Can You Spell “Church” without C-E-O?

Leadership is an important field of study; I’ve seen a lot of damage done by unskilled, untrained leaders. Church leaders often try to borrow the “best thinking” on leadership from the business world. But it’s a mistake to assume that the business way of approaching things maps well onto the church. The wrong leadership training is sometimes worse than no training at all.

I’ll never forget attending a Christian leadership conference (nothing related to 3DM) in which the two main speakers–both CEO-style leaders of Big Important Churches that will remain nameless here–kicked off the first session by mocking the concept of shepherding, and distinguishing their kind of leadership as something else entirely. (My wife got up and left the conference early in that talk, correctly discerning that the conference would have little relevance for her.) The rest of the day was devoted to discussing their version of organizational leadership.

Now perhaps one can run a business empire without being a shepherd; I wouldn’t know. But biblically obedient churches are led by (a team of) elders, and every elder’s first job is “shepherd the flock of God.” These two church leaders spent a day teaching a type of leadership that has no place in a church, and a thousand or so overawed church leaders sat there and lapped it up.

What a tragedy for their churches.

Leadership works differently for Jesus followers; Jesus pointedly said so.

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Perhaps we should take Jesus seriously. A guy might know how to defend his budget against other executives’ resource grabs, how to take credit for success and make sure someone else gets stuck with the consequences of failure, how to fire half the production department to save the stock price–what makes us think he knows anything about how to lead a church?


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