Threatening the Status Quo

There has been talk of a SCP book. Mainly the talk is in my own head and might never find legs, although I took the time to assimilate many of my writings into one document to prepare for self-publishing. In doing so, I wanted to include many of the things I write that never found their way to the blog for whatever reason. Written on October 27, 2005, this post is a flash back to my original angst with the church. I think it is still pertinent today.

Much of my current life seems to be focused on “threatening the status quo” of the religious structures that I have served within for most of my life. Some here may resonant with my quest. Some may not.

I have been accused of exhibiting a type of “ultra-individualistic Romanticism” when speaking of the church and what my ideas or thoughts are regarding a type of restoration for the institution. Remember, although I have mixed emotions regarding the church, I still love her (for some strange reason). My feelings of desiring change cannot be classified as “ultra-individualistic” although many times it seems I am swimming upstream alone. My passion and ideals for the church cannot be classified as “Romanticism” because what I truly see for the church isn’t a “pipe-dream fantasy”.

What I have suggested so far isn’t that hard really. Let’s look at one of my “crazy” ideas.

All pastors should resign as CEO’s of their respective churches. For some this might mean a literal “stepping down” but for most this resignation would be figurative as they seek to remove themselves from the unattainable expectations that have been put upon them by themselves and their churches.

My friend Jeff, from, once commented about his pastor and said this,

I had a conversation with my pastor 2 nights ago. As he spoke, I could see the division within him. He wants to help people. He really does! But then there’s also the bills that need to be paid, the leaky church roof, the grass needs cutting…you know how it goes.

My question to Jeff’s pastor is this, “Why is the pastor in charge of those things? Why doesn’t the pastor just say:

Paying the bills and making sure the grass is cut isn’t what I was called to do. I am called to serve people. From now on, this is not what I am about. I can no longer “run this church”. I will minister and serve those of you with the gifts that cause this church to run, but I will no longer be running it. I don’t care how much money comes in anymore and don’t want to know how many people attend… I am about caring, loving, serving, creating and nurturing disciples and followers of Christ. This is my gift, and I am certain God has provided the other gifts here to keep this church running.”

Trust me, I have been where your pastor is Jeff, and I know the possible repercussions for that type of decision. The church might just fire him. If they do, then he will know he made the right decision. They didn’t want a pastor, they wanted someone to “run the church”. They wanted an “activities director”, a “social planner”, a “buildings supervisor”, a “fundraiser”… anything but a pastor.

This whole concept I have mentioned here and elsewhere has somewhat “threatened the status quo”. Many feel intimidated by this concept. Others feel scared by the possible outcomes. Why?

Pastors seem to feel threatened because many of them do not actually have the gift of pastoring. They entered into ministry to “reach their world for Christ” or build a “big church”. They had big visions of how they were going to “do church differently”. These have the gift of evangelism or leadership.

Some just loved speaking and love the process of studying God’s word and communicating. These have the gift of teaching. Some are gifted in fundraising, administration, encouragement and serving… but not shepherding. Functioning outside of our primary giftedness leads to frustration and fear.

The status quo in most evangelical American-type Christian churches that I have experienced is to hire a pastor to “run the church”. That’s a business model, not a biblical model. This model is still being adapted in even the most modern of church styles. To break free from that would change so many things. But it definitely isn’t the status quo.

11 thoughts on “Threatening the Status Quo”

  1. “That’s a business model, not a biblical model. This model is still being adapted in even the most modern of church styles. To break free from that would change so many things. But it definitely isn’t the status quo.” (Steve)I have ranted quite about the church as business model also – since I think it has slipped into that quite easily. I think the changes you are asking are very reasonable and should be pushed for in all churches. I find the same problems (I am in Canada) and that the church is run like something it is not – a business. I think wanting genuineness and sincerity from leadership is not an irrational thing to call for – actually it’s needed.

  2. It is amazing that the leaders in todays churches continue to use a business model to run the church, with them acting essentially as the CEO as they have to necessarily put a portion of their brain into a state forgetfulness in accomplish such. They forget that the apostle Paul approached shepparding duties from the standpoint of “what is best for the flock?” and not “can I afford to stay at this church and their meager finances to continue to lead it?” Paul purposely refused Corinthian financial support and worked to earn his own living WHILE simultaneously ministering to the Corinthians (what a concept in today’s church!) Although he admitted the right of leaders to be supported by a local congregation (“you shall not muzzle the ox while it is working”), the bigger picture of the maturity/health of the church was constantly his evaluative stance, not the stance of today’s churches (“how big have we grown?”) Isn’t it curious that the church can grow large, but is essentially nothing but a big, fat baby with no particular useful contribution to others. It sucks on bottles and gets bigger but is not mature enough to contribute or move forward independently. It has to be pushed around in a stroller rather than run on its own two feet. This is the result of business model leadership adopted by the modern church. However, the model should be biblical, i.e. one whose goal and efforts are geared towards equipping the saints for service because they ARE mature. Its a character/soul issue, not a business/spreadsheet issue. Also, Paul pastored in locations only long enough till the church could run on its own with a plurality of mature, godly local leadership called ‘elders’ or ‘bishops’. There was no head Pastor (at least according to Paul’s writings in to Timothy and Titus. Its been my experience that Pastors in today’s church are not open to correction of this sort by the lay people of the church

  3. Steve, I agree with Lowendaction and rockinthegrass. It sounds to me like you have left the church, is that right? if so, what impact are you having on it now, if you aren;t there. My beef is not with people having differing opinions and ideas for the church, my beef is with people seeing that as a justification to leave the church. If you aren’t there to do some of the work you think the pastor shouldn;t be doing, then who is? I truly appreciate your commentaries, and see many of the same issues on my church, and I am on staff here as the worship pastor. However, it is easy to see what is wrong, it is much harder to pay the price of many years of selfless service, even in areas that you may not totally support, in order to bring about change and contribute to the solution. I feel that if you are not contributing to the solution, then you are definitely contributing to the problem, whether passively or actively. You could challenge the pastor by actully taking on some of the roles you think he shouldn;t be doing, thereby giving him freedom to do what he is best at. Why is it his responsibility to convince everyone else in the congregation besides you that they need to do this? You can lead by example, and in so doing, serve the church and bring about the very thing you desire to see in the church.

  4. I’m not one for fatalism, Steve, but those of us who have left aren’t really threatening anything. I’m afraid our ideas were more of a threat when we were on the inside. Personally, I think my old church is running smoother without me……if running smoothly is the objective, that is.

  5. to our brother from the north – that all sounds good in theory, and even holds up scriptually (sort of). And though I can’t imagine that the early churches had such burdens as facility costs and staff wages (I think they dealt more wtih the life-threatening type), one can not wish away the basic and very real needs of accomodating a group of regular attenedees in some sort of building.Furthermore, since the number of people, in this motley crew known as Christians, who are willing/able to dedicate their entire (if not a good majority) life towards ministry, is very small…how would you propose these churches go about functioning? Does not the bible teach of fiscal responsibilities? Is the church not refered to as a family? Is the family model really that different from the business one?Just because an unfortunate group of individuals have taken this perfect model and abused it time and time again, does not invalidate it. Where has this notion come from that referring to a church organization in business terms is a bad thing? As long as Christ remains the head of it, with God as it’s solid foundation, things like motivations, and reason will always have Godly outcome. It’s when churches remove those essential elements from within that everything goes south.So the issue isn’t, “Is that church becoming to much like a business?”, but instead, “Is God still running that place, or are the people?”

  6. Yes Steve: of course Pastors should pastor. But as you point out, smaller churches do not have the resources of larger churches and so we pastors mostly end up worrying about the leaking roof and the vagrants on the front lawn. And we could dare the church to fire us (as you suggest). I am not sure this would solve the problem of changing the way churches think. But it would sure cause my wife and children extreem anxiety as I struggle to pay the bills as an unemployed pastor! So I live with doing some things I like, and doing some things I do not. Pete

  7. steve – your observations are valid, and are just another sad example of the product of human distortion of God’s plan for the christian church. Obviously, especially when it comes to smaller churches that are starting from the ground up, this multiple hat-wearing pastoral roal is a matter of necessity rather than choice.However, I would argue that your blanket statement does not apply universally. I have personally experienced/worked with a number of pastors who seem to have an uncanny ability of both managing the logistics of running a church, as well as being the spiritual leader that more appropriatly fits the title of pastor. And yes, I have also met far too many who should choose one or the other…or maybe none!!I would furthermore like to point out steve, that maybe your extended absence from churches has left you somewhat ignorant to the fact that a number of them are now utilizing your proposed managment styles. The church that I work at, for example, has a director of facilities (part time), as well as an overshight commitee. Now it just so happens that the pastor at my church is still heavily involved in many of the logistic ongoings, but I can honestly say that it hasn’t impacted, or masked, his pastoral gifts/time/abilities. There have been a number of other churches that I have visited/been a part of where the senior pastor, has no more than oversight responsibilities (if that) when it comes to the non-spiritual functions of his church.So, as I said, your point is valid and needs to be brought to the attention of many churches today, however there does seem to be a few who are seemingly getting it.…good times.

  8. I agree. Pastors should be free to minister to people, rather than get caught up in administration and other stuff. There’s a biblical precedent too, in Acts chapter 6, where the apostles appointed seven men to take care of the practical necessities in order to free them up to continue their own ministry.

  9. Why is a business model bad? I think of the well run businesses I’ve worked for and I wish my church was more like them!

  10. Dorsey… remember I wrote this a bit ago while still in the church. And the thought it that it isn’t me threatening the status quo… it is the idea I am presenting.Sheildsy… when have I ever said the mega-church is the epitome of what I see wrong with the church. I have defended the mega church as much as I have slammed it. And for most years of my ministry I was in small churches. These are the ones that violate this principle more than mega churches… as you noted. Mega churches can hire specialists for all facets of the church…this only further removes lay people from being involved though. In small churches, pastors should be about pastoring and empowering… and I think this idea could be cultivated if small church pastors just refused to enable this concept and challenged the people to do the work of running the church. Eugene Peterson comes to mind… if you have read any of his stuff.Lowend… I have only been out of church for over a year or so… and I seriously doubt that there has been a radical redirection in American churches across the board as to how most of them genuinely operate. Certainly there are exceptions to the rule…. but that doesn’t change the rule.

  11. The whole idea of simply “playing to your strengths” is (IMHO) absolutely correct (“Now discover your strengths” by Marcus Buckingham is a seminal piece of management literature me thinks). Pastors should pastor, teachers should teach, administrators should administrate, etcThere’s a paradox for people like yourself though isn’t there Steve? In my experience the churches that seem to benefit most from this are the epitome of all that you see as being wrong with church i.e., mega-churches. They typically seem to have leaders (managers?) who are extremely gifted at empowering people in their particular strengths/”gifts”. This produces growth which gives even greater diversity and specialisation of strengths. And the thing snowballs.The church down the road that has a leader who’s real strength is a pastor/teacher but not necessarily at “managing”/empowering others, loses his congregation … forcing him to take on even more roles. Catch 22.I live in a city in the UK with one of the few mega-churches our country has outside of London. The process I describe is exactly what i observe taking place. I know because I’m part of the problem! I go to the 9.30 mega-church service with 1,000’s, then to the 11.15 service at my parish church, which I led this week with just 6 other people present (1 being my wife … i didn’t count my 3 kids!). A great service it was too!!

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