking out of brackish or tainted water and keep them from poisoning themselves.
Shepherds had to fight off wolves, lions and thieves. Clubbing to lions to death and pulling a lamb out of the jaws of a bear are not for the fainthearted.
Apparently, first-century Palestinian shepherds even would break the leg of a wandering sheep to correct its errant behavior.
Try that at your next congregational meeting.
In an association we often miss, David himself claimed that shepherding prepared him to fight Goliath and, arguably, even become King. He saw it more as leadership development than anything, and leadership in one field ultimately opened leadership in others.
The job was demanding enough that, as Jesus himself said, it might require your life.
Run this description by any effective CEO and they might tell you “That sounds like my job.”
Maybe a first-century shepherd was more like an effective leader than you think.Maybe a first-century shepherd was more like an effective leader than you think. Click To Tweet
This is What it Means To Be a CEO?
So are CEOs inherently brash, impatient, selfish, egomaniacs? Well, not effective ones.
Jim Collins’ exhaustive study of truly great companies (companies that outperformed their competitors substantially and significantly) discovered that the great companies had what he called Level 5 CEOs.
Collins and his team were shocked to discover a rare and endearing quality among the CEOs of the truly greatest companies: they had deep resolve to do whatever it took to advance the mission AND a deep, personal…are you ready—humility.
To quote Collins:
[Level 5 CEOs] are somewhat self-effacing individuals who deflect adulation, yet who have an almost stoic resolve to do absolutely whatever it takes to make the company great, channeling their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.
It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious—but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution and its greatness, not for themselves.
The most effective CEOs are the most humble CEOs.
I ask you, isn’t that exactly what a Christian leader should be?
Sounds an awful lot like the Apostle Paul to me. Or like Moses. Even like Jesus (if you’re willing to strip away your stereotypes and read what scripture says about Jesus).
Consequently, isn’t that exactly what a great pastor could be?
Saying the model of pastor-as-CEO is bad for the church is like saying leadership really doesn’t matter. It’s also saying businesses should get all the best leaders.
The mission of the church is too important to be stunted by a poorly thought-through stereotype of a CEO.The most effective CEOs are the most humble CEOs. Click To Tweet
If All We Do Is Care For People Until They Die, the Church Will Die
The next decade of the church is critical.
What often passes as ‘pastoral’ is not pastoral in the first-century sense of shepherding; it’s passive.
If all we do is recruit pastors who love to care for people until they die, the church will die.If all we do is recruit pastors who love to care for people until they die, the church will die. Click To Tweet
I realize this is somewhat hyperbolic, but perhaps it’s less of an overstatement than you think. We’re closing churches in record numbers, largely because pastors want to ‘pastor’ but not lead.
I believe we should care for people until they die, but the pastor doesn’t need to be the sole person to do that.
98% of pastoral care is having someone who cares. It doesn’t have to be the pastor.98% of pastoral care is having someone who cares. It doesn’t have to be the pastor. Click To Tweet
Toward A New Generation of Leaders
So what should the next generation of pastors do?
Lead humbly, with compassion and lead with care.
Jim Collins isn’t the only one to show that great leadership takes courage, skill and humility.
Cheryl Bachelder and Patrick Lencioni both make the case that the best kind of leadership is servant leadership. And by that, they also mean that, long term, the most profitable leadership is servant leadership.
But Collins, Bachelder and Lencioni also understand that leading with compassion means doing what’s best for people…not simply doing what people want. If first-century shepherds simply did what the sheep wanted, the sheep would be dead.
Quite simply, the job of a leader is to take people where they wouldn’t otherwise go.
It takes tremendous strength, exceptional courage, trust, humility and a willingness to die to self to do accomplish the mission to which you’ve been called.
This kind of leadership shift will mean the demise of the people-pleasing, co-dependent leader who longs to be liked. And that’s okay.
The church (and the business world) need tens of thousands of new leaders who are willing to be incredibly unpopular but will resolve to do what needs to be done.
Somedays I wonder how many Christian CEOs of small and large companies might have been in ministry if our model, expectations and attitude were different.
Next Time Your Pastor Behaves Like a CEO
So what would make this situation better?
Think twice before you say the church needs more shepherds. Or if you do talk about the need for shepherds, talk about the kind of shepherd David was. We sure need more of those.
And think three times before you slam the idea of church leaders acting like leaders or humble CEOs.
Read a book like Jim Collin’s Good to Great.
Think more deeply about whether the church needs more entrepreneurs. (For reasons outlined here, I believe that’s exactly what we need.)
Realize that truly great CEOs often model exactly what scripture talks about in terms of great leadership, and that maybe our entire mission would advance if we valued those gifts more deeply.
And finally, next time someone says your pastor is behaving like a (Level 5) CEO, be thankful.
More people might be in heaven because of it.
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What Do You Think?
I realize this is an emotional subject, so play nice in the comments.
But what do you think?
Is the quick dismissal of potentially effective leadership in the church hurting us? How?
Scroll down and leave a comment.