Looking for Help in the Wrong Direction

Pastors have an infatuation with the business world.

I’m not exactly sure where it comes from but it is unhealthy. Perhaps it’s because church hierarchies tend to favor business people on boards and committees and eventually they give in to the way business people think? Or perhaps it’s kind of an Oedipus or Freudian thing with pastors looking longingly towards the business world, pinning for the type of money and success they think they deserve?

The irony is that successful businesses create community and benefit their employees in a way churches only wish they could. So, in a lot of people’s lives… they go to church and see a poorly run business but go to work and experience the church.

Business Books are Taking Us the Wrong Direction

When I hang out with a pastor I’m always intrigued by what they are reading or who is influencing the way they pastor. And frankly, there’s a lot of influence tracing back to two particular books: Jim Collins Good to Great and Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing. (With Godin, many pastors are impacted by derivative works of Godin. Most of his new books simply flow from or expand on the lessons taught in his first major book though.)

Both are pretty old. 2001 and 1999 respectively. And they were pretty good books with some impact on the business community. But within churches? Their influence is huge. They are getting booked to speak at church leadership events but not with very many business leadership conferences anymore. See, when I hang out with start-up leaders and business folks… Collins and Godin are in the rear view mirror, artifacts. In an age of big data do you really think “Permission Marketing” is influential? If you are trying to get acqui-hired do you really give two craps about building a great company structure?

Where are the books on farming?

So here’s my point.

Do you really think people are coming to your church to experience a business? Have we devalued the churches sacramental, innately desired place in people’s lives to leftover department store management mantras and outdated marketing techniques? Is that all that’s left of the Good News? 

There’s bunches… MULTITUDES… of “church leadership” books which are built on business and marketing principles that were popular 15 years ago. But there is very little written about or learning experiences created for pastors to learn from the metaphors Jesus actually used relative to leading a church.

  • Shepherding a flock
  • Managing a field, pruning a vineyard
  • Casting nets to catch fish

These aren’t things you learn in the city. These aren’t things you learn in a classroom. You learn these things by getting dirty, long hours doing menial tasks, being patient, and learning skills from a master shepherd/farmer/fisher who learned from another master.

But formal ministry preparation looks almost exclusively to the city and never to the farm. The very act of getting ministry preparation usually means coming to the city and learning from city people.

Yet when I read the Gospels I see Jesus rolling his eyes and walking away from the rabbis and formally trained religious people in the city to go and invest in the regular people who understand some things only regular people can understand.

Friends, the Gospel isn’t elite. It’s not about sales and marketing. It isn’t reserved for those with the resources.

The Gospel is about bringing Good News to those who are hungry for it, the regular Joes.

Get your nose out of business books and start planting a garden, raising chickens, cast a line, going on a hunt…

Jesus said, “The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started. As you look around right now, wouldn’t you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I’m telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what’s right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It’s harvest time!

John 4:34-35, The Message






2 responses to “Looking for Help in the Wrong Direction”

  1. Chaz Miller Avatar

    The “CEO Model” of church leadership is definitely efficient, but kinda misses the point that inefficiencies actually allow the church to better realize its purpose.

  2. findiagroup Avatar

    Thanks for sharing!

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