Please bear with me as I share a brief thought that has occupied my mind and heart for a while. It is the thought of being a pastor and not a company CEO.
This year marks the 30th year of full-time pastoral ministry for me. For the majority of those years it has been my privilege to serve as the lead pastor of a church. The last fifteen years have been in the church where I currently serve. During the past thirty years, there has been a dramatic shift in pastoral philosophy. Actually, there have been multiplied shifts in different areas of pastoral ministry.
One of those shifts is how the pastor is perceived and how he perceives himself. Historically, the biblical position of the pastor has been that of a caring shepherd and an able proclaimer of God’s Word. The pastor tended to the care and provision for the sheep of the flock over which the Holy Spirit had made him overseer (cf. Acts 20:28). He labored in the Word so that he might feed the sheep when he stood behind the pulpit. When a sheep strayed, he diligently sought to reclaim that sheep. Yet, it seems that much has changed. Many of today’s pastors tend to see themselves as the CEO (Chief Executive Office) of the business. The shepherd has been replaced by an administrator. The sheep have become customers to be marketed to and entertained.
Also, the CEO mentality is seen by the way the pastor deals with those who leave the church. Often have I heard pastors speak of having a “back door revival.” By that he means it was great that some member has departed from that local assembly. Yet, the caring shepherd will never have such thoughts. Rather, it will grieve his heart when a member leaves.
How many times have I had a person in my office to announce their leaving. They have asked for a meeting, and have not stated the purpose. They arrive at the appointed time and the conversation begins awkwardly. They often say, “Pastor, we love you and don’t want to upset you or hurt you. However, we are leaving the church.” Somehow they feel their disclaimer of “we love you and don’t want to upset you or hurt you” should make it not hurt. Yet, it never does! As a caring shepherd, my heart aches and breaks. If I were simply a CEO, I would express my disappoint in their leaving, but it would not hurt. Rather, I would simply go after another “customer” to fill the pew. Yet, I am a pastor. I am a shepherd. I have a responsibility for this portion of God’s flock. The members are not “customers” to me, but they are precious sheep. They are dear souls for whom Christ died. I have labored in the Word to feed them properly. I have invested my life and soul into them and their families. Often, I have been with them in the darkest hours of their life, and shared their grief and tears with them. Yet, “we love you and don’t want to upset you or hurt you” is supposed to make their leaving not painful? There are times when, as a human, I wish I could adopt the CEO mindset. Yet, that is not what the Lord called me to.
As stated at the beginning of this article, there has been a philosophical and cultural shift. Not only do many pastors see themselves as CEO’s, but the church members see them the same way. The days of commitment and loyalty to God, His Word and each other seem to have departed. Members are quick to leave over things that could be easily worked through, if they would simply let the shepherd do his work of caring for them and praying with them.
This article is not meant to sound critical of people. It is understood that culture has dramatically influenced how people perceive their church family relations. Will I give up? NO! There are also joys in the ministry of shepherding. Yet, that is not what keeps a pastor going. It is the definitive call of God upon his life, and the knowing of one day he will stand before Christ and give an account of the stewardship of that calling. May the shepherds of God’s flock shepherd on. Ron DeMarco’s poem best concludes this article…
I’ve Dreamed Many Dreams
I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true.
I’ve seen them vanish at dawn.
But I’ve realized enough of my dreams thank the Lord,
To make me want to dream on.
I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came,
Though I’ve waited patient and long,
But answers have come to enough of my prayers
To make me keep praying on.
I’ve trusted many a friend that failed,
And left me to weep alone,
But I’ve found enough of my friends that are really true,
That will make me keep trusting on.
I’ve sown many seeds that have fallen by the way,
For the birds to feed upon,
But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hand,
To make me keep sowing on.
I’ve drunk from the cup of disappointment and pain
I’ve gone many days without song,
But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the Roses of Life
To make me keep living on!
Have you seen this trend of CEO pastors, or am I missing an important truth?