Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, is interviewed in the current issue of Leadership on his leadership style. Highlights from the interview were posted on Out of Ur in March. Stanley defends the incorporation of secular business practices in the church - a philosophy of ministry that has fueled evangelicalism for the last 25 years and pollinated megachurches across the fruited plains. But church-as-corporation and the pastor-as-CEO have come under increasing criticism, and Stanley has felt this heat.
In the interview Stanley says:
One of the criticisms I get is "Your church is so corporate?" 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.
Honestly, are we really to believe that the mere existence of a principle is the same as God advocating our employment of it? The flawed logic here reminds me of Greg Fokker's assertion that "you can milk just about anything with nipples," and Robert De Niro's rebuttal, "I have nipples, Greg, could you milk me?"
Jesus said, "The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them." That is a principle of leadership, and a very popular one. But Jesus then emphatically declares, "Not so with you!" Simply because a model exists or is popular does not make it accessible to the church. Jesus calls us to lead his church in a manner that reflects his own servant method and the counter-culture reality of his kingdom. In other words, Jesus believes that truly Christian leadership is revealed in both its function and its form. The two cannot be divorced.
This is the primary flaw I see among those promoting church-as-corporation - they wish to disassociate business structures from the fruit they produce. Sure, market-driven business models can create large and efficient ministry organizations, but what is the impact on the lives, spirits, and characters of those immersed in them? After all, the church isn't commissioned to sell a product. We are commissioned to change lives that bear spiritual fruit.
Marshall Shelley, editor of Leadership, tells about Jerry, a pastor who finally told his business-minded elders to stop imposing their corporate models upon the church. With pastoral firmness Jerry said to his elders:
The next time a sentence begins, "In the business world, we?" please know that I'm not interested in the rest of that sentence. The church is not the business world. As I've observed the effects of the business world on people's lives, it doesn't produce the traits that the church is about: joy, contentment, grace, and love. I don't see the business world as a model for encouraging the kinds of lives we're called to live.
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