The pastoral obsession with CEO’s

Let me start with this disclaimer. I love Harvard Business Review and have read many books on business and leadership. I also believe that pastors should be good leaders they should strengthen that muscle because leadership matters. How you lead matters.

Here is where I get frustrated. I have talked to many pastors and the lion share of books they read are leadership/business books. I think there is a danger here. I know because I have seen it in myself far more often than I wish. The problem is our goal is not a bottom line that has to be maintained no matter what. The goal of pastoral ministry in my mind is two-fold 1. To train those we lead to do the work of the ministry 2. To make Jesus beautiful to everyone we encounter and grow His kingdom not ours.

When we have an unhealthy obsession with CEO’s we treat people we are called to pastor and lay our lives down for as though they were objects to be used and discarded. When we are CEO obsessed we are more concerned with building our own kingdom at massive cost to Christ’s kingdom. How can we as pastors lead without being led by the holy spirit into a passionate pursuit of knowing Jesus? When things become our treasure we do whatever we can to guard that treasure and people suffer. Tim Keller says it so well when he defines idolatry as being so often “Good things we make ultimate things.” When Christ is our treasure we live for the glory of Jesus. As a pastor, if your reading of books outside of scripture don’t reflect a passion to know Christ, crucified and risen than something is wrong.

We cheapen the gospel by trying to market it and not allowing it to change and transform us. A pastor who has been transformed by the gospel will be driven to know Jesus. As I type this I mourn the years I thought being known by others would bring the fulfillment that can only be found by being hidden in Christ. In 1 Timothy Paul reminds us that “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Pastor you are not called to be a brilliant CEO but a broken follower redeemed by grace who longs for eternity, not for the streets of gold but for the joy of sinless worship before a sinless Savior. The thing about the gospel is it will compel you to do things a CEO would never do. The gospel tells me gain comes through loss. If want to keep my life I must lose it. The gospel will demand things of you that defy logic in human terms.

1 Corinthians 1:18

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.


7 comments On The pastoral obsession with CEO’s

  • I see your point. But on the other side, so many pastors LEAD horribly. They focus so much on the here & now and everything that they are called to do, that they miss a crucial component of church / kingdom life — building up and equipping others to be leaders.

    • Joey thanks for you comment. I agree. Leadership matters but I guess what I was trying to say was where are you leading them to? If we don’t have a clear view of our need and Christ’s sufficiency we will lead people to ourselves. We will find our fulfillment in our own leadership. We will fall in love with leading. As many pastors there are out there that are bad leaders we have an equal amount of CEO leaders. We are part of a story part of a bigger picture. I’m just saying that if we lead with the bottom line as our only cue we will hurt the very people Christ has called us to love. Does that make sense?

  • Sam, you are right on. Thanks for sharing…

  • Thank you very much for this post. I’ve bee saying this for years. Pastors are not CEO’s, they are pastors. If we treat the pastoral office like a CEO office, we have missed the point. I think pastors have to be leaders as well, but not like CEO’s. CEO’s can cut out people at the expense of the business, I get it, but that’s not a pastors job. A pastors job is it teach them to do the work of the ministry. Reach the people we can’t, and when we’ve spent too much time on the looks of the buildings, budgets, and programs, but have spent zero time with people, we have forgotten what our calling is.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Sam thanks for your heart after God and your reminder for us to lead right.
    Didn’t we just have this discussion yesterday? You are a true blessing in my life!

  • Thank You so much for posting. I’ve been saying this for years, Pastor’s are not CEOs.

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