Mercedes-Benzes, Premium Wine, And The Tools Of The Pastoral Ministry

602266_business_tieMany 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.

279450_mercedes_benzI 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.

600455_priest_5To 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.


About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at:


Mercedes-Benzes, Premium Wine, And The Tools Of The Pastoral Ministry — 15 Comments

  1. May I say, “why exchange CEO tools for pastoral tools?” In fact, use both, at the right time. You have an advantage that you have extra tools so to speak. Use them all, at the right time; now THAT is the challenge.

  2. Pastor Richard, You’ve said something that I’ve been thinking for a long time but have never really articulated. I hope you’ll do a follow-up article citing more specifically some of the differences between CEO tools and pastoral tools.
    Thank you,
    John Eidsmoe

  3. Excellent post. Would you agree a place for CEO tools is in matters of church governance based on Christian stewardship?

  4. @Joel Dusek #5

    Hey Joel,

    Thanks for the comment! Yes, church governance is a place where CEO tools may be helpful for the church.

    With the post my hope was not to rule CEO tools out completely, but to simply show that the majority of the time pastors should be working with the tools that they have been given. 🙂

    @John Eidsmoe #4


    That sounds like a great idea! I will put that on my list and see what develops.


  5. Good post! Now someone needs to just forward this to the seminary so we can get rid of all those “Pastor as CEO” classes students are required to take. 😉

  6. @Rev. McCall #7
    It’s been a long time since I was at the seminary (CTSFW 89). When I was, we did not have any “pastor as CEO” classes. Can you give some examples from the seminary curriculum today?

  7. The pastor IS a CEO in a sense, the Chief Executive that guides, leads, empowers the flock, WITH the Gospel and all the tools of the Bible. I wish the Seminary would demand more undergrad degrees of business, etc. It simply makes for a more rounded man that must deal with an ever more complex world, WITH the Gospel as the chief tool of course.

    Of course, the real CEO is God Himself.

  8. Brother Richard:

    Thank you for an enlightening and necessary post. There is a reason Jesus threw money changers out of the temple, and it is the same reason that St. Paul said that we are not as those who peddle the Word of God. To mix the practice of the church, with the practice of Wall Street, is to turn the church into something it was never meant to be.

    Your comment about false teaching seeping in through deviant practice is exceptional and should be repeated often.

    @rev. david l. prentice jr. #9

    As for Brother Prentice, Jr., I am glad that the seminary does not demand more undergrads who have business degrees, and I would be ashamed of any seminary that would make such demands. To even suggest that the pastor is a CEO is to misunderstand what Scripture teaches about the pastor. I challenge you to support this assertion with Scripture. Empowering the flock? Where is that in Scripture? Ad fontes, sir.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  9. @Rev. Robert Mayes #10
    Matthew 25:14-30 for one. The Master gives us the Gospel, we use our gifts to bring it, and that does not mean simply preaching, much more…and yes, God will gift us in His time, His way. And I suppose a pastor should not be a janitor, and mop up after a water pipe break, or be an electrician when a light needs fixing, or a boiler repairman, to light a boiler pilot that went out, all this to keep the Gospel proclaimed to the flock in Church.

    Cannot you see that we are what is needed to SHEPHERD the flock, and the more tools some of us have, the better.

  10. @rev. david l. prentice jr. #11

    Brother Prentice: Thank you for responding. I take it that you are using Mt. 25:14-30 as support for your assertion that a pastor is a CEO (and not that a pastor empowers the flock).

    All the things you mentioned, mopping, helping fix a light with faulty wiring, lighting a boiler pilot that went out – none of these are integral for the office or duties of the Holy Ministry. That is to say, whether one has these skills or not, it will not affect a man’s qualifications for the Ministry, nor make him better at applying the Word to the hardened or to the crushed. Mopping, wiring, pilot-lighting are incidental skills, 1st article gifts, which do not really apply to the essence or duties of the Office of the Ministry as a whole. In this sense, having business knowledge also is not crucial for the Office or duties of the Holy Ministry. They are simply incidental 1st article skills that neither help nor contribute theologically to a man who serves in the pastoral office.

    The problem is still the assertion that seminaries mandate that pastors must be trained in an incidental skill that does not add to the Ministry. This makes a new law that Scripture has not commanded, nor that Jesus did by His own example of training the 12 to take on the office and duties of undershepherds.

    I fail to see exactly how Mt. 25:14-30 applies here. The servants were not required to have a business degree before the Master doled out his gifts to them. Also, the text doesn’t say anything about the servants using their first article gifts. So can you clarify how this passage applies? Thanks. Thanks also for the brotherly discussion.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  11. @Rev. Robert Mayes #12
    Greetings Brother Mayes as we ALL begin the joyous celebration of Christ’s passion, His death upon a cross, and joyous victory in a few days.

    OK, and first off, I respect your opinion and knowledge of theology and Scripture, and I would defer to you has being more studied in Scripture, one of your gifts. Perhaps God graced me with some more business knowledge and the ability to fix things. Does this help me be a better pastor, does it help you; yes to all in different ways.

    We all use the gifts given in our unique ways, and the more gifts we have, the more we hone them to His glory, and to bring His people to the cross.

    Yes, business savvy, all those other skills I still do believe help me and my Flock, as we “go out” and use the gifts of the Gospel, that the Matthew text I believe “within the lines” speaks of.

    In the end, they do not save, but they help support the proclamation of that Gospel and the support of the work the Holy Spirit has given me in my little Church and His flock.

    A rounded man is a good thing, I simply say embrace the good, throw away the junk; and in the end use all gifts to His Glory and the work we do to the lost and dying.

    As for Matthew text, one servant hid the Gospel, shame on him (a slap to the Pharisees); the other two did gain, in different ways. Of course, blessed by God, but I believe using their differing gifts, and one did prosper more; in the end, both prospered. OK, just one interpretation.

    Blessed Easter to you and all.

  12. @rev. david l. prentice jr. #13

    Dear Brother in Christ,

    A blessed Good Friday to you as we proclaim our Lord who died for sinners and shed His blood for us.

    The discussion between us, as I saw it, was not that you were upholding the beneficial need of a pastor to be a well-rounded individual, whereas I was denying this. Certainly, there is a need. This is one reason why men are required to have a college degree (and even why it can be encouraged to have a degree in something other than theology. Mine’s in music). Whatever first article gifts a man may have, yes, God can put them to use. However, there is more at stake in this discussion than just this.

    The matter of this discussion is whether a pastor is a CEO. It is the same issue as to whether the pastoral ministry is to be run like a business. To suggest this is to make a grave, unbliblcal error. Clearly, no servant is greater than His master nor is the one sent greater than He who sent him. Christ alone is the perfect model of the ministry, the good Shepherd (etymologically, the Good Pastor). Yet He did not act like a CEO. In Jn. 6, He clung stubbornly to doctrine even though it led to Him having a smaller church. By telling the truth, He made lots of enemies, and people could only bear His words for 3 years before killing Him. No CEO would run his company like this. CEOs try to market, make profit, in order to appease the stockholders and directors. Gal. 1 says that if we as pastors even try to please men, we cannot be pleasing to God.

    Also, the Matthew parable in 25:14-30 is rather not about using the first article gifts of the pastor. Always, it is the Word and its preaching uncorrupted that runs the verbs and does it all. To interpret this to mean that the pastor adds something to this Word is to deny the efficacy of the Word and to synergistically think that the pastors’ acts are a cause of salvation, instead of the agency by which the means of grace are delivered.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  13. @Rev. Robert Mayes #14
    As we finish this discussion, we do differ a bit, but interesting comment on “no CEO would run a company like this.” I agree, we can use all our gifts, un-turn every stone, market, do what we must to proclaim the Word and make sure the message “goes out”, but the product is the Gospel, and yes, it cannot change.

    This is one of our challenges, yes, the ELCA certainly does change the product. Other Protestants do as well, we cannot.

    Now no one ever said how successful a pastor (and I still say, CEO ((Jesus did act like one in my opinion when He called 12 disciples to work with Him, and other team members)).

    We still try all we can, yet in the end, only God will bless our work. We must agree on that, eh?

    OK, and even if I am a CEO, or think I am one of the small Church I lead, there IS only one CCEO, and that is God Himself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.