Imagine you pick up the latest parenting book to capture the attention of day-time talk show hosts and realize, after flipping through it with some confusion, that the parenting techniques contained in its pages were based entirely on Army boot camp and that it was actually written by a retired drill instructor.
This would, hopefully, seem just a bit odd. Something about treating our family like a military unit feels inherently misguided, even if it “worked” in pragmatic terms.
Now imagine if the sequel to this New York Time Bestselling parenting book was entitled “How to be the CEO of your Kids”
You might start to ask yourself if the problem is deeper than a few sub-par books, that perhaps we’ve lost a sense of what the family is, and how it is different than other social structures like the military, or the corporation.
This is increasingly how I feel when I come across books on Church leadership – as if somehow we’ve lost our sense of the church’s identity, and as a result are flailing in the dark for some other form of leadership we can grasp onto.
The Church is not a corporation, and yet most books on leadership in a ministry setting are almost indistinguishable from the latest advice from America’s top CEO’s.
Yes, such methods can work. They have certainly been effective in transforming local churches into a new corporate form – but for all its pragmatic benefit I believe this trend has been incredibly destructive to the church and its mission.
When leading a church looks like pastor-as-CEO then the church becomes a business, the congregation becomes paying customers, and worship and the Gospel become consumer goods.
That this is a dangerous path to tread should be apparent, but with how enthusiastically such books are read and recommended, I fear that the lure of becoming successful by the standards of the world too often outweighs the danger that such success might just come at the expense of becoming something different, no longer a church but simply a business with religious trappings.