Your Pastor Is Not A CEO, A Shopkeeper Catering To Ill-defined Spiritual Needs, Or A Rancher

clergy-1Under the impact of modernity there are significant pressures brought to bear on the pastoral office that would make the office something other than the teaching office of the church.

Alistar MacIntyre has argued that modernity has produced a world view that is managerial and therapeutic.

Os Guiness in his excellent book Dining With the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts With Modernity maintains that the managerial and therapeutic approaches spawned by modernity have subjected the gospel to the pragmatism of “whatever works” and to the subjectivity of whatever therapy brings relief. Thus the pastor is seen as a CEO, a shopkeeper catering to ill-defined spiritual needs, or a rancher.

In The Parish Paper Lyle Schaller writes, “The most difficult and certainly the most demanding change is for the minister to move from the stance of pastor, teacher, shepherd, to becoming a skilled and effective agent of intentional change.”

The managerial model would subordinate the pastor as shepherd/teacher to the pastor as administrator. The ascendancy of the therapeutic model is traced by E. Brooks Holifield in his book “From Salvation to Self-Realization: The History of Pastoral Care in America.” Actually, the title says it all. Brooks charts the evolution of pastoral care that was centered in the language of prayer and Scripture in the early American Puritans to the contemporary paradigm embodied in the Clinical Pastoral Care Movement.

The catechesis of the Small Catechism cannot be sustained by either of these models. Yes, there are budgets to be managed and broken lives to be mended. There are others in the congregation who can attend to many of these things. Recall that the apostles appointed seven men to take care of the food distribution program so that the apostles could devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). In the present-day church we often do just the opposite, as pastors turn over “prayer and . . . the ministry of the word” to the laity and instead busy themselves with the multiplication of programs and administration of parish business.

Excerpt taken from: John T. Pless, Catechesis for Life in the Royal Priesthood

HT: Pr. Donavon Riley, The First Premise

To read more on this subject, may I suggest:
Mercedes-Benzes, Premium Wine, And The Tools Of The Pastoral Ministry


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:


Your Pastor Is Not A CEO, A Shopkeeper Catering To Ill-defined Spiritual Needs, Or A Rancher — 22 Comments

  1. Rev Richard,

    This hits home. My church is currently going through the call process. Last night we were listing the needs/requirements we desire of a pastor. Having been through the process before with a church that eventually called a CG pastor, I sat quietly watching as really good people listed their “needs.” It was apparent that viability & growth were paramount. When I could take it no longer I made it clear that we were missing the point – the “need” for a Confessional Word & Sacrament ministry. But, I fear my delivery was less than gentile and could perhaps be characterized as a lion pouncing on a gazelle. So, today I will conduct damage control; not regarding the point, but the delivery.

    Regardless, great article and very relevant. Thank you.

  2. @Randy #1
    Good people can very easily be led astray in this regard, not only because of the concepts and cliches they have learned to throw around from non-Lutheran contexts, but also because Synod or District leadership is leading the good people in the congregations down the wrong path presenting them with lists of expectations they could have to a new Pastor (many of them corresponding to Evangelical cliches) , and asking them to prioritise these expectations according to their importance.

    Even though it is not presented in that manner, and the pretext is that these expectations are all expectations and wishes one could have in addition to faithfulness to the faith in preaching and teaching, it is difficult to imagine such lists of qualities expected in a future Pastor not becoming, in reality, a list of suggestions as to which qualitites in a Pastor could legitimately be more important to a congregation than faithfulness to the faith in preaching and teaching – just as it is difficult to imagine a such list not taking on a character much similar to the wish list children make out to Santa Claus – and thus becoming a list of personal qualities which it will be legitimate to resent and disrespect a subsequently called Pastor for not actually having.

    Sometimes that which goes without saying will also go without thinking.

    This leaving aside the fact that some of the expectations suggested and raised by some such questionnaires I have seen might really in themselves not be all that appropriate …

  3. Jais H. Tinglund Good people can very easily be led astray in this regard, not only because of the concepts and cliches they have learned to throw around from non-Lutheran contexts, but also because Synod or District leadership is leading the good people in the congregations down the wrong path presenting them with lists of expectations they could have to a new Pastor (many of them corresponding to Evangelical cliches) , and asking them to prioritise these expectations according to their importance.

    Rev Tinglund, Excellent points. It’s almost as if this process of making and prioritizing such lists can be a catalyst that unfairly shoehorns a pastor into becoming a “CEO, Shopkeeper, or Rancher.” I’d much rather have a simple message go out to districts that says:

    “XYZ Congregation desires to Call a faithful/confessional pastor to administer Word & Sacrament ministry to a bunch of sinful screwballs.”

    Regardless, I can only imagine what goes through a pastor’s mind when such lists are presented.

  4. PLI has answers to all of that on their list. But…wait, we’re talking Lutheran here, aren’t we? Well, nevermind then. :0)

  5. Randy :
    I can only imagine what goes through a pastor’s mind when such lists are presented.

    Imagine being an Associate Pastor presented with a such list in the process of the calling of a new Senior Pastor to the congregation he is serving.
    And imagine also, by the way, Pastors being informed by their DP that if they would ever learn that their congregation might be planning to express other expectations to a future Pastor than those laid out in his own call document, he is under obligation to ignore his call documents and change accordingly …

  6. @Jason #7
    That happened. We got the congregational covenant, the maintenance vs. mission, the vision casting workshop, the shunning of lenten and advent worship, refusual to do summer-time mid-week services because “It only serves those already connected to God”, Reggie McNeal instead of anything remotely christian in adult education, small groups, hand-picked elders and council, pastor’s wife installed as the “campus manager” non-lutherans encouraged to be part of the PTA board, COWO, Holden evening prayer, presbyterian Christmas Creed, focus on baptism (not the rite in the pastoral companion) changing the language (member vs. disciple) clique groups that accuse the “keepers of the museum” of being pharisaical, emphasis on being “outward thinking” refusal to make a statement of belief about the sacrament prior to serving the Lord’s supper, you know–that sort of stuff. I had to step down from the board of elders and shortly after, shake the dust from my feet. Oh…and we built a new multi-purpose building with a large commercial kitchen, meeting rooms and gymnasium and he took over the name of it, calling it “the Community center” and he came up with a scheme to name all of the rooms after trees in the Bible, rejecting calls to at the very least keep the “Lutheran” in the name. He also changed the street signage so it does not have the LCMS cross, nor would he allow the installation of a 6′ LCMS cross built for the gym and gifted to us by Laborers for Christ because he didn’t want to make non-christians uncomfortable when the rented the gym. Shall I go on? I know what I am talking about. All of this was done under the full-knowledge of the circuit counselor and district president. (NW district)

  7. if pastors are not suppose to be CEO pastors, then why do we label some as Administrator Pastors? I have to double check, but I thought this type of category and language is used in the 2014 Lutheran Annual. I might be wrong though.

  8. @Walter Troeger #9
    My answer would be a quote presented in an excellent paper by my old college chaplain, the rev. John T. Pless (now a prof at Ft. Wayne): “the Missouri Synod has become the garbage collector of American Christianity. As fads run their course in other denominations, we seem to pick them up in the LCMS.”

    REPENTANCE AND FAITH” is worth reading in this context. You can find it here:

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  9. Curious that the Holy Spirit requires as a qualification for pastors the ability to manage one’s household, so much so that He mentions the word “manage” twice in 1 Tim 3:4-5.

    I’ll stick with the Holy Spirit.

  10. @Robert #11
    It does seem from the context, though, and from the use of the word proistamai, that the Holy Spirit is referring to something other than a managerial approach to ministry …

  11. I didn’t write “managerial approach to ministry”. Paul wrote “manage”, and the word elsewhere is translated as “purpose” or “will”, even of God.

    God Himself manages according to His purpose and will.

    The article above presents an insufficient view of pastoral qualifications when it chastises those who seek to “make the office something other than the teaching office of the church”.

    There are more qualifications for the pastoral office than being “apt to teach”. One of those qualifications is being able to manage well.

    I was unable to find in the article where “manage” wasn’t used negatively.

  12. @Robert #13
    No, Paul did not write “manage”; he wrote proistamenon and proistetai.

    And so far what has been discussed on this thread are managerial and therapeutic approaches to the Pastoral Office as opposed to the Pastor as preacher and teacher.

    And it really should not come as a surprise to you when you so forcefully point out the use of the English word “manage” in a translation- accompanying your point with a claim that you, as opposed to the rest of us, will “stick by the Holy Spirit” – that it would be assumed that the point you intend to make would be one that is somehow related and relevant to the context.

  13. …the primary task of the watchman pastor, not just in preaching, but in all of his pastoral, watchman ministry is to be trustworthy—i.e. faithful in delivering that which was first delivered to him, rightly distinguishing between Law & Gospel:

    For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13

    In his treatise on “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, Walther writes:

    “When a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refuses to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice. That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime. Most men revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God. They are regarded as men worthy of contempt. [And, I would add, often are threatened with termination or starvation if they do not yield, and are even tossed aside in favor of men who will yield and make concessions for the sake of peace and the pleasing of human appetites and desires.]

    “But, [Walther continues], in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace. Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war!” [p. 28, Fourth Evening Lecture, Oct. 3, 1884]

    So, dear watchmen of the Lord, we are here for one reason only—to feed the members of Christ’s beloved bride the pure Word and Sacraments of our Lord, not just the parts that we or our people like to speak and hear, but all of it and to do so according to His command as per that great commission statement so often used to do exactly the opposite in the name of outreach or casuistry.

    Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe *all* that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

    [From a sermon I preached for a winkel. It is based on the Old Testament reading for January 9 as per the Daily Lectionary and “The Treasury of Daily Prayer.”

  14. Do we not also turn over the ministry of the Word to the various offices we “call” people into? Deaconess’, teachers, DCE’s; are they not all called in order to teach the Word, often times so that the pastor can have more time to be managerial?

  15. @Rev. McCall #16

    Well, that’s a little unBiblical. Weren’t the original ‘deacons’ (table servers) in Acts 6 supposed to do the managerial tasks so the Apostles could do the teaching of the Word? I think we have gotten things backwards, and overly bureaucratic in our church work ranks, maybe even confusing certain roles. (callings)

    As an example, I have a pastor who many know he likes to micromanage. A lot. While I have worked and trained to do more church leadership things, I learned Building Trades in high school and have worked in construction. Conversely, my shepherd is a ‘system guy,’ as Benke would put it. Went to Concordia High, junior & Senior college, CSL & Seminex. So really, all he has been trained to do is be a pastor. I’ve been chewed out at times, to make dang sure I know I do NOT try to do (really help) others do their jobs. (FYI, I am a district licensed lay minister, I am not clueless) So why does he think he can tell me how to do mine? I can dig out awards from high school to prove I was the top student, so I think I am pretty good at my job. (as chair of Board of Properties) So if he wants me to not lead the congregation in certain ways, I would appreciate it if he butt out of maintenance issues.

    Sorry for the rant. But I think we have a relatively wide confusion of what calls and vocations many across our church have.

  16. @Jason #17
    There was some sarcasm in my post and I think we actually agree. I believe it was Marquart who said that there is and should be only one call, the call into the Office of Ministry. Instead we have slapped a “call” title on almost everything and anything, shoehorning it somehow into an auxillary office of the Holy Ministry so we can free up the Pastor from all that Word and Sacrament stuff. I’m won’t give my two cents worth now on why I think that is, but suffice to say I think it tends to strengthen our view that the pastor is first and foremost a manager or CEO. Not enough time to visit shut-ins with the Word and Sacrament? Well then, shop that out to a called Deaconess! Not enough time to visit with your youth or young adults and feed them God’s Word? Well then, call a DCE! That way someone else can handle the Word stuff and you dear pastor can focus on growing our corporation. We do have it all backwards. Those who were to assist the Office of Ministry were to do so in waiting tables, distributing food to the poor, and looking after the physical needs and welfare of widows and orphans.
    I fully agree as well, most pastors want to butt in on issues that they have no need butting in on. When pastors do that they give the impression they want to be and should be a CEO and not just a pastor. Fault can certainly be found on all sides. And you are right, it starts and ends with our muddled practices and teaching when it comes to calls and vocations.

  17. @Rev. McCall #18

    I kinda thought so. My first paragraph continued some sarcasm, while my second was meant to seriously highlight how dumb/bad/warped this CEO mentality is. I am really hoping with SMP and Lay Ministry task forces, and other things, Pres. Harrison can initiate a ‘paradigm’ shift. It would be nice to get back to Biblical, Confessional and churchly conduct within our congregations.

    And I pray that as a pastor you can bring about good teaching within your own congregation, and can be a positive example to your brother pastors. Thank you for that.

  18. Randy,
    It might be of service to you to locate the late Dr. Robert Preus’ work: The Doctrine of the Call in the Confessions and Lutheran Orthodoxy. It does a wonderful job in detailing what the call as pastor is all about. Beyond the purpose of assisting in understanding the nature of the call for those in the process of calling a pastor, it is a wonderful review for all of us in light of so much nonsense that is now associated with the “call.”

  19. Rev Pettey,

    I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to make your recommendation. I was able to find it on the internet right after I read your post (like I said, I’m in sponge mode)! In fact, I just started reading, “The Fire and the Staff” by Rev Klemet Preus.

    Have a blessed day,


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