Many people are unaware that before ministry I was a finance and economics major in college. In fact, during my senior year of college at Minot State University I was hired by American International Group (i.e., AIG). This new job position forced me to study and take what is called the Series 6 and Series 63. These securities tests allowed me to work with mutual funds, unit investment trusts, variable annuities, and municipal fund securities.
With my schooling I also received a great deal of business management skills. For example, through classes in strategic management and risk management I was given the necessary tools to develop strategic mission statements, as well as analyze a business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (i.e. SWOT analysis).
The tools that I received from Minot State University and AIG were tools that equipped me to be an efficient investment representative and an effective business CEO. They were good tools! These tools help many business executives maneuver through the fluctuating markets, manage a team of employees, measure productivity, and keep focus on the business’s strategic objectives. I will call these CEO tools.
I once hoped to own a Mercedes-Benz, have an expensive wine collection, and live in a metropolitan city where I could invest in the markets. However, today I find myself in the ministry as a pastor, driving an old Honda Accord, drinking cheap wine, and living in Eastern Montana. Obviously, my finance dream was exchanged for ministry. With my shift from business to ministry, I also found that I exchanged CEO tools for pastoral tools. In other words, the tools in which I was equipped to use in business are not the same tools that I use as a pastor. As a pastor I use different tools.
Pastor Mart Thompson once said to me, “The majority of our time as pastors should be working with the tools that we have been given.” Dr. Thompson is correct in his assessment. It isn’t that we can’t use the tools of the business world in some aspects of the church, but as pastors we certainly should devote the majority of our time to working with the tools that the Lord has given. The tools that have been given to the church and the pastor are: the Word, the Sacraments, private confession & absolution, Law & Gospel counseling, divine service, pastoral care under the cross, and so forth. I will call these pastoral tools.
As I contemplate these two spheres of business and ministry, it grieves me when pastors and churches exchange pastoral tools for CEO tools or when CEO tools are used the majority of the time. The reason why this troubles me is that CEO tools and pastor tools are different. CEO tools are designed to work and bring about certain results within the corporate business setting. To primarily use CEO tools in the context of the church may bring about certain results, but frankly I question the legitimacy of these results from a ministry perspective. Furthermore, the use of CEO tools in the church can inadvertently impact the church’s core theological tenets. The reason why this is so, practice is not neutral. Unorthodox practices can and do bleed back into the church’s doctrine. Yes, doctrine drives practice; however, the theology that is embedded in practice does slowly seep back into the church’s doctrine, which means that bad practice can infect the core theological truths of the church.
To complicate things even more, faithful pastors who refuse to devote the majority of their time to CEO tools can be stigmatized by their congregations and colleagues. When congregations believe that the church can be run like a business, they will then expect and demand pastors to use CEO tools that will efficiently, effectively, and pragmatically produce measureable results. Otherwise stated, there may be pressure from parishes and strong church growth ideologies for pastors to adapt, anoint, and use CEO tools as the primary means of bringing about measurable results in the parish and when these CEO tools are not adapted, pastors may be stigmatized as being sluggish, out of touch, and unruly. This stigmatized reasoning says, “Why doesn’t the pastor want to use these CEO tools? Obviously the only conclusion is that he must be lazy, out of touch, and maybe just a little rebellious for not wanting to take advantage of these corporate tools!” Little does this stigmatized reasoning understand that the pastor is not lazy or out of touch, but rather he is attempting to be faithful to and with the pastoral tools that God has given him and the church.
In all fairness though, the main culprit in our scenario above is not enthusiastic parishioners advocating for the growth of the church. It has been my experience that people who advocate for CEO tools are not against the pastor and the church, they are just misinformed and have bad presuppositions. The false presupposition that they have bought into is that a church can be run like a corporation and that pastoral tools are synonymous and interchangeable with CEO tools.
Confusing the church for a corporation stems from an improper understanding of the left and right hand kingdom. Furthermore, the problem with exchanging CEO tools and pastoral tools is the failure to recognize that CEO tools are ineffective and incapable of performing the primary work of the church. Let me give several examples. A strategic plan is outstanding for organizing human capital, but it cannot grant spiritual gifts for the building up of the body of Christ. A risk profile assessment is wonderful in analyzing risk within business ventures, but it cannot gift an individual Godly sorrow. A stochastic chart indicator is great for giving trading confidence to stock brokers, but it cannot create faith.
As a pastor I still long to own a nice Mercedes-Benz and to be able to afford premium wine, but in the meantime I am thankful that my CEO tools have been exchanged for the tools that God has given the church. May we all hold steadfast to the primary tools that God has given pastors and churches and not confuse them with other vocational tools, for the churchly tools of the God shape, form, and sustain the body of Christ.