(Editor's note: Our article with Andy Stanley published in the Spring 2006 issue of Leadership won first-place interview in the recent Evangelical Press Association awards. The judge wrote that the conversation was so engaging, he forgot he was reading a contest entry. We had a similar experience while talking with Andy at his Alpharetta, Georgia, office. Despite the photographer's lights and the tape recorder, it seemed more like good table talk than a magazine interview. We thought you might like to sit in with us for some of the chat we had at North Point Community Church.)

Leadership: What is distinctly spiritual about the kind of leadership you do?

Andy Stanley: There's nothing distinctly spiritual. I think a big problem in the church has been the dichotomy between spirituality and leadership. One of the criticisms I get is "Your church is so corporate." I read blogs all the time. Bloggers complain, "The pastor's like a CEO." And I say, "OK, you're right. Now, why is that a bad model?"

A principle is a principle, and God created all the principles.

So what's the principle behind the CEO model?

"Follow me." Follow we never works. Ever. It's "follow me." God gives a man or a woman the gift of leadership. And any organization that has a point leader with accountability and freedom to use their gift will do well. Unfortunately in the church world, we're afraid of that. Has it been abused? Of course. But to abandon the model is silly.

Churches should quit saying, "Oh, that's what business does." That whole attitude is so wrong, and it hurts the church.

In terms of the shifting culture, I say thanks to guys like Bill Hybels and others who have been unafraid to say we have a corporate side of our ministry; it's going to be the best corporate institution it can possibly be, and we're not going to try to merge first century –

The church wasn't an organization in the first century. They weren't writing checks or buying property. The church has matured and developed over the years. But for some reason the last thing to change is the structure of leadership.

So why do pastors resist using business terms for leadership?

Because there are people in our congregations who have red flags go up.

If you're a preacher's kid, you see the church differently. Having seen church from the inside out, it was very easy for me to abandon all that because I did not confer spirituality on congregational decision making. To me that system was just chaotic. It works against the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in my mind, and it works against godly leadership principles.

Here's an incredibly important principle. You cannot communicate complicated information to large groups of people. As you increase the number of people, you have to decrease the complexity of the information. Congregational rule, when you're trying to make a complicated decision, works against the principle. So consequently, the guy with the microphone and the clearest message always wins. The most persuasive person in the room is going to win. Whether right or wrong.

Should we stop talking about pastors as "shepherds"?

Absolutely. That word needs to go away. Jesus talked about shepherds because there was one over there in a pasture he could point to. But to bring in that imagery today and say, "Pastor, you're the shepherd of the flock," no. I've never seen a flock. I've never spent five minutes with a shepherd. It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it's not culturally relevant any more.

Nothing works in our culture with that model except this sense of the gentle, pastoral care. Obviously that is a face of church ministry, but that's not leadership.

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